Google’s New Responsive Search Ads | How They Work and Best Practices

Earlier this year Google AdWords rolled out a beta version of their newest ad unit to select advertisers: Responsive Search Ads.

These new search ads allow advertisers to enter multiple combinations of headlines and descriptions which Google’s machine learning will then test and optimize for the best performing combination.

Here are how the new responsive search ads work, their potential advantages, and some best practices outlined from Google’s Responsive Search Ads support page.


new responsive search ads feature image

“The ability to run and test multiple combinations of headlines and descriptions simultaneously using machine learning is exciting. It has the potential to save advertisers valuable time from repetitive A/B testing, as well as improve overall performances through showing the most engaging and relevant ads as often as possible.”

josh brisco


Josh Brisco, Manager, Retail Search Operations at CPC Strategy

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads are a new type of search ad that’s powered by Google’s machine learning. This can help advertisers create ads that are more relevant to their ideal customers’ searches.

The beta version of Google’s support page reads:

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.

The more headlines and descriptions entered, the more AdWords can test and then learn which combinations work best with different search queries.

These ads are listed under “expanded text ads” in the new AdWords interface for current advertisers that have access to the beta.

google responsive search ads

The Advantages of the New Responsive Search Ads

The new responsive search ads are the latest example of Google’s advances in machine learning. This tech is slowly being rolled out to advertisers on AdWords.

  • Optimization through machine learning

These new ad units will allow advertisers to input up to 15 different headlines and 4 descriptions. Google will then test and run all possible combinations to create the best performing configuration. No more A/B testing — Google’s AI will now autonomously test all possible outcomes which save advertisers valuable time.

  • Show more text and relevant messages to customers

These ads can feature 3 headlines and two 90-character descriptions. You can also specify their width, giving more space to show on mobile. This will improve the visibility of your search ads on mobile devices.

  • Show up in more relevant searches

By using multiple combinations of headlines and descriptions, your ads will have the opportunity to compete in more auctions. This will help your message reach more customers by showing up for more searches.

Josh Brisco says,

“Showing an optimized search ad with the right message to the right audience has the potential to boost the CTR and lower CPCs for Search campaigns. If done correctly, this can help advertisers improve their ROAS and reduce wasted ad spend. So far we’ve seen mixed results for different campaigns, so it’s still too early to make a ruling on this feature.”


responsive search ads

Source: SearchEngineLand


6 Tips for Using Responsive Search Ads

Google has outlined some best practices for advertisers to consider to get the most out of the new responsive search ads:

1. Provide at least 8-10 headlines is best. The more headlines you provide, the more options there are to assemble your messages into relevant ads, which may increase performance.

2. Be sure to include a keyword in 2 headlines.

3. Be sure to have at least another 3 headlines that do NOT include your keywords.

4. Try highlighting additional product or service benefits and features, a problem you’re solving, or highlight shipping and return information.

5. Try creating headlines of different lengths. Don’t try to maximize the character count in every headline.

6. Add at least 2 distinct descriptions. Remember: responsive search ads could show up to two descriptions at a time.

“Responsive search ads are still very new and warrant more testing. As always, we advise others to test the feature for themselves and temper their expectations. The bigger picture here is that AI and machine learning are becoming more integrated into Google’s advertising platform. These have powerful potential for advertisers using AdWords in the future.”

Want to know more about Google AdWords text ads? Check out our post A Look at the New Google Expanded Text Ads.



About the AuthorGreg graduated from CSU Sacramento with a degree in International Relations. After teaching English in Istanbul, he returned to California to pursue writing about tech and digital marketing. See all posts by this author here.