Until this past year, coming up with targeted marketing campaigns has required something of a scattershot approach—you could look at metrics for your website (like bounce rate, time spent on page, most viewed product pages, etc.) and research customer demographics (age, gender, region, etc.), but you couldn’t know which specific web users had visited which specific page on your website.
How RLSAs Work
The easiest way to think of RLSAs is as a tool to put relevant ads in front of qualified leads. Let’s say that you have an online women’s clothing store with a wide variety of products and styles, for example. Your website visitors will presumably visit different pages of your website depending on what they’re looking for; someone interested in buying a new sundress would most likely go to the summer wear section while someone who loves vintage fashion might go to the consignment page.
By using RLSAs, you can create a “summer dresses” ad that appears the next time the user who searched for sundresses uses a search term like “summer clothing” and an ad for something like “discounts on vintage fashion” the next time the user who looked at vintage clothes searches for something like “consignment shops.”
By segmenting your potential customers like this, you’re more likely to convert them from leads who are still in the process of researching products to actual paying customers.
Use broader keywords. RLSAs allow you to run campaigns with keywords that may have been too broad for you to use before. For example, if you sell jewelry, you may not have bid on the keyword “gifts” in the past because it is too broad. But if you know that certain web users have visited the “Gift Idea” page of your website in the past, it could be worthwhile to target the keyword “gifts” with that group of people, with the idea that when they search for gifts online, they’ll already have some interest in jewelry.
Boost your keyword bids. You can raise your keyword bids specifically for keywords that appear for users who have already visited your site, so that you’ll be more likely to get traffic from these already-primed-to-shop users. You know these users already have some interest in your product, so it’s less risky than boosting your keyword bid when you don’t know anything about your audience’s purchasing behavior.
Tailor your ads. Let’s say that you have three general product categories: loose-leaf tea, ground coffee, and gourmet chocolate. Someone who looked at gourmet chocolates on your website might not be as interested in purchasing ground coffee, and someone who looked at loose-leaf tea might not have a particular interest in gourmet chocolate. You can use RLSAs to customize ads for three different customer segments based on previous interests.
Help leads through the conversion tunnel. Remarketing lists can be a great way to target web users who may have started a shopping cart and abandoned it, or who visited a specific product page but didn’t make a purchase. Using information about your website visitor behavior, you can release targeted search ads that include an enticing offer like “Discount on [insert the product a user looked at]” or “Free Shipping on [insert an item that was in a user’s shopping cart].” This ad should include a call-to-action button that takes the web user straight to a landing page that encourages them to make the purchase.
As helpful as RLSAs can be, there are still a few limitations that it’s important to recognize. According to Google’s Ad Policy, marketers should not release targeted ads that indicate knowledge of a web user’s browsing habits, such as an ad with the headline “Interested in Designer Handbags?” for users who had looked at the designer handbag page on your website (an ad that said something less targeted like “Discount on Designer Handbags” would presumably be okay). It’s not entirely clear how Google is defining targeted ads here, but it’s better to play it safe and avoid posting anything that might get you penalized.
List size is also a potential limitation for RLSAs. In an effort to protect web users’ privacy, Google won’t serve remarketing list search ads until a remarketing list has at least 1,000 users (this means that you can’t create a remarketing list based on, say, 10 web users who looked at a specific product page on your site). Although I described it as a limitation, this parameter can also be valuable for the marketer, as it ensures that search ads will have a large enough audience to deliver a good ROI.
If you haven’t started using Google’s remarketing lists for search ads yet, you absolutely should. The tool is easy to set up, free to use, and it allows you to better tailor your marketing based on previous website visitors’ behavior.