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A Crash Course in Responsive Search Ads

By Morgan Sanderson

Everything You Want To Know About Responsive Search Ads

In early 2018, Google unveiled a beta version of its latest element to its advertising platform–Responsive Search Ads (RSA).

Responsive Search Ads allow advertisers to enter multiple combinations of headlines and descriptions. Google’s machine learning capabilities will test out combinations of them in order to understand what the best performing combination is.

In Google’s own words:

“Responsive search ads let you create an ad that adapts to show more text—and more relevant messages—to your  customers. Enter multiple headlines and descriptions when creating a responsive search ad, and over time, AdWords will automatically test different combinations and learn which combinations perform best. By adapting your ad’s content to more closely match potential customers’ search terms, responsive search ads may improve your campaign’s performance.”

When deciding to implement Responsive Search Ads, there are advantages and disadvantages you need to know about (and a couple of key requirements that need to be followed). Don’t worry, we’re breaking it all down here!

Pinckney marketing responsive search ads



  • 5 different headlines are required at minimum, although 8-10 headlines are recommended. The advertiser is allotted a maximum of 15 unique headlines.
  • Two must include a well researched keyword.
  • The character limit for all headlines is 30.


  • 2 different descriptions are required, and up to 4 recommended and allowed.
  • A period is automatically added after each, if excluded.
  • Character limit for all descriptions is 90.

Now that we’ve covered what it takes to implement, let’s discuss what makes Responsive Search Ads so appealing to advertisers.

Responsive Search Ad Advantages:

Responsive Search Ads essentially represent Google’s efforts to further integrate machine learning into their advertising platform.

This is mutually beneficial for both the advertiser and Google, as the advertiser will reap the benefits of having perfectly optimized ads while Google’s machine learning capabilities will evolve infinitely from optimizing an innumerable amount of advertisements.

Most importantly, this allows for:

  • Inclusion in more relevant search queries

Multiple combinations of headlines and descriptions allows for your ad to compete in more auctions, meaning it will be exposed to more potential customers and optimally end up driving your bottom line

  • Increase of clicks (without the headache of A/B testing)

Google claims that RSA’s can increase clicks on separate ad creative by up to 15%. Without having to A/B test, the advertiser can focus on other tasks.

  • Greater flexibility

With a maximum of fifteen headlines and four descriptions for a single advertisement, there are many possibilities that can show on Google depending on the query.

Although Responsive Search Ads have a number of advantages, nothing is perfect. These advertisements, like everything else in the world, has its downsides:

Responsive Search Ad Disadvantages:

  • Less control

Since Google is in charge of optimizing your ads, you’re not in control of the final result outside of entering in your headlines and descriptions. Ultimately, the final combination of the two is up to the machine.

  • More writing up-front

Responsive Search Ad’s require an increased level of time invested into the copy. You don’t want to create half-baked headlines and descriptions. You want to make sure that they are all strong, so Google can best optimize them for you.

  • Tweaks still being worked out in Beta testing

Anything in beta should be taken with a grain of salt, even if its a Google product. Expect changes to the machine learning algorithm and overall structure of Responsive Search Ads before they get the greenlight to go live fully.

Implementing Responsive Search Ads can be a major benefit to any account, but it all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.


If you don’t mind putting a little extra effort in to craft a couple of headlines and descriptions, Google promises to make your time worth it by their claim of increased clicks through machine learning optimization. If you have the time and resources for a more hands-on approach, you may opt to just A/B test on your own.

In the end, your own unique needs will determine how much you benefit from the inclusion of Responsive Search Ads.

Responsive search ads are an example of paid search advertising. Interested in switching gears to learn more about paid social? Download our free Social Media Handbook and kick your paid social media strategy into gear too!