Nick Rennard
By Nick Rennard | SEM, Video | April 27, 2017

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads

Hello Fellow Advertisers! Today I’m going to be discussing RLSAs (remarketing lists for search ads). I’ve gotten some questions from clients and team members lately about this topic, so I wanted to post another video blog to give you guys my insights on the topic. I’ll cover a basic overview of how RLSAs work, and I’ll also show you how to implement them using the AdWords Editor.

Make sure to check out our other blogs and webinarsEnjoy!

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads: Full Transcript

Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of my video blog series. I’m your host, Nick. I’m the head of SEM here at Digital Reach Agency and today I am going to cover a question that I’ve gotten a few times lately from clients and actually a tech of mine as well on RLSAs. It’s something you might have heard of or you might already know about, or you might know nothing about it entirely.

They were released actually quite a long time ago. We’ve been doing RLSAs for people for a while. Google, they originally added them to AdWords as a Beta and they tried it out and it worked out so they decided to implement it fully. Over time they’ve realized that Remarketing Lists for Search Ads are kind of like a best practice and now they really promote you to be adding RLSAs to your campaigns. I’m going to talk a bit today about why they advocate that and, you can see I have my AdWords editor up here, I’m actually going to show you guys how to implement these into your own campaigns as well.

So RLSAs, what are they? They stand for Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. Now you probably know what remarketing lists are if you’ve ever run a remarketing campaign or heard about remarketing before. It’s a list of users that … Typically it’s just the default remarketing list that people use for remarketing campaign … is going to be All Users so anyone who visits the site will get populated to a list, and then we can use that list of users to send our ads out to people who have already been to our site before.

The idea here is that if they’ve already been to our site before then they’ve already shown us some level of engagement with the site. You can create more granular versions of remarketing lists. Rather than targeting All Users, you could create a list of users who spent more than one minute on the site so if you wanted to filter out anybody who only spent a short duration on the site then you can certainly do that as well. There’s really no limitations into how granular you want to go. We’ve set up remarketing lists that are for people who have visited the checkout, for people who bounced at the checkout, for people who completed a purchase, for people who visited certain sections of websites.

For example, if you have multiple industries and you have different pages for those industries, you can create remarketing lists to target users that have been to the industry pages and then show them industry-specific ads. There’s a lot of cool stuff you can do with different remarketing lists.

But what we’re doing for them today is all of those lists would typically be used on the display network in a remarketing campaign but we’re talking about RLSAs which is remarketing lists for search ads, not display. So it’s kind of weird to think about using a remarketing list for a search ad because if on the search network we’re targeting people based off of keywords … so if people type in … you can see in these campaigns that I have here, if someone types in the keyword, Nike shoes, then we would want our ads to be showing in front of them.

What RLSAs do is Google realizes that a lot of users will Google something way more than once before they actually end up buying something on the site. It’s actually pretty common. If you think about it yourself, let’s say Christmas is coming around and you’re thinking about gift ideas and let’s say you’re thinking about buying  some piece of apparel like a winter coat or something for your kids or your mom or whoever, you’re going to be doing a lot of price comparison shopping around so you might type in “winter coat” or, you know, whatever your keyword is. Let’s say it is “winter coat”. You might type “winter coat” into Google like, honestly, I’ve seen it happen as much as like 30, 40 times that people will type something into Google before they end up converting.

What Google realized is that there is a direct positive correlation between the amount of times that someone types in a search query and their conversion rates so what that means is that the more that someone types something into Google … So someone who types in “winter coat” ten times versus typing it in two times, the person who types it in ten times is more likely to convert. Their conversion rates are going to be higher.

So this is what RLSAs does is that it recognizes people who have been to your site before so people who are on your remarketing list, let’s say you’re using an All Users list, and it bids more aggressively for the people who have already been to your site before. So if someone’s searching the term “winter coat” for the first time, we’d bid our normal amount because they’re not on our remarketing list. But if they come back the second time, third time, fourth time, fifth time and they’re on our remarketing list because they’ve Googled our keywords before and clicked on our ad, then we bid more aggressively for that user because we know that the conversion rates on users who type the same search query in multiple times are more likely to convert.

