The 10 Step Google Search Remarketing Setup Guide for AdWords (RLSA)


Heard about RLSA? Remarketing Lists for Search Ads? Google search remarketing?

If so, you're in the minority. According to Google (All-Stars Engage Summit, Mountain View, CA), less than 1% of advertisers using Google AdWords in August 2013 were aware of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), of which only a fraction had experimented with the feature. Months later, talk of RLSA among PPC experts still seems as elusive as ever, probably due to the following 3 reasons:

1. Too difficult to understand

  • What exactly is RLSA and how does it work?

2. Too difficult to relate to my campaigns

  • How can RLSA be used specifically for my business?

3. Too difficult to implement

  • How exactly do I go about creating an RLSA campaign?

Despite its terrible name (why wasn't it just called search remarketing?), RLSA really isn't as complex as it might sound. You can get your first RLSA campaign up and running in 10 simple steps. But before we start working on a campaign, let's address a few important points.

Important Point #1: Rlsa Is Not Display Remarketing

In a way, it's better.

You may have noticed after visiting a website that image/banner ads seem to follow you around? Ads reminding you of that fridge you looked at yesterday? That resort you considered booking last week? That camera you researched a few days ago?

This is display remarketing. The advertiser is targeting you, because you previously visited their website. You looked at that fridge, you viewed that resort, you researched that camera. Regardless of whether you're checking football scores, emailing friends, or watching funny cat videos on YouTube, you see those image/banner ads promoting the fridge, hotel, and camera. This is display remarketing.

Search remarketing, however, takes display remarketing one step further. Instead of simply showing image/banner ads to people who previously visited a website, search remarketing (RLSA) allows you to show text ads on only to people who previously visited your website, when those people, at that moment in time, are one again researching your products and services. Think about that again for a second:

"RLSA allows you to show ads on Google only to people who previously visited your website and only when they are once again searching for your products and services."

It really is as powerful as it sounds. You no longer have to simply blitz your image/banner ads thousands of times previous website visitors, annoying them with your generic message at times when their mind is elsewhere writing emails, checking football scores, and watching cat videos. You can now choose to remarket to your audience only when they are researching your products and services.

It's simple and incredibly powerful. But can it work for your business?

Important Point #2: Rlsa Can Work For Your Business

So long as more than 1,000 people visit your website in 540 days, you'll meet the minimum audience size requirement to run an RLSA campaign.

Struggling to think of an example? Here's one:

Suppose youre a travel agent, and sell Fiji holiday packages. Without RLSA, you might only want to target keywords such as 'fiji holiday packages', as keywords such as 'holidays' and 'flight deals' might be too generic and unprofitable.

However, with RLSA, you can choose to target generic keywords on Google such as 'holidays' and 'flight deals', but only show your ads to people who have previously visited your website.

If 2,000 people visited your Fiji holidays website in the last month, for example, you can target those 2,000 people whenever they later search Google for anything vaguely related to holidays, flights, vacations, hotels, and Fiji weather.

  • If they search for 'best time to visit Fiji', for example, you can show an ad, reminding them of your Fiji specials in May/June.
  • If they search for 'travelling with kids', you can show an ad promoting your Fiji family deals.
  • And if they search for 'car hire', you can show an ad which highlights that car hire is included for free in your Fiji holiday packages.

Because your RLSA ads only show to people who have previously visited your website, you can be very generic and creative with RLSA, and still be confident you're achieving relevancy. It's extremely powerful, but also extremely under-utilised. A big opportunity for any small business with a limited marketing budget.

"But this all sounds rather complex!"

Important Point #3: Rlsa Is Not As Complex As It Sounds

Sure, RLSA does add a third dimension to Google AdWords campaigns - instead of simply writing ads for your chosen keywords, you now need to consider what keywords and ads will show for each audience.

You can probably think of multiple creative ways to use RLSA in your campaigns, but without a logical campaign structure, your RLSA strategy will quickly become needlessly complex and overwhelming.

The key, therefore, is to start simple. Here's a quick and easy 10-part guide to get you started with RLSA and set you on your way to becoming an RLSA pro.

10 Step Setup Guide

1. Install The Code

If you haven't already installed the remarketing code on your website, open up Google Analytics, navigate to Shared Library > Audiences, and follow the instructions to install the code.

