5 Tips for Google Ads Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)

Google search on a smartphone

KLIK Staff

February 25, 2022

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What’s changing in Google Ads? 

In 2021, Google announced that they will be sunsetting the ability to add or create expanded text ads (ETAs) at the end of June 2022. As Google prepares for this, the default ad type has already shifted to responsive search ads (RSAs), however, ETAs are still able to be used. Once the sunset is complete, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit ETAs in their search campaigns. However, existing ETAs can still be paused and reactivated. As a result, it is important for advertisers to understand the functionalities of RSAs.

RSAs vs. ETAs – What’s different about them? 


Expanded text ads (ETAs) are fully manual ads consisting of three headlines and two descriptions. While it isn’t guaranteed that all headlines and descriptions will be shown, using ETAs gives you full control over your ads, meaning you set each headline, description, and path in its place.

The benefit of using ETAs is that advertisers have more control to test different assets of the ads and have more transparent data on ad performance, allowing you to optimize better. Since ETAs are manual, new copy and variations need to be imported into the account at a regular cadence and do require more time to manage.


Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) are the automated version of expanded text ads. They appear the same on the SERP, but the way they are created differs. RSAs consist of up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, which Google automatically pulls and pairs to create different combinations of 3 headlines and 2 descriptions. Google uses machine learning to determine which combinations are the most relevant to serve with any given search. As such, RSAs can provide a more customized ad to users searching for specific keywords. Aside from space for 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, all other ad specs remain the same across RSAs and ETAs. 

Although Google dynamically pulls which headlines and descriptions to show, there is an option to pin certain assets to a set position. For example, if there is a specific message that you want to show in every combination, you can set that headline to position 1, 2, or 3. The same applies to descriptions. 

The automatic nature of RSAs removes the manual control of managing copy, meaning advertisers are unable to decide exactly which assets are shown. In addition, there is less visibility to individual asset performance, as only overall ad performance is visible with all metrics. This means, for example, advertisers can see conversion metrics on a full 15 headline and 4 description RSA, but cannot see specifically which headlines or descriptions drove those conversions. For assets, advertisers can only see a snapshot of what combinations were used without the ability to see which specific assets showed and how they performed. And while RSAs can see increased CTR, they can also, at times, face lower conversion rates compared to ETAs. Advertisers should spend the next few months continuing to test and iterate on both formats to best set up for the sunset at the end of June.

It’s difficult to say whether ETAs or RSAs are “better”, but automation and machine learning are the way of the future, so it is important to understand RSA best practices.

Here are 5 tips to optimize your RSAs:

1. Utilize your ETAs for pinning

Look at the data from your existing ETAs to determine which headlines and descriptions perform the strongest. When building out RSAs, it’s important to consider which value props perform the best and in which position. Analyzing data from your ETAs is a sure way to decide what content you should include in your RSAs. Google Ads allows you to pin the position of headlines and descriptions. By pinning headlines or descriptions, it causes them to only be shown in that specific position. The most relevant headline should be in Headline 1 in order to increase visibility – this usually includes the product or brand name. It’s also important to not overdo the pinning as it reduces the overall number of headlines or descriptions that can be matched to a potential customer’s search.

2. The more headline variants, the better

Responsive Search Ads allow for up to fifteen headline fields. You’ll need to enter a minimum of three headlines. The more headlines you enter, the more opportunities to serve ads that match more closely with search queries. Google Ads will select a maximum of three headlines to build out an ad combination in a way that avoids redundancy and increases relevancy. Similarly, with descriptions, the more descriptions you enter, the more audiences Google Ads will have to serve your ads. Google will select a maximum of two descriptions to build out an ad combination. Highlight different value propositions in each headline and description. Google Ads may not show your ads if the assets are repetitive or too similar. Refer to Google’s assigned “ad strength” metric to see which ads have room for improvement, as well as what Google recommends should change to improve the strength of the ad.

3. One RSA per ad group

Given that RSAs allow for a multitude of headlines and descriptions, it’s not necessary to build out multiple RSAs in each ad group. Google essentially tests out different variants of ads and optimizes towards the best performing combinations. Having more than one responsive search ad can prevent your ads from testing different variants of your ads and will slow down the optimization of your Responsive Search Ads.

4. Analyze asset performance ratings

Google Ads provides an assets report under Ads & Extensions. The assets report shows which assets are performing well or poorly and which are still in the learning phase. (2) Every asset in your RSAs will be listed out along

Google Ads provides an assets report under Ads & Extensions. Note that assets can be viewed for a specific RSA (click view asset details on a specific ad) or across campaigns (click “Assets” under the Ads & Extensions view). The assets report shows which assets are performing well or poorly by giving a rating of Low, Good, or Best, as well as which are still in the learning phase. Every asset in your RSAs will be listed out along with their pinning positions and impression volume so you can compare performance. 

This report is limited in data-driven metrics (no visibility past impressions), which has led to frustration from advertisers looking for more specific data on their ad copy. While this is a limitation Google hopes to improve in the future, the impressions column is still helpful to see which assets Google Ads is serving most frequently and thinks are most relevant. Poorly rated assets struggling to serve impressions should be replaced by new assets for testing.

5. Use more ad extensions

Ad extensions maximize the performance of a campaign by adding more Ad extensions maximize the performance of a campaign by adding more information through links and additional text, which in turn can help increase click-through-rate and improve ad rank, leading to a higher chance your ad will be shown. Ad extensions are a great way to improve the visibility of your ad at no extra cost. Extensions are not guaranteed to show and will only show if the UI predicts it will improve performance. Because there is no cost to adding extensions, it is recommended to add multiple extensions that are relevant to the business.

Do you need support transitioning your Google Ads campaigns from ETAs to RSAs? Find out how KLIK can assist you.

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