That’s why we’re willing to pay more for that traffic because what we don’t want is for that person to Google “winter coats” the first time, they look around, you know they clicked on our ad. They clicked back. They clicked on some other competitor ads and then they didn’t buy anything. But then they come back and they’re considering it again and then they type in “winter coats” again, you don’t want all your competitors bidding really high on that keyword with their RLSAs because then your ad isn’t going to show. So then when they’re more likely to convert, I think you guys kind of get the idea but when they’re more likely to convert, you want to be bidding more aggressively so that way you’re showing up in higher ad positions because higher conversion rates.

So that’s kind of a long-hand explanation of what RLSAs are. The typical best practice that Google recommends … I don’t know how true or false this is, but it is the percentage that I’ve been using. The typical bid modifier that we add to a campaign for a user that has been to the site multiple times, we’ll bid up to 40 or 50% more for a user that has Googled a keyword before. So if normally we bid $10 on a keyword, we’re going to be bidding $15 for somebody who’s already been to the site before because we know they’re more likely to convert.

All right. It sounds great and all but we need to talk about what we need to do to set this up. So what do we need to get them set up? The first thing that you’re going to need is a remarketing audience. There’s two ways of going about that. The first one is the standard way where you add the AdWords tag to your pages and it tracks all the users that go to your pages and it populates the remarketing list so you can set that up in AdWords itself.

The other way to do it is through Google Analytics. It’s going to be a very similar process. Most people already have Google Analytics codes installed on their pages which is why we advocate that you use the Google Analytics method over the first method that I mentioned just because the first method, if you already have Analytics on your site it makes it so that you need to have two sets of codes on your site as opposed to the second option where you’re doing it through Analytics, you’re only going to need one so it’s a little simpler.

So we set up our list in Analytics and we import those lists over to AdWords and whichever method you choose, it really doesn’t matter, they track the same thing. They’re both just as accurate. It’s just up to you. So the first thing you need is that remarketing audience. Again, we recommend that you target All Users but if you want to get more granular than that and target users who didn’t bounce or something like that, that’s certainly an option as well.

The next thing you’re going to need is an active search campaign. It is a remarketing list for search ads so if you’re not running search campaigns it’s going to be difficult to implement this to anything. So you can see I have up here, I have a sportswear campaign. This is just an example campaign that I set up. I’m going to go ahead and show you how to set this up. I’m going to show you how to do it in the AdWords editor. I recommend that if you do any kind of changes in an account or anything that you do it through AdWords editor.

Some people like to do this stuff through the browser interface which I’m not a fan of just because the browser interface is not really as efficient. So if you use a browser interface … I’m not going to go over that today but I’m sure it’s still perfectly possible through there. So I’ll show you how to do it in the editor here and you’ll probably be able to translate that over to the browser if you’re used to using that.

All right. So we have our four different ad groups here. Here’s our sportswear campaign. So what we’re going to do is you can see that we have these bids on our keywords, a dollar for broad match, $2 for phrase match, $3 for exact match. A pretty standard setup here where we’re bidding more aggressively for more granular match types. So the first thing that we need to do is for each of these ad groups we need to attach a new audience to it. We need to attach the remarketing list. Let’s start at this Adidas shirts one and this will typically be closed. Here we go and expand under Keywords and Targeting here.

If we scroll down and go to Audience, you can see that there’s zero attached right now. We’re not advertising to any specific audience. We’re only advertising to people who are bidding on the keywords within this ad group. But what we’re going to do is we’re going to lace in this audience here. So you hit this… Plus Audience dropdown box up here and you hit Plus Ad Group Audience.

Then, let me see, where’s our … usually there’s like an All Visitors or an All Users. All Visitors. There we go. All Visitors. So whatever the list that you want to use is, you’ll click on this over Marketing List tab and look it up. It doesn’t really matter what I’m using here because it’s just a fake setup here so I’ll use this one here, the All Visitors. Then hit Okay and it’ll attach this list to your ad group.

