Remarketing for Search (RLSA) 101


Our guest blogger this week is Richard Talbot, Head of Paid Search at Tinderpoint in Dublin. Richard is also an active member of the IAB Search Council. His post below is on the Google AdWords’ feature-Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA), which he argues are often overlooked.

Remarketing for Search (RLSA) 101

When it comes to the tactics used for targeting likely customers, search marketers really are spoilt for choice. However, the vast majority believe that keywords are the only way to go when it comes to search advertising. This means that Google AdWords’ Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) are often overlooked and underused. In this article we seek to set out the case for RLSA.


What are RLSA campaigns?

To begin, let’s review the standard search process:

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With RLSA campaigns, marketers are given the opportunity to adjust this process by based on whether the user has previously visit their website.

How is RLSA different to display remarketing?

Unlike AdWords’ display remarketing, with RLSA, users need to be actively searching on your keywords on in order for the tailored ads for them to be shown. The same remarketing list can be used for both display and search remarketing, however this list requires a minimum of 1,000 for RLSA compared to only 100 for display remarketing.

Why should you use RLSA?

According to Google, only 2-4% of site visits result in a transaction, mainly because most users take time when making a buying decision. But with RLSA campaigns, you can target audiences that may be on the brink of taking action and convince them to go further.

google search


How can you make the most of RLSA campaigns?

Here are some suggestions on how to deploy RLSA campaigns effectively.

remarket lists


  1. Bid higher for searchers that have previously visited your site

The logic here is that the prospect is already familiar with your brand as they have already visited your website. If they are searching on your keywords, it is reasonable to assume that they have not made a purchase decision, otherwise why still search?! By bidding higher on keywords contained within an RLSA campaign, you can get back in front of these prospects, since you know they are closer to purchase than new prospects.


  1. Broaden your keywords to reach previous visitors more often

Following on from the logic in #1, you can add terms that might be considered too expensive/generic for original campaigns due to the highly targeted and qualified nature of RLSA.



  1. Prevent ads from appearing to converters

This is one of the strongest and most easily understood cases for using RLSA, especially if you have a one-off product or long purchase cycle.



  1. Drive repeat purchases and cross-sell other products

These draw on the logic of bidding higher on previous searchers and broadening your keywords to past users in points #1 & #2 above.


With both repeat purchases and cross selling, a strategic decision will need to be made on which segments and products or services are best suited for this tactic. In some cases, it might not be worth implementing from budget and time perspectives.


What are some of the drawbacks of RLSA?

RLSA will only ever account for a portion of your traffic and conversions, typically between 1-20% depending on your industry, seasonality, etc.

RLSA is also dependent on cookies. If anyone is using incognito browsing, has not enabled cookies, or clears them regularly, then they won’t end up on an RLSA list.

Lastly, as with any new feature those managing the AdWords account need to be aware of the time and effort that will go in to managing RLSA campaigns in addition to the original campaigns


Are RLSA campaigns worth the effort?

If you are already on top of your AdWords account in terms of fully optimised campaigns, advanced features, and display remarketing implemented, then you should look to get RLSA campaigns enabled today!


Need to brush up on your knowledge of Search Marketing terminology? View our IAB Ireland Search Marketing Glossary here.