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Steve Harris

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) to become the default ad format for Google Search Ads

24th Feb 2022 PPC Blog 5 minutes to read

As we have heard recently, Google and Bing Ads will both remove our capability to create Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) from 30th June 2022, resulting in Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) being the main text ad format moving forwards.

ETAs have been the main text ad format on advertising platforms since they were introduced in 2016. Back then, they took over from Standard Text Ads. The move allowed advertisers to use 3 headlines, 2 descriptions and paths (as opposed to a display URL). The character limit also increased to 90 characters per description.

But from next July onwards, we will no longer be able to create these ads and RSAs will take over as the default text ad format. RSAs allow advertisers to input up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions; and then uses the advertising platform’s machine learning and automation to piece together the optimal ad for the user making the search. Google says that these ads are more flexible, save us time and can potentially increase our reach by competing in more auctions. We’re going to look into what this change means for us advertisers and offer some tips on how to utilise RSAs fully.

More automation, less control?

As we know, Google Ads is moving advertisers towards more automation, and this is another step towards that. The nature of RSAs is that we upload multiple variations of headlines and descriptions and allow the platform to show the most relevant, best performing ad to our audience. This does hint at a loss of control for the advertiser. With ETAs we stipulated exactly how the ad would show on the SERP, but with RSAs the ad could display a combination of up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, so how will we know what is being shown?

One solution to this is ‘pins’. When creating RSAs, we have the option to ‘pin’ headlines and descriptions. This means that we can choose which location in the ad unit certain headlines and descriptions will appear. This is a great as it gives us more control over where different elements appear. For example, it’s still recommended to include the keyword that is being searched in headline 1. With RSAs, we lose this control. But by pinning headline 1 as the keyword, we get this control back. Another example of this would be a promo headline. Perhaps you have a 50% off sale running and you want everybody who searches for your brand to know about it. You can pin this promo message in headline 2 so it shows every time you appear.

Now, there’s nothing to stop us completely manipulating the automated aspect of RSAs by pinning our 3 headlines and 2 descriptions that we want to appear. Essentially, this will create an ETA using RSAs. We would recommend testing multiple RSAs, one fully pinned, one with a couple of strategic pins and one completely unpinned (perhaps with the exception of headline 1). It is good to test the machine learning, see what results we get and optimise from there, rather than just assuming we have the best copy.

Testing & Optimisation

A lot of the testing and optimisation is done for us when using RSAs. The ad platform’s machine learning will optimise towards your best performing ad variations from the headlines and descriptions your upload. However, it’s still important for us to optimise those headlines and descriptions to make sure they are resonating with our audience.

When viewing our RSAs, we can see their ‘ad strength’. This ranges from poor to excellent and takes into account the number of and content in our headlines and descriptions. We should be aiming for a good or excellent strength rating. Also, when we view the RSA, we can see which of our assets are getting the most and least exposure. We can also see which combinations appear most frequently. We should look to replace any asset that has a low number of impressions and does not appear in the top combinations. Essentially, the platform is not showing these assets as they are not deemed to be the top assets. Consider changing these up for another USP or another way of searching for the keyword.

Be Relevant to your ad group

One thing is the same across all text ad formats, we need to be relevant to what the user is searching for. This means we need to create RSAs that are specific to the ad group in which they are in – so no one size fits all!

The ideal scenario is that we write 15 unique headlines and 4 unique descriptions for each of the ad groups within our account. However, we know that this can be time consuming. We should as a minimum have 3 or 4 unique headlines and 1 or 2 unique descriptions for each ad group, but the rest can be slightly more generic. It’s still important to check that the generic ones are completely relevant to the ad group though.

One way of achieving this is to group your ad groups into themes and write headlines and descriptions that relate to each theme. For instance, an online hardware store may have groups such as ‘Tools’ and ‘Building Materials’. They may even have sub-groups such as ‘Hand Tools’ and ‘Power Tools’. By grouping your products this way, we can write headlines and descriptions that relate to each theme or sub-theme. These can contain USPs that relate to a number of products within that sub-division, for instance ‘A Wide Range Of Power Tools’ or ‘20% Off All Tools’. This saves time and allows us to create multiple headlines and descriptions for multiple ad groups that are relevant to each theme.

Summary

This is another move towards automation that advertisers will undoubtable adapt to with ease. One important thing to note, is that ETAs will still show alongside RSAs when this change rolls out, but we will no longer be able to create new ETAs; only RSAs.

We recommend testing RSAs now if you haven’t already. Using the tips above you can optimise your RSAs to get the most out of them. We’d be keen to hear how you get on and what results you get from your tests.

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Steve Harris

Head of Paid Media

When Steve isn't at work, you'll find him playing the drums in an 80s covers band, or coaching an under-10s football team. He's discovered a love for DIY; and listens to an eclectic mix of music from KISS to Kendrick Lamar, Metallica to Migos.

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