A step forward towards automation: Responsive Search Ads are now the default in Google Ads

By Alberto Pontin | 18 Mar 2021

Many of the recent Google updates have indicated a move towards automation and a more streamlined account management experience. Switching the default ad type from Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) to Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) when creating a new ad for a Search campaign is a further step in this direction. A step that Google made with an announcement released on 18th February.

According to Google, the reasons behind the change are twofold:

  • To leverage machine learning in order to identify the best combination of headlines and description lines and create an ad that’s most relevant for a specific search
  • To be more flexible and adapt to constantly changing consumer behaviour

In the announcement, Google also provided some best practices to get the most from RSAs. In particular, it suggests keeping a close eye on ad strength when drafting headlines and descriptions, as well as continuing to use ad customizers such as location insertions and countdowns to make ads more relevant and meaningful. While up until now the practice of pinning components of an RSA wasn’t recommended unless absolutely necessary, this could actually be a good way of adapting to the new update, especially for those advertisers that require specific headlines in certain positions.

With the option to add fifteen headlines and four descriptions, RSAs give a lot more room to play with when drafting ad copy compared to ETAs. On the other hand, they can lead to a lack of control since there’s no way of knowing which combination of headlines and descriptions Google will choose. This could be a major problem, especially for advertisers with a meticulous approval process. However, while the update pushes RSAs as the new go-to ad type, it doesn’t mean that ETAs will disappear. On the contrary, it will still be possible to update existing ETAs or create new ones if needed. This option is just a bit more hidden and can only be accessed when creating a new RSA by clicking on the ‘switch back to text ads’ link, as shown below.

Even though the announcement didn’t come as a complete surprise (some advertisers have noticed ETAs disappearing from the options available when creating a new ad over the past year), the full impact of the change is not yet clear. But, with the information available and the best practices provided by Google, advertisers should be able to limit any negative impact on performance and potentially improve the way in which RSAs have been used so far.