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In July at Google’s annual Marketing Live event they announced several new Google Ads features and tools, among those were Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). This new ad type is the largest change in the search ad format since Google released the Expanded Text Ad. Responsive Search Ads are currently in beta for many users across the Google Ads platform, but it is expected Google will continue to roll out Responsive Search Ads to all advertisers.

What Are They?

Unlike traditional search ads, in which you create one static ad where the ad copy remains the same each time it is served to a user, Responsive Search Ads serve varying combinations of headlines and descriptions in any order.

You can to write up to 15 different headlines and up to four descriptions called assets. Google then uses machine learning to automatically test out combinations of your entered assets to find out which perform best. If you have a headline that you need to show in each combination you can “pin” it to a preferred headline or description position. While Google optimizes the ad delivery for you, this feature allows you some control over your most important assets.

RSA Example 1

Each Responsive Search Ad 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. Depending on the user’s screen size and page content, Responsive Search Ads are flexible and may not always show all three possible headlines or two descriptions. However, at least 2 headlines and 1 description will always be shown. While in beta, Google only allows Responsive Search Ads to be run in an ad group that is also running Expanded Text Ads.

Google estimates that Responsive Search Ads can increase Click-through-rate (CTR) by 5 – 15% compared with traditional search ads. You’ll still need to review your ad performance regularly as results can differ for advertisers. However, by following some best practices you can get the most out of your Responsive Search Ads.

Best Practices You Need to Know

1.More Headlines & Descriptions Means Better Performance

Google recommends creating at minimum 5 headlines and 3 description assets. This way Google’s machine learning has many more combinations to serve and test. You’re able to test up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions at once – don’t waste them. We suggest adding as many as you can without repeating your message.

2.Avoid Repetition

Each headline and description asset should highlight something different. Try to be creative and offer different promotions, include your top keywords and engaging call-to-actions. Be careful to leave your top keywords out of at least 2 of your headlines. It will help to keep your served ads from being too repetitive and feeling keyword stuffed.

Vary the length of your headlines with more and less characters to increase the chance that your second description will be served more often.

RSA Example 2

3.Run Only One Responsive Search Ad per Ad Group

Google currently allows up to 3 Responsive Search Ads per ad group, however, don’t test more than one at a time. Each asset is already being automatically tested against one another. By testing more than one Responsive Search Ad you’ll slow down Google’s machine learning optimization of your ads.

4.Pin Sparingly

You can retain some control of the ways assets are served by pinning a headline or description. It is a great option to use if a keyword is known to convert well for your campaign or you are pushing a new promotion; but be careful not to pin too many elements. Pinning more than one headline, and especially more than one description, can limit the ways in which Google can optimize your ad combinations.

Keep in mind that pinning to headline position 3 and description position 2 doesn’t guarantee that asset will be shown.

RSA Example 3

5.Check Which of Your Assets Is Performing Best

After your Responsive Search Ads have run for a few days and gathered sufficient data you’ll be able to review the performance report for your assets. As Tom Gillespie states in his breakdown of Responsive Search Ads Academy On Air video, the asset performance report only segments by impressions but you can cross reference those impressions with your CTR as a performance indicator. It is likely Google will follow their previous rollout process by adding in additional performance segments as time goes on.

Swap out your underperforming assets with new and more varied options so Google can broaden the combination tests of your ad text.

What Responsive Search Ads Mean for Advertisers

It’s become clear that Google is attempting to remove some extensive duties for advertisers, but this isn’t a shock since they’ve pushed for automation in bid strategies, smart campaigns, display ad creation and scripts in the past.

Some more experienced advertisers may not appreciate Google taking back some control with Responsive Search Ads, but for those advertisers that don’t have the time to do all the heavy lifting, Responsive Search Ads can help cut down on the need to A/B test constantly and provide additional campaign support.

Logan Johnson Headshot
Logan Johnson
Internet Marketing Manager at

Logan Johnson is the Internet Marketing Manager for JM Web Designs in Omaha, NE. He is a certified Google Partner and manages Google/Bing Google Ads strategies for JM customers. He’s helped build a successful web marketing division within JM, partnering his Google Ads expertise with a team web designers, developers and SEO experts for the success of a client’s whole image and success. Logan is a Nebraska native, currently residing in Omaha, where he enjoys baking, reading and video gaming.