Expanding Your Adwords Account with Remarketing and RLSA

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I’ve written before about expanding your Adwords account with ad extensions. Using remarketing and RLSA is another effective way to market to people who’ve already visited your website.

Remarketing ads appear across the Google Display Network, “a collection of websites — including specific Google websites like Google Finance, Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube — that show AdWords ads. This network also includes mobile sites and apps. If you’ve ever seen an AdWords ad on your favorite news site or in your Gmail account, and wondered how it got there, now you know: websites like these are part of the Google Display Network.”

RLSA ads appear within Google search results themselves.

Setting up remarketing and RLSA

To use remarketing and RLSA, you’ll need to tag your website. There are two ways to tag your site: with Google Analytics, or with the Adwords remarketing tag.

If you’re using Google Analytics, remarketing is included as part of the code. There is no further code setup needed.

If you’re not using Google Analytics, you can get a remarketing tag in your Adwords account. Navigate to the Shared Library and choose Audiences:

Once in the Audiences section, you’ll see a prompt for the tag at the upper right hand corner of your screen:

Click “Tag Details” to get the actual tag to place on your site.

Remarketing and RLSA use the same tag. Be sure to place the tag on every page of your website to provide the most opportunities to reach previous site visitors.

Setting up audiences

Once your site is tagged, you can start creating audiences. Audiences are groups of people with similar behaviors. For example, you might create an audience of converted visitors: people who completed a sale or reached the “thank you for signing up” page.

Think about your customers and what behaviors they engage in. Do people who purchase usually browse several pages on your site before buying? Do they spend a long time on your site? Are there key pages you want them to visit? Create audiences for each of these behaviors.

To create an audience, click “+Remarketing List” from the “Audiences” section in the shared library. You’ll see a dialog box like this:

If you want to create a list of users who visited your Products page, for instance, you’d specify that in the “People who visited a page with any of the following” section. You might put “/products”, for example; or use the full URL if you only have one products page.

Think carefully about your membership duration. This is how long a user stays in the remarketing audience, and the number of days should correspond with the length of your buying cycle. If users usually purchase within a week, you may want to set your membership duration to 7 days. If you have a longer buying cycle, you might want to go 90 days or even longer – the upper limit is 180 days.

Don’t keep people in your remarketing audience longer than necessary – you don’t want to annoy users by pushing products to them that they no longer need.

Using remarketing

Once your audiences are set up, you can use them as targeting criteria in your Adwords campaigns.

To use remarketing, which shows ads in the Google Display Network, create a Display Network Only campaign in Adwords.

Then create the ad groups you want to use for remarketing.

Navigate to your first ad group and go to the Display Network tab, and then choose “+Targeting / Interests & Remarketing.” From there, select the remarketing audience you want to target.

It’s important to think about ad messaging before you start a remarketing campaign. You don’t want to just show the user the same offer they’ve already seen. Think about user behavior and what makes sense: should you show them a special deal? A piece of content to help them make a purchase decision? An ad for a complementary product? Putting some thought into your ad strategy up front will help make remarketing successful.

Using RLSA

RLSA is similar to remarketing, except the ads show in the Google search results, rather than the GDN.

To set up a RLSA campaign, you can start by copying one of your search campaigns and adding a remarketing audience to it. Navigate to an ad group, and then to the Audiences tab to add an audience:

You’ll add an Interests & Remarketing audience for RLSA the same way you did for remarketing. As with remarketing, be sure to think about your ad copy and what makes sense. RLSA is your opportunity to show different search ad copy to previous visitors of your site – take advantage of it!

About Target and Bid vs. Bid Only

RLSA has 2 different bid settings: Target & Bid, and Bid Only.

Target and bid will restrict your ad delivery to those who are in your remarketing audience. No one else searching on the keywords in your RLSA campaigns will see your ads. Target and bid will be your most common setting for RLSA.

Bid Only is an interesting setting that enables you to set different bids for the users in your remarketing audience, while still showing ads to everyone searching on the keywords in the campaign. For example, you may want to use Bid Only for high purchase intent keywords, setting a higher bid for those who have already visited your website to help improve the position of your ad against competitors. Be aware, though, that Bid Only ads will serve to everyone who searches on the keywords, so use with caution.

