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Bringing Remarketing Lists For Search Ads to Life

Written by Tom | 27-Mar-2014 14:05:40

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) have been available to all advertisers since the imposition of enhanced campaigns in Google AdWords in Q2 of 2013. In a nutshell RLSA provides advertisers with the ability to do something different strategically in PPC, based upon a user’s previous interaction with their website.

Top line steps:
1. Decide which audience you wish to do something different strategically for
          i. Serve different ad copy
          ii. Bid on different KWs
          iii. Set separate bid adjustments for that audience
          iv. This list is not exhaustive and combinations of the above can be employed

2. Tag appropriate pages within the site to facilitate the separate targeting / overlaying of that audience

3. Users who satisfy both the following criterion will be targeted
          i. The audience you wish to target has at least 1,000 users
          ii. They are searching via the KWs within the ad group that has the separate audience targeting or overlay

Much has already been written about the various use cases for RLSA but here the aim is to bring this somewhat to life through 2 specific use case studies from the financial services sector.

RLSA – Use Case 1 – Don’t Pay for Existing Customers


For many financial services products there will be a need state / desire for users to log in and interact with the product they have bought online. When a user gets to the site there will usually be a log in page or an existing customer suite which can be tagged up and excluded as an audience overlay in RLSA. Unless there is scope to cross sell to existing customers (where serving different ad copy may be the best use of RLSA) an advertiser will not want to pay for users who are performing branded searches, just to navigate to the log in centre and are clicking on PPC ads to do this. By excluding this audience you save valuable marketing budget that can be used exclusively for driving new customers. Ultimately users will navigate through organic listings if they have a genuine need to interact with the product, so there is minimal risk of alienating those existing customers.

We excluded existing customers from our brand PPC activity for a financial services client by excluding “recently converted” and “member log in” audiences through RLSA and overlaying this audience pool over our brand PPC campaigns.

The results:

          + 14.55% increase in all device brand click to sale conversion rate

          + 31.85% increase in mobile click to sale conversion rate

          + 46.02% increase in tablet click to sale conversion rate

We estimate that we saved around 28% of marketing investment costs year on year by preventing existing users from being served our brand PPC ads. What was also very interesting was that clearly a higher proportion of existing customers were using their smartphones and tablets than desktops to log in and interact with the product.

A top tip is to think about what cookie length is appropriate for excluding existing customers. For example insurance policies are typically taken out annually so a 365 day cookie window is appropriate.

RLSA – Use Case 2 – Be More Aggressive for Better Qualified Users

It is accepted that users are more likely to engage with a brand they already know about. Auction intensity is typically high for core in market head terms. This can make entering those auctions less economically viable to an advertiser. Using RLSA you can somewhat prequalify whether you enter into those more expensive generic auctions by ensuring that the user already knows about you and has visited the site before.

We have tested pushing 20% harder for users who have reached our financial services clients website, not converted and are still searching generically via the KWs we bid upon. 

The results:

          o Click through rate was 9.6% stronger
          o Average cost per click was only 3.9% higher despite bidding 20% more aggressively
          o Click to sale was 45.9% stronger
          o Cost per sale was 28.75% lower

Prequalifying the audience and bidding more aggressively in this way is not always going to be a success. Consider that if a user has visited the website and not converted there may be an underlying reason for this. However you only pay for clicks so turned off users will unlikely click on your ads. It is vital that you adopt a test and learn culture to see whether you hypothesis on a particular audience is accurate in the real world. 

Using RLSA is now considered a best practise and is something we strive to employ where appropriate for all our clients here at equimedia in the pursuit of improved PPC account performance. Please read through our PPC case studies or get in contact with us to find out how we can help improve your paid search performance today.