Remarketing Lists for Search Ads: 4 Smart Strategies


Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) have been available to all AdWords advertisers for several months now. RLSAs are really flexible. As a feature it opens up a lot of potential strategies.

This article will look at some smart strategies evolving for different types of advertisers to give you an idea of what could work for each one. These aren’t the only potential strategies for that client type, but hopefully it’ll give you a start for how to apply these to your business.

What I want to avoid is telling you what will work. That’s akin to telling you what keywords to choose: it’ll be different for everybody.

1. High-End Retailer

ChairHigh-end retailers rely on finding their demographics. If you’re willing to spend $5,000 on a sofa, chances are you’re also the right person to spend $800 on a lamp.

For these advertisers, repeat customers are key. The fact that they have purchased once is the best possible indicator that they will purchase again.

Use RLSA to bid much more aggressively for existing customers. If they’re searching again for a different item you carry, you absolutely want to be present and you can expect a better conversion rate than from everybody else.

This strategy is a good starting point for almost any advertiser where repeat customers make up a large proportion of their sales.

2. Subscription Service

Subscription services are unlikely to sell a subscription twice. It can happen, but in reality conversion rates for those users will be much lower, even if they’re searching again.

I have Lovefilm and Netflix subscriptions. After I found Lovefilm, I kept searching in the same market for the second, but I wasn’t going to get a second Lovefilm subscription.

RLSA here takes the opposite form: reduce bids for people who have already subscribed. They (probably) don’t need it again.

Some subscriptions are more complex. There may be multiple stages (e.g., 1. register for free; 2. pay to subscribe). In this case, as soon as somebody completes the first stage you have their information.

There’s no need to spend money on search again. You can save that budget and use much more targeted emails instead.

3. Low-Margin Retailer


A low-margin retailer probably can’t afford to spend much per click or bid on expensive head terms. These guys are likely to be competing against Amazon, eBay, major supermarkets, etc.

Once a user has visited the site however, a whole new world opens up. That’s a user who recognizes your brand now. Somebody saw something compelling enough in your messaging before to click your ad or otherwise visit your site. Take advantage!

Create a new campaign with all the keywords you can’t normally afford. There is traffic there. Lots!

It’s super exciting if you can get it, and now you can limit yourself to just the subset of users who have engaged with you before. More affordable, better conversion rates. Great!

4. Comparison Shopping

CompetitorsFinance (and many other markets) involve a lot of comparison shopping. These users will visit your site as part of a longer journey including several of your big brand competitors.

Create a new campaign with competitor names as keywords, and bid on it only for users who have visited your site recently. Make sure you don’t drop off their shortlist while they’re comparison shopping!

4 Things You Can’t do With RLSA

Due to certain limitations, there are a few things you can’t do with RLSA that you might like to:

  • You can’t tell the user you know them: There are some very real privacy and policy issues at play. If you know that user A just bought a sofa, you can’t use your ads to say “Buy this side table, it goes great with your new sofa!” You can (and sometimes should) adjust your ad texts to be more compelling based on what you know about the user, but expect your ads to get disapproved if you start verging close to the line. Don’t tell them what you know.
  • You can’t remarket to people from a year previously: There is a limit of 180 days on these lists. That’s a shame. A compelling case for remarketing on display is for services that renew once per year, like insurance. That’s out of play for search, you simply can’t hold people in your lists that long. Sorry.
  • You can’t use them with Product Listing Ads: This is annoying. Several good use cases for RLSAs involve ecommerce websites. But the best ecommerce ad format is incompatible. I have no idea if we can expect this to change soon, but it seems an obvious connection to make. Keep your eyes peeled.
  • You can’t see the stats separately: You can’t segment search queries (or quite a lot of other helpful data, frankly) by audience. This is a problem because a negative keyword for one might not be appropriate for the other. This is an argument to keep your RLSA targeted ads in a separate campaign, so that you’ll get entirely separate search query reports for each.

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