Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) Beta Introduction

Feb. 12, 2013 | by Deyna.Lavery

At iCrossing we’re always looking to new betas for the opportunities they provide – despite the initial teething issues they can sometimes have, they allow us to get in on the ground level and find new ways we can deliver efficiencies to accounts, or use new features to expand into previously unprofitable areas.

Currently remarketing allows us to target ads on the Google Display Network (GDN) based on where users have been on our clients site – for example, targeting people who visited the basket page, but ultimately did not convert. GDN ads, however, don’t generally catch users who are actively searching, but when they’re in a more passive, browsing mind-set, and performance tends to reflect this.

“Search remarketing” is something advertisers have been after for a while. Utilising user data on the SERP (search engine results page) offers an incredibly attractive proposition, with the potential for massive conversion rates with minimal wasted spend. For example, is it worth showing ads to users who have already purchased your product in the last few days, who may click an ad for navigation? It’s a tricky area, as providing users search history to advertisers would come with a host of privacy issues and potential backlash.

In late July last year we got to see Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (or, as this is paid search and we all love an acronym, RLSA). Rather than search history, this uses cookie based audience lists already used in AdWords across the GDN. Currently in beta to whitelisted advertisers, it allows us to take a standard search ad group setup, then layer an audience list over the top to determine who to show the ads to. The actual setup for RLSA is very simple, and is almost identical to setting GDN audience remarketing.

It’s worth noting early that there are plenty of T’s & C’s when using RLSA, as with GDN remarketing- Google seems keen to make sure users feel remarketing is personalised rather than intrusive, so “Looking for light red shoes in size 4.5?” ad copy when someone is searching for [shoes] is out.

One major caveat is that you cannot currently use rules created from the relatively new single tag remarketing setup – you can only use individual tags or custom combinations of tags (Custom combinations potentially offer huge amounts of flexibility, allowing advertisers to adjust bids and ad messaging based on where someone sits in the conversion funnel, a great opportunity for high ticket value or lead gen clients). It’s a shame given how flexible and hassle-free the single tag is, but it is still a beta, so hopefully we’ll soon be able to use these two new remarketing features in tandem. EDIT: This has since changed, and you can now setup RLSA using single pixel remarketing lists.

At iCrossing we work with Virgin Experience Days, from previous years we found that broad generic “gift” and “present” terms naturally rocket in popularity over December, and we see high CPCs (cost per click) and low ROI (return on investment) from them. As we’ve been running GDN remarketing for a while, we already have a large audience of users who have already converted setup, so we decided to run a RLSA campaign focusing on a small number of very broad generic keywords such as “+gift” and “+present”, only targeting people on our converted audience list – the thinking being that hopefully your last purchase went well, so consider us again this Christmas.

Over the period we ran this campaign we found we were able to effectively target previous buyers who were again “in-market” for a gift or present. We saw a CTR (click through rate) of 30-40% lower than other broad non-brand terms – this was to be expected as by using very broad, generic keywords with little intent information we are likely hitting searchers who had previously converted but actually wanted “gift wrapping paper”, “gift cards”, “gift wrapping guide” etc…, even with a negative list in place. However, we saw a conversion rate 300 – 400% higher than usual non-brand keywords – close to what we usually see from brand terms rather than non-brand generics, and substantially higher than we saw from our GDN remarketing setup over the same time period. CPC’s were, as expected, higher than we’d like to see, but overall we saw a ROI of 30-40% higher than what we generally see for non-brand terms.

It was great to see this RLSA test show positive results -we were able to drive additional revenue at great efficiencies, recapturing previous customers who were again shopping for gifts, using a set of terms that’d usually be too expensive to consider bidding aggressively on. RLSA provides even more value from audience lists and gives plenty of opportunity for creatively targeted campaigns (both positively and negatively targeting users), and is definitely a beta we’ll look to continue using.

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