Responsive Search Ads on Google Ads: Trust but Verify Your RSAs

Google, in its infinite wisdom, is forcing us all into ‘responsive search ads.’ In this new format for Google Ads, you create multiple headlines and multiple descriptions. Then, Google mixes and matches these “on the fly” as users search, creating more and more powerful performance. What could go possibly wrong? Let’s investigate.


Responsive Search Ads on Google Ads

First, what are ‘responsive search ads?’ These appear inside search campaigns and ad groups on Google Ads and are now the default. You create multiple headlines and multiple descriptions. The same rules I explain in my book on Google Ads apply.

  • Google vs. You. Google gets paid “by the click” and you get paid “by the conversion.” Thus, despite all the blather you’ll read on the Blogosphere, be careful! Google will optimize to maximize clicks (not necessarily conversions), so that “helpful” Google AI can easily optimize for free pizza, free beer, free pizza and beer.
  • Headlines and Descriptions. Try to include your target keywords in the headlines and descriptions as a best practice.
  • Write with Pizzazz. Make sure that you have some pizzazz in your ads. So not just keyword, keyword, keyword, but keyword, keyword, pizzazz, pizzazz, keyword, keyword, etc. You do want to write attractive ads, and notice now that Google will mix and match the elements so they need to be interchangable.
  • Attract / Repel. Here is my advice that is DRAMATICALLY different from what you will read on the blogosphere and in official Google help files. You want to ATTRACT customers and REPEL non-customers. Do don’t just fixate on quality score and click thru rate. It’s OK if your ads try to repel non buyers.



Second, Google still lets your run the legacy “expanded text ads.” If you already have them, great. If not, you can still create them by clicking into “responsive search ads” and then “switch back to text ads.” You can compare the click thru rate of the various ads and even the conversion rate if you have conversion tracking. In my experience, text ads that are well-written generally outperform responsive search ads (!), despite what Google tells you. But maybe that won’t be your experience. I also am deeply skeptical of letting Google AI run my Google Ads account. I’ve watched the Terminator movies and I do realize that “genesys is skynet,” so I don’t just trust AI despite all the hype, hype, hype.


Third, read both the official and unofficial literature on responsive search ads. Learn, deploy, measure and use that knowledge to improve your campaigns. What matters is how they work for YOU and not how they work for GOOGLE or IN GENERAL.

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.