Search remarketing in the new Google Ads (AdWords) interface

Juan Daniel Fuentes

Written by Juan Daniel Fuentes

What is search remarketing

Search remarketing or Remarketing List for Search Ads (RLSA) is one of the features we can use in our Google Ads (AdWords) accounts to approach in a different manner users who have previously visited our website. What do we mean by that? We mean that the initial idea is similar to traditional display remarketing, but within the same search network. We want to follow and to treat differently users who are still interested in our site’s products or services. Although this kind of remarketing has been available for a long time, its perks are still being severely underused. Given the great results this technique can provide, it should be a must in any Google Ads account.

The key is in the remarketing lists

If you’ve already used the well-known display remarketing at some point, you will be familiar with remarketing lists. Here is the touchstone to make good use of any type of remarketing. If we can segment our target audience correctly and we know our products’ and services’ characteristics very well, we will be able to obtain great performance out of our remarketing campaigns, especially search remarketing ones. In the new Google Ads interface you need to locate the ‘tools’ icon, within the audience manager. Evidently, you should have the remarketing global tag already installed on your website, and/or have your Google Analytics account linked to Google Ads (it’s not mandatory, but highly recommended).

Audience manager in Google Ads

Within the “Audience manager” we will be able to create lists and segment our visitors based on their interests and/or remarketing strategies. We can also create lists with users originating from apps, YouTube, or we can upload lists with information regarding our own clients.

How to activate search remarketing in my Google Ads account

In the new Google Ads interface, once we’ve created our lists in the audience manager, we only need to access our campaign or ad group for which we want to activate these lists, and click on “Audiences“.

Audiences in Google Ads

There we will find our lists and once we save them, we will be able to adjust bids according to our goals.

Some remarketing strategies and usage examples for the search network

We are going to propose a few search remarketing strategies for which we can guarantee proven efficacy. It’s perfectly normal if your AdWords account doesn’t have all the recommended ones, or on the contrary, not all active strategies are recommended for your account specifically. All of them, however, will be come in handy for you to understand the usefulness of remarketing, after which you will be able to develop strategies that will best fit in with your products’, services’, or customers’ needs.

Bid for users who are more interested

The most basic and most recommended strategy for most Google Ads accounts is that you should bid for users whose conversion intent is the strongest. For example, if we have an online store where we’re selling [red shoes], and we already have customers who visited us previously with that same purchase intent, it would be highly recommended that when said customers look for [red shoes] again, we big higher to reach better ad rankings for them, as they provide a higher chance of conversion. Although at first it might seem like it only drives up our expense, in reality, in most cases it actually lowers it, because we only spend on customers who convert better, as it lowers the average CPA and, consequently, the total cost as well. In short, it’s about optimising our budget based on conversion probability.

Remarketing’s primary strategy is to bid for users whose purchase intent is the strongest, optimising the budget based on conversion probability.

Edit audiences in Google Ads

This can be done by including the audience (lists) to campaigns themselves or ad groups as “Observation”, or to different campaigns or ad groups as “Targeting”.

Making broad match keywords profitable

It is pretty common to find campaigns where there are certain conversion-prone keywords, but for various reasons their CPA isn’t profitable for us. Thanks to search remarketing we can continue to display ads for keywords, in which we weren’t interested due to their CPA, to users who had previously visited us through other keywords that are profitable for us. This way, the CPA for keywords that used to be unreachable for us changes radically and is once again within our target mark.

For example, let’s imagine our website sells online English courses. Most likely, bidding for [English courses] won’t be particularly profitable, as there will be a huge number of people who will be looking for in-person courses to learn English, and given that our service isn’t on-site, most of these users won’t convert, making our CPA thus more expensive. However, there will also be people who were looking for in-person training, but ultimately decide to give the online method a try, and it would be a shame to not impact those users. This, here, would be the perfect moment to try a search remarketing campaign, for which we would create a new ad group including broader keywords (even in broad match), but those would only be aimed (targeted) at users who are already on our list as someone who were previously interested in more restrictive search terms.

Another way to exploit similar audiences

Self-explanatory. If our strategy works with our own lists, it may also work adding lists of similar audiences. We need to create a new group to have a better control of our budget, we add similar audiences, and adjust bids to see how it goes. Similar audiences are created automatically from already created and used lists. After a few days of using our lists, similar audience lists will appear as well.

Redirecting the user to what they’re really interested in

Analysing search terms and visited pages we can find out whether a user landed on our page through a specific keyword –which can be automatic through broad match, modified broad match, or phrase broad match– have got to the desired place or not. If not, we can redirect them in their next search to a landing page more aligned to their interests, through a new ad group with remarketing lists and precise bids.

Selling recurring purchase products or services

Just as we were saying in the first point of this section how it was highly recommended to bid higher based on a user’s interest, it’s increasingly important to do so if our product or service qualifies as a recurring purchase, or that its repurchase terms are more or less defined. With our lists we can improve our bids based on the customer’s last visit, whether they converted or not, after 7, 30, 120 days… up to 540 days.

