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Responsive search ads are now where we start

Understanding Google Ads’ responsive search ads (RSAs) is now a fundamental part of search advertising. We’ve come a long way from the initial simple cost-per-click ads which have just had their 20th birthday.

Back then it was ambitious just to set up two ads and compare their response. Now, Google will be hammering through so many headlines built from combinations of the components we give it, that it doesn’t even give us the results from each combination. It’d be too much data. Each RSA can have up to 15 headlines and up to 4 descriptions, which means tens of thousands of variations are possible. With many ads, we’ll never even get that many views!

The last generation of Google search ads (‘expanded text ads’) were comfortable to work with – we all felt in control. RSAs force us to concede some of this control to machine learning, which is hard. But them’s the rules.

We can ‘pin’ components of the advert, ensuring they always appear. This will simulate the old ad styles. However, research shows that this seems to result in a higher cost per click, so we should use any ‘pinning’ with care, especially making ‘fake expanded text ads’ by pinning one option to each position. For advertisers who’ve spent years getting their ads working brilliantly, it may be very tempting to circumvent any enforced testing this way.