Google Responsive Search Ads: What you need to know

June 30 is almost here. That’s when Google will sunset expanded text ads (ETAs).

Google has given us a lot of time, advice and resources to prepare for the successor to ETAs – Responsive Search Ads (RSAs).

Are you ready? Read this guide for useful information and to understand how this transition may affect your paid search campaigns.



Details on the transition

Starting June 30, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit ETAs in Google Ads.

However, existing ETAs will still be able to run alongside RSAs moving forward.

Advertisers will still have the ability to pause and resume these ads based on guidance from the reporting that Google Ads will continue to provide.

What are RSAs?

RSAs are responsive search ads. Advertisers upload multiple headlines and descriptions, then let Google’s machine learning optimize the ad versions in real-time. The goal is to increase engagement (click-through rate).

Google allows up to 15 different headlines and up to four different descriptions to be considered when creating the ad combinations shown in the search results.

Think of all the possibilities for Google’s machine learning to optimize ad messages. There are more than 43,000 different variations available to keep your messages fresh and keep the ad engagement on an uphill trajectory.

Over time, the system will customize the ad versions based on the user’s search behavior, device preferences and other signals to serve the right version at the right time. The result looks exactly like the ETAs and includes up to three headlines, two descriptions and a display URL.

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Google initially introduced RSAs in beta in 2018 and continued to expose advertisers to the change.

Alerts throughout the Google Ads platform have appeared over the past several months. These alerts are typically shown while creating new or editing existing ads.

RSAs became the default ad type in Google Ads on Feb. 18, 2021.

Benefits of RSAs

Yes, there are some drawbacks to this transition. For example, advertisers have less control over the ad combinations and low visibility into which combinations performed the best.

However, there are also reasons to get excited. Here are three big benefits:

  • You will save time. After the initial planning of the RSA, you will save the many hours of creation, testing and analysis that previously went into new versions of ETAs.
  • Performance will improve. Advertisers are already seeing improved click-through rates associated with RSAs. As the system optimizes and learns, click-through rates will increase, and the best-performing versions will be prioritized.
  • Optimization will happen in real-time. As the learning progresses, the system gets smarter at delivering top performers. This ensures ads will be more engaging to consumers and become more optimized as time goes on.

How does the transition affect search ad strategy?

Use the knowledge about what worked best from your ETAs and carry it over to RSAs.

All the work and testing you have done will pay off with this update.

You may believe that your best-performing ETAs will stop performing and you should pause them immediately. Not true.

Instead, you should continue running the best ETAs. Analyze their performance against RSAs in each ad group.

Now is the time to start thinking about all the headlines and descriptions you want to use in your RSAs. With Google doing the heavy lifting when it comes to combination optimization and testing, we need to give Google our most effective marketing messages.

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Lack of control of the combinations requires some strategic planning and attention to what is possible.

How to write effective RSAs

Google gives some helpful advice on how to create effective search ads. All these suggestions should be considered when writing your RSAs.

Here’s what is most important when writing effective RSAs.

Headlines are your bread and butter

Headlines make your ads stand out and entice potential customers to click through on your ad versus your competitor’s ad. They also have a significant impact on how Google ranks the quality of the ad.

  • Keep your headline unique. Google will not display headlines that are too similar. Redundant headlines will limit the number of combinations that Google can serve.
  • Include keywords in at least five headlines. To maximize your ad quality score, Google offers dynamic keyword insertion to insert your keywords directly into your headlines.
  • Include three headlines that do not have campaign keywords. These headlines can include specific calls to action exclusive discount offers when available.
  • Have a combination of short and long headlines. Headlines can have up to 30 characters.
  • Aim to deliver at least 10 headlines for Google to optimize.

Create attention-grabbing descriptions

Use your descriptions to let potential customers know why you are the best option. Don’t make them guess. Get your marketing message across by thinking about the following:

  • Highlight something unique in each description. Think about the different combinations that may be put together and if they make sense in any order. This is important. One description should not be dependent on another.
  • Tell the audience what you want them to do. Whether it be “Download a Newsletter” or “Purchase Today,” strong, clear calls to action are a must.
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Use pinning to control combinations only when necessary

Google allows you to pin headlines and descriptions, so they show up in a specific position. This is an excellent feature that can help you regain a bit of the control you may feel you have lost.

Use pinning only when necessary. Google is a learning machine. Pinning one headline reduces the testing and learning Google can do by over 75%. The percentage increases as the number of pins go up.

Take advantage of Google’s ad strength score

We love the fact Google gives us a peek into how our ads can be improved. Take this seriously.

Many times, we feel our ads encompass all needed elements, but Google may not agree. The ad strength meter measures quantity, relevance and diversity in the provided headlines and descriptions.

Use this information to improve the ads until Google sees them as “Good” or even “Excellent.” Google provides an option to view ideas that may help expand your ads and make them more relevant.

Google Ads RSA preparation checklist

  • Continue learning: Take advantage of the next two months. Keep testing new versions of your ETAs to identify what works and move those messages over to your RSAs.
  • Create one RSA per ad group: Make sure each ad group has one active RSA. Use the recommendations above and from Google to write effective RSAs.
  • Use ad extensions: Implement at least four ad extensions for each group. Ad extensions can be applied at multiple levels, including account, campaign and ad group. Apply extensions at the ad group level so the extensions are relevant. A higher number of extensions increases the amount of information the searcher must evaluate before clicking on your ad.

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