Understanding Google’s New Feature: Responsive Search Ads

Sometimes the humble Google search ad feels like it’s stuck in time, consistently delivering results while the format essentially stays the same.

The truth is that the offering is constantly changing both on the back end and in what consumers see. With the addition of features such as remarketing lists and extensions, the product has advanced over the years to become more useful to search users and more effective for advertisers.

Usually these evolutions are slow and steady—little tweaks rather than huge shifts. However, every once in a while Google makes a big splash and dramatically improves its search ads in one move.

That’s exactly what happened recently with Responsive Search Ads, a major release that significantly impacts both how ads are displayed and how they’re delivered.

What exactly are Responsive Search Ads? Why should brands be excited about their introduction? Here’s what marketers need to know:

What Are Responsive Search Ads?
At its recent Marketing Innovations event, Google officially introduced Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) and outlined the product details.

While they’ve been christened with their own name, RSAs are really just evolved search ads. Specifically, RSAs improve upon what currently exists in two ways:

First, Responsive Search Ads give marketers significantly more text to work with. These units can show up to three headlines (instead of the current limit of two), and up to two 90-character description fields (instead of the current 80-character limit).

The second major feature is that RSAs utilize machine learning to optimize performance. When creating an ad, you can provide up to 15 headlines and four descriptions which AdWords will then test in different combinations to learn which perform best.

If you’d like a more in-depth overview of RSAs, check out Google’s keynote:

What’s So Great About Responsive Search Ads?
The overall benefit of Responsive Search Ads is that they improve campaign performance through platform-driven refinement (hence the “Responsive”). Essentially, by combining more ad space (longer/additional headlines and descriptions), more options (up to 15 headlines and four descriptions for each ad), and powerful technology (machine-learning capabilities), Google can show the most relevant ads to marketers’ intended audiences. Another key benefit of RSAs is that they enable brands to compete in more auctions and match more queries.

According to Stuart Smith, search marketing manager at MDG, “With the additional text, as well as multiple headline and description options, Google now has the ability to match ads with extra keywords.” He added, “Taken together, the improved performance and broader reach of Responsive Search Ads should attract additional clicks and conversions.”

How Do I Create, Edit, and Manage Responsive Search Ads?
Google has published an in-depth help page outlining how to create, edit, and manage Responsive Search Ads. It’s definitely worth reading in full before diving in.

The basics are that RSAs are controlled within your AdWords Manager account; that you can access them by going to “Ads & extensions”; and that RSAs can be both monitored and edited under “Attributes” and “Ad type.”

One key difference from existing ad management is that each unit can have multiple headline and description options, which introduces some complications. Because marketers sometimes need specific things such as disclaimers to always show up in a particular order, there are controls within the AdWords Manager for pinning headlines and descriptions to specific positions. However, keep in mind that pinning reduces the number of testable options, so it reduces the effectiveness of the machine learning.

What Are Some Tips for Creating Responsive Search Ads?
Since Responsive Search Ads are so new there aren’t yet established best practices. That said, Google has released some tips for marketers based on what its team has seen so far. These include:

  • Don’t forget that the headlines and descriptions can appear in any order, so ensure that all the different combinations make sense.
  • If you have text that you need to appear in every ad, then you must pin it to either Headline Position 1, Headline Position 2, or Description Position 1. Also, ensure that the pinned description is less than 80 characters long.
  • Keywords still matter as much as ever, so ensure that at least one target term is in each of your headlines and descriptions.
  • Experiment with headlines and descriptions of different lengths—not all of them need to use the full character count.
  • The more distinct your headlines and descriptions are, the more effective machine learning will be in finding the optimal approach(es).
  • RSAs are still subject to all the same AdWords policies and local laws as other ads.

Have Responsive Search Ads Been Fully Rolled Out?
Responsive Search Ads are still in beta, though that doesn’t necessarily indicate much about Google product maturity (Gmail was in beta for more than five years). MDG’s Smith says, “During the beta period, RSAs can only be added to ad groups with existing text ads, so we’ve begun introducing them into some relevant campaigns—with positive results.”

That said, there are some limitations for now. These include the fact that RSAs aren’t available to all advertisers and in all languages (currently only English, French, German, and Spanish).

As the product matures, Responsive Search Ads should be opened up more and enhanced with with new features. Marketers should make sure to check AdWords Help every so often for the latest updates on this promising new product.

Learn more about Google’s latest feature for successful search advertising. Contact MDG today at 561-338-7797 or visit www.mdgsolutions.com.

MDG, a full-service advertising agency with offices in Boca Raton and New York, NY, is one of Florida’s top branding firms. MDG’s capabilities include print advertising, direct mail marketing, branding, logo design, creative, media buying and planning, radio and TV advertising, outdoor, newspaper, digital marketing, website design and development, online video advertising, infographic development, email marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, content marketing, social media marketing, paid search marketing, and SEO. To discover the latest trends in advertising and branding, contact MDG today at 561-338-7797 or visit www.mdgsolutions.com.