By now we have all heard the news that Google (and now Microsoft) will be doing away with Expanded Text Ads come next year. This is a very big (and somewhat scary) shift in the paid media advertising industry, but there is no need to fret or dread some huge overhaul that will need to be done before then. Below, I will outline why Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are leaving, the benefits of Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), and some coping methods/strategies to ease the transition and your mind.
Why ETAs are being sunsetted
It seems like it’s been ages since we made the switch from standard text ads to expanded text ads, but as we all well know, the changes don’t stop coming from Google. The migration from ETAs to RSAs as the standard text ad type has been a long time coming, and soon it will be here for all of us. Google announced the official shift in August 2021, essentially giving PPC digital marketers 10 months to make the adjustment from ETAs to RSAs. Just earlier this month, Microsoft also announced that RSAs would become standard for their platform starting June 30, 2022. After this date, expanded text ads will not be able to be created or edited on either platform. However, it will still be possible to enable, pause, or remove these ads. Reporting will continue to be available for ETAs as well.
The reasoning behind sunsetting ETAs is quite sound. Google’s learning algorithm is sophisticated enough to serve the correct combination of headlines and descriptions, to construct an ad that is most likely to be clicked on by the user which it is intended to serve. While we would all like to hold onto our ability to micro-manage text ads, we must face the reality that sometimes Google knows best. It’s a bit like the older relative you likely have who swears they know a faster route than Google Maps. They may have years of experience, but Google has comprehensive algorithms that can’t be matched by human experience. With responsive search ads, Google has a lot more room to control and finesse the details of an ad to serve more effectively to a particular audience.
In fact, when paired with smart bidding and broad match keywords, RSAs have demonstrated a lift in conversions over ETAs. From Google: “Advertisers that switch from expanded text ads to responsive search ads, using the same assets, in campaigns that also use broad match and Smart Bidding see an average of 20% more conversions at a similar cost per conversion.” While it is always hard to give up the reins, we can’t let human stubbornness stand in the way of progress and performance success for our clients, especially if it also means a reduced workload on our end.
Why RSAs are the Future
I’ve already pointed out the benefits of RSAs from a client perspective, but I’d like to address the benefits in an agency setting as well. The most substantial benefit from this perspective is the man-hours saved by not poring over details of ad copy. The time that is saved with RSAs can be better utilized towards strategy and planning rather than micromanaging wording or counting characters. This will allow an agency’s workers to spend more time thinking about a client’s needs and overall goals while maintaining (or improving!) ad performance. There’s no need to obsess over finding the right combination of headlines and descriptions in the right order when Google can be trusted to find this combination for you. The ability to customize ads on the fly with RSAs as auctions are happening means that the most relevant variation will show each time an ad is served.
What Do I Do Now?
While all of this talk of improved performance and reduced workload is good, where do I actually start? This is a fair question, and making the transition from ETAs to RSAs can be daunting, especially if you’ve got a particular client or an array of different clients. While there’s no one easy way to answer this, I’ve got a few suggestions.
First of all, if your client must maintain some level of micro-control on the ad copy level, this is still going to be possible. Google has already made it difficult to create a new ETA, by hiding the option deep within the interface. However, going forward, one will still be able to pin headlines/descriptions within RSAs to maintain some control. While it is possible to pin every headline and description to effectively create an ETA, this is not advisable for several reasons, one being that you’ll limit the effectiveness of Google’s own algorithms. That being said, it can still be helpful to pin certain ad copy, such as branded terms in the first headline or calls to action in the third headline. So, if you’ve got a client who insists on keeping their company’s name in the first headline, this will still be possible. However, it would behoove you to work on persuading your client to give up some of this control. Google will only move towards automation and away from a manual adjustment in the future.
If you find yourself needing to make the conversion from ETAs to RSAs in a large account or across multiple clients, the idea of creating so many new RSAs can be quite daunting. No need to worry! With Google Ads Editor, existing ETAs can be exported to a CSV(Comma-Separated Values) file as responsive text ads. This can be done across an entire account in bulk, and the newly-created RSAs can be reinserted into existing campaigns or used to create entirely new campaigns. Converting ETAs this way will only output RSAs with up to three headlines and two descriptions; it can still serve as a jumping-off point for creating new RSAs. It is recommended that you convert your best-performing ETAs to RSAs and supplement them with some ad copy from your poorer-performing ads to maximize the potential for ad variation. Barring this, Google recommends that you have at least “one responsive search ad in every ad group in your Search campaigns by June 30, 2022,” though it would certainly be wise to be prepared well before this event.
Expanded text ads will be sunsetted for both Google Ads and Microsoft Ads on June 30, 2022. After this date, ETAs can be removed, enabled, or paused; while reporting will continue to exist for them. However, new ETAs cannot be created and existing ETAs cannot be edited. Responsive Search Ads are the way forward in digital advertising, and the sooner we can all get on board, the better. Giving up the reins of editing minutia in ad copy can be scary, but we can lean on the fact that more variation allows Google’s complex algorithms to utilize our ads more effectively and drive performance for our clients. RSAs don’t have to be scary, and we can still have some level of control going forward. The more we allow Google’s algorithms to do the heavy lifting, the better off we’ll be. We can save man-hours and see improved performance at the same time if we just allow Google to do its thing. As we all know, change can be difficult, but it is constant in the world of PPC. The best thing we can do as PPC professionals is to keep ourselves informed and to utilize all of the resources available to us to the most of our ability. RSAs are just another step towards optimization, and we owe it to our clients to be well-informed and prepared for this change when it happens.