Did you know Adwords allows you to target certain searchers that are most likely to buy from you? I’m not talking about keyword selection, time of day, geographic location, cpa bidding… or any of the other normal Adwords methods.

Instead, I’m talking about something that only 1% of Adwords advertisers are using to target the best prospects within all the people searching for your keywords.

What is it?

It’s combining remarketing with Google search. This is known as “RLSA” (Remarketing lists for search ads.)

What is Remarketing?

You may know about Google Remarketing: It allows you to advertise to people who have previously visited your website. These ads show on Google’s display network (i.e. on websites that run Adsense ads).

This form of advertising tends to produce an excellent ROI – because the people who have previously visited your website are usually much better than average prospects.

What most people don’t know is that you can also use remarketing on Google search.

Two ways to do this with Google search

When you add a remarketing list to an ad group, there are two options:

Bid only: you continue to show your ads to everyone searching on your keywords, but you can bid differently (usually higher) when the searcher is someone on your remarketing list. That way, when a previous visitor is searching, your ad will be more prominent.

Target and bid: with this option, you only show your ad to people on your remarketing list. So, if someone who is on your remarketing list searches for your keywords, they see your ads. If they’re not on the list, they don’t see your ads.

There are a few advantages to this. The first is that you can write different ads for those people. The second advantage is that you might have keywords that aren’t profitable for general searchers, but when restricted to your remarketing list, are profitable.

For example, if you sell holidays in Paris, you probably couldn’t make a profit bidding for “French holidays”. But, if you only target your remarketing list, people seeing your “French holidays” ad wouldn’t be “people searching for French holidays”, they’d be “people searching for French holidays that have shown an interest in Paris holidays”. And those people would be far more likely to convert.

The final advantage is that, because the people seeing your ads know your site, your click rate is likely to be high… which will increase your quality score, which will lower your cost per click.

How to set up remarketing

Firstly, you need to create a remarketing list and add the remarketing code to your website.
To do this, log into Adwords, go to the “Campaigns” page. Near the bottom left corner of the screen will be a number of options. Choose the one that says “Shared Library”.

That’ll take you to a page where you should choose “audiences”. From there, just follow the instructions.

(Usually, you’ll want to put the remarketing code on all your website pages.)

Adding remarketing lists to ad groups

I’ll show you how to add a “bid only” list to an existing ad group. The process for “target and bid” is pretty much the same.

Here are the steps:

(1) Pick an Ad Group you want to add the targeting to. Go into that Ad Group within your Adwords interface.

(2) Click the “audiences” tab. You’ll see the message “There are no remarketing lists added in this ad group for Search ads.”

(3) Click the red “+ Remarketing” button.

The red + Remarketing button

The red + Remarketing button

(4) From “Targeting” choose “Interests & remarketing”

(5) You’ll see a list of remarketing lists to choose from. You may only have one list (default “All visitors”). Add the list you want by clicking the >> arrows.

(6) Scroll down a little and you’ll see a choice between “Target and bid” and “Bid only”. In this example, you should choose “Bid only”.

(7) Click “save”.

(8) You’ll be returned to the Audiences tab and you’ll see your list. Targeting setting should say “Bid only”.

(9) To adjust the bid, click on the “- -“ that’s showing in the “bid adj” column. This allows you to increase or decrease by a percentage. When you’re starting off, try 20%. That’s enough to make a difference. You can always adjust it in the future.

That’s it. You’re now using RLSA in that Ad Group. Whenever you want to see the impact, just go into your Audiences tab and it’ll show you the data. You’ll be able to compare the performance between “Total – audiences” and “Total – search”.

Adding Lists As Negatives

Another way to use RLSA is to exclude people who are on certain remarketing lists.
For example, one of my clients is a software company where existing customers log into their site in order to use the software.

Some of those customers visit the site by doing a search on the company name. And some of those people were clicking our ads to get to the website. This cost the client money, but didn’t bring in more sales.

So I created a remarketing list of all people who visited the member pages (thus proving they’re existing customers).

I then excluded that list from the groups we had that were bidding on the company name.

The ads were still showing for non-customers – i.e. potential new customers – searching for the company, but not for those who had already bought.

The result: our clickthrough rate increased, while our cost per click and cost conversion both reduced.


I believe RLSA has been a major game changer – particularly for business for whom the normal approach to Adwords isn’t profitable.

If you’ve never tried it, I suggest you look into it. And, of course, if you’d like my help getting the most out of Adwords, check out my Adwords services.

Best wishes,

Steve Gibson