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Paid Media 20 min read

Responsive Search Ads: Tips and Best Practices

Sarah Edwards photo

Written by Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed

Rachel Meyer photo

Expert reviewed by Rachel Meyer

Associate VP of Client Success @ Galactic Fed

Published 15 Sep 2023

Online visibility is necessary in today’s modern age if you want to increase sales — there’s no way around it — and as a business owner, driving potential customers to your website is especially crucial. Knowing how to target their specific search criteria, however, can often leave businesses stumped. Enter responsive search ads (RSAs), which debuted in 2018 and have since taken the marketing world by storm. 

As of early 2021, RSAs have become the default ad type in Google when creating ads for search campaigns. With that said, let’s break down exactly what responsive search ads are, how they can benefit your business, and how you can use them to their full potential to, in turn, reap the reward of increased customer engagement.

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

A responsive search ad is one that adapts to your audience. It is a dynamic advertisement that changes in order to show more relevant content to your customers. 

Now, how does Google Ads generate responsive search ads? It does so by taking multiple headlines and descriptions written by you and then testing different combinations of them to find the best-performing match. You can write up to 15 different headlines and four different descriptions, which amount to a total of 43,680 permutations — the sky’s truly the limit to what Google can test!

Consider the following example: You own a Chicago coffee shop named The Windy Java, and you come up with the following headlines for your ads:

  • Local Coffee Shop
  • Buy One, Get One Latte
  • Order Coffee Online
  • Official Website of The Windy Java
  • The Best Coffee in Chicago

These headlines express what your business is (a coffee shop) and entice potential customers with both a promotion (“Buy One, Get One Latte”) and a convenient option to obtain your product (“Order Coffee Online”). 

To create an effective RSA, you need to create descriptions for each headline. Continuing the previous example, consider the following:

Headline: Order Coffee Online

Description: Do you want to skip the line? Order your favorite drink ahead with mobile ordering available via our brand-new app. Download now!

The goal of your responsive search ad is to be relevant to users searching for coffee in your area. Instead of conducting rigorous tests to determine which headlines and descriptions are most effective, Google Ads will do it for you, generating combinations of the text you provide to match potential customers’ search terms as closely as possible, resulting in improved marketing campaigns.

a screenshot with marketing metrics

Components of Responsive Search Ads

Not all responsive search ads are created equal, but most include the following items in their general format:

  • URL: The link to a landing page on your website that customers can click on when viewing your ad
  • Headline: Short, hyperlinked copy designed to pull potential customers in
  • Description: Longer copy at the bottom of the ad that further explains your product or service or offers a promotion
  • Extensions: Additional hyperlinks at the bottom of the ad that give readers more opportunities to click

It’s vital to optimize each component of your RSAs to ensure they attract the most clicks and conversions possible. Once you find the formula that works for you, you can hit the ground running.

Why Google Reins Supreme for Running RSAs

Google is the perfect partner for running successful RSA, as its search campaigns optimize automatically, thereby reducing your workload and providing you with time to focus on other aspects of your business. 

Additionally, Google offers various machine-learning tools that you can take advantage of, which use large datasets to identify patterns in your ads and make suggestions for improvement. Google also does a great job of recognizing customer needs and helping business owners optimize their ads accordingly. 

a phone with opened Google search page

Benefits of Responsive Search Ads

What’s a key benefit of responsive display ads? The answer easily varies, as there are many benefits to incorporating them into your business’s marketing strategy. They’re adaptable, easy to create and launch, and do a fantastic job connecting with specific audiences. 

Nevertheless, other benefits of RSAs include the following:


RSAs can help increase profits for all the reasons above; they’re easy to adjust and personal, and using them will save you time and effort. In addition, since Google analyzes large datasets, it can help you better target specific customers, helping bring profits in quicker. 


RSAs offer greater flexibility over regular static search ads, as you can change them even after publishing. Once they’re running, you can take data from these ads and adjust them in real-time. 


A monumental 90% of U.S. consumers prefer personalization in marketing, and RSAs work to increase customer engagement, given that they are tailored to target specific search interests and buying habits and provide potential customers with an individualized experience. Additionally, responsive display ads incorporate data from a user’s search and browse history, further customizing the ad experience.


Because Google Ads takes over and tests which text combinations work best in an advertisement, you save a lot of time on testing such data. When you’re running a company, time is valuable, and you can use the additional time you gain to focus on other aspects of your business.


RSAs adapt to nearly any format, including mobile devices. As such, you can customize your RSAs to fit perfectly in a mobile aspect ratio, giving your business the advantage of reaching customers with personalized ads no matter where they are.

No Human Error

Algorithms are notable in that they are objective, meaning they’re not prone to error as humans are. Entrusting Google with your marketing can take the pressure off your shoulders and reduce advertising errors.


When you run RSAs, you get a slew of detailed metrics from Google, allowing easy access to data about which ads are performing well and which aren’t. These valuable metrics can help you go on to develop new, effective marketing strategies.

