Google Prohibits the Use of Third-Party Data for RLSA

Google launched the AdWords policy on remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA), recently announced in the Google Agency Product update. The policy states that

“any data about your customers or visitors that is used in remarketing lists for search ads can’t come from, or be shared with, third-parties.”

Let’s have a look at this in more detail! 

What’s Allowed?

If you collect data from your own websites, apps, stores or whenever people directly interact with products and services you own, then you’re allowed to use this data within RLSA.

What’s Not Allowed?

If you buy information about your customers and visitors, or otherwise obtain data indirectly from others, then you’re not allowed to use that data within RLSA.

What does this include (implying use for RLSA)?

  • Placing your remarketing tags on websites not owned and operated by you, or allowing other websites to put their remarketing tags on your website
  • Sharing your remarketing lists with other advertisers, or accessing remarketing lists of another advertiser. Example: You run a baby clothes website and share your remarketing lists of visitors looking for baby clothes with an unaffiliated advertiser that sells baby strollers.
  • Using third-party data to decide when your remarketing tag can add visitors to your remarketing list.
  • Using data from one managed client to create a remarketing list for another client.

Note: Viewing a marketing email does not constitute direct interaction with your products and services, neither does viewing an advertisement for your business.

What Happens if I Still Use 3rd Party Data?

Google may check your business for compliance with the RLSA policy. If you get caught using 3rd party data,

  • you may be denied the ability to use RLSA,
  • your website may be suspended,
  • your access to your Google AdWords accounts may be suspended.

Why Would Third Party Data be of Importance in the First Place?

Using third party data can be a performance driver. Example: People may be searching for products and buying them at advertiser A. Advertiser B could also address those people when using third party data. This could also apply for companies having e.g. a B2B and B2C business, exchanging the data internally. In addition, ROI and investments would increase as more data could be used for optimisation.

What Are the Drawbacks of Not Using 3rd Party Data?

Re-targeting companies will see substantial barriers for an entrance into the search market. But not only new players will see drawbacks. Actively involved advertisers will see decreasing returns on investment due to the policy while Google itself will miss a chance for extra revenue.

The big question is:

Why is Google Doing This?

Officially, they say they want to make sure that users understand why they see a given search ad, e.g. based on their search query and previous visits to an advertiser’s site. As soon as data is shared via different channels, Google can no longer guarantee this.

Another reason could be that Google fears the EU and data privacy issues. They’re already involved in many law proceedings and might want to prevent another one.

What do you think could be Google’s motivation behind this?


Maximilian Hainlein

I'm working for crealytics as Social Media and Marketing Manager since 2011. My motto: "It's better to be the needle than the haystack."