I’m sure by now, you have seen this reminder when setting up an Expanded Text Ad (ETA). Now, finally, 30 June 2022 is actually around the corner.

The ETA format has served advertisers well since 2016, being the defacto option for ads to be shown across desktop and mobile. Because ETAs have served us so well, many advertisers and agencies have pushed back on making the switch to Responsive Search Ads (RSAs).

The shift

In March 2021, Google replaced ETAs with RSAs as the default search ads and, in August 2021, confirmed that Google will be sunsetting ETAs. After 30 June 2022, you won’t be able to set up new ETAs. Existing ETAs will still be kept, but we’re speculating that it is a matter of time before they are phased out. (Update 18/05/22: We experienced some errors in publishing changes for ETAs already)

This shift towards RSA is Google making to push automation through their ad products and make refine the search experience on Google.

“15% of search queries every day are new searches we’ve never seen before” and therefore “Automation is key to keeping pace with these trends.”

This might mean that advertisers might not be tapping on or adapting to new search trends and leverage on low competition high impact keywords as they emerge.

What might this shift mean for advertisers?

In a nutshell, with responsive search ads, when it comes to ads setup you have the option to allow Google Ads to guide your headline and description creation. You will also give enter multiple headlines and descriptions and trust Google to figure out the best combinations as it combines them into ads for different target audiences.

New format, new processes.

With ETAs, the creative processes might have started with identifying creative headlines-descriptions-combinations that might attract audiences yet be relevant to the final URL. Your agency’s process might have looked like this:

ETA Drafts > Client Revisions > Final Approval > Upload to Google Ads

This was a labour-intensive process just to meet the minimum of 2 headlines and descriptions, especially if you are running multiple ETAs per campaign. 

Now, since the whole point of RSA is to enable Google Ads to inform advertisers about suitable or likely performing texts & combinations, it makes sense to start with suggestions from Google Ads based on your Final URL and search keywords.

As you might expect, this makes the drafting process easier. The challenge, I suppose, is for agencies to keep client changes to the minimum by conveying the importance of working with AI to optimise results as the campaign proceeds, rather than trying to “nail it” from the get-go. So we recommend the process to be more like this:

RSA Draft > Client minimal revisions & approval > Upload to Google Ads > Subsequent refinement

Less control over creativity? Not really.

Many advertisers do use RSAs, but they also like having the control and capabilities that ETAs offer. The future phase-out of ETAs means advertisers are moving further away from direct control over their accounts and having to work with the Google Ads machine learning and AI.

To traditional advertisers, the reliance on a technological black-box to optimise their creatives will take some getting used to. Agencies especially will have to convince their clients that while the shift to RSA they “don’t” get to choose what creatives to use, only guide it, they should still feel confident in the platform to get an optimal outcome. Google highlighted that advertisers that had used responsive search ads saw an average of 7% more conversions at a similar cost per conversion as ETA.

We think the key to getting to improved conversions comes from the quality of human guidance in understanding what the advertiser is expecting from it. One way is to fulfilling the maximum of 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, regardless of the minimum, so that Google Ads has more data points to work with. The same logic also extends when you create headlines that are unique and differentiated.

With these extra headlines and descriptions, Google can test thousands of combinations and serve customers ads that are specific to their search terms. Upon launch, Google’s algorithm begins to blend different sequences to find which specific headlines and descriptions work best for each search term. This process will continue throughout the life of the ad so that it is always delivering customers the most pertinent ad possible. This increased relevance also helps improve keyword quality scores as it is one of the three factors used in calculating it.

The ultimate goal with RSAs is to create flexible ads that will show the best message to each potential customer. Google suggests creating as many unique headlines as possible to give ads the opportunity to compete in more auctions and to match more queries. Extra characters and descriptions will also allow ads to adapt to different screens and display a fuller message to possible consumers. As RSAs increase the opportunity to enter auctions and share specific messaging, they can also increase campaign performance through increased clicks and conversions.

A/B test messages, not variations of the same message

Because RSA offers the ability for advertisers to let Google play around with suggesting variations of the same message and the best combinations of headlines and descriptions, creating one responsive search ad can give you better performance than multiple text ads / ETAs. So advertisers can shift their efforts to testing different value propositions and call to action to see what message resonates more with key audiences rather than on copywriting.

Conclusion

Working with RSA will be a new experience for many advertisers, and we’re fairly confident that this is a move that advertisers will grow to be accustomed to, just as we have grown to be accustomed to predictive typing or autofill. The use of AI will enable advertisers to focus on high minded objectives and if ETA to RSA is the model for advertising, we can expect display ads for Google and other socials to follow suite.