2. Define Your Audiences

Next, you'll want to create your remarketing audiences. Navigate back to Shared Library > Audiences in Google AdWords, and proceed to set up a new remarketing list. Name your audience, define the list as anyone who visited a page with the character / (to capture all website visitors), and set the cookie period to a time period where you can be confident you'll receive at least 1,000 website visitors (and ideally at least 1,500). To do that...

3. Determine Membership Duration

Open up Google Analytics and look at how many people visited your website in the last 30 days. The minimum audience size for an RLSA campaign is 1,000 people, so you'll need to determine what cookie length to set to be sure you have at least 1,000 (and ideally 1,500) people. If you don't have 1,000 visits in 30 days, extend the date range and make a note of the number of days needed to get an audience size of 1,000 (or ideally 1,500) people. Enter this cookie period when setting up your remarketing audience. It's probably a good idea to set up a few more remarketing lists with different cookie periods (e.g. 60 days, 90 days etc) to give you more options in the future. The maximum membership duration is 540 days so it's worth also having a 540 day list to capture as many people as possible.

4. Choose Your Keywords

Since RLSA is search based remarketing, you'll need to choose what keywords will trigger your ads. Remember - since you're only targeting previous website visitors, you've already significantly cut down your potential audience size, so you'll need to be broader with your keyword selection to maximise your chance of getting back in front of that audience again. Think about themes which are broadly related to your industry. If you sell Fiji holidays, for example, keywords such as 'holidays', 'Fiji' and 'flights' would be a good start. If you sell kitchens, keywords such as 'sinks', 'taps', and 'splashbacks' would be ideal. The key is to be broad enough to maximise the chance of your RLSA ads appearing, without being too broad and getting a terrible CTR.

5. Write Your Ads

Again, remember - anyone who sees your RLSA ads will have previously visited your website, so you can afford to be a bit more creative with your messaging. Highlight your excellent customer reviews, encourage visitors to browse your photo gallery, or if youre an ecommerce retailer, make a suggestion of a popular product you think may be of interest. You're targeting your audience, after all, so the more creative original you can be with your messaging, the better.

6. Apply Your Audience

An RLSA campaign is exactly the same as a normal search campaign, with only one addition - they also target an audience. So to add an your previously-defined audience to your RLSA campaign, navigate to 'Audiences' in Google AdWords, and apply the audience you created earlier. If you created multiple audiences, either add them all to your RLSA campaign, or repeat the same process with each audience having its own RLSA campaign.

7. Wait...

Initially, your RLSA campaign will probably receive no impressions. Your RLSA audiences will only start collecting data from when you installed the code, so depending on how many people visit your website, you'll have to wait until you reach the minimum audience size of 1,000 people.

8. Troubleshoot

Once you reach 1,000 people, your RLSA campaign should start receiving impressions. If you go to Shared Library > Audiences and your 'List Size (Google Search)' has significantly more than 1,000 people, try raising your bids. You'll probably want to have 100-200% higher bids than your normal search campaigns to compensate for reduced relevancy and potentially lower CTR and Quality Scores. If that doesn't work, try making your keywords broader.

9. Monitor

As your RLSA campaigns collect data, take a look at the search queries which are being matched to your RLSA ads. This can be fascinating and give you some great insights. Are they relevant, not relevant? Are your RLSA messages encouraging people to click back to your website and re-engage with your business?

10. Evolve

Draw as many insights as possible from your initial RLSA strategy. Where you go from here will depend on how your RLSA campaign has performed. You might want to have separate RLSA campaigns and ads for different keywords, you might want to have different bids for different cookie periods, and you might want to write tailored ad messaging for different themes, for example:

  • For your keyword 'best time to visit Fiji', mention that May/June has great weather, and promote your May/June specials.
  • For your keyword 'travelling with kids', show an ad promoting your Fiji family deals and how kids stay and eat for free.
  • For your keyword car hire', show an ad which highlights that car hire is included for free in your Fiji holiday packages.

There are so many possible strategies with RLSA, the opportunities are endless. But rather than getting bogged down in an overly complex RLSA strategy with millions of keywords, start small. Experiment with RLSA at a basic level, and let your campaigns evolve with your experience.

Next Steps

About the Author: Alan Mitchell

Alan Mitchell is the founder of Calculate Marketing, helping businesses of all sizes improve their return on investment from PPC marketing with comprehensive long-tail keyword strategies and intelligent campaign analysis.

Calculate Marketing

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