How to use responsive search ads in Google

By using responsive search ads, Google offers an effective method to display text-based ads in search results. These are adapted depending on the target group’s end device and allow for automated combinations of 15 different headlines, four descriptions and additional specifications. With seven practical tips, we will show you the benefits of Google responsive search ads.

What are responsive search ads?

Google Ads are developing ever more towards automation and machine-learning systems. Marketing experts are sure that this change to advertising and marketing campaigns offers better performance and a bigger reach. You only need to look at the advantages of the Google responsive ads from when they were introduced in 2018 and you would agree. Bit by bit they have been replacing standard text ads and expanded ads. Since 2021, the Google Ads interface only allows users to create and edit responsive search ads. They are an increasingly important part of employing ads.

Unlike expanded text ads, when using a Google Ads account you can create more headlines and descriptions for your ads. With RSAs you can add 3 to 15 headlines (max. 30 characters each) and 2 to 4 descriptions (max. 90 characters each). The elements of the ad are made up of the headline and the description, called assets. Google uses these, combining them using artificial intelligence and machine learning in the best possible way and displaying them in search results.

Tip

Optimise your website and increase your traffic: Get to the top of search results using the search engine optimisation rankingCoach from IONOS.

What is the difference between responsive search ads and traditional ads?

Compared with RSAs, standard text ads and expanded text ads offer relatively limited flexibility when displaying an ad. These depend much less on the algorithm, therefore Google never learned which asset combination had the best effect. The biggest change with RSAs comes with the word ’responsive“. Responsive ads will respond to the requirements of the corresponding end device.

The main difference is the automated, intelligent and self-learning display of ads. Based on the data collected on user interaction Google combines your assets effectively at random. As soon as there is sufficient interaction data for the algorithm, Google will place statistically successful asset combinations more often. To do so, the AI display, size and format are adapted to the advertising space and the corresponding end device.

This means that ads can be both smaller and larger. Instead, of bland, static ads, Google uses artificial intelligence to combine the best ads for display marketing from your asset pool. This not only increases your reach, but also improves conversions through the click rate (CTR).

Tip

Looking for the least complicated Google Ads campaign with the best possible success? The Google Ads Management Service from IONOS optimizes your campaign strategy with help from experts.

How can you create Google responsive search ads?

Unlike ‘traditional’ ads, you don’t just create one ad which is continuously shown in search results without changing. Instead, you can create a pool of up to 15 different headlines and four different descriptions from which Google effectively created paid ads. In the ads that are displayed, a combination of three of the 15 headline elements and two of the four descriptions are shown.

You also have the option to fix important assets. By doing this, you can make sure your ads have a uniform look and follow your corporate identity. If, for example, you want an important keyword to appear first, or your company’s name to appear last, you can use the ‘pin’ function when creating the ad. This means you can fix your asset to either the first, second or third position as desired. Since the algorithm requires lots of combinations to learn, Google advises against pinning. However, it is still possible to emphasise the company name, brand message or USPs in any combination.

Create responsive search ads in Google Ads

Since June 30, 2022, RSAs have completely replaced expanded search ads meaning you can only create responsive search ads using your Google Ads account. (As of August 2022).

To create an ad, you can do the following:

Step 1: In your Google Ads account go to ‘Ads and extensions’ in the left-hand menu.

Step 2: Click on the add symbol and select ‘responsive search ads’.

Step 3: Now you can create the URL and the path text for your ad.

Step 4: Enter your assets which will be made up of a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 headlines and between two and four descriptions. Use the ‘pin’ button to determine whether an asset should always appear in a specific place. On the right, you will see a preview window with a random combination of your assets.

Step 5: Now click on ‘save’.

Editing responsive ads

If you would like to subsequently edit an ad, for example, if some assets are not performing as well as hoped, you can do the following:

Step 1: Select ‘Ads and extensions’ and then click on ‘Filter’.

Step 2: In the next menu, go to ‘Attributes’ and ‘Ad type’.

Step 3: Check the box next to ‘Responsive search ads’.

Step 4: Go to the ad you wish to edit, click on the pen button and on ‘edit’.

Step 5: Make your edits and click on ‘Save’.

Performance reports for responsive search ads

To analyse performance Google offers performance reports on ads and ad assets in the form of values in a statistics table. To open and download these, go to ’“Ads and extensions” > “Filter” > “Attributes” > “Ad type”. Check the box next to ’Responsive search ads“, click on ‘Use’ and the download button. You can now choose whether you would prefer a PDF or csv file.

You also have the option to receive a copy by email or to open it in the editor. For regular ads, we recommend that you plan for continuous reporting in Google Ads. By measuring performance, you can see which asset is performing the best and which should be edited or deleted.

All pros and cons briefly

Pros Cons
✔ The display of ads is more flexible, optimises automatically and saves time thanks to AI and machine learning ✘ Creating headlines and descriptions for meaningful asset combinations is time consuming
✔ Successful asset combinations of headlines and descriptions are displayed more ✘ Editing is more time consuming if weak assets are replaced with stronger ones
✔ Optimised ad relevance, bigger reach, better click rates ✘ No final say over ad wording and display to end users
✔ Transparent performance measuring and reporting of ads and assets
✔ Ads adapt to the end device and the search intent of the end user
✔ Similar to real-time advertising successful ads are displayed in real time to the end user.
Tip

More visibility in 35 directories and browser and better management of business information and reviews. With local business listings from IONOS, make sure you can be found more easily online and in your area.

