By adding either a Google AdWords remarketing code or Google Analytics tracking code to your website, you can create audiences lists to bid differently on these users who have previously visited your site compared to just anyone searching on AdWords for your site. The lists that can are able to be applied AdWords campaigns are called remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) and have been available since June 2013.

On the 1st May, 2017 Google announced they were finally, after a long wait, releasing similar audiences for search (SAS). Similar audiences differ from RLSA due in that a similar audiences lists are created by looking at a remarketing list and profiling the users based on the terms they are searching on to find users who most look like your specified audience list much like the Facebook look-a-like audiences.

How it Works

These lists are continually automatically updated based on what a user is searching for in Google, and if the user falls into the specified remarketing list, they will automatically be removed from the similar audience list. A short time frame around when the users were added to the remarketing list is analysed by AdWords to profile the search behaviours of these users, and then they will match this against other searchers.

How To Qualify

For a similar audience list to be formed there needs to be at least 1000 cookies with enough similarity in search behaviour to understand the audience. Google will also consider how recent users joined the original list when deciding if you will qualify.


  • Find new qualified potential customers with low risk as they already have a shared interest with your key audience list.
  • Increase the reach of your target and bid campaigns. If your RLSA has very low spend and needs a push, this could help you increase your traffic to these campaigns.
  • Automatically updating with new potential customers based on their search queries.

Best Practice for Using Similar Audience for Search and Shopping Campaigns

Our best practice is always to create our pre-defined Google Analytics lists as soon as we take over any Google PPC account. We have previously created combined lists for time delay, however; currently, these lists will not be considered to create a similar list but are something we would like Google to incorporate in the future.

When deciding which lists to use, we would suggest using a list with high volume as well as your converting audience list or somewhere in the conversion funnel. When using similar audiences for search, we would also use ‘bid only’ audience targeting first with a 0% bid adjustment. Appling a 0% bid will allow you collect valuable data with very low risks. If you find the audience is a large section of your traffic you may also want to consider separating the campaign out to ‘target & bid’ audience bid settings.

Impact on Shopping Campaigns

Our first tests have been with Google Shopping campaigns which have seen Similar Audiences for Search CTR’s 42% higher than the new users, average order values being 40% greater than new users and ROAS 22% higher. We did find that returning users were 59% more likely to click through the product listing and 91% more likely to convert than the similar audience. Similar audience list all had 0% bid adjustments where remarketing lists bid have different bid modifiers. Now we have enough statistical significance data, we do amend the audience bid adjustments based on performance. The only downfall with SAS for our test is they only made up 6% of traffic and 10% of revenue. We would have liked this to be a bigger percentage of the traffic.


In summary, we are using SAS to build audiences lists that look like our key customers and apply bid adjustments accordingly. So far, we have seen some very promising results, but we will keep you updated on other success of this across other markets.

AdWords Setup

To apply these audiences, follow the subsequent steps:

Google AdWords Editor (Recommended)

  1. If you do not have this tool installed, we would defiantly recommend it to save you days of work. Download here.
  2. ‘Get the recent changes’ for your account.
  3. Select all the campaigns you would like to add your audiences to.
  4. Under the manage section go to ‘Keywords and targeting’ > ‘Audiences’
  5. Select ‘Add Audience’ and what level you would like to target at.
  6. Apply a filter of ‘similar’ and filter by ‘No. of search users’ the account below does not have any list we could use for search due to it being a blank account, however, in yours, you should see estimated numbers. Select the audience you would like to apply (holding ‘cmd’ on a mac or ‘ctrl’ on a PC).
  7. Select ‘OK’. Got to campaigns and check your ‘Flexible reach’ is set to the right setting for you.
  8. Now post your changes.

New AdWords

  1. Go to the audience tab
  2. Select the campaign or ad group you would like to add to.
  3. Select ‘observation’ to add the audience as ‘bid only’ option.
  4. Select your audiences and save.

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