Retailers can significantly increase ROAS with Google Smart Lists

Google Analytics’ Smart Lists was first launched in April 2014 with the purpose of helping advertisers to simplify their remarketing campaigns and maximize conversions. Now over 2 years on, we’d like to look at whether Smart Lists are actually beneficial and in what ways can advertisers use them efficiently. To answer this we set up a test* and analysed the impact Smart Lists have on campaign performance.

*Based on RSLA lists in client accounts from 30/03/2016 – 03/06/2016

What are they?

Unlike other remarketing lists you don’t need to spend time analysing data to create detailed lists for your remarketing. Smart Lists are automatically managed by Google based on conversion data. Machine learning is used to predict the likeliness of a user to convert on the next visit of your page. Based on indicators like user location, browser, device, referrer, session duration and page depth, Google will dynamically manage the remarketing audience to focus on users that are more likely to convert.

The requirements to generate Smart Lists are simple – your site has to generate at least 10,000 page views a day and a minimum of 500 monthly transactions. If your site does not generate such numbers you will still be able to use Smart Lists but Google will instead use data from similar businesses that have chosen to share their anonymous data with them.

Put simply, Smart Lists are a tool to implement an effective remarketing strategy without having to invest too much time on setting up the correct remarketing lists (especially good if you are new to remarketing!).

Time to Test

Let’s take a look at the set-up and the results of our test to see how Smart Lists can be used in the most efficient way.


  • We included the Google Smart List in all ad groups of our generic campaigns and started with an initial bid modifier of +100%
  • In order to establish what the best bid modifier would be, we increased it by +100% on a bi-weekly basis until we ended up at +400%
  • At the same time we kept the bid modifiers of our other remarketing lists in the account on the same level
  • We then analysed the bi-weekly performance of the Smart Lists in comparison to the performance of our other remarketing lists


After 8 weeks of increasing the bid modifier to a final +400%, we compared some KPIs of our ad groups and we noticed that ROAS, CTR and especially CVR were developing very positively, while at the same time the CPO was decreasing.


Better than other remarketing lists

The disproportional increase in ROAS and CVR during the +200% and +400% bid modifier might have been influenced by promotions that were running during that time, while at the +300% bid modifier stage, budget was cut down. So in order to identify the influence on performance when using Google Smart Lists, we decided to compare their KPIs with different bid modifiers to the KPIs of our other remarketing lists in the account (around 30). This way we would expect to get a better picture of the performance of both the Smart Lists and other remarketing lists under the same conditions.


An analysis of the ROAS showed that only Smart Lists were outperforming all other remarketing lists together by more than +50% during the +200% and +400% period – which were high traffic periods – while they were on nearly the same level when running on +100% or +300%. This implies that Smart Lists present the opportunity to improve ROAS in times of higher demand.

45% better CTR

Another positive but more stable tendency is visible when we take a look at the development of CTR.


In terms of CTR, Smart Lists obviously perform much better than other remarketing lists, with around 45% better CTR. Smart Lists not only performed better but also showed even higher CTRs when bid modifiers were increased. Therefore, Smart Lists are a good tool to use if increasing CTR is part of your strategy.

Shopper spending on the up

However, the most notable improvement was in regards to AOV. While the standard remarketing lists showed values around £236, the Smart List AOVs reached up to £513 and even in the generally lowest performing time period still achieved a plus of 37% in comparison to the other remarketing lists.



From our experience we can recommend the use of Google Smart Lists due to the significant improvement in CTR and AOV that we have seen from our campaigns. Even when we set high bid modifiers of +300%/+400% the results were very positive, as the increase in ad spend and CPC were compensated by higher demand, higher AOVs and better ROAS. Therefore if you have sufficient budget it is worth trying out Smart Lists and also experimenting with high bid modifiers.

We would be happy to hear about your experiences with Google Smart Lists so please leave a comment below or get in touch.


Jacqueline Gruber

Jacqueline is an online marketing enthusiast with 3+ years experience in PPC. She is responsible for managing and implementing online marketing campaigns for big online retailers across multiple markets.