Responsive search ads best practices

As AdTech, Google’s responsive search ads: offer a balance between intelligent automation and manual brand building. Our best practices will give you some hints on how to properly use responsive search ads.

Use the maximum number of assets

For every RSA Google offers you the opportunity to add a maximum of 15 headlines and up to four descriptions. We would recommend using the maximum number of assets. This is about the content that the algorithm will use to create the best versions. The more, the better.

Create effective ads

When creating headlines and descriptions, remember that they are elements. These should be able to be combined since Google will put them together randomly. Avoid repetitions and similar content to reduce redundant content in ads. Elements such as ‘Buy online today’ don’t need a similar asset such as ‘buy online here’. Create headlines with different lengths. This ensures that Google can use longer elements for desktops and shorter formulations for mobile devices. This is important for mobile SEO.

Pin important assets

By using the ‘Pin’ option, you can position important assets such as campaign keywords, branding and company names at a set point. By pinning items, you can ensure that Google displays pinned assets in the same position in every combination. For example, you can always place your business name in third position and the primary keyword in first position to improve your search engine optimisation.

Placing important content in assets

15 headlines and four descriptions do take time but are worth the effort to improve the ad performance. You will automatically develop a routine and an understanding of the most important content that you should be including in your assets. Google itself also has some useful advice in its guide ‘Create effective responsive search ads’. The content should be distributed as best as possible, avoiding redundancy and repetitions.

Important content includes:

  • Formulating at least eight to ten headlines and two descriptions
  • Placing high-performing keywords in headlines and descriptions, but not in them all
  • Describing services or products with good descriptions, attributes, adjectives or ratings
  • Highlighting the company or product’s unique selling points (USPs)
  • Integrating concrete, content-related CTAs (calls to action)
  • Information about pricing, payment methods, offers and the content’s USP
  • Emphasising advantages for users

Optimise responsive search ads

Google recommends that you only use assets with a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ rating to improve your ad’s effectiveness. Therefore, you should consider the performance value and ad effectiveness Google gives to your assets. By using assets that are rated good and very good, the performance will rise evidentially.

Strategies for Google Ads responsive search ads

Using RSAs is always a question of patience since the effectiveness of your ads depends on your strategy. Strategies require time, an objective and ways for you to reach it. Take into consideration the following possible ad strategies to optimise your RSAs.

Combine responsive search ads, relevant keywords and smart bidding

According to Google, it is worth combining RSAs with smart bidding. This is the automated placing of bids for the best ad positions. Google also uses modern machine learning for this. Depending on your goals, your campaign budget and the context of your advert, smart bidding analyses signals and values to buy suitable ad positioning down to the millisecond. This typically takes place in advertising auctions and platforms such as Ad Exchange.

You can improve your performance using an RSA and smart bidding strategy by placing keywords in responsive search ads and buying the best ad positioning with smart bidding. This means you not only have ads displayed in the best way, optimised for the end device, you also have a larger reach and visibility due to having the best ad positions.

RSAs as an addition to your advertising strategy

Responsive search ads are just a part of a large tool kit in the available advertising formats. The success of a campaign or effective brand building also depends on strategies containing a range of concepts. Use RSAs as an expansion to other tools and concepts such as real-time advertising, programmatic advertising and programmatic buying.

Also be aware of the difference between display advertising and real-time advertising. If you use RSAs alongside Google’s Responsive Display Ads, we recommend that you also integrate real-time advertising. This means you can ensure that your strategy is optimised for performance and that advertising positions reach your target group as best as possible in real time.

Creating multiple RSAs at the same time

Use the option to create multiple RSAs in an ad group. By doing so, you are free to experiment with pinned USPs or CTAs and move the focus to different combinations. For example, you can pin three or four headlines in the first position to ensure that there is always a combination of the product and brand or primary keyword and brand at the beginning. You can also pin important USPs or CTAs (such as to buy) in a set position as part of the asset. How to brand your RSA.

Alternatively, create two or three ads at the same time: One or two ads with an identical fixed headline and another ad without pinned assets. By using the Performance Report, you can see which of these is performing the best. With multiple RSAs in an ad group you can place more focus on the USPs or keywords. It is also worth linking other URLS in the different RSAs.

Conclusion: Responsive search ads are part of a successful advertising campaign

While there is no blanket guide to success, we recommend flexible strategies for effective search engine advertising (SEA) and search engine marketing (SEM). The customer journey of end users and target audiences encompasses many different end devices and platforms. Thanks to the wide range of touchpoints, by using a flexible advertising strategy you can reach more potential customers. You can do this by optimising your ad placement. By using responsive search ads in combination with other marketing and ad tools, your ads will be displayed in real time and adapted to the search intent and end devices. When used properly, you will effectively improve your performance, reach and conversions.

Tip

With effective online marketing and targeted advertising you can be more successful. Take a look at our guides on the following important topics in the areas of marketing and advertising for the best tools and strategies: