July 22, 2022
• 4 min read
Paid Search

If you run extensive ad campaigns on Google, here’s something you ought to know. Starting June 30, 2022, Google has phased out its Expanded Text Ad (ETA) setup for a newer and more flexible Responsive Search Ad (RSA) format. While existing ETAs will continue to run parallel to the new format, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit existing ETAs.  

The move is part of Google’s new strategy that aims to put automation and machine learning at the centre of their services. Performance Max campaigns were one of Google's first shifts and now RSA ads will eliminate the need for micromanaging pay-per-click campaigns and allow advertisers to focus on their creatives. But what exactly are RSAs? How can they help you run and manage your campaigns better? Let’s find out. 

What are Responsive Search Ads?

Simply put, Responsive Search Ads are an automation-focused improvement on Google’s Expanded Text Ads, which most advertisers are familiar with. RSAs are adaptive ads designed to come back with the most relevant ad message in response to a search engine queries.

Instead of the three headline and two description options that ETAs offered, RSAs allow advertisers to create as many as 15 headlines and four different descriptions. 

Together, this wider set of headlines and descriptions can be arranged in over 40,000 different combinations. In terms of split testing with different ad variations, the possibilities that these combinations offer are virtually infinite.  

Google will use machine learning protocols to automatically test different headline-description combinations to figure out which ones perform the best. Google will return the best version of RSAs in response to a particular search engine query based on user profiles, keywords, past browsing behaviour, and other markers.

Moreover, Google will optimise these ads over time to boost engagement and keep advertising messages fresh.

Responsive Search Ads in Action - Clear Click

How do RSAs work?

RSAs boost ad performance by exponentially increasing the opportunities to match ads with specific search queries. But how do they do this? RSAs allow you to create 5x the headlines a usual ETA allows you to make. The more headlines and descriptions you enter, the more your ads get matched with and are shown to customers in response to their search queries. 

Once advertisers enter all headlines and descriptions, Google arranges them into multiple ad combinations. Based on search queries, Google will learn which combinations are most relevant and effective over time. The best combinations will then be automatically prioritised to extract the most mileage for any ad campaign.

Google’s machine learning systems are designed to grow smarter over time and organically boost the best performing ads. This way, the new format will get better progressively, delivering fresh, engaging, and more optimised ad content tailored to customer queries. 

Benefits of switching to RSAs

Although the transition to RSAs might be challenging to some, the wider, long-term benefits of this format outweigh any initial hurdles. Here are some of the benefits of switching to RSAs.

  • Real Time Optimisation: Even as RSA campaigns are being created, Google will send you alert notifications based on selected settings. These notifications inform you of issues that may diminish campaign performance. 

  • Enhanced Performance: Advertisers are already reporting improvements in click-through rates in the short time that RSAs have been online. These rates are expected to increase substantially as the system optimises and the best versions of ads get automatically prioritised. 

  • Save time: Now that creating, testing, and editing campaigns is outsourced to Google’s own automation algorithms, you can save your valuable time and use it to build better, more engaging creatives for your audiences.  

  • Customised Flexibility: RSAs are adaptive to device widths, allowing for the creation of flexible ad messaging to target potential customers. Also, headlines and descriptions can be tailored to specific customer locations. For example, a customer from the UK will only be shown the products that are available for shipping in the UK.

  • Increased Reach: Multiple headline and description options let advertisers reach more potential customers. This feature also allows ads to match more search queries. 

  • More Clicks and Conversions: RSAs compete in more auctions, delivering more clicks and visitor-to-customer conversions. They also boost the performance of ad groups in general.
Benefits of Switching To Responsive Search Ads - Clear Click

How to optimise RSAs

Google’s latest ad innovation is led by a strong focus on automation and machine learning. It offers both small and large advertisers a wider playing field to display their creativity and craft ad campaigns that can be customised to match specific search queries, devices, and locations. 

The following are some important tips to keep in mind for an optimised RSA campaign.


Users are quick to respond to ads that address their needs head-on, which is why headlines need to be compelling, smartly written, and attractive. All things considered, headlines make customers connect with ads, and eventually determine which ads Google prioritises. 

  • For an effective RSA campaign, first aim to write at least 10 different headlines so that there is enough room for Google to optimise and prioritise. 
  • Every headline must be unique in order to avoid redundancy. Moreover, Google does not display headlines that are too similar to others.  
  • Headlines can have up to 30 characters. Therefore, it is essential to have a combination of both shorter and longer headlines. 
  • Use Google’s dynamic keyword insertion to place relevant keywords into your headlines. Make sure to include keywords in at least 5 headlines. 
  • In order to increase successful headline-description combinations, write at least three headlines without specific keywords.  


  • As a general advertising rule, and more specifically for RSAs, avoid generic language in descriptions. Instead, use specific calls to action. 
  • Tie your description messaging to the most relevant campaign keywords. Users are more likely to engage with ads that are relevant to their search queries. 
  • Like headlines, each description must be unique and make sense on its own. No description should be dependent on a particular headline, and vice versa. 
  • Use the Ad Strength score feature to verify if you are delivering the best content to the prospective customer. This feature enables you to gauge how customers may react to a particular ad. 

Pinning Controls

RSAs will automatically test different headlines and descriptions in different positions to come up with the best ad message for each user.  

Pins allow advertisers to pin headlines and descriptions to specific positions, so that repetition and redundancy can be avoided. However, this feature limits Google’s testing and learning capabilities by a substantial margin. Therefore, although pinning helps advertisers regain some degree of control that is lost in the RSA format, it is advisable to use this feature sparingly. 

Ad Extensions

Experts recommend at least four ad extensions per ad group. Ad extensions help you meet your advertising goals while at the same time making ads more engaging and useful to users. Google reports that advertisers can clock increases by up to 20% in click-through rates by using ad extensions. 

Successfully executing RSAs

There is a learning curve associated with successfully executing RSAs. However, when properly calibrated, this innovation can ensure that ads reach the right audience and lead to conversions.

Google recommends having at least one ad per ad group with a ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ Ad Strength score. For this to happen, use the Google Ads Grader to zero in on your best-performing ETAs, and then use that content to craft effective headlines and descriptions for your RSA campaign.  

It is essential to continue learning and testing variations of your existing ETAs to successfully migrate to the new format. For starters, make sure there is at least one RSA for each active ad group. 

However, if you don’t have time to invest in learning how to use RSAs, contact us today. All of our clients we work with today already run numerous successful responsive search campaigns.

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