Before pushing your RLSA campaign live, here are a couple tips to keep in mind:

•    Use broad match keywords. Since you’re only targeting users who’ve visited your website and taken a desired action, you don’t need to worry about driving untargeted traffic from broad match. Broad match in RLSA allows you to cast a wide net to reach your audience.
•    Use higher-funnel keywords. In regular PPC, you probably wouldn’t bid on single-word keywords like “ink” or “toner” because they’re just too broad and untargeted. With RLSA, you can afford to bid on these keywords, because the audience is smaller and is already pre-qualified by their previous visit to your website.

Negative audiences

When using remarketing and RLSA, keep in mind that you can use negative audiences as well as target audiences. Negative audiences are similar to negative keywords: they prevent your ads from showing to people in the audience.

If you’re targeting people who visited your site but didn’t convert, it’s a good idea to add “converted visitors” as a negative audience to make sure your remarketing ads don’t show to them. You also may want to consider creating negative audiences for people who bounced from your site, or who visited customer service pages, because these visitors are likely not qualified.

Remarketing and RLSA are highly effective ways to convert customers who’ve already visited your website. What’s your favorite way to use remarketing or RLSA? Share in the comments!

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  1. Really love your detailed post here. Remarketing campaigns are so important with building out any campaign. When you build out a top of the funnel advertising and don’t finish with remarketing you’re losing out on a lot.

  2. Hey Mel – Nice article once again. I’ll add a couple quick points.
    Adwords Remarketing tag: Is truly meant for advertisers who don’t use GA (like .0005 companies).
    Adwords Remarketing tag does not allow you to leverage important rules built on GA data to create highly focused remarketing lists.

    I would recommend that anyone starting up a remarketing campaign to:

    Use tag manager to manage your website tags
    Devise a strategy on how you will use your audience lists alone or in conjunction to deploy your PPC campaigns
    Use GA to create your remarketing rules/audience lists and connect them with Adwords.
    Don’t forget to use email addresses to also create targeted Re-marketing lists

    We like a simple step approach to remarketing
    Generic Display drives traffic
    Hits website get a hard bounce = add to audience negative list (Not globally, but for that specific product)
    Add To Cart but no conversion generates a list = Show product of interest remarketing ad
    Add to cart made a purchase generates a list = Show related/upsell products in remarketing ad

    We also like remarketing lists built on high interest activities. This is similar to what adroll does.
    Visits site, visit duration = high, page per visit = high, watched video event = yes, conversion = no
    Audience = High intent.

    Point is – Only audiences created in GA can leverage all the the visit details into a targeted list.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Excellent approach, and I agree. Not all clients will agree to use GA remarketing – we have several clients who don’t use GA at all, and a few more who don’t want to use it for remarketing for various reasons, including the fact that they don’t want to use their email list for remarketing. But in general, GA remarketing is more robust and definitely better for creating multiple, highly targeted audiences.

      • How interesting! What do they use instead of GA? Certainly many large scale clients may be using DSPs and DMPs, but I don’t know what they would use in the place of GA? Cheers.

        • Melissa Mackey says

          They use Adobe or Coremetrics for analytics. Some large enterprises think GA gives too much data to Google and isn’t “secure” enough. No GA, no GA remarketing. We also have a few clients whose legal departments forbid them from using GA data for remarketing, but will allow Adwords. Not common but it does happen.

  3. Hi Melissa,

    What a great read! thanks for sharing this. I totally agree with you on leveraging RLSAs, they’re awesome. Also, good point on adding in negative audiences, didn’t pay much attention to that before. We’ve written up an article on RLSAs as well recently which points out tips on how to grow a small RLSA audience even bigger. I’d love to hear your thoughts/feedback on it! Here it is – https://www.paidtraffic.io/adwords-remarketing-6-ways-to-turn-a-small-remarketing-audience-bigger/

    Let me know if you like it and thanks for this quick and helpful read, we’ll be sure to share it with our readers on twitter as well 🙂


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