Online advertising is not a new idea, and Google’s AdWords offering has been synonymous with online advertising since the year 2000. The web has evolved since those days, however, and users are now better at tuning out advertisements, making it more important than ever before to ensure that your ads are attractive, relevant and compelling.
The Changing Landscape of The Web
According to research published by Statista, in Q4 2019 mobile traffic accounted for 52.6 percent of all web traffic, putting it slightly ahead of desktop traffic. Small screen sizes and the challenges of the mobile interface mean that users expect a different experience on their mobile devices, and that includes how ads are presented, as well as the content of those ads. Google aims to solve these challenges with Responsive Ads.
Responsive Ads vs Responsive Design
If you are a web designer, then when you hear the words “responsive” you most likely think of layouts that adapt to screen size and orientation. While it’s true that Google delivers different ad styles to mobile and desktop users, that’s not what Responsive Ads are about. The goal of the Responsive Ads system is to collect data about the ad headlines and descriptions that are used in advertisements, in order to discover the combinations that create the highest conversion rate.
How Does Google Ads Generate Responsive Search Ads?
Google allows advertisers to define up to 15 headlines and four descriptions for their ads. To make use of responsive search ads, an advertiser must define at least three headlines and two descriptions. Google will then attempt to combine headlines and descriptions to create an ad that most closely matches a user’s search query, as they explain in their support pages. Google will monitor the performance of each headline and description entry. Advertisers can view this performance information and use it to get an idea of which headlines or descriptions may need to be improved in order to maximize the conversion rate of their ads.
Google’s algorithms are effective and can generate useful feedback. However, they are still no substitute for a human eye. It is quite easy for a marketer to write an ad description that, on closer reading, does not truly match some of the ad headlines. Inconsistent, incongruous, or weak descriptions could drive potential customers away.
Google’s algorithms can determine what a user is searching for by analyzing thousands of signals and features in the context surrounding each keyword. This complex mechanism allows Google to display an ad that may or may not be related to the words that the user typed in. In some cases, it can take just a few seconds for Google’s ad server to process these signals and return an appropriate responsive search ad.
Google took advantage of this ability to create responsive search ads by simply adapting its existing technology to respond very quickly – within two seconds or less – to a search query. Yet, while this technology enabled Google to create responsive search ads for millions of users each day, it also gave advertisers the advantage of being able to use their existing Google AdWords campaigns and see earlier results on mobile devices from searchers around the world.
Preview Your Responsive Ads Before You Spend Money
That’s why viewing a preview of your advertisements makes sense. Using a Google Ads mockup tool to see the combinations that Google could use, and to view how your ads would look on desktop and mobile devices, can help you spot confusing, misleading, poorly worded or poorly targetted ads far more easily than you would if you were running through combinations in your head.
A responsive ads preview tool will generate ads based on the headlines and descriptions that you have entered, letting you see at-a-glance what your ads could look like. Note that if you choose to make use of the full 15 headlines and four descriptions then the total number of potential ad combinations available would be in the thousands, so previewing them all would not be possible. Being able to scroll through some permutations, however, is still invaluable.
Getting the Most From Your Responsive Ads
To get the best results, you should fill out as many headlines and descriptions as possible so that the algorithm has the maximum amount of data to play with. A breakdown of the possible combinations is shown below, with the old-style expanded text ads also listed for comparison.
Expanded Text Ads
Responsive Search Ads
Number of Headlines
15 (up to 3 displayed)
4 (up to 2 displayed)
In general, it is good practice to enter as many headlines and descriptions as you can, to ensure that Google has a lot to work with. Choose your ad copy carefully, however, and check it in a Google Ads creator so that you are confident that it looks good from a visitor’s perspective.
Titles that are overly repetitive, or descriptions that are overly specific, can lead to odd-looking ads. Imagine an advertisement that looked like this:
Title: Find Jobs at Recruitment Agency | 3,000 Jobs Available | Top Recruitment Agency has 3,000 Job Matches for You
Description: Choose Top Recruitment Agency for your job needs. Top Recruitment Agency has your job needs covered.
The above example ad is repetitive and hardly compelling. It could be improved by following a few simple best practices, and by using a Google Responsive Ad Generator to get an idea of what the ads might look like ‘live’.
Best Practices for Creating Ads
Before you even load up a Google Ads generator, it pays to familiarize yourself with some best practices:
1. Know your audience: Who exactly is your ideal customer. What are they trying to do, or what is it that they want to know?
2. Do keyword research: Find some long-tail keywords that have strong searcher intent. These should form the foundation of your ads.
3. Include calls to action: The goal of the ad is to get users to visit your website. Include a compelling call to action to achieve this.
4. Provide lots of creative content: Google’s Responsive Search Ads algorithm will work better with lots of content.
5. Test and revise your ads: Review the results of your campaigns, tweak the weakest creatives, and re-test.
6. Remember that testing is never “finished”: Markets change, and so do your consumer interests. Never stop testing and doing keyword and market research. Review your ads and keywords seasonally, at a minimum.
How to measure the performance of your Responsive Search Ad
Log into your Google Ads Account and click on the Ads Tab
Find the responsive search ad that you want to analyze the performance
Click on “View asset details”
Next, you should see a table similar to the one below with the number of impressions for each of your headlines and descriptions. The more impressions it has, the likely it performed better.
We offer a free Google Responsive Search Ads preview tool to help marketers improve the quality and performance of their search ads. Take advantage of this tool to build the content you use for your next marketing campaign, and boost your long-term return on ad spend.