How to Master Responsive Search Ad Copy in 5 Steps
In just two months, Responsive Search Ads (RSA) will be the only standard search campaign type you can create in Google Ads. With this ad format, you can provide up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, which Google will mix and match into the best ad for each search.
But you’re not just dealing with 15 titles and 4 descriptions. You’re dealing with all the combinations and permutations that need to be meaningful.
That’s enough to injure anyone’s brain.
So today, I’m going to share with you a simple five-step process for writing responsive search ad headlines and descriptions that will allow you to get the most out of this ad type—using templates to make your life easier.
Which RSA Strategist are you?
Before we get into this process, it may be helpful to know where you (or your PPC partner) are within the scope of RSA copywriting. You’ll probably be able to name the one that I think you should adopt soon.
Pinpoint three titles and two descriptions
Control Freak is very averse to letting Google make any decisions for them. For them, the transition from Extended Text Ads (ETA) to RSA is almost an existential threat, so they will do everything in their power to regain that control.
In particular, they will emulate an ETA with their RSA by providing only three titles and two descriptions and fixing them all. If you do this, your ad will look similar to the one below.
Pros: For highly regulated industries prone to Google Ads opposition, think finance or healthcare, controlling all messaging may be the only way to ensure you are legally protected.
Whether it’s anti-discrimination, legal disclaimers, or other content, if you have advertising messages that must be included, you may need to forego any automation and ensure you present your business or customers in a compliant manner.
Cons: If you do use this full control method, you may accept lower ad strength scores, and while we’re told they don’t currently affect ad position, there may be some negative effects. Also, you will miss out on the potential benefits that machine learning can bring to your account.
Throwing RSA Spaghetti at the Wall…Blindfolded
Unlike Control Freak, Hot Mess has no strategy when it comes to writing Google ads. This guy adds a new variant, inserts some headlines and some descriptions based on their current whim, hits the post, and then possibly drunk text messages while jaywalking under a ladder with a black cat.
They may also have too many or too few ads in each ad group (poor account structure) and not take advantage of the insights their ad performance provides them.
Cons: Too many to list
None of these are pretty.
Both pro-marketing and pro-automation
Rather than controlling every aspect of ad copy or letting the phases of the moon determine your performance, computational practitioners have a strategy to ensure their ads are consistent from start to finish and leverage machine learning to see improved performance.
Pros: This strategy allows you to write super effective Google Ads that follow RSA best practices (see cheat sheet below).
Cons: For Hot Mess, this means more work. For control freaks, this means giving up some control.
So what are the strategies of computing practitioners? We’ll get to that soon.
Best Practices for Responsive Search Ad Copy
To fully understand this strategy, you need to make sure you understand RSA’s best practices. You can find all of this in this Responsive Search Ads 101 post, but here are the basics:
Don’t use the bare minimum. Use at least 8-10 of the 15 titles, and at least three of the four descriptions available.
Make your title unique. Google doesn’t show similar variations.
Don’t add keywords to every title. At least three headlines should not be keyword-centric (i.e., shared features, benefits, or CTAs).
Use pins sparingly. Excessive restrictions may limit Google’s ability to maximize your ad mix and performance.
Change the title length. This will allow Google to show ads with two or three headlines, so don’t use all 30 characters for all headlines.
5 Steps to Writing Great Responsive Search Ads
Ok, now that you understand the best practices and where you are in the Hot Mess –> Control Freak spectrum, you can start learning the strategy. I will use a fictitious ad example for my paid media pro-YouTube channel.
Step 1: Create Different Types of Titles
Brainstorm different types of headers with this spreadsheet template. Inside, you’ll see eight different categories of title types, as well as character counters.
Here are my suggested categories, along with some fictional examples:
- Keyword Spotlight: PPC Video Library, PPC Videos for All Channels, Free PPC Videos
- Features: Step-by-step tutorials, learn at your own pace
- Benefits: Improve ad performance, grow your business, save wasted budget
- Brand Message: Paid Media Professionals,
- Social Proof: Over 17,000 Subscribers
- Price Comparison: Watch Online for Free
- Better than the competition: Watch ad-free, no registration is required
- Call to Action: Free Access Now, View YouTube Chanel, Subscribe on YouTube
Write as many headlines as possible that fit into these categories. If other categories make sense for your particular industry, add them to them as well.
Step #2: Assemble Categories into Theme Templates
Now that we have some headlines, we need to decide where they go. But before choosing a specific title for each RSA, we’ll outline a template for RSA as a whole.
Here are some examples you can use – again, just focus on the headlines at the moment.
Each header matches a category for which you’ve written multiple headers, but the idea here is to map the overall message flow.
Don’t forget that title position #3 doesn’t always show for every impression, so this part of the message shouldn’t be necessary for every impression.
Step 3: Add messages and pins to the template
Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is. When creating an RSA, select the template to use and add a title for each category, then pin them to the template location.
For this example, I used template #1 from step #2 to create my ad, which is:
Keyword Focused – Call to Action – Price Comparison
Each keyword-centric title is anchored in title position #1, the call-to-action is in title position #2, and the price comparison is anchored in title position #3.
As you can see above, you can pin multiple components to the same location, but the key here is to make sure you do it correctly.
If you pin at least one title to all three title placements and then leave the others unpinned, those unpinned titles will not be used. So, to properly employ this strategy, pin each title.
Step 4: Describe following a similar 3-step process
The header is not the only part of RSA. Do similar theme generation and content writing practices for descriptions and add them to your headline template to create a completely cohesive ad variation.
Some tips for describing writing:
- Try not to copy the language used in the title. It’s not strategic at all.
- Don’t forget to include a call to action in some variations.
Description 2 won’t always show up, so it only makes sense to make sure you write a copy that doesn’t depend on that variable.
Here are some examples of descriptions for the fictional ad we’re working on:
- We want to make paid advertising more accessible to everyone. New videos every week!
- Check out a library of past videos to boost your marketing capabilities.
- Learn how to advertise and get empowered to drive growth for your business.
Step 5: Start testing
With the previous four steps, you now have a fully formed responsive search ad. It has a title and description that fit the overall template, where you can control your brand’s user experience, and also allows Google to choose specific messages based on its “gut feeling”.
Now is the time to test, just like with expanded text ads. (If you think you don’t need to test your ads, read my Google Ads bug post and let me change your mind.) Here are some examples of tests you can run:
Test templates against each other. Which types of messages are most effective where?
Template test. Create 3 different RSAs and use the above strategy for all but one of the components. Test individual aspects of the ad with each RSA to see how each aspect performs.
Test the messaging topic in the same template. Maybe you tested template 2, but you made one variant, all risk-averse messages, and another variant, positive messages.
At this point, your ad copy test is like a choose-your-own-adventure book.
Be a Planned Practitioner
Even if you’re not a big fan of responsive search ads, or you’re still unhappy about losing control, the truth is that RSA is here to stay.
I’m not a big fan of losing control in my ad campaigns, but I’m also not that averse to automation, and I don’t think you should either.
So while the Control Freaks are still outraged by the upcoming changes and the Hot Messes are clueless about what’s coming to them, be a planned practitioner.
Get your test room organized, develop strategies to make the most of this change, and let the dust settle from your competition.