by Luke


Google Ads, Online Advertising

What Can We Expect from Google’s Responsive Search Ads?

Google dropped a hint back in 2017, with automated ad suggestions, that certain advertisers weren’t getting the most out of their ad copy; stating that 3-5 ad variations per ad group would likely see a better performance than 1-2 ads. Shortly after, Google dropped another hint, with automated ad suggestions becoming a full feature for ad groups that aren’t already testing multiple ad variations, that are also set to ‘Optimize’.

Now, Google have decided to try and make things a little easier by introducing the new responsive search ads beta to select advertisers. To put it simply, responsive search ads utilise Google’s machine learning to automatically test and optimise ad delivery.

Responsive Search Ads Overview

Let’s cover the basics. Responsive search ads (RSAs) are a new and improved Google Ads ad format that allows for increased coverage and optimisation through automated testing. When creating a responsive search ad, you can enter in multiple headline and description variations (see more about creating responsive search ads here). Google then takes these and tests different combinations, to learn and deliver those that perform best. As a result, you may see an improved campaign performance, as each keyword can have a closer relevance with the best ad combination.

Responsive Search Ad Structure

Aside from automated testing, the RSA format packs a few more unexpected surprises. You can benefit from increased coverage, due to the main changes in the number of headlines and descriptions, not to mention the increased character limit. All the responsive search ads features and limits can be seen below.

Responsive Search Ad Features

Responsive search ad features (left), with amount, character, variation limits additional information (right).

As you can see, multiple variations can be input at once for both the headlines and descriptions. This means all of your ad variations are effectively entered into this one ad format. The description character limit has a modest increase of ten characters, whilst the total number of headlines and descriptions increases by one. So up to three headlines and two descriptions can show in any given combination. All of this allows a possible increase of up to 130 characters and no doubt increases the potential of ads being seen. Below you can find a visual of the new structures in both desktop and mobile ad formats.Responsive search ad features (left), with amount, character, variation limits additional information (right).

Desktop Preview

Desktop Responsive Search Ads Preview

Mobile Preview

Mobile Responsive Search Ads Preview

Best Practices

RSA best practice would be similar to that of most text ads, with one major difference. Due to the different combinations being tested, best practice would suggest that each component is made to be interchangeable when necessary. You’d want to make sure that you effectively avoid repetition and nonsensical combinations.  

The necessity of creating interchangeable components is built on a key feature of RSAs: the ability to pin. Both headlines and descriptions can be assigned to a specific position in your ads. E.g. Pinning ‘Official Store’ to Headline 2 for your brand campaign and different CTAs to Headline 3. This is great but can be a little tricky to get right, with each pin reducing the total number of unique combinations possible (not necessarily a bad thing).

So, ensure you plan in advance and think about what messages you’d like to test and convey. Couple this with a thought in mind for your ad group and keyword structure and you could be onto a winner.

Can This Get Any Better?

As this is a beta, we never expected it to be a fully functional offering from the off. So the answer is absolutely! For those who have had access, it seems Google have already been moving in the right direction by providing feedback and previews during ad creation. These additional features are something that we can expect Google to improve on massively during the course of the beta, to give the necessary insights needed to smash your targets and help encourage a smooth transition of use.

Now that Google have announced that this feature will be rolling out to more advertisers, you can expect to see more early adopters and testing of RSA performance. In some of our own accounts, we’ve also noticed three headlines on the SERP in ad groups not currently testing responsive search ads. These ads weren’t following the current extended format, where at the end a third headline (usually domain) is added, but each showcased this headline in the first position. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google aren’t preemptively testing for you to showcase the potential performance increases you may be missing out on.

Recent weeks have indicated that this may be true, as Google have applied the responsive ad format to the expanded text ads. The format rollout holds all of the benefits of the RSA character increases, just without the multiple variations and automated testing all bundled into one.

I’d expect Google’s best practices to be updated in the coming months, if not already, to incorporate the use of the ‘expanded’, expanded text ads alongside one responsive search ad. Thus allowing you to continuously test, finding your best performing ads and employ these as stand alone ad variations.

A Dream Come True?

In summary, responsive search ads seem like they could be everything we’ve ever dreamed of. Certainly saving time spent on creating and testing ad variations to get the most out of your account. The time saving benefits can prove to be crucial with smaller and large accounts alike, as we’ve found, allowing more time to be spent optimising elsewhere or strategising your next move.


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