What are remarketing lists for search ads?

Remarketing lists for search ads, or RLSAs, allow for custom created groups of website visitors to be added to search campaigns with either a positive or negative bid adjustment. This allows you to create an audience based on their actions and then either target them with specific ad copy or exclude them.

Why you should implement search remarketing

RLSA’s can be used in a lot of different ways to help boost PPC performance. Below are some crafty little tips on using them to drive more leads.

1. Increasing bids for customers acquainted with your brand

Now the standard use for RLSAs is to increase bids on users that have already been on site. The idea behind this being that if a user has already been on site and read through product/service details, looked at prices etc. they’re a lot more likely to be closer to the conversion point and thus, more valuable. Use positive bid adjustments on these groups of users to kick up that bid and get them through the funnel.

2. Excluding previous customers

Another great use of remarketing lists in search campaigns is adding users which have already converted as an excluded audience. This is a great way to split campaigns by new users and existing users for the best allocation of budgets. New users will be more expensive to acquire but are crucial for business growth, existing users are a lot easier to upsell to and can be a great source of cheaper conversions to increase volume.

3. Upsell to previously converted visitors

Now that you’ve excluded previously converted visitors from the above campaign, you’ll need a new campaign to target them. Using RLSAs to target users that have previously converted is a great way to upsell and increase customer lifetime value. This will also have a positive effect on your customer retention rates. Set up a campaign aimed specifically at previously converted customers and target them with ad copy focused on up-selling further products/services based on their previous interactions.

4. Make more from a limited budget

With paid ads, it’s very easy to get stuck in the conundrum of not being able to increase your budget until you’ve made sales. Of course, with a limited budget you might not be able to afford to bring in those leads in the first place! It’s a very common problem and one great solution to test out is using RLSAs. If you only focus your budget into targeting users that have already been exposed to your brand you’re a lot more likely to bring in conversions. Now, this technique won’t work alone if you’ve not got a lot of organic traffic coming in. 
One great way to make the best of a limited budget is to allocate some to a top of the funnel display campaign. Display campaigns will drive traffic at a much lower CPC. You can then follow up with these users in your RLSA campaign. Make sure to adjust your bids based on their level of interaction. For more tips on running campaigns with low budgets check out this article from my fellow PPC aficionado Leo Worsley.

5. Sneaky RLSA competitor targeting!

Once you’ve done all the hard work of winning a customer and gaining the conversion it’s easy to forget about them. As the industry is shifting to customer lifetime value and retention rates, there’s a lot more focus on following up with users after the tradition funnel ends. Targeting your competitor keywords through standard search can be very expensive and start a bidding war. If you combine this with search remarketing lists on your search campaigns you can ensure that you’re only bidding on competitor keywords for people that have previously converted or purchased from you. 
There are a million reasons a customer may choose to switch to a competitor. Use RLSAs to make that final attempt at getting your brand back in front of them to prevent the loss!

How to setup RLSA ads campaigns

Adding remarketing lists to your search campaigns is super simple. Head into the search campaign or ad group of choice and select “Audiences” from the menu on the left. This will take you to the audience manager page where you can add, remove and place bid adjustments on all audiences. At the top next to “Audiences” you’ll see the “Exclusions” tab where you can do just what the name suggests and exclude specific audiences from your campaign. 
how to add RLSA audiences to a campaign


To conclude, RLSA ads targeting can be incredibly valuable and help to take accounts to the next level. They can also help with accounts that are struggling with a limited budget. The key takeaways and methods are;

  • Increase bids for customers that already know your brand
  • Exclude previous customers from your main campaign to split your budget for new vs. returning
  • Customise that ad copy as much as possible for higher CTRs and conversion rates
  • Don’t forget about someone once they’ve converted! Upsell other products and prevent them from leaving for the competition.
  • If your budget is limited, try combining a low CPC display campaign with RLSA targeting to build awareness and then drive the conversion through search.

Give them a go on your campaigns and see what creative combinations of audiences and ad copy you can come up with!