Responsive Search Ads vs Expanded Text Ads

When it comes to Google ads, there are two main options to choose from. You can run Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) or Responsive Search Ads (RSAs).
Responsive Search Ads vs Expanded Text Ads - Which is Better?

When it comes to Google ads, there are two main options to choose from. You can run Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) or Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). The question is, how do these ads weigh up, and is one better than the other? If you’ve never looked into either option, or have only used RSAs or ETAs, perhaps now is the time to learn more about both these types of Google ad! 

What are Responsive Search Ads?

A Responsive Search Ad is a type of advert Google launched in 2018, which will find the best click through rate, as well as the highest conversion rate, for an ad. This may sound akin to magic, but the process is relatively straightforward. Essentially, you supply Google with a set of up to 15 headlines, along with 4 descriptions. Google will try out different combinations of these, in order to determine the winning combination. 

And if you’re worried about losing control of your ads this way, you do have the option of ‘pinning’ particular descriptions and headlines, so that these will always show in a specific ad. This does make testing more interesting too – you can try pinning certain headlines or descriptions, to see which ones work best. 

In terms of testing, Google recommends that you use distinct phrasing, rather than variations of the same message. For instance, instead of trying out the phrases ‘limited time offer’ and ‘this weekend only’, you should focus on different selling points, such as ‘limited time offer’ and ‘free delivery’. That way, you can see what appeals to your target audience more. 

Responsive Search Ad
Expanded Text Ads

What are Expanded Text Ads?

Expanded Text Ads, often abbreviated as ETAs, are a type of ad that appear in Google search results. There are strict rules about how they’re laid out, and how many characters you can use, but no limit to how many you can run simultaneously. So you can run numerous ad campaigns, with varied content, focusing on different keywords. This method of approaching advertisements can be highly effective, as you can run tests to see which ads perform better, and then invest more in these campaigns. 

In terms of how you need to lay out your Expanded Text Ads, for each ad, you can create three headlines (of up to 30 characters each), and include two descriptions (these can be up to 90 characters each). You can also include a display URL in the ad.

Ad Advantages

There are a number of benefits to using both types of ad – whether you choose RSAs or ETAs will generally depend on your individual marketing strategy. It’s a good idea to try using Expanded Text Ads as well as Responsive Search Ads, to see which yields the best results. 

So what are the advantages of RSAs? The obvious benefit of these ads is that they allow you to test a variety of headlines and descriptions, without having to manually edit the ads. Google uses clever algorithms to rotate the ad copy, so that you can find the best combination, which gets the highest conversion rate. The rotations are based on the user’s search intent, so are tailored to each individual.

Another advantage of Responsive Search Ads is that you don’t need to pay for loads of different ads when running A/B tests. This can not only save you money, it also makes your campaign management and analysis a lot simpler! 

When it comes to the benefits of Expanded Text Ads, perhaps the main pro is that you have a higher level of control. You can decide on your combination of headlines and descriptions yourself, and undertake a much more in-depth analysis after your campaigns are complete. 

The ETA format furthermore allows you to include more information than older ad formats – you can add more descriptions and headlines. With so few characters available in most ads, this can be a huge advantage, especially if you have a lot of selling points to include! 


Ad Disadvantages

No ad format is flawless – there are obviously disadvantages to using both ETAs and RSAs. Let’s start with Expanded Text Ads. The main issue with using this type of advert is that while you can add extra headlines and descriptions, they don’t appear at all times. So if you’ve included key information in this copy, not all users will see it. 

The primary disadvantage of Responsive Search Ads, on the other hand, is about control and data. Because you can’t choose the specific combinations of headlines and descriptions – Google dynamically changes them to achieve the best results –  you can’t make note of which ones perform well. While you’ll get Impressions data, you can’t see Click data. 

It’s also important to consider the costs of these ads. Because you’re competing in broader search terms and auctions with RSAs, you’ll have to bid higher. Responsive Search Ads are almost always more expensive upfront than ETAs, and tend to have a higher cost-per-lead too. 



Why Not Both?

While it’s good to compare the two types of Google ad, and weigh up the pros and cons, most marketers don’t limit themselves to using just one ad format. The key is using them in the right way. While Responsive Search Ads are more expensive, they’re great for testing different ads in a short period of time. So you should limit your spend on ads that perform poorly, and not lose money in the long run. 

Then once you know which ads perform well, you can move to Expanded Text Ads. Overall, it’s about combining the two ad formats for the best effect, finding what works for you.


Responsive Search and Expanded Text Ads