You have probably noticed the ads that ‘stalk’ you around the web, encouraging you to book that holiday, or buy those shoes that you looked at last week.

But what exactly are these ads, and how can your business use them to encourage people back to your site.

What is remarketing / retargeting?

This “stalking” is technically known as remarketing, a.k.a retargeting.  It is the practice of delivering ads to users that have already engaged with certain content on a website in the past, in an attempt to re-engage with them and encourage a particular action, such as a product purchase.

It is a very valuable tool in the paid search marketers toolkit, with the targeting options allowing for tight control over which ads are displayed, to whom and with what messaging.

For example, a shoe shop could choose to target those that have viewed specific pages on brown brogues, but didn’t purchase them. The store might then target these people with specific brown brogue ads and potentially include a promotional code to encourage re-engagement and a purchase.

The emergence of remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA)

In addition to traditional remarketing ads, advertisers can also display dynamic remarketing ads through AdWords in order to highlight specific products that a searcher has already viewed.

These ads, like traditional remarketing ads, display on the Google Display Network i.e. through websites partnered with Google, however, we couldn’t previously retarget site visitors in Google’s search engine results pages with paid ads. But this changed when Google announced the RLSA beta, before launching the feature in June 2013, calling it “remarketing 3.0”.

Since the launch, RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) campaigns have become a staple for most of our clients. These campaigns allow us to create remarketing lists in the same way that we do for display remarketing. We’re then able to create tailored ads based on a visitor’s engagement with our website and display these in Google search results.

We can target these audiences:


  • Based on the product they visited

  • Based on visiting a certain page of your checkout process

  • You can even target audiences that didn’t visit a certain page


These types of ads have proved themselves to be very effective so far, due to us having the ability to re-engage with these searchers through Google search, making them the missing piece of the retargeting puzzle.

They’ve also been very effective in producing more conversions because you’re effectively retargeting prospects that are already in the purchasing phase of the buying cycle and have initially expressed interest in your site, therefore they are more valuable to you.

Based on our experience with remarketing lists for search ads, we have eight winning tips that we would like to share with you

1. Customise your ad copy

If you are displaying ads to previous visitors that looked at a particular product, make sure you include the name of that product or service within the ad copy. This is likely to be far more effective than a generic ad about your business. By using the information we already know about prospects we can maximise CTR (Click Through Rates) and be more effective in attracting their attention and them re-engaging with them.

2. Consider using offers

Remarketing allows us to re-engage with those that perhaps had some reservations about a purchase. Perhaps the delivery charges put them off or they might be comparing other deals. To combat this consider using a free shipping promo code for your remarketing ads, or even a % discount to encourage the prospect to follow through with a purchase.

3. Raise your bids on converters

Target those who are familiar with your brand with higher bids, as you know they have converted previously. In order to justify the increased spend. Think of it as raising the bids on your usual keywords in search that have a high conversion rate.

4. Consider the most appropriate landing page

Spending the extra time to direct visitors to the most relevant page based on their previous engagement is crucial, as it is with other paid search campaigns. Make the process as simple as possible for the user. If they looked at “brown brogues” previously for example, direct your ads to your page containing brown brogues.

5. Consider competitor bidding using RLSA

It is common to see high CPCs (Cost Per Clicks), low CTRs and low conversion rates when bidding on competitor brands, but when they are bidding on your brand terms, the temptation is always there to retaliate. Consider using RLSA to target those comparison shoppers who have visited your brand and are now looking for your competitor’s brands to cast a smaller net over this traffic. This is where a compelling offer and your USPs really come in to play to entice the visitor back to your site though, so think carefully about this.

6. Consider trailing previously unprofitable keywords

One of our retail clients has a very seasonal business, and as such, they find that many high-competition, expensive and generic keywords aren’t profitable outside their peak selling time. Previously, we would limit the display of these keywords to selected months of the year. That was until RLSA came along. We can now use these keywords in the RLSA campaign, targeting only those that search for these terms, but have already engaged with the site, i.e. those that are pre-qualified so to speak. The result – profitable sales outside the non-peak months for generic terms – hurrah!  Try it and see how you get on.

7. Set the right bid strategy

When you assign your remarketing list to each ad group, pay attention to the two bid options: “Target and bid” or “Bid only.” Which one you use depends on how you intend to structure your campaign, but remember this – “Target and bid” means that your ads will only display when both your keywords and remarketing list are triggered, making it basically an RLSA only campaign. The “Bid only” option, on the other hand, allows you to display to visitors not in any of your remarketing lists, while setting bid adjustments for those who are in your list. Personally, I use the “target and bid” option, as I like to divide everything up so I can keep an eye on the finer detail, but you may wish to experiment with this.

Here’s where you’ll find the “Target and bid” tab on your dashboard:

target and bid tab AdWords 

8. The secret to RLSA success? Be prepared to fail.

Test, test and test to find the strategies that works for you. There isn’t a one size fits all approach with RLSA, so you will probably make a few mistakes, but through testing, you will find what works best for your business.

What results can I expect from RLSA?

Performance depends on many variables and differs greatly from one advertiser to another, but from my own RLSA activity from the 1st January to 8th April 2014, this activity has a conversion rate 56% higher than the average for my main retail accounts, with a CPA only £0.02 higher than the collective campaign average, making it highly profitable.

Summary

Remarketing works. Plain and simple. We often hear people complaining about these ads that ‘stalk’ them around the internet, but they exist for a reason – they are very effective. RLSA campaigns are also proving to be yet another effective tool in the remarketing arsenal – just consider the points mentioned previously in setting up and running your campaigns to ensure that you get the most from this feature.

If you’d like help with either your remarketing or wider PPC advertising, get in touch today. We offer a comprehensive free PPC health check to help you get more from AdWords.