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In June 2013, Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) came out of beta and enabled all AdWords marketers to leverage retargeting in search. In case you are still unfamiliar, RLSA allows you to build lists of users who have visited your website using AdWords remarketing pixels. Marketers are then able to use search campaigns to target this list of qualified users separately from other users, enabling them to use separate bids, ad copy, keywords and landing pages. Google provides a more detailed explanation in their AdWords Support section; here are some other “sneaky-great” techniques we’ve learned to employ.

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While there are many potential uses for RLSA across almost all industries, the area I wanted to focus in this article is how RLSA can be leveraged for businesses with long multi-stage funnels.

Businesses that have these types of funnels typically are selling bigger-ticket items that customers don’t generally feel comfortable buying on impulse. These users will be doing research and comparing competitors, so it is the job of the marketer to help nudge them along the way to the final purchase.

An example of how an AdWords marketer will typically handle a situation like this is to have upper-funnel, mid-funnel and lower-funnel campaigns.

-Upper-funnel campaigns target users who are potential customers, but may not even be in the market yet due to a lack of awareness. These campaigns may be focused on very high-level qualifying terms or may forgo search terms altogether and instead focus on Display.

-Mid-funnel campaigns focus on users who are in the market and likely researching their options. The campaigns usually target non-branded category terms.

-Lower-funnel campaigns focus on users who know what they want and are ready to make the decision of who they are planning to purchase from. These campaigns target branded terms and sometimes competitor terms to make one last attempt to capture the sale. While there are many variations on this structure, this basic example illustrates the general concept.

The challenge with this strategy is that these campaigns aren’t being clearly connected in a way that moves users along from one stage to the next. RLSA allows search marketers to build these connections and improve overall performance.

Build Your Lists

The first step in a multi-stage campaign is to identify qualifying goals at each stage of the funnel. Sometimes a business already has a clear idea of what this is, but you should brainstorm this anyway as you may have some additional ideas to test. Your lowest-funnel stage will always be the purchase, but each stage above should be doing something to qualify the user as someone who may be interested in taking the next step in the direction of making the purchase.

Once you have your goals you are going to need to establish a tracking solution. Currently, RLSA only works with AdWords remarketing pixels, unlike GDN which can leverage Google Analytics event tracking.  This shouldn’t be a problem if there is a specific page associated with your qualifying action, but if there isn’t, it can be a bit tricky. In a situation like this, my recommendation is to look into Google Tag Manager Auto-Event Tracking, which can trigger the AdWords Remarketing pixel on a specific event.

Once you have your tracking solution in place, allow some time for the list to build. Ideally, the list will be sizable enough to be worth the effort of building out a separate campaign. If the list is too small, you may want to reevaluate your qualifying goal and go with something that might generate more data.

Build Your Campaign Structure

Once you have your lists, you are ready to build out your campaigns. For each funnel-stage campaign you have, you are going to want to duplicate a remarketing version of that campaign. While it is up to you to label them, you should name them something clear and easy to distinguish the campaigns from each other.

In the remarketing campaigns, you will need to go to the Audiences tab and add the respective remarketing tab to each ad group. Then you will want to go to the non-remarketing campaign and add the remarketing list as a campaign exclusion. Again, you can find details on how to do this in Google’s support section.

Optimize

Now your remarking campaigns are set up and ready to go, but if you are going to take advantage of these campaigns to enhance your performance, you will need to optimize them properly.

The first thing you will want to do is to increase your keyword bids. The expectation is that the users in your list are far more qualified than other users coming to your site off of these keywords, so you should be able to achieve a higher conversion rate. Once you have collected enough conversion data, you can calculate you target CPA and adjust bids accordingly.

You should also test some more focused ad copy for your more qualified audience. One suggestion is to try and talk to the qualifying action that landed them in the remarketing list in the first place. However, you can test whatever you like, and since this is a more focused audience, you may be surprised about what works best for them.

Other ideas include special offers and post-sale marketing, which help to push users down the funnel or generate existing sales through your new customer relationships.

Final Thoughts

RLSA can be a powerful tool for digital marketers to better reach their customers and guide them through more difficult buying decisions. However, as with all digital marketing tools, the value you get out of it depends on the effort you put in. While the introduction of remarketing to SEM opens up exciting new doors, it doesn’t make our lives easier. In fact, you may have to put in a lot of time to brainstorm the right qualifying goals, and test for the best remarketing ad copy versus general ad copy.

However, you could say the same thing about any new opportunity, and our job is always to find the best opportunities for our clients.