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Responsive Search Ads 101: Navigating the Constant Changes in Paid Search Advertising


The Changing Creative Landscape in Paid Search Advertising


For years now, pay-per-click (PPC) professionals have relied upon expanded text ads as the primary paid search ad type in Google Ads. As a consumer, if you’ve seen a text ad on Google (trust us, you have), it was likely an expanded text ad that the business serving the ad to you created in Google Ads. Expanded text ads, or ETAs, consist of three headlines and two descriptions.


ETAs were once the new version of regular text ads (hence the name “expanded”). Formerly, Google text ads only consisted of two headlines and one description. ETAs came along, giving advertisers more space to convey their brand message to their target audiences, while regular text ads were done away with. Now, ETAs are old hat themselves.


As we’ve covered extensively in the past, Google is a platform that is constantly shifting & changing, and the newest update to the platform causing paid search advertisers everywhere to adjust is the deprecation of expanded text ads effective June 30, 2022.


Responsive Search Ads – The New Frontier of PPC Advertising


Now that ETAs are officially removed forever from the Google Ads platform, what remains in its place are responsive search ads, or RSAs. As Google has shifted in recent years to a heavier emphasis on machine learning & algorithms, responsive search ads were introduced to fit the dynamic nature of the way Google’s search engine works nowadays.


Whereas text ads and expanded text ads were static in nature, with a pre-determined group of headlines & descriptions showing for every search triggered within an ad group, responsive search ads allow PPC advertisers to create up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions in the same ad. The ad will still serve the same way as an expanded text ad. Only up to 3 headlines and 2 descriptions are eligible to show in any given ad. But with RSAs, different ad versions are able to be constructed by Google in real-time, depending on the search that triggers the ad. This allows Google some flexibility to piece together a more relevant, differentiated ad combination to just about every user.


The advertiser also benefits from an ease of setup standpoint. Rather than needing to piece together several static ad versions to test against each other, and change messaging every so often to keep things from getting stale, RSAs essentially serve as multiple different ad variations in once to keep messaging fresh. Those who choose to create multiple RSAs are still able to, but the need to have multiple ad versions is not quite as high for those who don’t have enough time.


Is Everyone on Board with RSAs?


Although RSAs will be the only text ad version going forward, they aren’t new. Responsive search ads have been around since the summer of 2018. Since then, they have coexisted with expanded text ads, and paid search advertisers have been able to test the two ad types against each other.


One common knock against responsive search ads is the lack of transparency in reporting. Although advertisers are able to see some level of granularity as to which combinations of headlines and descriptions drive the highest levels of performance, it’s still lacking compared with the full control over messaging advertisers retain with expanded text ads.


Another common gripe with RSAs is the reliance on Google Ads to serve the right headlines & descriptions to the right searches in your ad group. Theoretically, RSAs provide the opportunity to include multiple keywords in the same ad group, with each keyword phrase as its own headline, and Google should choose the proper headline when each respective keyword is triggered. However, the lack of complete perfection in Google’s ad serving algorithms (along with the aforementioned lack of reporting transparency) has led many PPC managers to resist adopting RSAs to retain full control over their ads and campaigns.


Increase Your Response with RSAs


At The Ward Group, our PPC specialists have adopted RSAs from the introduction of the ad type four years ago, and we are well prepared for the change. Contact The Ward Group to see how paid search fits in your overall advertising strategy!