Back to Basics: Tips for writing effective responsive search ads

Daniel Reeves / November 2020

Back to Basics is a Think with Google Canada series where Google experts explore digital marketing best practices.

Responsive search ads (RSAs) can help marketers stay flexible during unpredictable times. Unlike standard ads, RSAs require multiple headlines and descriptions, and machine learning assembles combinations to show the most relevant messaging to people online. Ads automatically adapt to what people are searching for and Google Ads tests different combinations to learn which performs best over time.

For marketers, this means RSAs require a little more creativity up front, for less work later on. We’ve assembled some best practices for crafting RSAs that are specific, relevant, attractive and empowering.

Ensure each headline and description can stand alone

RSAs may show up to three headlines and two descriptions side-by-side at one time. This means each headline and description needs to make sense on its own. Ensure each can stand alone and will make sense to readers, no matter what combination they see.

Write short, distinct headlines

Create between five and 15 different headlines. There’s no need to maximize the character count (up to 90 characters) — you can test both shorter and longer forms. Examples of distinct headlines are “Toronto Boutique Hotel,” “Up to 30% Off Your Stay” and “Starting at $150/night.”

Focus on providing headlines that are distinct. Include popular keywords, found through top queries from the search terms report, or keyword insertion. You can also rewrite or use headlines from your top performing expanded text ads (ETAs). In RSAs, don’t repeat the same or similar phrases, as redundant headlines will restrict the ability to produce combinations.

Craft descriptions with call-to-actions

Provide between two and four short text descriptions (up to 90 characters), to be used in combination with the headlines. Like headlines, make your descriptions unique and try to provide as many distinct ideas as possible. Include a call-to-action, such as “call today” or “book now.” Think about the actions you want your customers to take based on the user journey you’re designing the ad group for. Some description examples are “Book Your Stay in Downtown Toronto,” or “Fast, Secure & No Cancellation Fee!”

A best practice is to use descriptions from ETAs in the ad group, or use pre-populated bulksheets from optimization score recommendations to help get started.

Include special promotions and offers in text

Additional sources of inspiration for headlines and descriptions can be found in customer testimonials, product features and benefits, slogans and taglines, or other unique selling propositions. You can include special promotions and one-time offers in both the headline and description areas, as well as awards, ratings and reviews.

Use pinning to control text combinations

The default setting is for headlines and descriptions to appear using various combinations. However, you can control where individual headlines and descriptions appear in your ad by pinning them to specific positions. For example, if you need to show a disclaimer in every ad, you can write the disclaimer as a description, and pin it to “description position 1.” That way, all ads that are shown to customers will include the disclaimer in the first part of the description.

RSAs show that a little creativity up front can help marketers stay flexible, reach more potential customers and has been shown to result in increased clicks and conversions. Dig deeper into RSA best practices here.

Back to Basics