PPC | July 25, 2019

Expanded Text Ads vs Responsive Search Ads – What’s the difference?

We have been running responsive search ads (RSAs) alongside expanded text ads (ETAs) for a number of our clients. Here’s how they compared…

What are responsive search ads?

In 2018, Google launched a new search ad format called Responsive Search Ads. RSAs are designed to work in conjunction with expanded search ads. They work by Google automatically serving the ad headline and description to users from a set of 15 headlines and 4 descriptions curated by the advertiser. Google dynamically changes the headline and description to find the winning combination that results in the best click-through rate and highest conversion rate for the ad.

Clever, huh?

Advertisers maintain an element of control over the combinations created by Google by ‘pinning’ specific headlines and descriptions. In doing this it ensures that the pinned element will always show in the specified position within the ad.

Of course, Google recommend making the headlines explicitly distinct from one another. They say to highlight different features, benefits, unique selling points or call-to-action’s, rather than using small variations of the same message. For example, using “buy today” and “free delivery”, rather than “buy today” vs “buy now”… A/B testing at its finest.

It was our decision to run the new ad format for our clients to compete in more auctions in a bid to reach even more customers than using expanded text ads alone. This is because RSAs are often served for long tail/broader search queries than ETAs.

responsive search ad combinations example

So, how did responsive search ads compare?

Typically, in our experience responsive search ads have performed better than expanded text ads, but, they come at quite a hefty a cost.

Responsive search ads click-through rate has been 5.75% better than that of expanded text ads. They also converted over 8.5% better. Whilst these are good numbers, the small caveat for the increase in numbers is expensive.

Because responsive search ads compete in broader and longer tail auctions than expanded text ads, they have to bid more to compete. The broader auctions led to the average CPC of an RSA being 22% more expensive than the CPC for the same keyword using an expanded text ad. The consequence of this is the cost-per-lead was over 15% more expensive than expanded search ads.

The golden ticket…

If everything else remained the same, responsive search ads would spend 17.71% more than expanded text ads to achieve the same number of conversions, and would have to spend a whopping 36.37% more to achieve the same number of impressions.

We found that they contributed 37.9% of the cost for an account, but only received 34% of the conversions, 31% of impressions and 32% of clicks. Overall, RSA’s are proportionally more expensive than ETA’s, but certainly have their place in every Ads account.

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