The 5 Things You Better Be Doing Now in Your Responsive Search Ad Strategy

Rachel Zetzman
September 14, 2022

While you can still run expanded text ads in your current Google Ads campaigns, as of this summer, you can’t create new ads or edit old ones. To put it in the words of the great Hilary Duff, expanded text ads are so yesterday. This makes your responsive search ad strategy especially relevant. 

Responsive search ads (RSAs) were introduced way back in 2018, so they’re not the newest format on the block—but that doesn’t mean that everyone is following best practices. RSAs are a great opportunity to add to your search ad assets, test additional headlines, and let Google’s AI determine what works best. 

In a responsive search ad, you can upload up to fifteen headlines and four descriptions. Then, Google Ads will mix and match the headlines and descriptions based on performance and search intent. Expanded text ads are displayed with three headlines and two descriptions, so Google is testing up to 32,760 different versions (yes, really!) of your ad. Once Google finds the top-performer, it’ll show that ad the most often on the SERP. 

Because RSAs are an opportunity to boost your PPC performance, you shouldn’t just treat these fifteen headlines and four descriptions as a way to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks—it’s worth investing extra time to optimize your RSA strategy. 

Read on to find out the five things you better be doing in your RSA strategy to see the best results.

1) Pin your branded headline to position one or two in the ad

Because RSAs allow you to input fifteen headline options, your branded headline might not be seen as a high performer in Google’s eyes, so it may not show up much in your ads. However, it might be integral for your brand to make sure your name is always prominently displayed on the SERP.

If you want to ensure your brand headline always shows, pin it to headline one or two in every ad. You could also pin multiple headlines to the same position. That way, Google will still be able to test and optimize the ad copy positioning—but within the confines of what you’ve set. If you test this, just keep in mind that no other headlines other than the ones pinned will show in that position.

2) Include unique value propositions in your headlines

Your unique value propositions are what set your brand apart from your competitors and make users notice your ad. 

That’s why it’s so important to include them in your headlines. Your value props should quickly and simply tell searchers why your brand stands out and why they need to click on your ad. 

Don’t just default to reworking the same value props in multiple headlines, since Google might show them at the same time. Avoid repetition and maximize your messaging potential by getting creative. As you’re brainstorming different value props, you also need to ensure that they can all be mixed and matched together while still forming a logical ad.

3) Stick to one RSA per ad group!

RSAs give you a lot of flexibility to test new headlines, unique value propositions and more. Because Google will take all of that ad copy into account as it tests combinations to serve to each searcher, there is no reason to include more than one RSA per ad group. 

Google will serve the ad copy that it thinks will perform best to each user. Therefore, the more headlines and descriptions there are in your ads, the more that it has to pull from to create the most relevant ad for the searcher. Therefore, there is no need to break down what could be one RSA into a few different ones as it might actually hurt your ultimate rankings and mess with Google’s testing.

4) Don’t slack—write all fifteen headlines

It’s a lot, but it’s vital to max out all fifteen headlines. Yes, it’s a lot of headlines to create from scratch, but it’s worth it to get the most benefit out of the RSA format. You can include high-performing, evergreen headlines from your ETAs, take a look at your long-tail keywords for ideas, and get creative with your value props. 

The more headlines you include, the more options Google Ads has to choose from and optimize accordingly. If you don’t include the maximum number of headlines, Google will often recommend that as a way to improve your ad strength.

5) Consistently review your ad and headline strength

You should be reviewing your overall ad strength and headline strength on a quarterly basis. Google Ads will rank your ads as Poor, Average, Good or Excellent and it will rank your headlines as Low, Good or Best. While reviewing your ad strength, look at the recommendations Google offers for how to improve your ads. 

A few common recommendations you’ll see are to include more keywords in headlines, add more headlines if you do not have the maximum, and to make your headlines and descriptions more unique. While reviewing headline strength, try to find common themes across headlines of what is performing good or best and what is marked as low-performing. Use those themes to create new headlines or edit existing headlines to help improve headline strength and overall ad strength. 

Another way to review headline or description performance is by looking at how often the assets are serving. You can’t see any metrics beyond impressions but that can be a good indicator of what Google is favoring and serving to users more. While reviewing those impressions, if you see certain headlines or descriptions that are being served very little or not at all, try rotating them out with something new to test.

While it’s true that responsive search ads can be more challenging to optimize than expanded text ads because there’s less transparency on performance and you don’t know exactly what combinations are performing best, RSAs are a worthwhile investment. 

Don’t let your account run the same stale ETAs! If you’re looking for some PPC expertise to supercharge your campaign performance, our team is here to help. Request your comprehensive digital marketing audit. 

Rachel Zetzman
Analyst, Search & Social Advertising

Rachel is a University of Colorado at Boulder graduate hailing from the great state of Nebraska. She’s a world traveler who’s been to 25 (!) countries, but would live in Sweden if she had to choose. If she wasn’t at Perfect Search, Rachel would be an architect on some small island in Greece, living out her Mamma Mia fantasy.

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