4 Basic RLSA Strategies You Should Definitely Pursue

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) is a feature that lets you customize your search ads campaign for people who have previously visited your site, and tailor your bids and ads to these visitors when they’re searching on Google. (Google)

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) are a very powerful opportunity for segmentation and optimisation, and should definitely be implemented in all of your AdWords accounts. To give you a head start on RLSA, I would like to explain some basic but useful approaches to Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. 

What You Should Analyse Before You Start

Retail Brand

Understanding the fundamentals of how your audience behaves will enable you to adjust the settings according to your needs. Answering the following questions will help give you some ideas of your audience’s behaviour before you start:

  • What’s the average basket value (ABV)? You will need this information to re-target people with basket values above average.
  • What’s the minimum purchase price for you to start making profit? You clearly don’t want to re-target bargain hunters who only shop for very cheap items with low profit margin.
  • What’s your average sale cycle, i.e. the normal time span between two purchases by existing customers? This is important to know in order to choose the correct membership duration of the users in your audiences.
  • Which categories and brands have low new customer rates? This is essential information if you want to focus on new customers.

Some General Information About RLSA:

  • You need at least 1,000 cookies in one list

  • Google adds users to an audience one hour after their action

  • Maximum membership duration is 180 days

  • Bid modifiers range from -90% to +900%

  • If a user is in two different lists, the list with the higher bid modifier wins (of course, it’s Google!)

  • You can place tags in a tag management system

‘Target And Bid’ vs. ‘Bid Only’: Deciding On Your Basic Targeting Settings

There are two different targeting settings for RLSA. On the one hand, the ‘Target and Bid’ settings are restricted to a particular audience and allow you to advertise more specifically to this audience (i.e. write separate ad copies, etc.). On the other hand, ‘Bid Only’ has a broader approach that allows you to increase or decrease bids based on your audience.

Taget and Bid

In order to select your setting, you need to go to the ad group level:


In terms of membership duration, I recommend that you create several lists (i.e. one with the maximum length of 180 days, and ones of 30 days and 7 days, respectively) and start with a 0% bid modifier. After collecting some data, you may then start thinking about how to adjust your bids.

Depending on your targeting setting, you can now pursue one the following basic RLSA strategies.

Basic Strategy 1 – Convert The Low Hanging Fruits

One of the most obvious approaches is to bid more for audiences that are more likely to convert again.

We looked at the data of one of our international clients (last 30 days, sports designer ad group) and saw that cart abandoners only make 2% of clicks, but 24% of conversions.

Table sports designer ad group

Of course, abandoners may always still come back and convert. However, if they do search again on Google, they are back in the search funnel, and therefore of interest for you and your remarketing efforts. Besides, they may also choose another competitor instead of your shop, so you’ll agree that it’s worth pushing your ad to a higher position and investing the extra dollar. In order to do so, you can increase the bid adjustment to e.g. 200%. This will lift the average position for this audience and increase performance. If there is still room for further improvements regarding the position, your next step may be to increase the bid adjustment even further.

Basic Strategy 2 – Create A ‘Head Term’ Campaign To Expand Your Reach

Going for the ‘Target and Bid’ setting would typically involve bidding on more generic keywords, which would most likely be unprofitable under normal conditions. However, if you limit the reach to users who have been on your site already, you can bid on generic terms, like ‘Fashion’, ‘Sale’, Clothing’ etc., while performance is on kept on track.

The same strategy enables you to create event campaigns: bid on very broad terms like ‘gifts’, ‘Christmas gifts’, or ‘Mother’s Day’ for specific audiences using the ‘Target and Bid’ setting.


Basic Strategy 3 – Separate Your Audiences By Device

Another strategy is to create a ‘mobile’ users list, which involves targeting people who have visited your mobile site before. This way, you can create a mobile only campaign with lower absolute traffic, but better relative performance. However, you should be aware that, as you only target people who have been on your site previously, you will exclude any new mobile customers. Therefore, the new customer rate will tend towards 0%.

This strategy is useful, especially if you are requested to push mobile while aiming to achieve a certain performance target without a proper attribution solution.

Basic Strategy 4 – Apply RLSA To Your Shopping Campaigns

In February 2015, Google rolled out RLSA for Shopping, offering the same remarketing options as for text ad campaigns. This is an absolute must-have and standard in most of my clients’ Shopping campaigns. Independently of one another, RLSA and Shopping are a big success. Both deliver great results and their combination seems highly promising.

Unfortunately, the current Editor Version does not yet support uploading audiences in bulk to numerous ad groups. In order to benefit from this feature, you need to add audiences manually, one by one, in the AdWords Interface, which is quite annoying if you have more than a few ad groups. In that case, you can upload the audiences via the API using the AdGroupCriterionService. Or, you can ask your Google rep for support. If you send them the ad groups and audiences, they can bulk-upload them for you.

Even though this process can be quite annoying and time consuming, it’s definitely worth the effort.

How To Create Useful Lists For Retailers

Once you have decided which strategies to pursue, it’s time to look for your basic audiences.

In order to create new audiences in AdWords and Analytics, follow these steps:


    1. Go to the Web-Interface of your AdWords account, to ‘Shared Library’ and then ‘Audiences’:

Shared Library

  1. Click on “+ remarketing list” to add a new list.Image03
  2. Start building the lists, with the pre-defined rules like ‘Visitor of a Page’ etc. The ‘Custom Combination’ option allows you to combine several pre-defined audiences.
  3. You can also create lists using different rules:

By following these steps, you can create several audiences, e.g.:

  • All Visitors
  • Purchasers (people who have seen the ‘Thank You’ page after purchasing)
  • Cart Viewers (people who have put something in the Shopping cart and clicked on the overview page)
  • Cart Abandoners (combine ‘Cart Viewers’ and negate the ‘Purchasers’)
  • People logged into the ‘My Account Page’
  • People on specific sites (i.e. search, category or designer pages)
  • People who clicked on the email newsletter

Google Analytics:

In Google Analytics, you can create even cooler lists using conditions and/or sequences based on dimensions and other metrics, i.e.

  • New customers
  • Returning visitors
  • People who only stayed at your site for less than 10 seconds. Use this as a negative list because people who dropped off your site that quickly are not likely to convert the next time.
  • Smart lists, applying machine learning to your conversion data (requirements: 10,000 page views daily and at least 500 transactions per month)

Go to Admin / Property / Remarketing (you need admin access):

Analytics Admin

You also can create remarketing lists using demographics or interests, but because of privacy reasons these lists can’t be applied to Search, only to Display.


The strategies outlined above are powerful tools to further improve your AdWords performance. Decide which one fit your business strategy best and then make them part of your standard AdWords setup.

We’re excited to hear about your experience, so feel free to leave comments and feedback below or via email!

We are planning to present even more ideas about advanced RLSA tactics in upcoming weeks, so subscribe to our blog via email or twitter to stay informed!

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Claudia Brunner

Claudia Brunner works as a Senior PPC manager for crealytics and has 5+ years of experience in managing and successfully scaling leading fashion retailers, with a focus on the UK market. Her expertise lies on account strategies, market expansion and audience segmentation.

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