Responsive Search Ads Are the New Default in Google Ads: What Does This Mean for You?
If you manage pay-per-click (PPC) advertising for your business or your clients, chances are you have experimented with Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) via the Google Ads platform. In May 2018, Google introduced RSAs in beta, and then during a Google Live Keynote on July 18, 2018, Google announced RSAs would begin rolling out as an option for all advertisers on their platform. After a couple of years of RSAs as an ad type option for every advertiser in their Google Ads account, Google announced that RSAs will now be the default ad type, replacing Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) as the default.
Google is constantly innovating and announcing new features and guidelines so it’s important to stay updated on what’s changing and why. Let’s take a quick look at what RSAs are, the benefits, and finally, what does this mean for your Google Ads account going forward?
Responsive Search Ads Basics and Benefits
This blog is by no means a how-to for RSAs but more for advertisers already very familiar with RSAs. It’s for advertisers wanting more information about what this change to defaulting away from ETAs and to RSAs means. First, though, let’s briefly go over the benefits of RSAs.
First, the major benefit to RSAs is that it allows you to contend in more auctions because of the variety in ad copy “assets.” With RSAs, you enter up to 15 headlines (three of which will show at one time) and up to four descriptions (two of which will show at one time). Google then takes those assets and combines them live during each search auction. The RSAs rotate through various headlines and descriptions to show a combination that Google deems to best fit the user’s search intent.
It’s important to remember that at any given time headlines and descriptions can be matched with each other, therefore ensure that all combinations can be shown together with no duplicate content. You can even pin certain headlines and descriptions if you want those to show first but be careful with this technique.
A drawback to RSAs is that it takes a bit of control away from the advertiser as you never know which headline and description combinations will be shown. Because of this, RSAs typically take longer to write but Google also provides some suggestions.
Quick Tip: If you plan to use those suggestions, make sure it matches the title case you are using in your ad copy. It’s typically best practice to capitalize the first letter of each word in the ad copy but Google’s suggestions don’t do this. If you follow that strategy for ad copy, you’ll want to fix the capitalization and ensure it matches the rest of the ad copy structure.
It’s also a smart idea to use the additional tools available when setting up RSAs when applicable. The ad strength tool is just that–a grader for your ad copy strength on a scale of Poor, Average, Good and Excellent. Keep playing with headlines and descriptions to get your ad score up to Good at a minimum. Additional tools became available in July of 2020, including location insertions for ad copy and also countdown customizers that can be helpful for sales and promotions.
What Does This Change Mean For Advertisers?
Google’s change to default to RSAs from ETAs means that when you go to create a new ad, the choice will be to create an RSA or a Call Ad. It’s still best practice to include 3-5 ads per ad group and one of those should be an RSA. However, you can and should still create ETAs.
Once you click to create an RSA, then you will see a blue message pop up with instructions to first click “Responsive search ad” and then “Switch back to text ads.” We would recommend creating the ETAs in the ad group first so that your RSA can pull suggestions from the existing headlines and descriptions.
Why Is Google Doing This?
Sometimes the changes Google makes can be frustrating or not seem sensical on the surface to advertisers but this one can be a positive. For most of our clients’ Google Ads accounts, RSAs tend to outperform ETAs in various scenarios. We have been utilizing RSAs since they were in beta and have seen a steady trend of more clicks and conversions on them. This could be due to users being served more relevant content based on their intent predicted by machine learning.
Automation and Machine Learning
Google has been pushing advertisers toward automation and machine learning for a while–note the hounding optimization suggestions for automated bid strategies. This change to default to RSAs is now indicative of an even larger shift in that direction. Machine learning and automation mean bids, ads, even landing pages and more can be powered by algorithms that more accurately predict what a user wants to see. Google states, “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.”
This change to RSAs becoming the default is also a way for Google to gain more data for machine learning. By pushing advertisers, and especially novice ones, to RSAs when they previously may not have used them or may have been intimidated to do so, will ultimately now give their machine learning mechanisms more intel. For those utilizing the optimization recommendations, Google will now have more data to make more targeted suggestions. This can help with the account management process for advertisers less familiar with Google Ads and best practices or simply those wanting a less time-consuming, more streamlined approach.
Overall, the nature of RSAs helps advertisers incorporate testing into their ad strategy. This should always be part of the strategy but now RSAs ensure it is. The bottom line is ETAs are not going away for now but you need to get comfortable with RSAs if you are not already using them. The constant push toward automation and machine learning by Google is a strong indicator of more changes like this to come for advertisers and less control, which has its many pros and cons.
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