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Responsive Search Ads | Infinity Nation

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), much like marmite, are either liked or hated by the advertising community. Should you use them for your Google Ads or should you keep more manual control over your ads?

21st May 2021
Mitchell Hughes PPC Executive 21st May 2021

How to Navigate the "Wild West" of The New Paid Landscape...?

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs), much like marmite, are either liked or hated by the advertising community. On paper they tick all the boxes, just list a series of headlines and descriptions, and sit back to let Google find the most optimal combinations which have the highest likelihood to drive your desired KPI. So, what is with the push back? 

What Are The Drawbacks Of Responsive Ads?

The issue many people have with RSA are that on paper, and in practice, tend to be two different things. Whilst RSAs can serve a purpose in most account strategies; being a decent supporting ad on a campaign as well as usually amassing large amounts of impressions and delivering comparable results to the long-time default expanded text ads. The biggest and most prevailing gripe however, that advertisers have with RSAs are the element of control they take away. Sure, RSAs offer flexibility in showing what Google deems to be the most effective Ad variation to result in clicks but in order to do that you are giving Google the reins in how to convey advertisements on behalf of your clients. This could greatly affect the tone of voice for an Ad. It also limits the amount of optimisation that can be achieved in individual adverts. Whilst some RSAs can outperform expanded text Ads, it is much simpler to set up expanded text Ad testing. Thereby letting advertisers play around with Ads to incredibly detailed degrees, which ranges from overall Ad structure right down to which verb works best in the Ad's call-to-action. This is just inherently more difficult to judge when the Ad you are trying to compare to past data has a huge amount of variance, showing up in multiple different variations depending on the recipient. An expanded text Ad has the ability to track testing to physically drive CTR and deliver valuable insights about how Ads can be structured, which RSAs do not. 

The Google Dilemma...

The next issue we will talk about is what I like to call 'The Google Dilemma'. It won't have escaped an advertiser's notice that Google is now pushing Responsive Search Ads as the default type of Ad in accounts. This is making advertisers very concerned that Google are going to take Expanded Text Ads and lock them away in the archives. The main crux of the issue here is the feeling that Google may wrestle control away from the advertisers which will force us into cookie cutter approaches to campaigns. To throw my personal (sometimes cynical) two cents into the ring; it is hard to give over this control willingly to Google in the hopes that they will do what is best for advertisers over what is best for their bottom line. 

Google is a business who essentially owns a monopoly on paid search worldwide and who are very, very secretive about the best ways to run accounts so that they perform at their greatest potential. A great example of this; Google are still to officially tell people how quality score is calculated. This is an advertiser's benchmark measurement about how an Ad group is performing and Google doesn't deem it necessary that we know how they calculate this. A cynical man, like the one writing this blog, would tell you this is because it isn't in Google's best interests that everyone has perfect scoring Ads due to the fact it will greatly reduce the CPC's of the whole industry.

Google ads are essentially Google printing its own money, it sets the price, it runs the auctions, and it judges your Ads to penalise or reward depending on their quality and there still aren't any competitors that hold a candle to it in terms of users. Google is making some waves in the advertising community due to the direction it seems to be taking. Pushing RSAs and removing match types is a very clear indicator that it wants to minimise human intervention over accounts. It's for this main reason that most advertisers are opposed to this push from Google towards automation; it's difficult to trust that the multibillion-pound organisation has our best interests at heart. For the time being, thankfully, expanded text Ads have not been removed as an option on Google Ads, if however, Google does decide to remove this key feature from our toolbox then advertisers are going to have to find new ways to maintain control over their accounts Ad structures. 

What Can Be Done?

One little tip from me would be to use the pin function on responsive text ads to essentially force Google Ads to run a responsive search Ad in much the same way as an expanded text Ad would run. Google will tell you that this is a terrible idea, but then again of course they would. This technique would at least allow us some degree of control over our Ads. For now, all us advertisers can do is wait and see the direction Google wants to take us in. However, rest assured that Infinity Nation are staying on top of industry rumours and will be here to strategise on how to proactively approach this dilemma. So, don't lose hope just yet -- but watch this space!!