Oct 8, 2018

How to optimize responsive search ads on Google

11-MINUTE READ | By Tina Arnoldi

Performance Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Jan 16, 2023 ]

Google recently offered yet another enhancement to its ads platform this year with Responsive Search Ads. This simplifies the ad creating and testing process because Google uses machine learning to optimize each ad by mixing and matching the headlines and descriptions. With the new format, advertisers provide three or more 30 character headlines and two or more 90 character descriptions. Google uses three headlines and two descriptions in the ads.

Search ad group best practice
The good news for marketers is that it reduces some of the manual labor with the creation and management of multiple ads in a campaign. The bad news is only bad news for those who do not use that extra time for focusing on the creative part of developing the copy. As we have more automation capabilities in the ad platform, it becomes even more important for marketers to be strategic and creative in their work. Offering that creative ability and strategic approach to marketing campaigns will future proof your job in a machine learning age.

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) feel a little similar to Dynamic Search Ads in that the message is geared to the search query more so than with Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). But while Dynamic Search Ads pull content from the website to display in the ad, RSAs use copy provided by the advertiser within the Google Ads platform. These RSAs have the potential to respond to search queries better than ETAs because there is more room for a variety of copy.

The below image shows an example of how Google might combine provided headlines and descriptions to display an ad. Since the mechanics of RSAs is straightforward, this post will focus on best practices and tips for using this new ad format.

Possible ad combinations

Provide unique information in each line

Since Google decides how to mix and match, you want the components of your ad to be unique. Refrain from being lazy and repeating yourself or stating the same message in each line. With room for 15 headlines and four descriptions, this is the time to focus on both benefits and features of your product or service to see what resonates with the audience

Test the call-to-action (CTA)

Test multiple CTAs in your headlines. Do people respond to ‘learn’ or ‘find out’, ‘subscribe’ or ‘sign up’? Although you are inviting the same behavior in your CTA, test different words. If you are stuck on what wording to use, look for synonyms for commonly used CTA phrases.

Use keywords

This best practice has not changed. You want to continue including keywords in your ad copy. Here too, you can use a thesaurus to find synonyms of your most important keywords to use some variety.

Use caution with pinning

You have the option to pin the best performing copy or what you perceive as the most important copy by clicking the pin icon when creating ads. Pinning also forces headlines to show in specific positions.

Pinnded ads headlines
Decide first how important this is to you and use with caution. You could miss out on some of the advantages of machine learning by following this tactic. I suggest letting Google do the work for you of determining which headline will get the best response.

Strategically use the third headline

Be a little creative with the third headline since this is a new opportunity in Google Ads. You could think of it as a replacement for the display url and use phrases you would normally use there. You could also move some information normally used in descriptions into the third headline. RSAs open the door to be more creative with Google Ads since there are more characters and lines available to the advertiser.

Add one RSA per group

Since Google does the testing of the different pieces of your RSA, you do not want more than one RSA in each group. If you have multiple RSAs, your ads may be less likely to test different versions and the optimize process is delayed. Multiple RSAs would mean more time to see what worked and possibly some confusion when it comes to measuring and understanding performance.

Have a cohesive message in each line

Since Google will mix and match, you will not be the one deciding which headlines go with which description so each line needs to have a cohesive message.

What it means for marketers

It definitely can feel that Google Ads is starting to removing some of the job duties for marketers but this automation has already been there for a while with bid strategies, smart campaigns, and scripts.

Automating testing is beneficial because it is part of the optimization process for any type of marketing campaign. Accounts that test do better than those that do not and RSAs take some of the work off marketers to allow time to work on other things. And when it comes to testing the variations of headlines and descriptions, Google can definitely do this better than us humans can!

You still need to monitor your campaigns to see how the headlines and descriptions perform and the combinations that Google displayed. And there is room for improvement with reporting on RSAs. It is somewhat limited and the testing methods are not identified.

Ads asset types and statuses
Some marketers may not like the feeling of having less control in the account since RSAs do not enable us to decide what shows and how it shows unless we use pinning. But this adds to our value because of the options for creativity and the ability to simplify our client’s advertising. As machine learning helps with the efficiency in our Google Ads accounts, we can focus on higher impact tasks.

If you do not already sell Google Ads to clients, this new setup offers a great reason to start doing so. As ads take up more screen real estate with this RSA format along with existing extensions, organic listings will only get pushed farther down on the page, making it difficult to be seen- especially on mobile defines. RSAs are a new opportunity for businesses to stand out.

About Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi is Google Analytics and Google Ads expert and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert (GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Supermetrics partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn.

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