If you have run any PPC campaigns lately, you’re likely familiar with Google’s Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). Google Ads added this type of ad to their platform in May 2018 for beta testing and in July of that year they announced they were rolling it out for all Google Ads advertisers. Now that the Responsive Search Ads have been around for a couple of years, Google has announced that RSAs will be the default ad type, where previously they defaulted to Expanded Text Ads (ETAs).
With Google constantly announcing innovative new features and guidelines, it’s important for advertisers to stay up to date on how to best use the Google Ads platform for their business. Here we take a look at what RSAs are, the benefits they provide and how it can affect your Pay Per Click campaigns.
Although RSAs have been around long enough for advertisers to be familiar with them, this change in Google’s default settings sparked the question of how it will affect existing Google Ads campaigns. Below are some of the benefits and drawbacks of Responsive Search Ads.
The main benefit of running Responsive Search Ads is that it allows you to incorporate several headlines and descriptions, and then Google chooses which of these “assets” best suit the user's search. While only three headlines are displayed in each ad (similar to ETAs), with RSAs you can add up to 15 different headlines for Google to select from. RSAs work the same way with description lines, where you can enter up to four descriptions and Google will choose the best two to incorporate into the ad based on the search query. The RSAs then rotate through various combinations of headlines and descriptions to give searchers the most relevant version of the ad.
Since RSAs mix-and-match different headlines and descriptions, one main thing to remember is to avoid having duplicate copy in the headlines or descriptions of your ads. The Google Ads platform does allow you to pin certain assets to be shown first, but it takes away from Google’s full ability to shuffle the information to provide the best ad option for the user performing the search.
The main drawback when it comes to RSAs is that the advertiser does lose some control of the ads. You no longer have the ability to fully know which headline and description combination will show each time the ad is triggered. The Responsive Search Ads can take longer to write since you create several options for the headlines and descriptions, however Google does give recommendations for what to use for each asset.
Quick Tip: Google’s automated recommendations don’t always take into consideration the format of your current ads, including the capitalization methods. It is typically best practice to capitalize the first letter of each word in your ad copy. If you choose to take Google’s recommendations, make sure you update the capitalization to match the title case of ads.
Google also offers additional tools that can help you set up RSAs. One includes the ad strength tool, which rates your ad copy as Excellent, Good, Average, or Poor. You should always try to get your ad copy at least to the Good category before launching your ads. In July 2020, Google also released tools to dynamically add in locations or countdowns for promotions.
The biggest change that advertisers will see in their Google Ads account is that when going to create an ad you will have the option to choose between an RSA and a Call Ad. We recommend including at least one Responsive Search Ad in each ad group. You can still create ETAs as well, and it is best practice to include 3-5 ads per ad group.
Since RSAs are now the default ad on Google’s platform, ETAs are not as prominent and easy to find. When creating a new ad, you first have to select the Responsive Search Ad. From there Google will show a link at the top of the page to “Switch back to text ads.” If you create the Expanded Text Ads first, when you go to add an RSA Google will be able to show more recommendations based on the copy that was included in your ETAs.
Although some changes aren’t always understood by advertisers, we see the move from ETAs to RSAs as being a positive for the performance of campaigns. Since starting to use RSAs for our clients during Google’s beta testing phase, we have noticed RSAs have been outperforming other ads, typically resulting in higher clicks and conversions. This is likely due to Google being able to pull from several headlines and descriptions to choose the ad copy that best serves what a user is searching for.
Google continues making strides in machine learning, which has been shown by improvements in performance since starting to move towards automation. While they already heavily push automated bidding strategies, now defaulting to RSAs is an even bigger push in that direction. Google announced that “Using machine learning, responsive search ads automatically identify the best combination of headlines and descriptions to deliver the right ad to the right person. We’ve seen advertisers that add responsive search ads in their ad groups achieve up to 10% more clicks and conversions.” Google is slowly rolling out more and more automated strategies, so that bids, ads and landing pages can all be dynamically selected through their machine learning efforts to trigger ads that will be the most relevant to the searcher.
With Responsive Search Ads now being the default ad type for Google Ads, this gives Google even more opportunities to improve their machine learning strategies. By encouraging RSAs to advertisers and campaign managers, Google is able to collect more data on their automation strategies than previously before. This data will help Google optimize their targeting even more through automation, making it easier for advertisers who are less experienced with Google Ads or allowing marketers to streamline their work.
With RSAs now becoming prominent in Google Ads, it forces marketers to include testing in their campaigns, which is a beneficial strategy to incorporate. Although Expanded Text Ads aren’t going away, now is the time to get more comfortable with RSAs if you haven’t already. Or, contact CTRL+ALT Digital to let us handle it for you. Google defaulting to RSAs is a big change in how they will be able to collect even more data for machine learning, which will likely lead to even more innovations to improve the offerings of automated strategies across their ad platform. We always keep up to date on these innovations for our clients, and we’d love the opportunity to put our expertise to work for you.