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Making the move to responsive search ads

Soon, you'll no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads in Google Ads. Here's how to get started with its intuitive replacement, the responsive search ad.

From 30 June 2022, responsive search ads will be the only type of text ad you can create in Google Ads. You’ll still be able to create call ads, but this update means that you’ll no longer be able to create expanded text ads.

What does update this mean for marketing managers?

If you already have expanded text ads live in your Google Ads account, there’s some good news for you – they won’t immediately stop running past the 30 June date. You’ll be able to pause and resume them as necessary, or remove them altogether if you prefer. However, you’ll no longer be able to edit them. This means that, despite all those performance insights that you learn, the tweaks you’ll want to make to your expanded text ads won’t be possible. So, if you’ve not yet tried Responsive Search Ads, it’s time to see how they can work for you!

Responsive search ads vs expanded text ads

If you’re familiar with expanded text ads, you’ll know that they simply display the text you supply. With an expanded text ad, you supply 3 headlines (of up to 30 characters each) and 2 lines of description (of up to 90 characters each).

How to create an expanded text ad in Google Ads

However, with responsive search ads, you can create an ad that adapts to show more text – and different messages. When you set them up, you’ll enter multiple headlines (up to 15) and descriptions (up to 4), and Google will automatically display different combinations of your messages.

How to set up a responsive search ad in Google Ads

As Google says:

Over time, Google Ads automatically tests different combinations and learns which combinations perform best. By adapting your ad’s content to more closely match potential customers’ search terms, responsive search ads may improve your campaign’s performance.

Google Ads Help

Compared to expanded text ads, responsive search ads will:

  • Help save time, as they will create multiple combinations from the headlines and descriptions you supply
  • Help you reach more of your potential clients, as different message combinations can appeal to different audiences – they will help you compete in more auctions
  • Adapt to different device widths when they are displayed

When working on PPC campaigns for our clients, I’ve noted that they outperform the older format in accounts where both ad types are running alongside each other. That’s partly thanks to the fact Google wants to prioritise their new ad format, but it’s also thanks to all the machine learning that goes into how responsive search ads work and adapt for the end user.

There are some drawbacks to responsive search ads, though, and that’s mostly in relation to Google’s reporting. Right now, it isn’t possible to know which ad asset combinations specifically resulted in clicks and conversion activity. Hopefully this will change as Google prioritises the format.

Responsive search ad best practices

The key to getting responsive search ads right lies in providing the right copy. Here are a few tips I’ve learnt from creating and monitoring responsive search ads:

  1. Provide as many headlines and descriptions as you can, as long as you can make each one unique. For example, instead of supplying “Family Lawyer”, “Family Solicitors” and “Family Law” as three separate headlines, you should choose different angles for each, like “Family Lawyer”, “100% Fixed Fee” and “Book Your Consultation Today”.
  2. Use Google’s Ad Strength scoring system of “Average”, “Good” and “Excellent” on your ad copy as guidance – but sometimes Google makes some odd suggestions on what to include. So, use your gut. If their suggestion won’t make sense to your ideal audience, don’t use it!
  3. If you want some control over the placement of headlines (e.g. what’s displayed in headline 1, headline 2 and headline 3), make use of the pin feature, which allows you to choose which position your headline will display in. Google doesn’t love when you do this, but I’ve found that it helps your ad copy flow better and ensures that all combinations Google can come up with make sense.
  4. Make sure your top performing keywords in your Headline 1 slot where possible, especially as headline 3 rarely shows on mobile devices.
  5. Start off with just one responsive search ad per Ad Group, which is what Google recommends, and regularly review “Asset details” to see which of your headlines and descriptions are viewed the most.
An example of the responsive search ad asset report on Google Ads

Abby Webb

Abby Webb

Head of Search & Content

Abby heads up our SEO and content campaigns, with a strong background in copywriting, content and paid search marketing.

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