In just two months, responsive search ads (RSAs) will be the only standard Search campaign type you can create in Google Ads. With this ad format, you provide up to 15 headlines and four descriptions and Google will mix and match those into ads that best fit each search.
But you’re not just dealing with 15 headlines and four descriptions. You’re dealing with combinations and permutations that all need to make sense.
This is enough to make anyone’s brain hurt. 🤯
So today, I’m going to share with you a simple, five-step process for writing responsive search ad headlines and descriptions that will allow you to get the most out of this ad type—with a template to make your life even easier.
Before we get into the process, it might be helpful to understand where you (or your PPC partner) falls on the RSA copywriting spectrum. You’ll probably be able to tell pretty quickly the one that I think you should adopt.
Pins precisely three headlines and two descriptions
The Control Freak is extremely averse to letting Google make any decisions for them whatsoever. To them, the transition from expanded text ads (ETAs) to RSAs is almost an existential threat, so they’ll do everything they can to regain that control.
In particular, they’ll simulate an ETA with their RSA by providing only three headlines and only two descriptions and pinning them all. If you do that, your ad will look similar to the one below.
Throws RSA spaghetti at the wall…blindfolded
Unlike the Control Freak, the Hot Mess has absolutely no strategy whatsoever when writing their Google ads. This person adds a new variant, chucks in a number of headlines and a few descriptions based on their whims of the moment, hits publish, and then probably drunk texts an ex while jaywalking under a ladder and carrying a black cat.
They also likely have far too many or far too few ads in each ad group (terrible account structure) and aren’t taking advantage of the insights their ad performance is giving them.
None of this is a good look.
Is both pro-pin and pro-automation
Rather than controlling every single aspect of the ad copy or letting the phases of the moon decide your performance, the Calculated Practitioner has a strategy in place to both ensure their ads will be congruent from start to finish as well as take advantage of machine learning to see improved performance.
To fully understand this strategy, you’ll want to make sure you know RSA best practices. You can find them all in this responsive search ad 101 post, but here are the basics:
Alright, now that you know the best practices and where you stand on the Hot Mess –> Control Freak spectrum, you’re ready to learn the strategy. I’ll use a fictional example of an ad for my Paid Media Pros YouTube channel.
Use this spreadsheet template to brainstorm headlines of varying types. In it you’ll see eight different categories of headline types, with character counters.
Here are the categories I’d suggest, as well as some made-up examples:
Write as many headlines as you can think of that fit within those categories. If there are other categories that make sense for your specific industry, add them in there as well.
Now that we have some headlines, we need to decide where they’re going to go. But before we choose specific headlines for each RSA, we’re going to outline a template for the RSA as a whole.
Here are a few examples you could run with—again, focusing only on headlines at the moment.
Link to the template is above.
Each headline matches a category that you have already written a number of headlines for, but the idea here is to map out overall message flow.
Don’t forget, headline position #3 doesn’t always show for each impression, so this portion of the messaging shouldn’t be something imperative for every impression.
Now it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. When you create your RSA, choose the template you’re going to use and add in the headlines from each category, then pin them into the templated spot.
For this example, I used Template #1 from Step #2 to create my ad, which is:
Keyword focused – Call to action – Price comparison
Each headline that is keyword-focused is pinned into Headline position #1, calls to action are in Headline position #2, and price comparisons are pinned in Headline position #3.
As you can see above, you can pin multiple components into the same placement, but the key here is to make sure you pin appropriately.
If you pin at least one headline into all three headline placements, then leave other headlines unpinned, those unpinned headlines will not be used. So to employ this strategy appropriately, pin every headline.
Clearly, headlines are not the only components for RSAs. Conduct a similar practice of theme generation and content writing for descriptions and add them to your headline templates to create an entirely cohesive ad variant.
Some tips for description writing:
Here are some description examples for the fictional ad we’re building:
With the previous four steps, you now have a fully formed responsive search ad. It has headlines and descriptions that fit an overall template to where you can control the user experience with your brand but also allow Google to choose the specific messaging based on its “intuition.”
Now it’s time for you to test, just like you would have with Expanded Text Ads. (If you think you don’t need to test your ads, read my Google Ads mistakes post and let me change your mind.) Here are some samples of tests you can run:
At this point, your ad copy test is like a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Even if you’re not a huge fan of responsive search ads or you’re still chapped at having your control taken away, the fact of the matter is RSAs are here to stay. I’m not a huge fan of losing control within my ad campaigns, but I’m also not so averse to automation, and I don’t think you should be either.
So, while the Control Freaks are still fuming over the upcoming changes and the Hot Messes are oblivious to what’s about to happen to them, be the Calculated Practitioner. Get your testing house in order, have a strategy to make the most of this change, and leave your competition in the dust.
Michelle is the Director of Client Services at Clix Marketing. She has eight years of experience in all aspects of PPC and brings a wealth of experience developing and executing campaigns across search, social, and display platforms in both agency and in-house settings. Her experience working with integrated, third-party SEM tools gives her an especially well-rounded and holistic view of the paid search landscape—one she shares regularly as an influencer, author, and industry speaker at events like SMX, HeroConf, and Pubcon.
See other posts by Michelle Morgan
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