Responsive Search Ads: Google’s Latest Text Ad Format

By Mark Ferree | Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing |

If you haven’t heard the news, Google recently launched a test of the newest text ad format: Responsive Search Ads.  The new ad format is currently in beta testing for a limited number of accounts, but we expect a similar format to eventually roll out to all advertisers.

What are they?

Responsive Search Ads allow Google to dynamically serve varying combinations of Headlines and Descriptions and optimize ad delivery based on the top-performing Headline and Description combinations.  These ads will appear in the same locations and will look like Expanded Text Ads, however Responsive Text Ads will include up to three Headlines.

Advertisers will upload up to 15 unique headlines and up to 4 unique descriptions for Google to utilize in ad delivery.  Google included a feature that allows advertisers to ‘pin’ a headline variation to a desired headline position.  A “pinned” Headline will show in the desired Headline position across all variations of the Responsive Search Ads.  This feature gives the advertiser some control over messaging, while still allowing Google to optimize ad delivery based on how the other Headlines or Description performs.

Character limits have been updated for Responsive Search ads.  Headline character limit remains unchanged, with a 30-character limit.  Description headlines are slightly longer than Expanded Text Ads, with a 90-character limit.  Path 1 and Path 2 character limits remain unchanged at 15 characters.

Responsive Text Ads will be available through the updated AdWords interface and the latest version of AdWords editor for accounts with access to the test. Advertisers need to run Expanded Text Ads in any Ad Group that also contains Responsive Text Ads. Google doesn’t currently offer the ability for Responsive Text Ads to run in an Ad Group that doesn’t contain Expanded Text Ads.

Impact 

The Responsive Text Ad test represents the next step on Google’s journey toward greater integration of machine learning in AdWords.  The new ad format and move toward machine learning should be positive news for most advertisers in the industry.

Responsive Text Ad’s ability to dynamically test ad copy will allow agencies and in-house teams to move away from traditional A/B testing by testing multiple variations of ad copy at a time.  Testing multiple ad copy variations at a time will give markets the ability to gain ad copy insights that were only previously available through multiple rounds of A/B tests.

The benefits of Responsive Text Ads should also extend to smaller businesses or marketing teams with limited resources.  The improved automation of ad testing provides small teams the opportunity to focus time and energy on other aspects of their accounts.  The ability for Google to optimize ad delivery over time will be helpful for small business owners who don’t have time to update their accounts regularly.

Regardless of the size of your team, having more Headlines (up to three) and higher character limits in the Description (90 characters) will give the Responsive Text Ads more real estate on the search results page.  Because of the greater size, we are expecting higher click-through-rates on Responsive Text ads compared to Expanded Text Ads.  The benefit of having larger ads should be reason enough to test these ads.

Conclusion

Only time will tell if Google decides to roll the Responsive Text Ads out for all advertisers.  If history tells us anything about Google’s dedication to using machine learning, I expect Responsive Text Ads to roll out for all advertisers before the end of the year.

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