Best Practice & Reporting for Responsive Search Ads | GlowMetrics

Jan 22nd 2021

Digital Marketing Insights

6 min read

Posted by Nicola Russell

Best Practice & Reporting for Responsive Search Ads

Responsive Search Ads (or RSAs) are one of the most innovative tools to come from Google Ads in recent years and they mark a serious step forward in ad automation....

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Responsive Search Ads (or RSAs) are one of the most innovative tools to come from Google Ads in recent years and they mark a serious step forward in ad automation. But what exactly are RSAs? In a nutshell, with RSAs, you create ads by writing multiple headlines and descriptions and Google’s machine learning will mix and match different combinations of these for the best results

Working in our client accounts, in each ad group we normally create 2 standard text ads and 1 Responsive Search Ad, and more often than not, it is the RSA that gets more clicks and has a better CTR. So, if you aren’t already using Responsive Search Ads in your Google Ads account read on to find best practice tips on setting these ads up. Comparison between Responsive Search Ads and Text Ads Rather than having 3 headlines and 2 descriptions as seen in the now-standard Expanded Text Ads, RSAs allow you to write up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. As seen in the table below, the number of possible permutations allows Google to test different ad combinations in ways that you could never achieve alone. 

  Expanded Text Ads Responsive Search Ads
Headlines 3 15
Descriptions 2 4
Automatic Optimisation No Yes
Possible Permutations 4 43,680

This graphic shows exactly how Google mixes and matches your headlines and descriptions to create the best possible ad copy for you. Their machine learning technology tests more combinations, more accurately than any testing you could put in place yourself.

Responsive Search Ads

How Do I Create A Responsive Search Ad? It’s easy to create RSAs, just go into the “Ads & Extensions” section of your Google Ads account. When you click the blue + button to create a new ad, one of the options from the dropdown menu will be Responsive Search Ads.

Creating a Responsive Search Ad

From here you simply start to fill in your different ad headlines and descriptions. As you fill in more data, Google also offers some suggested ad copy that is already featured in ads throughout your account. Remember, like all of Google’s suggestions, these are automated suggestions so don’t just blindly accept them, they may not be right for that ad group, campaign or for your business. 

Responsive Search Ad Suggestions

Interestingly,  you may notice in the above screenshot that Google has removed the option to create a standard Text Ad from this drop-down menu. Many take it as a sign that Text Ads will be removed at some point in the future and all new ads created in Google Ads will have to be RSAs. If this is the case, now is the time to make sure you are familiar, and confident in creating these types of ads.

If you still want to create a text ad, just click on Responsive Search Ad from the drop-down menu and from the page where you create RSAs there will be an option to “Switch back to text ads”.

Switch Back to Text Ads

Best Practices for Creating Responsive Search Ads

  • Make Sure Your Ad Assets Make Sense: Since Google will constantly mix and match the different headlines and descriptions you have written to find the best possible combinations, it is essential that you check that all parts of your ad make sense individually and combined. So, make sure your ad elements (headlines and descriptions) make sense, in any order.
  • Make (sparing) use of the Pin Feature: If there is a headline you want to show in a fixed position you can “pin” it by clicking on the pin icon next to the headline. If there is a headline you want to show in every ad combination pin it to position 1 or 2, and don’t pin any other headlines in those positions. Similarly, if there is a description that must show in every ad, like a disclaimer, pin it to position 1 and don’t pin anything else there.
  • Don’t Forget to Add Keywords to your Headlines: Be sure to include a top keyword in at least 2 of your headlines. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion to make sure you have keywords in your ads. 
  • Have Headline Without Keywords: Be sure to have at least 3 headlines that do NOT include your keywords. This will prevent your ads from becoming overly repetitive and allow you to highlight more value to searchers.
  • Try Using Headlines of Different Lengths: You don’t always need to use all the available characters. Remember, the 3rd headline will only show if there’s enough room, so try testing some shorter headlines that could fill this space.
  • Be Creative: Write as many distinct headlines as possible that don’t repeat or reword a similar phrase. Redundant headlines will restrict the system’s ability to generate combinations, so you’ll learn less about what works for your audience.
  • Write At Least 3 Distinct Descriptions: As Google can show up to 2 at a time, you want to give Google an opportunity to mix and match descriptions. if you can write 4, we definitely recommend it. 
  • Test Different CTAs (Calls to Action): Now you have lots of ad space to play with it’s time to try out different CTAs (Learn More, Call, Subscribe, Sign Up) to see which ones perform the best for your audience. Sometimes, you learn it’s not the CTA you thought would work – and now you have data to prove it. 
  • Add 1 RSA in every Ad Group: It’s not yet time to abandon traditional standard text ads, but you should certainly be taking advantage of RSAs. Remember, RSAs are very much trial and error whilst Google are searching for the best possible combination, therefore their initial performance may be underwhelming. This is why we suggest having 1 RSA alongside 2 standard text ads in every ad group in your account.

How To Measure The Performance of Your RSAs Google has slowly been introducing different ways to gain insight into how well written your ad is, and which combinations work best. When writing your ad, take notice of the Ad Strength Indicator which measures the relevance, quantity and diversity of the ad copy in your RSAs. It will then offer you a score ranging from “Poor” to “Excellent”. This tool also offers feedback such as “Add More Headlines” or “Make Your Description Lines More Unique”.

If you then click on “View Ideas” users can see some recommended ad copy from Google to help improve your ad strength. However, as we’ve said before take all Google recommendations with a pinch of salt, they are automated and not specifically catered to your business, product or services. 


Finding the Best Combinations There is finally some reporting functionally in Google Ads to find the best combinations from your RSAs, which can help inform you standard text ads and your website content. When looking at your RSAs simply click “View Details” and you can then find some stats for your ad assets, as well as stats for different combinations.

It can even tell you how many impressions your different combinations have had. If there are combinations that clearly work, we recommend adding these to your standard text ads. You can also use this information to inform content across your marketing including your social media, email and especially your site metadata.

Responsive Search Ads Assets RSA ad combinations


What To Do Now If you haven’t used Responsive Search Ads before, you need to start. If (or when) Google remove the ability to create Text Ads permanently you will need to be comfortable creating, updating and reporting on RSAs. When starting with this ad format, we suggest starting in your high volume, and most important campaigns so that you can get enough data to report on effectively.

If you’ve already started experimenting with RSAs it’s time to ensure that these ads feature in every single ad group throughout your account and that each RSA is following our best practice tips above. This way you have future-proofed your ads for the potential sunsetting on Text Ads. If you’re interested in more Google Ads tips, don’t forget to check out our Digital Marketing blog.

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Posted by
Nicola Russell

Nicola is the Digital Team Lead at GlowMetrics, preparing and executing PPC & SEO strategies for new and existing clients. Nicola specialises in integrated marketing campaigns, combining the best of paid social and paid search to get the finest of results for her clients
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