Adwords has come a long way since it launched. Keywords, while still of the utmost importance, are far from being the sole targeting option retailers can look to take advantage of. Over the years, Google’s ecosystem has become incredibly robust and sophisticated as an advertising platform. As a result, the complexity and capacity campaigns now hold has grown alongside it.

According to Google, only 2-4% of all website visits result in a desired action (i.e. making a purchase, downloading content, filling out a form, etc). Surprising or not, the fact remains that a lot is left on the table. For ecommerce retailers, wanting to capitalize on the “unaccounted for” becomes a natural inclination.

That’s where Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) come into play. RLSA strategies provide advertisers with the ability optimize campaigns based on whether or not users have previously visited their website, and more specifically, identifying which individual pages a user may have viewed.

Getting the most out of RLSA and Remarketing

If you’ve dabbled with Remarketing Lists for Search Ads before, then you have an understanding of the type of impacts RLSA strategies can have on campaigns.

rlsa strategies remarketing

RLSAs are generally used in two basic approaches:

  • You can optimize bids for existing keywords to target visitors on your remarketing lists. For example, you can increase your bid by 25% for those who have previously visited your website in the last 30 days. Or, you could choose to show a different ad to users who may have abandoned a shopping cart.
  • You can bid on keywords that you don’t normally bid on, specifically for site visitors or those that have converted in the past. This can help increase desired conversions. For example, you can bid on broad keywords only for people who have purchased from your site.

While these are often considered the more commonly-used RLSA approaches, the combination of ways they can be used is immense and experimenting with what methods work best for you is heavily encouraged.

All in all, Remarketing Lists for Search Ads can assist in refining your campaigns in a way that cater to more qualified users already familiar with your site. Incorporating strong RLSA strategies can result in efficient ad spend, improved conversion rates, and at the end of the day, a better overall return.

At this point, it’s a good idea to consider implementing RLSA strategies in your campaigns. But when it comes down to Target and Bid versus Bid Only, which is the better option? There’s no right or wrong answer here. How you use and incorporate these settings will vary in value depending on your campaign and objectives.

Understanding each setting is the first step in knowing which you will benefit from the most.

Target and Bid

The first of these settings is the Target and Bid option. You’ll want to make note of the “and” here, as it’s comprised of two controlling factors.

After selecting your targeting method or criteria (such as the designated keyword), your RLSA setting will then determine how your ads behave within the specified method.

It typically does so in two ways:

rlsa strategies target and bid

What this essentially means is that your ads will only show if you’re bidding on that particular keyword and the user who submitted the query is on your retargeting list.

Benefits of the Target and Bid setting for RLSA Strategies

With the Target and Bid setting, you’re essentially telling Google that for this particular campaign, you’re targeting and bidding on one specific audience, and only that audience.

The great thing about implementing the Target and Bid setting in your RLSA strategy is that it can improve budget efficiency in campaigns you may not want to invest heavily in just yet. If you’ve compiled an audience comprised of users that have converted well on Shopping, you now have the ability to bid on that user for more generic or broad terms in Search campaigns.

Example: A sports retailer is selling various items on Shopping. If a particular pair of running shoes has been converting well, the retailer can create an audience (remarketing list) of only those users. They can now bid on more categorical keywords for a Search campaign, like “running apparel”, and an ad will only be triggered when users from that remarketing list have used the query. They can now advertise other products those users are likely to find relevant.

Generic or broad categorical search terms tend to be highly competitive and difficult to rank for. The Target and Bid RLSA strategy gives you a chance to test the waters in campaigns like these without breaking the bank.

This is, of course, only one of many ways the Target and Bid setting can be used in RLSA strategies.

Bid Only

The Bid Only setting is a bit more straightforward. With the exception of one caveat, Bid Only behaves similarly to any standard search campaign. If you’re bidding on a specific keyword or query, anyone who searches those terms are eligible to see your ads.

What sets the Bid Only setting apart from a standard campaign is that you’re able to include a remarketing list as an additional criteria. So while ads are triggered by anyone who submits a specific search query, you have the ability to set bid modifiers for users who are on the specified audience list.

rlsa strategies bid only

This increases the aggressiveness of your campaigns toward designated audience lists, while still maintaining a presence with non-audience members.

Your audience lists can be broken out and segmented into a variety of different ways; everything from narrowing in on users who have visited your site in the last seven days to cart abandoners or past purchasers. As long as a remarketing tag has been installed on the desired pages, then the mix of audiences is only limited by the number of combinations you can come up with.

Benefits of the Bid Only setting for RLSA strategies

The major benefit of the Bid Only approach comes from its ability to essentially target two separate groups of consumers with varying levels of aggressiveness.

In instances where your campaign is focused on competitive or non-branded keywords, you’re able to set a bid that best suits your budget for general audiences, but can also set a bid modifier that pursues users on your audience list more heavily.

Example: A sports retailer is running a search campaign with the query “running apparel” as their chosen keyword. Due to budget constraints, they have chosen to be more conservative with their non-branded bids. However, they have included an RLSA audience comprised of site visitors from the last 7 days, allowing them to bid more aggressively on those specific users.

The idea behind the Bid Only method is that it gives a retailer the ability to advertise to both the general public as a whole, and more rigorously to users already familiar with your brand – which may lead to a higher likelihood of converting.

Bid Only is more than viable as an RLSA strategy for retailers developing remarketing lists.

Our thoughts on Target and Bid or Bid Only RLSA Strategies

“Remarketing Lists for Search Ads were launched almost two years ago, and there isn’t really a set of standard RLSA strategies or best practices in how retailers should be utilizing the settings.” said Lewis Brannon, Paid Search Manager at CPC Strategy.lew RLSA strategies

“There are so many different use-cases, it’s entirely dependent on what makes the most sense for your account and campaigns. There might be one specific campaign you want to try to use this on, or it might be an “across the board” type of approach. The RLSA strategies you choose to implement are going to be unique to the individual account.

I recommend advertisers build out audiences that make the most sense to them. How you segment and what kind of audience sectors you decide to focus on will determine what the best RLSA candidates will be.

Look at your campaigns and evaluate their performance. If certain campaigns are doing well, setting a Bid Only bid modifier may make the most sense. From there, you’ll want to look at and treat that traffic differently.

In other cases, you may have instances where you want or need to compete on generic queries – or even certain queries that you should be competing on, even if they don’t typically do well – utilize the Target and Bid strategy here and evaluate how that works.

You can brainstorm so many different RLSA strategies. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads are something we try to implement across all of our accounts. We have a standard structure in place and we’re constantly evaluating the performance of those audiences.”


For more information on RLSA Strategies please contact


Additional Resources:

Announcing Remarketing Audiences for Google Search Ads

Why Advanced RLSA Audience Targeting is Essential for your Business

Google Introduces RLSA for Shopping Ads

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