Cross selling

Same as in the previous point, it is possible our product or service has other products or services associated to it, so it can be interesting to add a product’s or a service’s users or converted customers into ad groups with broader keywords including terms of complementary products or services. This is another version of the aforementioned “Redirecting users to what they’re really interested in“, but this time, to products or services related to the one that sparked their interest in the first place.

Targeting “Customer lists”, “App users” or “YouTube users”

Search remarketing also enables us to segment and display ads in Google search results to lists of already acquired customers (for example, mailing lists), to users of our apps, or to viewers of our YouTube channel. These users are likely to be more interested in our stuff than a regular search network user, so perhaps it would be recommended to bid higher for them.

Saving budget by excluding already converted customers

There will be times when we will want to stop showing our ads to users who have already converted. For example, if they have already given us their contact information, or acquired our product or service, but continue their search, with the sole purpose of seeing it again or gathering more information. In this case we can exclude already converted users and who aren’t going to convert again through search remarketing lists. This will help us to save our precious budget and to put it to better use toward different goals or targets.

Changing the message and/or offer displayed to the target user to recapture them

Depending on the nature of our business, it might be interesting to try displaying a different ad message to a customer who visited us previously, but hadn’t bought anything. Additionally, we would even recommend to offer a special promotion on a different landing page, a discount coupon or something of that sort to recurring visitors who don’t end up converting. To do this, we only need to create a new ad group and segment with our lists non-converting users to make them an offer they won’t be able to refuse.

Use search remarketing wisely by displaying different ads to customers who visited you but didn’t purchase anything, and make them an offer they cannot refuse 🤩💸🛒

Avoid unwanted clicks

Sometimes, competition in AdWords is pretty much an all-out war. There are certain fields where the battle to acquire a customer and/or to make your competitors spend more goes way beyond ethics and legitimate methods. At Human Level we’ve never been nor will be supporters of using bad tactics against competitors, however, it’s important to be ready to defend yourself if at a certain point someone uses them against you. Through remarketing lists we can stop our ads from appearing to users who are suspect of having a fraudulent behaviour. In any case, if we detect that we might have been targeted, the best thing to do is to directly restrict these recurring IP addresses.

Avoid additional clicks on specific products or services which are impulse-prone

We don’t need to detect fraudulent behaviour specifically, to want to prevent displaying our ads repeatedly to a non-converting user. Sometimes, due to a product’s or service’s features, or to a certain promotion or strategy specifics, we only want to display our ad until we get the first click. In these circumstances, if the user isn’t converted at the first attempt, it’s likely they won’t ever convert, or we could be no longer interested in them converting for whatever reason. Using search remarketing we can exclude users who aren’t going to be converted, so that our ads are not displayed to them again. We will only have to activate the list of non-converting visitors and decrease our bid 100%.

Common search remarketing mistakes

Now we are going to put together a few typical mistakes made during search network remarketing strategies:

From “Target and bid” to “Targeting” in the new interface

This is the easiest mistake, and also one which has more power to cause more damage. It wasn’t well-explained in the old interface, and despite having been changed in the new UI, it’s still not expressed very clearly.Common mistakes when managing remarketing campaigns

In the old interface, for your remarketing strategies you could choose between “Target and bid“, where you were told you could display ads only to people associated to these lists or categories, allowing you to define specific bids; and the “Bid only” option, where you could add these lists or categories so that you could set bids for them, displaying ads when your other targeting methods matched.

The new interface gives you a choice between “Targeting“, to display ads only to users from your lists, and “Observation“, to display ads to all users who activate your search terms, besides also being able to adjust your bids to users who are in your lists.

And this, here, is the origin of a very big mistake one can occasionally make. If you don’t create a new campaign or an ad group for search remarketing purposes, and you use the same campaign instead, switching from “Targeting” to “Observation” will cause your ads to stop showing to new users, and will only be displayed to your remarketing lists, thus leading to a huge drop in traffic.

If you want to develop your own strategy that will treat users from your lists differently, duplicate your campaign or ad group and target. If you only want to change the bid for users from your lists, you can use the same campaign o ad group and “observe”.

Search remarketing, always

When we try the remarketing technique to bid higher for users in our lists, and it demonstrates its effectiveness, it usually becomes a “must have” in all our campaigns. It then becomes a common process in all of our campaigns, and we activate it almost mechanically everywhere. However, we mustn’t forget that it’s important to always think about the goal of each campaign and ad group first, as well as the terms of our lists. For example, if we have a campaign serving the sole purpose of protecting our brand, and it contains branded keywords exclusively, it doesn’t make much sense to use remarketing lists to bid higher. With branded campaigns we should always rank at the top, so it won’t be necessary to change the bid for users in our lists to try and get a better position.

As a conclusion, it’s important to once again emphasise search remaketing’s versatility and broad functionalities. which lead to such amazing results, that use of this technique, in one way or another, is highly recommended on any AdWords account. However, the strategy must always be aligned with our goals and requires us being 100% familiar with our target users and our own products or services. It’s a great power, and it comes with great responsibility.


Juan Daniel Fuentes
Autor: Juan Daniel Fuentes

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