Cost Effectiveness

Advertisers who switch from expanded text ads to RSAs using the same assets see an increase of about 7% in conversions at a similar cost per conversion. 

Because running responsive search ads is a cost-efficient endeavor, you have nothing to lose and plenty to gain by giving them a shot. It also leaves room for trial and error, so you can experiment with different content styles to find what works best.

Cons of Responsive Search Ads

There are many benefits to running RSAs, but like every marketing tool, there are disadvantages to consider, such as:

Lack of Control

You’re at the mercy of Google’s algorithm, which can be wonderful or concerning depending on what you think of the search engine giant.

Less Transparency

Google finds which combinations of headlines and descriptions work well, but you won’t get back enough information to understand how each individual ad performs. That lack of detailed insight makes determining the best ads more challenging.

Likeness Across Multiple Brands

Due to how Google’s algorithm works, RSAs from different brands will tend to look alike. As such, if your goal is to stand out significantly from the crowd, RSAs may not be the ideal marketing tool for your business.

Non-Traditional Advertising

If you’re used to traditionally taking care of your business’s marketing, it can be challenging to hand the reins over to Google. Relying on an algorithm isn’t for everybody, and some prefer to do their own advertising instead.

Responsive Search Ads vs. Dynamic Search Ads

It’s easy to confuse RSAs and dynamic search ads (DSAs), given that the two have similar names and are both effective, Google-powered marketing tools. However, there are key differences to be aware of. With DSAs, for instance, Google generates headlines from content pulled from a company’s website and search queries by users, leaving you to write the descriptions. 

The most significant difference between RSAs and DSAs, however, is their targeting. DSAs don’t require keywords — Google takes care of that — but RSAs need keyword-generated headlines created on your part. Nevertheless, they offer more control over DSAs, as Google isn’t in control of writing those headlines.

In short, DSAs are the best option if you’re trying to connect with customers who are searching for an exact product or service you offer, while RSAs, on the other hand, create ads that adapt to show relevant messages to your customers.

Using Artificial Intelligence in Online Advertising

Google — and many other tech companies — are beginning to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) to streamline their services. To that end, Google offers fantastic AI tools to help your RSAs become as optimized as possible, and embracing them can take your marketing campaigns to the next level. 

In particular, Google AI offers the following:

Ad Strength Indicators and Recommendations

After you input your headlines and descriptions into Google Ads, the platform will provide feedback, suggestions, and additional, concise advice to help take your ads to the next level. 

Customer Engagement and Targeting

Additionally, Google uses its AI to analyze customer behavior, identify patterns, and use that information to develop marketing strategies that work. You can input whatever you want and let Google do the rest — that’s what the RSA process entails.

AI can also track your ad campaigns to help you target the right audience and understand how you can improve their engagement. After all, higher engagement results in more robust customer retention, and it’s up to five times cheaper to retain current customers than it is to acquire new ones.

Performance Reporting

Google Ads provides various metrics to help you interpret the results of your RSA campaigns. Given that there are so many combinations of headlines and descriptions to go around, getting perfect data for each ad isn’t likely, but you can still learn a lot and optimize your ads accordingly. 

Automation AI

The AI Google offers helps streamline online advertising, saving you valuable time and resources. Google Ads tools, like Smart Bidding, also use AI algorithms to optimize ad performance. You can do a lot with AI and Google, including automating pay-per-click ads, search engine marketing, SEO, conversion rates, social media marketing, and keyword research.

a hone with an opened google search page results

Do Responsive Search Ads Work?

There are many benefits to RSAs, but it’s what the data shows that matters most: Are they as effective as they seem? The answer is a resounding yes. According to Google, RSAs have a 5 to 15% higher click-through rate than those of static search ads. 

With that said, you have little to lose and more satisfied customers to gain by making use of RSAs, but you have to run them efficiently to ensure the best results.

RSA Best Practices

If you run RSAs without taking full advantage of everything they have to offer, you may ultimately miss out on fantastic results. Let’s review some best practices for running RSAs quickly and effectively to maximize positive outcomes for your business:

1. Embrace Variety

Don’t be afraid to get creative when writing your RSAs. Try various headline and description lengths and even different types of descriptions altogether. For example, write one ad description highlighting a popular product or service your business offers and one sharing a promotion you’re running, complete with a coupon code. The more options you give to Google and your customers, the better.

Additionally, you should avoid repetitive headlines and descriptions. Try to make each one unique, as Google won’t show your ads if your headlines or descriptions are too similar to one another.

2. Be Intentional With Your Calls to Action

CTAs work best when they are short and straight to the point. For example, something like “Save Now.” is a perfect ending for an RSA ad. It entices the customer to visit your site without taking up too much space. 

A CTA can also offer a promotion or a coupon, enticing more clicks than a standard “Click Here.” In any case, the goal of a CTA is to get customers to click quickly, so remember that succinct CTAs perform better on pay-per-click ads overall.

