When Should You Use Responsive Display Ads

display ads google ads google responsive display ads
Responsive Display Ads

Google’s Responsive Display Ads seems to be all the rage. But are they really worth it? 


Responsive display ads, like responsive search ads, are ads that adapt to the device, screen space, and location. Google uses its machine-learning AI and your creative assets to compile visual-forward ads suitable for each specific ad space. Shorter for mobile devices, longer for tablets and laptops, and even making them more relevant per location of the search. Wherever you – and your audience – are, whatever device you’re using, the responsive display ads will always shine.

After-all, there’s more to life than a computer screen. 

(There’s also your phone, tablet, smart watch, smart TV, and other smart electronics.) 

Let’s take a closer look at how responsive display ads work and answer two very important questions: Are they better than text ads? And are they more expensive?


How do responsive display ads work?

Google takes all the creative assets you provide (images, videos, ad copy), and determines the best combination for every screen size and website across the Google Display Network. 

No matter the device or website, your ad is optimized to look its best.

This means your ad will look different in different places. For example, on one website, it might appear as a banner. On another, a dynamic text ad. In an app, it might be a profile view of your video or image with a text overlay. This also includes native, and text ad spaces!

There are a lot of different ad designs; responsive display ads reconfigure your creative assets into the ideal ad for the space. 


Here’s a quick run-down of how responsive display ads are created:

  1. You upload different assets into Google Ads. These include:
    1. Main Image and/or video
    2. Company logo
    3. Business name
    4. Short headline
    5. Long headline
    6. Description

  2. You set your campaign audience, location, and targets

  3. Google puts your ad on every appropriate website and other ad space in their Display Network. When it does this, it: 
    1. Uses machine learning to find the most appropriate ad spaces for your ad (based on the criteria you provide)
    2. Picks the right “pieces” and best combination to speak to the audience 
    3. Adjusts size, appearance and format so it fits in the space provided
    4. Updates ad placement, asset combination, and more as it learns from your ad’s performance history. 

The end result is several different ads, all looking good and fitting seamlessly in place. 


Are responsive display ads better than text ads?

Yes and no. Every ad serves a purpose – yes, even text ads. That being said, advertisers have seen increased click through rates (CTRs) after switching to Responsive Display ads.  

In recent years, Google has been moving away from text ads. They still use responsive search ads on their main search page, but for rest of their Display Network, they’re all about responsive display ads. 

That’s because text ads are easy to ignore—they blend into the background of websites.

Here are a few other ways Responsive Display Ads perform better than text ads: 

Eye catching visuals

The first (very obvious) pro in favor of Responsive Display Ad are the visuals. Unlike text ads, Display Ads can include images and videos, plus your logo, meaning you can choose attention grabbing visuals that pop of the page. 

Videos are the best media type to include; they’re proven to maximize reach on the Display Network. Google’s AI will show your videos instead of images whenever it determines that videos will generate better performance.

In fact, you can give Google’s AI multiple options for each media type, as well as the headlines and descriptions. That’s encouraged! It will improve the ad’s performance as the AI learns what works and what doesn’t. 

Broader reach

Google’s Display Network includes over 2 million websites, videos, and apps that, combined, reach over 90 percent of internet users worldwide. 

Compare that their Search Network (which is where text ads appear): it can only reach people while they’re searching for something specific. That’s often when they’ve already decided what they want to buy. 

If you combine that with a remarketing campaign on the Display Network, you’ve increased your reach significantly.  

Personalized content

Here’s where both responsive display ads and responsive text ads meet. Both tailor the content to fit with the audience’s interests, location, search history and other key data points. People always see a version of your ad that speaks to them. 

This type of tailored, personalize ad content leads to higher CTR from both ad types. 

What really sets Responsive Display Ads apart though is the combination of personalized content with the Display Network’s broader reach. More people see these personalized ads when you choose responsive display ads. 

This equals better results. 

Higher impressions

Responsive Display Ads tend to have higher impressions. 

One marketer found that, for one campaign, their responsive display ads converted at 0.23% versus their standard display ad’s 0.09%. For another, the responsive display ads converted at 0.54% when the standard display ads only hit 0.1%.

Those are some significant results. 

This increased conversion rate is in part because Google is using Responsive Ads more than other types to fill ad space. But it’s also due to the aforementioned eye-catching visuals, broader reach, and personalized content.

And while it’s sad to say, text ads just don’t have the same oomph. Nor does Google place them as frequently as Responsive Display ads.


Are responsive display ads more expensive?

Short answer? No, not really. In fact, responsive display ads actually cut out a lot of design and production costs. 

Google’s Display Network has about 20 different ad units for banners alone!

Instead of having your design team spend hours crafting unique display ads for every possible ad space, they just need to make a few stunning images and a video or two. This allows them to focus on other design projects.

Less design required comes in really handy for companies without a design team.

Instead of having your marketing team upload, track, monitor, adapt and adjust dozens of display ads at once, they can input all the creative assets once. Then go focus on sales or the next big marketing campaign. 

That’s just the savings in time and creation costs. 

Now let’s look at straight up Cost per Click. First of all, it varies depending on your keywords and market. Google’s AI uses the parameters you set up when you created the ad and campaign to choose and bid on keywords. 

This applies to both their responsive display ads and their responsive search ads. 

But, since Google’s Display Network is so much bigger than their Search Network, the CPC on the Display Network is around $0.58. Whereas Google’s search network has an average CPC of $2.32.

Pretty significant difference, wouldn’t you say? 

Unfortunately, there is a catch…

While it may seem like Responsive Display Ads are the solution to all your marketing issues, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are a few disadvantages to this ad format. 

  1. Brand control: whenever you automate anything, you lose some control over it. Once you’ve entered all the creative assets into your Responsive Display Ad and release it into the world, Google’s AI is in charge. This could be less than ideal for companies who want final say on all brand representation.

  2. Regulations and requirements: sometimes you need to include legal information in your ads. This takes up valuable space in your Responsive Display Ads; and even if you do use up your character count including it, there’s no guarantee it’ll be present in every ad.

  3. Limited/difficult to preview final ads: Look, we all want to know what we’ve put together looks good before other people see it. That’s normal. Unfortunately, that’s also a little tricky when it comes to Responsive Display Ads. There are just too many different permutations and combinations to be able to predict every final ad.  

Responsive Display Ads, and Responsive Search Ads, have made it easier for companies, big and small, to advertise across Google’s extensive Display Network. Prior to Google’s AI coming in and helping out, advertisers had to focus their efforts on maybe five different ad types. 

Responsive Display Ads automatically scale your images, so the ads fit seamlessly into the space, and make text combinations that convert. 

All while increasing your CTR and decreasing your CPC. 

Now, go forth and reap the benefits of every display ad style out there.

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