Now one of the things that we need to make sure of is we don’t only want to advertise to the people who are on the remarketing list. We want to be advertising to everybody but we want to make it so that if they happen to be populated to this list, then we increase the bid by a certain amount. So you can see that we have the Audience List here. There’s this little box down here that says, Bid Adjustment. This is where you need to enter your bid adjustment of how much more aggressively you want to be bidding. Google says 40% is the number that they recommend. I usually do 40 to 50. If you do 30 or 60 or a hundred, it’s really not a big deal, it’s just you want to bid more aggressively for traffic that’s higher conversion rates. Pretty straightforward.

So you can see here now that it’s bidding 40% more aggressively for people that are attached to this list. Now, the other thing that you need to check, and this is important, under Ad Groups, if you select this ad group it’s kind of a weird little tedious thing you have to do, there’s a tab under the ad groups here that says, Flexible Reach. Sometimes there’s these drop down boxes for the ways that you target through remarketing and demographic targeting and placement targeting and stuff like that, under Interests and Remarketing you need to make sure that it’s set to Bid Only. This is really important because all of these settings here have two options. They have Target and Bid, and Bid Only. I do want to explain the difference between the two so you don’t mess this up because it could cause your campaign to all of a sudden stop spending entirely and we wouldn’t want that happen.

So the default is for it to be on the Bid Only setting which is the correct setting. We want it to be Bid Only. Actually I’ll start with Target and Bid. Target and Bid makes it so that it has to match all criteria within the campaign in order for the ad to display. So since we have two pieces of criteria attached here, one of them is the keyword so like in this case the Adidas shirts. So that’s one of the pieces of criteria. So they have to be Googling a keyword that has something to do with Adidas shirts. The other piece of criteria is that they have to be on the remarketing list.

Now we don’t want to advertise to people who have to match both those pieces of criteria because we still want to show our ads to people who are like new users Googling Adidas shirts for the first time. We still want to show our ads to those people. So we want to set it to Bid Only because what Bid Only does is in a search campaign it’ll say that we want to bid whatever our keyword level bid is, so we saw our keywords beforehand were $1, $2, and $3, so we want to bid that amount on anyone typing in the keyword but if they happen to be on the remarketing list, then we want to apply that 40% modifier. So it’s not forcing you to match the criteria to be on the remarketing list every single time, but it’s saying that we’ll bid on you no matter what but if you happen to be on the remarketing list then we’re going to increase that bid by whatever percentage we added, in this case 40%.

All right. So that’s actually really all there is to it. I’m going to go back down to Audiences here because we just did this for that one ad group. You can do this at the campaign level. I usually do it at the ad group level because sometimes we have different audiences for different ad groups, like I mentioned with the industry example that I had earlier. The other thing you’re going to want to make sure you do if you do this at the ad group level, or if you have multiple campaigns you want to apply this to, you want to copy and paste this here into your other ad groups. You can actually do this all at once, like that. And just add this list. So now you can see that this list is showing up in any ad group that we click on here. You can see they all have that 40% modifier here.

That’s pretty much all you have to do. Once you post this, as long as your Flexible Reach on all of these, let’s go back to the ad group level, as long as your Flexible Reach on all four of these is set to Bid Only, then you’re good to go. That’s really all you need to do to set it up.

So long story short, this is definitely a best practice. There are a lot of situations where Google says that you’re supposed to do something, and honestly I totally played devil’s advocate. I’ll call Google out if I think that they’re just trying to get you to spend more money. So I’ll kind of call them on their BS when they’re just trying to squeeze more money out of you. Because they are a business. They are trying to make money just like you or me.

But in this case I actually think that Remarketing Lists for Search Ads are a very good idea. I think that it’s very fair to consider them a best practice, and it’s definitely something that we implement for our clients and have seen a lot of success with in the past.

If you guys have any questions and comments, feel free to post them in the section below. Otherwise, thanks for watching and I will see you guys in my next video blog.

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