Ready for the end of Expanded Text Ads?

Don’t panic, they’re not gone yet! But they probably will be soon.

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) have long stood at the heart of our clients’ Google Ads accounts. With their three fixed headlines and two fixed description lines that enable easy manual A/B testing, their performance has always been pretty reliable.

When Google introduced Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) back in late 2018 – an ad format which boasted the ability to create an incredible 40,000+ automated combinations served according to which copy resonated most with users – it initially sounded as though ETAs might have had their day. 

But we weren’t alone in reporting mixed performance. While advertisers sometimes achieved much higher click-through-rates and conversion rates, they also sometimes found that RSAs performed significantly worse than ETAs. The power of machine learning still requires a good deal of human input to make it work effectively, it turns out.

Towards the end of last year, Google released what it described as a ‘user experiment’ with RSAs displacing ETAs as the default format when creating a new ad. Now, it’s important to emphasise that ETAs are still here and they likely will be for a number of months yet. But given that RSAs represent a significant shift towards the AI future Google Ads is hurtling towards, it is simply inevitable that ETAs will not be here for much longer.

So what does this upcoming change mean? Well, here at Launch, we have always added RSAs to our client accounts alongside our trusty ETAs. But recently we have started building some of our new client accounts using only RSAs – and we have been doing so with great success.

Five top tips to maximise the effectiveness of RSAs

1. Maximise your assets

With RSAs, you are given a generous 15 headlines and 4 description lines. Make sure you use absolutely all of these fields in order to allow your ads to gather as much data as possible. Maximising your assets will give Google a much better chance of making those smart decisions that will boost your performance.

2. Variation is key

When writing your headlines and descriptions, make sure they are as different from each other as possible. 

Think across your offering range, but also think across the marketing funnel – users search differently when they’re bottom of the funnel about to make a purchase versus when they’re top, considering your product for the first time. The more variation, the more Google can predict which messages will appeal to different users.

3. Pin sparingingly

We agree that it can be useful to pin certain assets to certain positions – for example, when you want your brand name to appear in one of your headlines for an awareness campaign. 

However, pinning can significantly limit the number of automated combinations Google can serve. Instead of pinning one asset to one position, we suggest pinning two or three variations of a headline or description to the same position to give more power back to machine learning while maintaining the control you want.

4. Keep an eye on the details

While RSAs remove much of the need for manual A/B testing, it’s still important to view asset details level reporting every so often. Look out for very low impression assets which could indicate that there’s not enough variety in your headlines and descriptions, and adjust these accordingly.

5. Don’t forget Bing

Lastly, don’t forget to import your RSAs to Microsoft Advertising if you’re running activity on Bing too. It can be all too easy to forget that Microsoft introduced their own version of RSAs a little later to the game at the end of 2019, but we are now seeing some great results here too.

If you want help supercharging your paid media, get in touch with us today!

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