Responsive Search Ads: Best Practices

Search ads

In July 2018, Google announced the rollout of Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), a brand new ad format. This new ad type is revolutionizing A/B testing in Google Ads and significantly reducing advertisers’ workload. In this post, I’m sharing with you some of Responsive Search Ads (RSA) best practices.

What is Responsive Search Ads ?

Responsive search ads are text ads that automatically adjust their content and show more text and more relevant messages to potential customers.

The principle consists in inserting several titles and descriptions within the same Ads. Google Ads then automatically tests different combinations of titles and descriptions and memorizes which ones work best over time.

Learn how to create responsive search ads to serve the right messages to the right customers across Google Search.

How it works ?

The more headlines and descriptions you enter, the more opportunities Google Ads has to serve ads that more closely match your potential customers’ search queries, which can improve your ad performance.

After you enter headlines and descriptions, Google Ads assembles the text into multiple ad combinations in a way that avoids redundancy, different from expanded text ads, you can provide up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions for a single responsive search ad. Next, in any given ad, a maximum of 3 headlines and 2 descriptions will be selected to show in different combinations and orders. Over time, Google Ads will test the most promising ad combinations, and learn which combinations are the most relevant for different queries.

responsive search ads combinations
Google will test different combinations of titles and descriptions among the content provided to analyze the combinations that work best and thus optimize the quality of the ads served to users.

A responsive ad may have:

  • 3 to 15 title variations – 30 characters maximum each.
  • 2 to 4 variations of descriptions – 90 characters maximum each
Responsive search ads process
The descriptions and headlines can lead to 43,680 versions of the same ad
Responsive search ads setup

Google Ads recommends having at least 2 expanded text ads and 1 responsive search ad per ad group. Moreover, there’s a limit of 3 enabled RSA’s per ad group.

What are the advantages of using Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads bring 5 main benefits to manage Google Ads campaigns.

  1. Simplicity: RSA will let you save time when creating ads. Indeed, the different variables of titles and descriptions being indicated at the ad level.
  2. Flexibility: the fact that these ads are in responsive format gives them greater flexibility in terms of distribution. They can adapt to the devices they displayed on. RSA can display up to 3 titles and two descriptions, giving you more room to convey your message.
  3. Visibility: With up to 3 titles of 30 characters and 2 descriptions of 90 characters, RSA are significantly larger than ETA ads
  4. Control: with this ad format, the advertiser is always in control of the content that is added to ads. This means, it is possible to indicate titles and/or descriptions that must appear in every ads.
  5. Automation: different ad variations is tested via Google’s machine learning. Then, Google select automatically a tailored ad: to the user’s browsing history, device, and other behaviors
  6. More performance: RSA increases the possibilities of being present on more auctions and of serving on more queries. Google estimates that an ad group with Responsive Search ads should register a 5-15% increase in clickthrough.

Best practices for writing Responsive Ad Copy

Google provides a few helpful tips and guidelines to create effective responsive search ads.

  • Provide at least 5 unique headlines: that don’t repeat the same or similar phrases. Ideally, i recommended you to have 8 to 12 headlines set. The more headline you provide, the more option you give to Google to create ads.
  • Include keywords in at least two headlines. Insert top ad group keywords generating traffic in your headlines. That said, ensure that three of your headlines don’t include your target keyword(s).
  • Avoid redundant headlines. To increase the likelihood that your ad shows, provide at least 5 unique headlines that don’t repeat the same or similar phrases. Using redundant headlines will restrict the system’s ability to generate ad combinations. 
  • Reuse existing content from your existing high-performing text ads.
  • Communicate on rational benefits. Google recommends to highlight additional product or service benefits you are offering.
  • Create headlines of different lengths. Do not use the entire character count in each headline.
  • Add minimum 2 unique descriptions. Remember, responsive search ads can show up to two descriptions at a time.
  • Make sure headlines make sense individually or in combinations. Write the first 3 headlines as if they’ll appear together in your ad.
  • Improve your Ad strength → Get to ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’. Try getting each responsive search ad to at least “Good” Ad strength.

Example of responsive search ads

To demonstrate, Google provides a few examples.

Good examples

These examples follow the best practices for creating a responsive search ad.

Good example of responsive search ads
Good example of responsive search ads
Good example of responsive search ads

Bad example

This is an example of how NOT to create a responsive search ad. In this case, the main issues are: redundant text in headlines and fewer than 5 headlines

bad example of responsive search ads
Bad example of responsive search ads

How To Write An Effective Responsive Search Ad ?

An effective responsive search ad should include 5 elements:

  • Relevancy: Use a captivating headline that shows that your ad is pertinent to the user’s search
  • Benefits: What the user gets out of your product or service
  • Features: Facts list about your products
  • Call To Actions: Indicating the user what they need to do next
  • Supporting information: To be used in the description to highlight why your product, service, and company are a good fit for the user’s needs

Concretely, these elements will look like this in search ad

Recommended responsive search ads
Recommended responsive search ads

Assets Performance For Responsive Search Ads

The asset report lists each asset used in responsive search ads and lets’s compare assets within a responsive search ad. You’ll be able to see which assets need to be replaced and which assets are most effective to enhance the performance of your ads.

Assets Performance RSA

Impressions: displays how often your asset is shown.

Performance: shows how your assets perform relative to other assets of the same type within your responsive search ad.

Responsive Search Ads assets report
Responsive search ads usually need around 5000 impressions in the “Google Search: Top” segment over 30 days to display a rating in the Performance column
Responsive Search Ads combination report

You can review the different performance ratings below.

different responsive search ads performance ratings

Performance Analysis of Responsive Search Ads

The statistics for Responsive Search Ads are available directly on Google Ads interface. You can analyze the performance in detail for different ad variations.

I recommend you avoid comparing RSAs to Expanded Text Ads. But, look at the combined performance within an ad group before and after the responsive search ad was launched.

RSA performance in Google Ads

Ad strength

Ad strength provides informations to help you provide the right messages to your customers. This Ad metrics has two components:

  • the overall rating that indicates the effectiveness of a relevant ad
  • the specific action item(s) that can improve the strength of the ad.
Ad strength in Google Ass
Ad strength column under the “Ads & Extensions” window for a Google Ads campaign

Common issues

Here are some common issues and how you can resolve them to improve Ad strength:

  1. Missing ad group: Assign your ad to an ad group.
  2. Missing keywords in ad group: Add keywords to your ad group. Your responsive search ad won’t serve without keywords.
  3. Final URL is missing: Add a final URL to your ad.
  4. Headlines/Descriptions are too similar: Approach your headlines and descriptions differently, and emphasise new aspects of what you’re selling or the different customers you’re appealing to. Adding more unique headlines and descriptions can increase your chances for better performance.
  5. Headlines/Descriptions are too short: Provide enough details to catch the attention of your target customers.
  6. Add popular keywords to your headlines: Try including text from your keywords that serve most often in your ad group to your headlines.
  7. Add more keywords to your descriptions: Try including more keywords in your descriptions to improve the performance of your ads.


Responsive Search Ads are likely here to stay. Systematically adding at least one RSA when creating PPC campaign should be considered a best practice. Advertisers can dynamically test ad copies without writing hundreds of ads

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