Best Practices for Google’s Responsive Search Ads

By Jarrod Adams

On June 30th, 2022, Google Ads is retiring Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) will be the only ad format option starting July 1st. Existing ETAs will remain; they just can’t be altered. RSAs offer several advantages over ETAs including machine learning based on your input. However, they also present some challenges and what some could say, disadvantages.

Advantages of this ad format are the ability to test multiple ad copies at once, limitless ad copy combinations, and automatic ad-optimization. RSAs feature 15 headlines and 4 descriptions that are dynamically composed based on the searchers’ query, your keyword list, and the campaign’s historical performance. This includes ad copy suggestions by Google based on the keyword list and an ad strength grade ranging from poor to excellent.

The main disadvantage of this ad format is lackluster reporting on each piece of ad copy, which is currently limited to impression delivery. There is no way of knowing which headline or description is driving ad clicks, has the best CTR, or is leading to conversions. Google will also downgrade the ad strength if a headline or description is pinned into a position or if the headline/description count is not maxed out – both of which are optional.

At Wahl Media, we started using RSAs when they were first introduced in beta in 2018. This has allowed us to develop our own set of best practices:

  • Don’t be afraid to test an ad with an ad strength at or below average: We A/B test a variety of ads using pinned headlines/descriptions. This can include brand names, promos, or CTAs. Pinning guarantees this content will show in that position in every ad impression. However, this action will almost always decrease Google’s ad strength grade.
  • Test the minimum: We also test ads with the minimum number of headlines and descriptions. This is as close as you can get to an ETA, but they will almost always be listed as poor in ad strength.
  • Never stop testing ad variations: Just because RSAs seem like a “set it and forget it” format, they’re not. We use the same best practices as we did with ETAs. If one version is underperforming based on historical performance, we brainstorm ideas to make them better.


Change is inevitable. This is not the first major change Google has made within their ads platform, and this definitely won’t be the last. As long as you have a game plan and follow some basic best practices, it’s unlikely you will experience any major negative impacts.