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Responsive Search Ads is a new beta in Google AdWords that offers a larger real estate and dynamically combines advertiser’s headlines and description lines. Essentially, you give Google a load of Headlines and/or Description Lines to find the best performing ad rotation to achieve your campaign goals. As an incentive to using their Machine Learning technology, you get a larger ad format. 

Is bribing us with a larger ad (if we usilise AdWords’ machine learning capabilities) a sweet or sour deal? Does it free up more time for us? Does it mean we no longer have to do more manual A/B ad testing?


What are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive Search Ads let you create an ad in AdWords that adapts to show more text. If you enter multiple headlines and descriptions when creating the ad, then over time AdWords will test different variations and combinations to find out which one works best.

The more headlines and description you enter, the greater the opportunity that AdWords will have to deliver an ad to a user that is more relevant to their search query. Eventually, AdWords will learn which rotations work best for search queries and serve these more often.

Credit: Search Engine Land, 2018

Important details:

  • Show up to 3 headlines instead of just 2.
  • Up to 2 90 character description lines (instead of the 80 that Expanded Text Ads currently allow us).
  • For each responsive search ad, you can provide;
    • Up to 15 headlines
    • 4 description lines
  • All other fields are the same as expanded text ads e.g Ad Paths etc.
  • Best practice still applies here; continue to make Keyword relevant ad copy with your suggestions.
  • Ad Copy can be shown in any order, so make sure that they make sense individually and in combination.
  • There is an option to ‘pin’ headlines and description lines into certain positions.
  • To report, you can filter in the Ad Type column for them. Find “Responsive Search Ad”
  • Currently, you can only add responsive search ads into ad groups with existing ads.

Responsive Search Ads are only available in the the new AdWords interface, but only for those on the beta so not available to everyone yet.

Google also gives you some top tips for responsive search ads;

Credit: Google Adwords Support, 2018


Why are Google pushing us more to an automated way of working with ads?

Over the past year in particular, there has been a real push from Google to give it more powers to determine which Ad is served to your potential customers. We’ve had the changes to ad rotation settings, dynamic search ads, and automated ad suggestions to name a few. All of this further suggests that we’ll see more control put into Google’s hands through machine learning over ours.

Responsive Search Ads seems to touch upon all of the recent changes in AdWords for ads and I guess is the missing link for those who do not want to adopt Automated Ad Suggestions as it still allows us to have an element of control. Regardless, this is yet another way for Google to help advertisers drive more relevant ad copy to it’s users.

Google are pitching this as a way to free up advertiser’s time, to reach more potential customers, improve performance, and as a way to create flexible ads that can adapt properly to device widths. But is it really because they feel as though they can do a better job of managing your ad copy testing to drive better results for you, your customer, and ultimately themselves? Probably.

Google never give you something for free unless there is something in it for them!


What does this mean for manual A/B testing?

Are you using tech such as DoubleClick Search to manage your Ad Copy testing?

If so, this probably won’t work for you. As with any new Google AdWords beta too, I’d be suprised if this integrated into DoubleClick or any bidding platform until it’s released.

Does your business work within in sensitive verticals?

Again, you’ll probably have difficulty having sign off on this. You wouldn’t want to have an ad rotation that could potentially put your business in a tricky legal position.

However in this case you could ensure that you “pin” your headlines and descriptions properly to ensure your ad is compliant.

Some of you just don’t trust Google’s automation just yet. But could you use this to dip your toe into it?

I think it’s worth a shot. Look, let’s face it. If you are not using any form of machine learning or automated bidding solutions yet, you are going to get left behind. Use this as an opportunity to see how it could work for you and your campaign goals. It still gives you that feeling of having control, whilst letting Google find the best opportunities for you.

It’s still in beta so I’d say its too soon to declare the death of manual A/B testing

However what this continues to do is drive another nail into the coffin for giving advertisers complete control over what message they are delivering to potential customers. Google continues to release beta’s utilising it’s powerful AI and Machine Learning capabilities, and we will no doubt expect to see more over the coming months.


So should I use the Responsive Search Ads beta?

You’ll be able to drive a much better performance much quicker than a manual A/B test can

Ultimately, using responsive search ads is still a form of A/B testing. What this beta allows you to do is take the boring manual elements away when it comes to setup, as well as some of the analysis to determine what element of an ad delivered the best results. If Google can find the perfect combination quicker, then why shouldn’t we let it work it’s magic on our campaigns?

Dan Roberts
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Dan Roberts

Founder & Author at PPC hubbub
Dan has worked in agencies for over 5 years and was awarded Rising Star at The Drum Search Awards for the work delivered for his clients and wider industry. Dan founded PPC hubbub after becoming frustrated with the lack of actionable insight from blogs.

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Dan Roberts
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