How Does Google Ads Generate Responsive Search Ads

ad campaign ad examples google ads responsive search ads
Responsive Search Ads

In 2022 and beyond, responsive design is not just for your landing pages, it’s for your ads too.

Responsive search ads are “ads that adapt to the device, location, and desires” of your market. With responsive search ads Google’s machine learning algorithm can change your ads on the fly. Shorter for mobile devices, longer for tablets and laptops, or even making them more relevant per location of the search. Here we’ll take a closer look at responsive ads, what they look like, when and why you should use them, and how they work.

What is a responsive search ad and what does it look like?

The short answer? Responsive search ads (RSA) are flexible search ads that become a variety of different permutations. All from one ad creation step.

Unlike traditional (now defunct) Google search ads that required a single heading and ad text at the same time, RSA opens it up for up to 15 unique headlines and four descriptions. Google’s machine-learning AI then takes all those options and automatically tests different combinations across their network.

So instead of one ad, you’re really creating over 40,000. Which is great for split testing and the key to better CTR and lower CPC. It’s a great feature and one of the strengths of Google ads.

All you need to do is enter your ad’s details (heading options, description options, etc.) and Google’s RSAs do the rest.

Thankfully, RSAs are Google Ads’ default ad type – Google announced on August 31, 2021 that, as of June 30, 2022, RSAs will be the only search ad type available.


When should you use responsive search ads?


Now that you know what RSAs are, it’s time to dive into when you should use them.

First. If you value performance above all else, RSAs are the ad format for you. According to Google, RSAs have 5-15% higher CTRs than standard search ads.

One advertiser ran a head-to-head matchup from January 1 to May 31st across 500 accounts and their RSAs garnered 243% more impressions per ad and had a 5% higher conversion rate.

More traffic and more conversions. Talk about a win-win.

Second. You should also use RSAs when you’re short on time. Maybe you’d rather dedicate more time to performance improvements and less time on managing ad portfolios; or maybe your ad team already has enough on their plates without having to A/B test every. Single. Ad.

Whatever your time-crunch, responsive ads are a one-stop-shop to creating multiple ads.

Third. RSAs are a great way to reach different segments of your target audience. Because Google’s AI adjusts the message based on many factors, it’s a lot easier to cater to multiple sub-groups at the same time.

The AI also takes into account changing consumer behavior. If popular trends or new behaviors pop up while your ads are running, the AI will shift with what consumers are doing to ensure your ads get in front of the right eyes.

How do responsive search ads work?

Well, as you’ve probably figured out by now, RSAs don’t work the same as the previous search ad model.  In fact, it’s more like A/B testing. Only instead of YOU trying to create the “perfect” ad, you’re giving Google all the pieces for several “perfect” ads and letting the AI do all the work.  

You provide the parts; Google builds the ads. 

And, as the ad campaign continues, the RSA will adjust to put the best message upfront depending on which keyword people use in their search. 

Google’s AI puts your ads together on an auction-by-auction basis. These ads are created on the fly, based on what your audience searched for at that moment, plus their general search history and other proprietary user-specific data available to Google’s learning machine. 

The AI’s goal is to create an ad that converts. So, it uses all that data to put together the ad most likely to get a click.

That’s what makes RSAs so powerful.

How do I optimize responsive search ads?

Now we’ve come to the important part of RSAs. Optimizing them so they actually work. 

Because here’s the thing: if you don’t set up your RSA correctly, it’ll be a mishmash of words that don’t blend well together.

And that won’t work for anyone.

So, let’s jump right into the tips to optimize your RSAs.

#1 Speak to every possible searcher you can imagine within your audience group.

 Your audience has a range of interests, wants, needs, and desires.

Some people prioritize bang-for-their-buck. Others prefer to invest in quality products. Some want to have their purchases immediately while others are happy to wait.

Many people are combinations of the above and more.

One ad can’t possibly speak to all these needs. But RSA can if it’s set up properly.

To make sure your RSA has what it needs, pick your top three prospective customer personae and write headlines that answer the following questions:

  • What product or service are you promoting?
  • What are your key selling points?
  • Which CTA would be most appealing to each person?
  • Are there any unique promotions or discounts for each person?

This exercise should give you 12 of your maximum 15 headlines. 

Pro tip: capitalize the first letter of each word in your copy. 

#2 Fill out every single part of the RSA

Yes, I do mean every single part. All 15 headlines and four descriptions. 

If you're stuck, we have a course the walks you through creating great ads and a community of experienced ad buyers that can help you with ad copywriting.

To make sure you have the best possible combinations, go back to those top three personae. Write four descriptions that:

  • Fit with each headline
  • Create three to five different ads per customer
  • Complement all the other ad combinations
  • Says something distinct and valuable 


Take advantage of Google’s shuffled preview (bottom right of the screen in the Ad Manager);, you’ll be able to see how each headline works with the ad text.
You don’t want an ad that reads “Talk to Us Today | Call Now | Act Fast” — that’s just not going to work. 

With the shuffled previews, you can adjust if the end result looks like nonsense.

#3 Remember to use keywords

Keywords are, well, key in RSAs, just as they are with standard search ads. Include top-performing keywords in your ad copy to make sure Google’s AI is grabbing the right data. 

Avoid keyword stuffing though!

Pick the top-performing keywords for your ads and make them count. If you need help, use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI), a feature in Google Ads and other ad networks that’ll let you customize an ad to a searcher’s search query. 

#4 Always say something new

It’s easy to get stuck on a specific message. It happens to everyone. We want to remind people about our sale over and over until they click on the ad. We want to scream about our services from the rooftops until they contact us.

Just try not to do that with your RSA. 

Repeating the same benefit or feature is wasted space, lowers CTR, and makes you look “robotic” to boot. Space is limited. Your audience time is short. Maximize what you’re saying in that space. 

The best way to avoid repetitive, redundant ads (like the “Talk to Us Today | Call Now | Act Fast”  example above) is to make each part unique. 

Say something new and different with each piece of copy. 

#5 Keep an eye on your RSAs ad strength

Google’s ad strength tool is an amazing resource. It measures the possible success, or strength, of your ad in real time as you’re creating it. 

While you prepare your RSA, the ad strength tool will go from “incomplete” to “excellent” (or some other measure of quality). If it’s not “excellent”, the tool provides you with suggestions on what to change. 

For example, it might tell you that your “headlines/descriptions are too similar”. You’ll know you need to take a different approach and emphasize an aspect of your product or service that you haven’t yet touched on.

The ad strength tool uses several factors, from the number of headlines and descriptions included in the RSA, to the variety of words used, and even keyword relevance. You’ll get actionable feedback on your ad copy as you work.

And as a result, you’ll have better performing ads.

There you have it, folks. - RSAs are the future of Google’s search ads and they’re here to stay. 

All you need to do is follow the five steps to make Google’s AI work for you:

  1. Write ad copy that speaks to as many searchers as possible.
  2. Fill out every part of the RSA
  3. Use your keywords
  4. Say something new
  5. Take advantage of Google’s ad strength tool

Once you’ve give Google all the parts, it’ll put together the right ad for the right people at the right time, and will even adapt to changing trends. 

You could say that they’re like A/B split testing on steroids. 

The point is, RSAs get you more clicks, faster, with less work required. And at the end of the day, that’s all anyone really wants.

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