Responding to Responsive Ads: A Guide to the New Tool’s Semi-Secret Best Practices

Responding to Responsive Ads: A Guide to the New Tool’s Semi-Secret Best Practices


In terms of machine-learning capabilities through Google Ads, our trajectory is feeling eerily similar to that of the plot of the apocalyptic 2004 thriller iRobot. Every other week, we’re introduced to a new product leveraging the “smart” capabilities, pushing our trust further into the hands of the machines. Next, the system will overtake our earthly bodies and we’ll in fact become a symbiote to the all-encompassing Google as we’re now a product of their control. We’ll think back to where it all went wrong and, similar to Will Smith’s character in the film, how we ignored all of the warning signs like “Smart Display.”

Alas, we must now learn to cohabitate with the machines before they ultimately exert dominance over the human race. For if we don’t learn their behavior, we won’t be able to resist! Thus, today’s blog topic is a feature on the best practices for Google’s latest venture into intelligent knowledge processing: the responsive search ad.

In typical fashion, we have little knowledge in terms of creative best practices, so today I bring together a few of my own learnings (with a bit of dystopic paranoia) so that you don’t have to feel chained to the machines and can make smarter decisions with this new feature.

Start Broad, Then Filter Down

Responsive search ads allow for up to 15 unique headlines and 4 descriptions, which comes to 43,680 different combinations. That’s an insane amount!

Every search query processed can bring any number of variations using a responsive search ad and the possibilities are nearly endless.

It’s certainly possible that a handful of these combinations, however, won’t directly apply to your user’s query. Unless you handicap the performance of the ad itself by “pinning” one of the headlines to a certain position, you’re more than likely not going to have 100% relevance for each search.

Thus, we recommend starting with your most broad ad groups to begin testing. Top of funnel terms are perfect for this, meaning those introductory queries that can have broad intent. This way, you’re able to generalize your messaging throughout the headline options while still broadly applying to a searcher’s query.

I manage an account with separate campaigns dedicated to those types of keywords. Compared to our more granular targeting, responsive ads in our upper funnel targeting levels outperformed all other ad variations COMBINED in click-through and conversion rate.

Once you gain enough insights at this level, you can begin filtering your findings to more focused ad groups.

Distill Results to Standard Text Ads

The only detailed metrics we have at our disposal when it comes to evaluating the effectiveness of the RSA format is the impression share of specific combinations. One can reasonably guess that the variation receiving the most impressions led to the performance shown in the interface.

As your account continues to gather data on the responsive ad combinations, you should continually review the pairings for any distinguishable trends or patterns. Then, you can begin pulling the most successful phrases into your regular text ads.

Google suggests ad groups should have at least one expanded text ad to accompany an RSA, so use responsive search ads as the ultimate testing grounds for other ad variations elsewhere in your account!

Flex Your Creative Muscles

Because responsive search ads are the ultimate sandbox in terms of messaging, use this powerful tool to your advantage!

As with any strategy, never assume you know your target with 100% certainty, especially when crafting your 15 headlines and 4 descriptions for an RSA. Google ultimately determines the most optimal version, giving you the opportunity to truly think outside the box.

Essentially, this means throwing out all preconceived notions you’ve determined through ETA testing and starting with a blank slate.

Don’t be afraid to try something even a little outlandish! Get creative with your messaging, rather than pumping the same tried-and-true themes that may have worked elsewhere. You may be surprised with the results you find and that your target customer in fact prefers something other than the tropes of “Free Shipping” or “10% off MSRP.”

My advice is to have one truly wild description or headline (perhaps something like a detailing of the AI takeover of humanity, I don’t know). At worst, it just gets filtered out of the rotation by Google. At best? Click-through rate increases through the roof!

Mike Schuerman

Mike has been involved in various digital marketing capacities since 2014, including account management, copywriting, and now paid search. He enjoys NBA basketball, menswear, and beer.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Fntastic post but I was wondring if you could write a litte more
    on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit more.

    Bless you!

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