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Keeping Up With Google: What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Mike Farrell

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) are a semi-automated ad format that help test and optimize ad copy on Google paid search. Marketers supply multiple headlines and descriptions, and Google will mix and match this content to maximize performance using machine learning technology. The longer RSAs run, the more optimized the ads should become, targeting different combinations of content to consumers based on their search queries.

Like Dynamic Search Ads, RSAs take away some of the control marketers have over how their ads appear to consumers. In addition, they may detract from the granularity marketers have achieved in their trademark, branded, and non-branded campaigns.

In this installment of Keeping Up With Google, we explore what RSAs are, how they might benefit retailers, and what challenges may come with this solution.

Release Date:

Google released RSAs in beta in 2018. They are not yet available to all Google Ads users.

What It Does:

RSAs help retail marketers test ad copy, deliver more relevant messaging over time, and in turn boost performance. Marketers provide up to 15 headlines and four descriptions for a single RSA. Google tests different combinations of this copy, serving a maximum of three headlines and two descriptions. As Google accrues more data, it determines which combination of headlines and descriptions drives the greatest performance, given consumers’ search queries. At the minimum, marketers must supply Google with five headlines and two descriptions.

Marketers have some control over where certain headlines and descriptions will appear in the ad, which helps avoid cutting off important messaging when space is limited on the SERP. Marketers can pin certain copy to headline position one, two, or three. Headlines in position one and two will always appear in a RSA. Description one is always visible as well. Headline three and description two are not guaranteed to appear on the SERP.

To create RSAs, marketers must go to “Ads & extensions” in Google Ads, click the plus button, and select “responsive search ads.”

Google recommends providing five headlines that don’t repeat similar words or phrases. Two of those headlines should include keywords, while the other three should highlight product benefits, features, or shipping information. Google says that these best practices avoid redundancies and help its technology develop the most optimal combination of headlines.

Which Channels:

RSAs are available on Google paid search to select advertisers.

What It Means For Your Business:

RSAs are similar to Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) in the fact that they automate a significant part of paid search ad creation. While DSAs scrape retailers’ sites to develop ad copy, RSAs give retailers more control over ad copy creation. That makes it an effective way to test different approaches to ad copy and apply those learnings to other campaigns, without giving full control to Google.

Search query reports from RSAs can also surface new keywords retailers should target or negate in other paid search campaigns.

Marketers should be aware, though, that RSAs do not allow retailers to target specific audiences. Google determines which search queries ads appear for as well as the combination of ad copy. For example, marketers cannot target previous site visitors with discount-focused ad copy in an RSA campaign.

It’s clear that Google is looking to automate the time-intensive aspects of paid search. In fact, some search experts theorize that RSAs allow Google to learn how marketers write headlines and ad descriptions. Insights from these ad campaigns may power a future solution from Google that completely streamlines paid search ad creation, making it easier for companies who are new to the channel to get started.

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