Increasing paid search performance with RSAs

Laptop with revenue projections on

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) were introduced in 2018 and ever since they have been an additional ad type used alongside Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). However, ETAs will sunset in June 2022, which means that RSAs will be the only ad type advertisers can create in their paid search campaigns.

This announcement didn’t come as a surprise within the industry and was seen as another step towards an automated future. However, advertisers using RSAs still face several challenges such as lack of available performance data and difficulties testing ad copy.

With the deadline just around the corner, we’ll explain what brands need to do next to understand the best way to use RSAs and smart bidding cohesively to drive the best possible performance.


What are RSAs?

RSAs are an ad type which allows advertisers to add up to 15 unique headlines and 4 descriptions per ad. Google then decides which combination of headlines and descriptions to show (based on a number of factors) each time a user’s search triggers one of your ads.


Best practice

Strong RSAs rely on brands using a combination of keyword, USP and CTA based headlines. Keyword based headlines are important as they help improve ad relevance, and therefore increase quality scores. RSAs that contain several unique keyword based headlines generally have a higher ad strength, which is an indication of the diversity and relevancy of the ad.

Avoid headline pinning, but if a specific headline needs to be shown each time an ad is served, we recommend that it’s pinned to the ‘Headline 2’ slot to guarantee it shows each time an ad is served, and so that a keyword based headline appears in Headline 1, thus increasing ad relevance. If a description needs to be pinned, then pin it to ‘Description 1’. ‘Headline 3’ and ‘Description 2’ aren’t guaranteed to show, so try to avoid these slots when pinning ad copy.

RSAs are responsive to screen size, which means brands need to ensure that headlines and descriptions vary in length. Headlines have a 30 character limit and descriptions have a 90 character limit, but by including some shorter headlines and descriptions, it gives Google the opportunity to fit in an extra CTA when screen space is limited.

Google isn’t likely to show headlines or descriptions that have low performance so it’s important to review assets on a regular basis. If some stand out as being low performers, replace them with new copy.

It is possible to have an ad combination that has two keyword-based headlines in H1 and H2, but then all keyword based headlines should be pinned to H1. This would increase the chances of a USP or CTA related headline being shown in H2 and/or H3. Pinning multiple assets gives Google more flexibility rather than just pinning one asset to one position.


The benefits

First, when used alongside machine learning, RSAs increase performance at ad group level. The benefit of adding as many unique headlines as possible means that the Google algorithm can learn over time which assets perform well for each search term and which don’t. This flexibility allows advertisers to reach more potential new customers as multiple headline and description options give ads the opportunity to match to more search queries and therefore compete in more auctions.

Second, it’s still possible to run effective ad copy testing and this can be done using several different methods. The first method would be to use the ‘pin’ option which can be effective if you want to test how a certain headline or description performs. Secondly, if an advertiser wanted to test different messaging such as ‘free trial’ vs ‘book a demo’ then two separate RSAs can be used to identify which messaging drives the best performance. This can be done by pinning each USP to ‘Headline 2’ to ensure that it shows each time the ad is served.

RSAs allow Google to serve different messages to different people on the same search term. Two people can search for the same query but it could be a totally different ad that attracts them. It’s important to keep the audience in mind when choosing each headline and description. For example, one person may respond to an emotionally-driven ad while another may react better to an ad that contains a direct USP.

Lastly, if an ecommerce client is running a sale or if there is any other important information that needs to be shown in an ad at all times then the ‘pin’ option means that this is possible.



Since RSAs were introduced in 2018, the lack of performance data available at asset level has been a talking point within the industry. The only metric advertisers can see at this level is impressions.

However, it is fair to assume that the ad combinations with the most impressions will be those with the highest CTR. Google will learn over time which combinations perform the best.

Hopefully we will see Google increase the amount of performance data available once ETAs are sunset later this year.


What next?

As Responsive Search Ads become the only available ad type, it’s important to understand how to take advantage of the flexibility that they provide as well as how to work around their limitations.


If you’d like any help or advice regarding Responsive Search Ads, get in touch: