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Build Sophisticated Search Remarketing (RLSA) Lists Based on Facebook Demographic Data

Since 2004, Facebook’s user base, and the amount of data they capture about their users, has grown at an exponential rate. Either knowingly or unknowingly, users have been submitting vital personal information about their identity. The vast amount of user-submitted demographic information that Facebook has acquired is quickly becoming a virtual goldmine for online marketers.

Personal details such as gender, relationship status, current location, place of birth, what movie you watched last week, and the college you attended or are attending are available to advertisers to target advertisements on the social platform. But how can one leverage this data for other marketing channels?

Sophisticated Search Remarketing Within Google

Google’s remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) allow AdWords advertisers to customize ad copy, bids, and destination URLs for users who have been added to the specific lists you are targeting. Traditionally, RLSA lists have been built off of site activity. With the introduction of DMPs and sophisticated Tag Management Systems, brands can now build search remarketing lists based on onsite data (for example, source of visitor or referring URL) along with first and third party data. This new capability allows advertisers to capture Facebook’s demographic data into RLSA lists to create demographically targeted lists that are not available in Google.

The Value of Facebook Data

One piece of data attached to your Facebook profile, which is not easily captured by Google, is your level of education, major, and the name of college you attended. As a reminder, Facebook was originally limited to college students, and you had to have a .edu email address to sign up for the social network. Since this data was essentially required to join Facebook back in the early 2000s, and is still a main component of the Facebook profile, Facebook’s targeting platform is extremely rich with data on students.

Within Facebook’s advertising platform, you can target students multiple ways – name of school, enrollment status (In college, in grad-school, alumni), and even by major or field of study. For example, you can easily target all computer science majors at USC with a current status of “in college” between the ages of 16-21. WOW! If there is a better way of getting in front of college student, please let me know!

Building a remarketing list with Facebook

To push this data into Google, you’ll need to allocate a budget to purchase Facebook ads based on demographic criteria. By targeting your Facebook buy with very specific demographic criteria, for example computer science majors in California, and using unique tracking codes for these ads, you can tell your site that all users who contain this unique code fit this demographic criteria. Then by using custom rules to trigger your RLSA pixel based on these tracking codes, you can build a Google RLSA list of Facebook users who are current computer science majors that live in the state of California. By applying this RLSA list to your Google AdWords campaigns, you can now present this audience with a customized experience on Google.com when they search for your keywords. This is a quick example of how this methodology can be used to target students, but this can be replicated for all demographic information on Facebook. Consider the options for pulling in Facebook’s relationship status data; a flower company or jewelry provider could identify all users who recently changed their status from “in a relationship” to “engaged,” and present customized offers on Google.com when searching for gifts for their future spouse.

Merkle currently uses a similar tactic to target students for one of our largest clients, and we have seen significant improvements in cost per acquisition by customizing the search experience on Google.com based on Facebook demographic data.

CPAs have decreased by 40% for users who are targeted in our Facebook RLSA list compared to our traditional search campaigns!

Applying These Principles to Your RLSA Strategy

Consider the options for pulling in Facebook’s demographic and interest-based data, and how they can apply to your search campaigns. Below, I included a couple examples of how these tactics could benefit your audience.

  • An online sports apparel supplier could target Facebook users who are fans of a specific team or university and present customized ads on Google.com when that user is searching for “football”, “baseball” or sport related queries.
  • A home improvement supplier could target Facebook users who recently moved to their market with “Welcome to the area” ad copy and discounts when they search Google for “lawnmowers” or “paint supplies.”

Have any ideas on how this can be applied to other audiences? Please share! We’d love to hear your ideas and feedback in the comments. 

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