Responsive search ads are Google’s most up to date search ad format, allowing the use of multiple headlines and descriptions which will be automatically tested over time to find the combinations which resonate the most with your audience and achieve higher clicks and conversions. These have become the standard search ad format in Google Ads in favour of expanded text ads.

From June 30th 2022 you will no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads however any live expanded text ads will still serve and you will be able to pause or resume them. It’s strongly recommended that you ensure your ad groups contain responsive text ads in time for this change.

Read on to see our recommended tips for boosting performance from your responsive search ads.

What are responsive search ads?

Responsive search ads (or RSAs) allow you to add up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. They will still show in the same format you would expect to see in an expanded text ad, up to 3 headlines and 2 descriptions may show in search results, however the various headlines and descriptions you include will rotate over time and through machine learning Google learns which combinations of your assets perform the strongest in terms of click through rate and conversions.

Responsive search ads example
Responsive search ads example

Including a wider choice of headlines and description combinations gives your ad increased flexibility, and a higher chance of being relevant to the user’s search query.

How to create responsive search ads

The following instructions detail how to create a responsive search ad from the Google Ads interface:

  1. Click on Ads & Extensions
  2. Within Ads, click the blue circled + symbol and select Responsive search ad
  3. Select the campaign & ad group you would like to create the RSA for
  4. Enter the final URL and display path text
  5. Enter up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. It’s recommended to fill out all the available slots to give your ads the most flexibility

7 tips to boost responsive search ad performance

Now you know how to create your responsive search ads, here are our top optimisation tips to help drive results.

1. You can pin your headlines & descriptions

2. Also test ads without any pinned messaging

3. Use the asset report to see which headlines & descriptions are resonating

4. Test both short and long headlines

5. Write unique headlines which include a combination of keywords and USPs

6. Check Google’s ‘ad strength’ rating for further guidance

7. Ensure your headlines & descriptions make sense when they come together

1. You can pin your headlines & descriptions

If you have a specific message you always want to display in your ads, you can use the pinning function to ensure that a particular headline or description is shown in a certain position.

An example of when this is a useful feature could be if you are running a limited time offer that you want to be shown in your ads - simply pin that message to always be shown. You can also pin messages to show in different positions to test how this affects clickthrough rate, for example, is it best to have your brand name in position 1 or position 3?

Use pinning to tactically test different messaging in varying positions or to ensure the most important message you have is showing every time. Pinning assets is a great feature, which leads on to our next tip.

2. Also test ads without any pinned messaging

It’s worth testing ads that do not have any messages pinned to a specific spot. Responsive search ads are designed to test various headline and description combinations, pinning messages could limit the amount of testing space the ads have to run with.

Pin messages when it’s important to do so, and test performance by giving a responsive ad the most flexibility. Try running more than one responsive ad in an ad group, one with pinned messages and another without, and see how they compare over time. You can use up to 3 responsive ads in a single ad group, meaning there is ample room for experimentation!

Paid search button graphic

3. Use the asset report to see which headlines & descriptions are resonating

The asset report shows you a list of all the headlines and descriptions you have provided for your RSA. Included in the report is the number of impressions each asset has received, if any of the assets are pinned, and (as long as there have been approximately 5,000 ‘top’ impressions over 30 days) an asset performance rating.

The information provided is valuable for optimising your ads. If an asset isn’t receiving many impressions compared to others, that suggests other assets are predicted to have stronger performance. Try updating these areas with alternative messaging to see if it resonates more with your audience.

Learn more about Herd’s paid search services.

4. Test both short and long headlines

Your headlines can have up to 30 characters each. You may be tempted to fill out as much of this space as you can, however it’s best to have a combination of headlines of varying lengths. Google will test both long and short headlines as part of the learning, so make sure to mix it up a bit!

5. Write unique headlines which include a combination of keywords and USPs

If Google identifies any of your headlines as too similar to each other, it will restrict the amount of learning that can occur as they won’t be shown. Ensuring your headlines are unique will give your ads more flexibility by providing more potential options to be tested.

It’s recommended to have a few of your headlines include the keywords you are targeting and have others highlight additional benefits and features you offer, such as shipping information or promotions. This will provide the best balance of your ad being relevant to the search query and show the value you bring to the user.

6. Check Google’s ‘ad strength’ rating for further guidance

You may notice Google awarding your ads a rating between poor and excellent. This can be viewed by adding the ‘Ad strength’ column to your report, or by editing a specific ad in the interface. This rating is an indication of how relevant your headlines & descriptions are to the search terms your ad is eligible to show for. If you are seeing a poor or average rating, it could be worth reviewing your assets as it could be limiting your overall visibility.

Ad strength example
Ad strength example

The Google Ads interface highlights the areas you should be focusing on to achieve a good or excellent rating, such as including more keywords in your headlines or making your description texts more unique.

It's worth noting that just because an ad has a rating of excellent, this doesn’t necessarily mean it will have the best performance. This is an indication from Google of how much opportunity they believe this ad has to perform at its best. The most important thing is to keep testing new assets and find what works for your business.

7. Ensure your headlines & descriptions make sense when they come together

Unless you are pinning certain assets, they will be eligible to appear in any order and any combination. As this is the case, make sure that any variation of your headlines and descriptions still read well when they’re together. Try to avoid assets which rely on another being shown next to it, for example if your message is split across two descriptions due to character limits.

By following these handy tips, you can ensure your responsive search ads are in the best possible condition before the expanded text ads deadline on 30th June 2022. If you need support with launching & optimising your Google Ads activity, get in touch with the Herd today.


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About the author

Chris Lambert

Chris Lambert, Digital Marketing Lead

Chris, our Digital Marketing Lead is always searching for new digital growth opportunities. Whether it's new trending keywords on Paid Search or exciting new ad formats on social media, Chris is here to level up your online marketing presence and grow your business.

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