What portion of your PPC budget are you spending on Remarketing List for Search Ads (RLSA) right now? Here’s the important follow up question: why that amount? The purpose of this post is to convince you to spend as much as possible on those RLSA campaigns — even if that means pausing many of your regular search campaigns.

With few exceptions, RLSA campaigns are the most profitable campaigns within an AdWords campaign. Here’s a quick refresher on what they are: someone goes to your website, they are put into your remarketing list, then when they search one of your keywords at a later point, you bid higher than your regular campaigns and recapture those users. Basically, these campaigns only show search ads to those who have already been to your site.

There are two types of users who see your ads on Google: those who are familiar with your brand, and those who are not. Ideally, everyone who sees your ad would already have some positive impression about your company.

Brand Familiarity in SERPs


Typically, Adwords campaigns are built around a litany of keywords that may or may not bring them business. There will usually be some targeting by geography, ad schedule, and mobile/desktop preference, with the occasional demographic targeting. These are great, but in the end, they’re all assumptions. At some point, a remarketing campaigns begin and we start seeing some of that traffic return to the site. The next image will show the goal of this article.

RLSA AdWords Strategy for SaaS Companies


Notice that it is still recommended to keep some portion of your budget for those who are not familiar with your brand. But I would recommend that portion only go to your top 10 – 20% performing keywords. The rest of your ad spend should go to People Who Are Familiar With Your Brand. In digital marketing terms, max out your search remarketing campaigns.


The RLSA-Focused Strategy

There is a chance that the size of your remarketing bucket (ie number of cookies captured by Google Analytics) exceeds your ad spend budget. If this is the case, your solution is simple: slap “RLSA“ to the front of your campaign name, add your best audience to your current ad groups, turn on “Target and Bid” on this remarketing list, and watch your click-through rate, conversion rate, and return on ad spend take a ride on the upward escalator.

More likely, however, the size of your remarketing list is much smaller than what your AdWords budget allows.

Our plan of attack is this:

  1. Create the remarketing lists
  2. Grow the lists to 1,000+ as fast as possible and for as little cost as possible
  3. Create unique ads that will ring a bell with this audience

If they are not created already, add remarketing audiences in Google Analytics. An “All Users” group is essential (make sure you expand the audience window length to a generous level). Next create audiences for each of the mediums / sources you will be driving traffic from (ie Facebook, Twitter, Referral). Remember, there is a minimum amount of users an audience needs in order to remarket to (1,000), so if a channel is not bringing in more than 1,000+ about every month, then you will need to cast a wider net.

Now that these are created, the name of the game is to grow the number of targeted people who have visited your site for as little cost as possible.

Facebook has been touted as a great way to accomplish this. One of my favorite strategies for building an audience through Facebook is to use multiple phases to uncover and capitalize on the best possible audience. First, create 10 – 20 audiences with criteria differing in one or two variables in each ad set.


RLSA Example

exampleFor example, let’s say we are trying to build an audience for an accounting software company. Our ad creative features a Dilbert style comic displaying the  frustrations of working without accounting software.

We would create an overarching demographic audience (people from the ages 24 – 60 who are in a management position), then break that audience into 2 parts of one criteria (accounting/finance related job titles, and those that do not have those terms in their job title). Now we split each of these groups into 5 each (company size). At this point, we have 10 groups. Finally, we’ll split each of these new groups into 2 again by interest (those who do and do not have “Dilbert” or “Comics”). Now where are we? 2 X 5 X 2  = 20 audiences. This does not have to be the end! As long as we have an estimated reach of about 1,000 per day, the audiences should be broken down as far as they can.

NOTE: Make sure for every interest or demographic criteria group you make, you also create an exclusion group to prevent overlap.

Now, we divide our budget into two parts for the first and last two weeks of the month. The first half of the budget will be divided into 20 parts evenly (one chunk of the budget for each group) and the campaign is ready to start!

After two weeks, we simply cut and amplify the campaign by picking the top 2 or 3 groups with the lowest cost per unique clicks, and divide the rest of the budget for the month between those few audiences. These groups should produce a high volume of unique clicks to the website. Now we are talking!

With this strategy, we typically see clicks coming in at a $0.20 – $0.30 click cost rate. If we have a $10,000 budget for the second part of the phase, we would end up with 33,333 – 50,000 unique targeted visitors in two weeks! And that’s not including the traffic from the first two weeks. This is more than enough to begin a strong RLSA campaign.

Now what? You have created a giant pool of unique targeted visitors who are now familiar with your brand, now it’s time to make some money (you’ve likely made some good cash already with the first month of traffic).

An important note: you have a fantastic opportunity for continuity here by matching the ad copy on AdWords to the ad copy on Facebook, in either the description or headline(s).


Let’s take it back high-level here and see what’s happening. At this point in our above example, whenever anyone in the audience searches “accounting software” they will see an ad at the top of the search results that is similar in ad copy from a Facebook ad they saw earlier, answering their question of where to go for accounting software. This is exactly what we want, and what actually happens! There are few reasons why this person wouldn’t jump to this ad over everyone else’s paid/organic links. You nailed it.

In the end, we are fully and completely talking about branding.

The stronger your brand, the better your AdWords campaign will perform.

To turn a great ROI from AdWords, people need to be familiar with your brand. If you can introduce people to your brand early in their search, you can bet they will be much more likely to click your link for their search term. Facebook was the example to get more traffic to your page and begin that virtual relationship, but there are plenty of virtual and non-virtual mediums to grow your brand awareness. Find the one that wins and seal the deal with a killer AdWords RLSA campaign.