3. Know Your Keywords

Make sure that you include top-performing keywords in your headlines to optimize your RSAs. You can use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI), a paid ad feature from Google, to help. DKI uses machine learning to customize online ads to match users’ search queries. 

However, you’ll want to leave at least three headlines without keywords. Excluding keywords may sound counterproductive, but you don’t want your RSAs to be too repetitive, as both Google and customers will pick up on that. Additionally, you should write out product features and benefits in your ad descriptions to further appeal to readers.

4. Recycle High-Performing Content

If you’ve had successful ad campaigns in the past, take some of that content and use it in your RSA ads. Google can even give you valuable feedback to make those already strong ads even more effective.

5. Remember There’s No Order

Your ads can appear in any order on Google, so make sure they can each stand up on their own without other ads being necessary for context. When in doubt, keep it simple. 

6. Pin Sparingly

If there’s a specific message you want to show in every ad, you can pin it in Google Ads by hovering over the right side of a headline and selecting how you want to do so.  

Pins are tools that are particularly useful if there’s an ongoing promotion you want to showcase in the majority of your ads, for example, but you shouldn’t go pin-crazy: Just one pin can restrict the amount of testing Google can do by over 75%.

7. Use the Combinations Report

The combinations report shows all the ad varieties generated from your RSAs and gives you the details needed to optimize your ads to their fullest potential. You can check the impressions of your RSAs and see which are getting the best results.

8. Take Advantage of Google’s Tools

Google offers various tools to make running and evaluating your ad campaigns easy and convenient. For example, Google Ad Strength can offer valuable feedback about your ads, allowing you to adjust any that aren’t performing well. 

Google has even created an RSA guide that you can access for tips, tricks, and further guidance. It doesn’t hurt to do as much research as possible so that you can streamline the ad drafting process when the time comes.

9. Use Ad Extensions

Make use of ad extensions like site links, call-outs, and snippets for maximum exposure.

10. Be Experimental

It’s worth repeating that creativity resonates with people, so don’t be afraid to try something new. Your users may love it. If they don’t, Google will make you aware pretty quickly, allowing you to edit the ad before it causes too much damage to your marketing budget.

How to Create Responsive Search Ads in Google Ads

If, after all of these tips and insights, you’re ready to take the leap and begin creating RSAs for your business, you can get started in just a few easy steps:

  • Open Google Ads
  • Click the plus (+) sign to open a new campaign
  • Choose “Responsive Search Ad” 
  • Select an ad group to put the RSA into
  • Input your headlines and descriptions
  • Click “Save New Ad” to let your RSA go live

If you have trouble creating RSAs, or if you don’t have the time or resources to sit and consistently knock them out, consider partnering with a reputable marketing agency like Galactic Feed to help you get the job done quickly and effectively.

How to Edit Responsive Search Ads in Google Ads

RSAs are unique in that they can be edited at any time, making them valuable assets for any marketing campaign. Editing your RSAs is a simple process; all you have to do is follow these steps:

  • Click the “Campaigns” icon in your Google Ads account
  • Click the “Campaigns” dropdown in the section menu and then click “Ads”
  • Press the bar above the table to add a filter
  • Click “Attributes” and then “Ad Type”
  • Check the box for “Responsive Search Ad” and click the ad you wish to edit
  • Select “Edit” and make any changes you wish
  • Click “Save”

Be aware that if you change your headlines or descriptions, the performance of your running ads can change (hopefully for the better).

Measuring Ad Performance

When you enter your RSA ad copy into Google Ads, you’ll see a circle indicating an estimate of your ad’s strength. For example, it may say “Ad Strength: Good,” followed by some suggestions provided by Google to make it even stronger. 

You want to aim for at least a “Good” when you input your copy, but if possible, you should always strive to push that “Good” into “Excellent” territory. Your score won’t necessarily make or break your ads, but according to Google, advertisers who take their Ad Strength scores for their RSAs from “Poor” to “Excellent” see a jump in clicks and conversions of up to 9% on average.

You can receive better metrics once your ad is up and running. In Google Ads, you can click on “View Asset Details,” and from there, you’ll be able to see all your ad combinations and determine what your best-performing headline and description combinations are. If you aren’t getting high impressions, you’ll know it’s time to try new content combinations.

Responsive Search Ads: The Future of Online Advertising

Whether you want to embrace RSAs or prefer to stick with traditional advertising methods, there’s no denying that Google’s algorithms are becoming more advanced each year. 

If you have more questions regarding RSAs, you don’t have to figure things out alone. You can always turn to a knowledgeable marketing agency with the search engine optimization know-how necessary to help you get the most out of your RSAs, like Galactic Fed.

Artificial intelligence is the future, and many business owners are taking notice. Fortunately, Google has made the technology accessible and easy for companies to use in advertising, and by following the best practices for responsive search ads, you can expect improved marketing campaigns and greater customer engagement.

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Sarah Edwards photo

Sarah Edwards

Content Writer @ Galactic Fed