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A Beginner’s Guide To Responsive Search Ads

With Google’s recently announced change to search ads and the news that expanded text ads will no longer be supported, making effective use of responsive search ads (RSAs) is more important than ever. If you’re not sure where to start or how to make the best use of this ad format, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to help get you started.

What are responsive search ads?

RSAs were first introduced by Google in 2016. Unlike expanded text ads (ETAs), their predecessor, RSAs are made up of up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions which are combined by Google’s machine learning algorithms to create different combinations. This allows for optimised combinations of assets (headlines, descriptions) which can be changed depending on the search term or user they are showed for – thus the name, “responsive”.

Why should I use them?

Google have gone from enticing advertisers to use RSAs to making them mandatory. RSAs are now the default search ad type, and will soon be the only type available (as of June 2022).

If that’s not enough for you, there are some other compelling reasons to use RSAs before then:

  • They can have strong performance. While this is dependent on the advertiser, their industry, and the search terms in question, there are some ad groups which show better performance from RSAs than from ETAs. This can mean lower CPCs, higher click-through rates, and better conversion rates. However, some advertisers have found that RSAs show weaker performance than ETAs, so as always we would recommend testing both ad types to see which works best for you.
  • Google’s machine learning model can test and optimise to find the ideal ad, and all without the manual work of creating and split testing new ad variants every few months.

Are there any negatives I should know about?

As with anything that leverages more automation and less human input, there are some potential issues with RSAs that you should consider before you dive in.

Firstly, you have less control with RSAs than you have with ETAs. Because Google’s algorithms determine which assets are shown, you can end up with some wacky combinations of headlines and descriptions that might make very little sense as an ad. However, this can be mitigated somewhat by making smart use of pins and by creating the ad itself with this issue in mind. Only use headlines and descriptions that make sense together, and pin anything that needs to be shown in a specific place or sequence.

Secondly, the information you can get about asset combinations is quite limited. There’s currently no report to see which combinations are working best, which can make it difficult to test and optimise. This is an issue that has been raised by many advertisers already, so hopefully Google will address this issue before RSAs become mandatory in all accounts.

If you’re struggling to understand these updates or if you require any assistance with your paid online advertising, don’t hesitate to contact us at team@forwardandthinking.com