When it comes to identifying the best headlines and descriptions for your Google Ads campaigns, you have two options: You can create individual ads and test them, or you can try out Google’s responsive search ads (RSAs). With RSAs, you provide multiple headlines and description options that Google mixes and matches for you, based on search queries and other proprietary data, in an effort to serve the most effective ads to users.
So in this post, we’re providing:
Update: Expanded text ads are retiring on June 30, 2022. Learn seven things to do with your ETAs and RSAs before then!
Responsive search ads are Google’s largest and most flexible search ad format. Unlike traditional search ads, where you write your headlines and descriptions together to create 1 static ad text, when writing a responsive search ad you can write up to 15 different headlines and up to 4 different descriptions. Collectively, those headlines and descriptions can be arranged in 43,680 different permutations, which means the ad testing possibilities are nearly endless!
Google will then automatically test different combinations of headlines and descriptions and learn which combinations perform best. Over time, your responsive search ads will serve the best message to different searchers depending on the keyword they search for, their device, their past browsing behavior, and other signals.
Google’s responsive search ads can show up to three 30-character headlines, a display URL with two 15-character path fields, and up to two 90-character description fields.
|Ad Component||Responsive search ad||Expanded text ad|
|# Headlines Shown||Up to 3||3|
|Headline Length||30 Characters||30 Characters|
|Domain||Taken from your ad’s Final URL||Taken from your ad’s Final URL|
|# Display URL Path Fields Shown||2 (Optional)||2 (Optional)|
|Display URL Path Field Length||15 Characters||15 Characters|
|# Descriptions Shown||Up to 2||Up to 2|
|Description Length||90 Characters||90 Characters|
|Total Max Length||300||300|
Google’s responsive search ads are also eligible to serve alongside any of your ad extensions – which expand their presence on the SERP even more!
To create an RSA, click on the plus sign to create a new campaign.
You’ll then be guided to create each different component of a responsive search ad—the Ad’s Final URL, the display URL Path Fields, up to 15 different headlines and up to 4 different descriptions. You can also add a tracking template by expanding the Ad URL options.
Hit “Save New Ad” and your new responsive search ad will be reviewed and, if approved, go live!
No! Just like how Responsive Display Ads show in different shapes and sizes depending on a user’s screen size and the page’s content, responsive search ads are similarly flexible. Smaller screens (like mobile) or busy SERPs may show fewer components of a responsive search ad, so don’t expect to always see your 3rd headline or 2nd description.
However, your responsive search ad will always at least show 2 headlines and a description, so it will never be smaller than an expanded search ad!
responsive search ads are bigger and at many times better than expanded text ads. According to Google, responsive search ads have a 5 – 15% higher CTR compared to standard search ads! But averages tend to lie – not all advertisers will see the same benefit, so be sure to follow the following best practices to get the most out of your new responsive search ads.
Now that we have the basics laid out for RSAs, let’s go over some tips and strategies to help you get the most out of this revolutionary ad type. Here is a handy cheat sheet to refer back to:
Every responsive search ad needs to have at least 3 headlines and 2 descriptions to show. However, the bare minimum is seldom best. The strength of responsive search ads is that they allow for more variants and testing than traditional search ads. You can test up to 15 headlines and up to 4 descriptions at once – so use them! Aim to get at least 10 different headlines and 3 descriptions in your responsive search ads.
Avoid repetitive and boring variants of the same headline. Google actually won’t even show your responsive search ad if your headlines or descriptions are too similar!
Google’s responsive search ads will automatically test different headlines in different positions to see how they perform in headline 1, 2, and 3. And every headline won’t show every time. The same is true for your descriptions. This allows Google to find the very best message for each different user, keyword, and device they search on.
However, if you have a specific message that you always want to include in your ad (a brand message or a disclaimer, for instance) you can make sure it always shows in your ad by “pinning” that headline or description.
When writing your important headline that you always want shown, hover over to the right of that headline and a pin icon will appear. Clicking the icon will give you several different options to make sure your headline always shows. This also works with important description text.
“Showing this headline in any unpinned position” will make sure that message always shows, but it may appear in headline 1, 2 or 3. If you want a message always appear in a particular headline or description spot you can specify that as well. Keep in mind though that headlines 3 and description 2 won’t always show, so pinned messages in those positions won’t always be part of the responsive search ad.
Pinning headlines or descriptions will make sure the essential parts of your ad always show. However, they also restrict the messages and automatic variant testing that Google performs for these responsive search ads, which may negatively impact your ad’s performance. Pinning just one headline reduces amount of testing Google can perform on these responsive search ads by over 75%! Pinning 2 headlines reduces the opportunities for testing down 99.5%!
In fact, Google recommends that you keep running at least one ETA in each ad group alongside your new responsive search ads. This will both help you as your test out your new responsive search ads and make sure your ads appear as often as possible.
Google is automatically testing the different elements of your responsive search ads against one another, so there’s no reason to include multiple responsive search ads in the same ad group. Testing more than one responsive search ad can prevent your ads from testing different variants of your ads and will slow down the optimization of your Responsive Search ads.
Review your current ads and use the Google Ads Grader to quickly find your top-performing ads, and then use those elements as seeds for alternative headlines and descriptions for your responsive search ads. Comb through your account for all the different messages, value props, offers, and calls to action that currently perform well in your account.
We’ve covered a lot in this post, so let’s finish off with a recap that has the key takeaways:
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