RLSA vs. Customer Match in Adwords

By Alan Ngo | 02 Dec 2015

Google has recently released its Customer Match product which enables advertisers to load email addresses into audience lists for ad targeting via search, YouTube and Gmail Sponsored Promotions. This sounds very similar to Google's RLSA product which allows marketers to create audience lists base on recent site visitors for use in search ad targeting. So what are the similarities and differences?

RLSA lists are based on users who have visited the site before. Users are tracked by implementing Google remarketing tags to website pages. Customer Match audiences however are created using a list of emails obtained first hand by advertisers which are uploaded directly to the AdWords Shared Library.

With RLSA, advertisers can only target users who have been on their site in the last 180 days. Customer Match however, allows advertisers to load all emails obtained first-hand, regardless of when the user last interacted with the brand. This means that Customer Match lists can be targeted during specific times in the year such as Valentine's Day or Christmas.

An important point to take into consideration is the potential audience sizes from both products. RLSA lists tend to be much larger due to the fact that most websites have more site visitors than users from whom they obtain email addresses. However, both RLSA and Customer Match user traffic may not be directly proportional to their list sizes as different types of users have different search patterns and likelihoods of clicking ads. Order volumes are more likely to be higher as both RLSA and Customer Match users are typically more likely to convert than normal users. Brand and generic traffic will also differ due to RLSA and Customer Match users being more likely to search for a specific brand because of previous interactions with the brand. These are very important points to consider in working out how much value an advertiser can get using these products in conjunction with bid/copy and landing page changes.

A/B testing is easier for Customer Match audiences as email lists can be easily divided into test and control groups. They are created just like RLSA lists, where the list will depend on user actions on certain parts of sites and what actions are performed there. However, this is more complicated as users who have been on different parts of the site or have taken different actions may perform differently during tests. Creating quality test and control groups is important as they can be used to run tests on incremental lifts as a result of bid/copy and landing page changes and Customer Match allows for just that. In addition, Customer Match audiences can be used to perform holdout tests where advertisers can "shut off" advertising to a particular test group in order to gain important data, knowledge and understanding of existing consumer behaviour.

So as you can see, RLSA and Customer Match have their differences but both do allow advertisers to cater search copy, landing pages, keyword targeting and bids to different segments of users to users who have interacted previously with the brand. With Customer Match being relatively new, the main thing for advertisers is the need to continually test both in order to understand and assess potential gains.