RLSA Campaign Targeting and Bidding Options in AdWords

RLSA campaigns, or remarketing lists for search ads, is a unique way to get your ads back in front of previous visitors. For example let’s say someone visited your website and left because they weren’t ready to convert at that moment. If you have the remarketing code set up on you site, you will have the visitor tagged with a cookie to know they were a previous visitor. The next time they go back to Google.com and type in a search query that matches one of your target keywords, you can get back in front of that user again with a more aggressive bid because you already have proof they are a relevant user.

It’s very common for conversion rates on these types campaigns to be greater than regular, Search Network campaigns. That is why setting up RLSA campaigns in your account is an easy win to target valuable users who have not converted on your site yet. This blog will show you the two bidding options you can use to set up RLSA campaigns for the Search Network assuming you are already collecting remarketing audiences in AdWords. You can decide which option is better for you.

Option 1: Create an entirely new campaign

Take whichever campaign you want and copy and paste a duplicate in the AdWords interface. If you’re going to change ad group and keyword targeting then I recommend copying the campaign in Editor, make your adjustments, and push live first. After the campaign is duplicated, rename and label to make it easier to differentiate the campaign in reporting and analysis.

rlsa separate campaigns

Then in your new RLSA campaign, head to the Audience tab and add your remarketing lists to your campaign’s targeting. This also can be done easily in editor if you’re using the same audience for every ad group. What’s important is that you need to select “Target and bid” as your targeting option to guarantee your ads will never show to users who aren’t in  your audience lists.

target and bid rlsa

Pros and Cons of Target and Bid RLSA

  • Pro – Creating an entirely new campaign will allow the user to create brand new ads and landing pages to change the messaging for a repeat user. You might want to get rid of any introductory verbiage and callouts in your second round of ads because the user is already familiar with your product or service.
  • Pro – Creating an entirely new campaign is a great way to test out pure, broad match keywords. Yes broad match keywords are known to bring in a lot of irrelevant traffic, but think about it. Your separated RLSA campaign will only show up to people who have visited your site before so giving the user some freedom will allow you to open your remarketing efforts and possibly discover new search terms to add to your regular Search Network Campaigns. CTR and conversion rates will be better for theses broad terms because you’ve already selected a valuable audience to target.
  • Con – If you want to have an RLSA campaign for all of your current campaigns, you are automatically doubling the amount of campaigns in your account. If you are short on management time this may not be the most efficient route if you won’t have spare time to go back frequently and check on these new campaigns.

Option 2: Use your pre-existing campaigns

Using your current campaigns is the easiest way to set up RLSA targeting because you don’t need to create any new campaigns. You just need to apply audiences to your current, already-running campaigns. Just head to the Audience tab in your current campaigns, add the remarketing lists to your ad groups like we mentioned earlier, and then made sure “Bid only” is the targeting option selected. Now all the advertiser has to do is adjust the bid percentage for the audience as needed.

bid only rlsa

Pros and Cons of Bid Only RLSA

  • Pro – Bid only targeting is the fastest way to get RLSA up and running. Using pre-existing campaigns might be a desirable option when you are very limited on management time or your account’s daily budgets are so low you don’t want to thin out the current spread of dollars any more than you already have it.
  • Con – Your ad message will be the same to the user every single time they see your RLSA ads. If your ad and landing page didn’t work the first time, why would you want to bid more for a click that already didn’t convert with the same experience you’re giving the same user a second time?


I personally recommend creating a separate campaign for you RLSA efforts. The advertiser will have more control of the marketing message to keep the user experience as targeted as possible for repeat visitors from paid search. Which options do you use for your RLSA campaigns and why?