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Why we’re giving ‘responsive search ads’ a miss

Apparently, 1 in 4 search advertisers are now using Google’s ‘responsive search ad’ format. With this offering, Google allows us to specify a bunch of different headlines and description lines, and it then mixes them up to find combinations that work well, as well as trying to match the search query better.

We’ve been very reticent to use it for clients, despite constant exhortations from Google to do so. In the past, Google has shown a total inability to understand the requirements of professional businesses and those dealing with a low volume of searches, and we have no reason to believe it’s got any better. If it’s given free rein to choose headlines from a list and arrange them in any order, we as advertisers lose control of how the message is presented. That may be fine for the sort of business Google always uses in its examples, like local coffee shops, but is not OK for businesses that have any degree of concern about the way in which their message is presented.

In addition, to find out ‘what works’, Google needs large data trials, a luxury which most of us don’t have. If our advertisement shows just 100x a week and gets 5-10 clickthroughs, it’s going to take a long time for any meaningful results to be accrued. Indeed, there are suggestions that it doesn’t work anyway. For now, we suggest giving ‘responsive search ads’ a miss, except in very controlled circumstances.