How to Create Effective RSAs (Responsive Search Ads) in Google Ads

By Brad


General, Google Ads Insights

Google Ads launched Responsive Search ads (RSAs) in 2018. The goal was that you could just write several headlines and descriptions, and Google would figure out the best combination of lines to show to any user.

When they launched, there was a lot of speculation that Google would retire the current Expanded Text ads or that Google would fully automate your ad creation. While this sounded like a dream, the counterpoint was that if humans were removed from the ad creation process, the brand messaging would be lost as well as emotional connections and empathy as those are skills that computers lack.

We waited, collected data, and then examined them to see how they performed against ETAs.

Previous RSA (Responsive Search Ads) vs. ETA (Expanded Text Ads) Data

In 2019, we compared expanded text ads to responsive search ads to see how each was doing across a large variety of accounts.  The trend was very obvious:

  • ETAs won for most people in conversion rate
  • RSAs won for most people in CTR

Graph: Percentage of times Responsive Search Ads outperform Expanded Text Ads across multiple Google Ads accounts.

Why do ETAs usually win in Conversion Rates? To answer this question, we first need to consider a few aspects of writing an effective ad.

What makes a Winning Ad?

A winning ad is usually comprised of a few ad elements:

  • Relevancy: A captivating headline that shows your ad is relevant to the user’s search term
  • Benefits: What a user gets out of your product or service
  • Features: The bullet point lists of facts about your products
  • CTAs (calls to action): Instructing the user on what they need to do next
  • Supporting data in the description showing why your product, service, and company are a good fit for the user’s needs

In our previous analysis, we looked at the most common layouts of headline 2 & 3 to see what combinations worked best for companies, and we found that mixing a benefit and a CTA work the best for most search ads.

Diagram: what an effective Responsve Search Ads consists of

This is why we often suggest starting to test ETAs with these too overall formulas:


Template: How to write great copy for Responsive Search Ads

So Why Did RSAs Lose So Much?

When most people created their responsive search ads, they didn’t think a lot about the end combinations and instead wrote a bunch of headlines hoping Google would figure out how to render your ad. This means there were ads that had:

  • 3 relevancy headlines and no benefits or CTAs
  • Ads with 3 CTAs and no benefit or info about relevancy
  • Ads with a benefit and 2 CTAs
  • Ads with 3 features and no benefits or relevancy info
  • etc

If you see an ad that has these headlines, would you click it?

  • Call now for a free quote
  • Start your free trial today
  • Download our latest whitepaper

Unfortunately, some ads looked this way. As Google’s algorithm can only create Responsive Search Ads from the lines that you give it, if you give it poor ad line possibilities, the system won’t work well.

Ok, So How Do I Make an Effective Responsive Search Ad (RSA)?

To create RSAs that can compete with ETAs, we need to think about the possible combinations and ensure the system has that ability.

If we want the ad to be relevant to the ad group, we need 2-3 lines that are related to the keywords in the ad group.

If we want users to take action, we need 2-3 calls to action.

If we want users to see the benefit of our product and service, we need 2-3 benefits.

If we want users to see the features of a product, we need 2-3 features.

FYI – benefits are more useful high in the funnel or the very bottom of it. Features are more useful as a user learns and compares products and services.

If you create 2 relevancy lines and 3 CTAs and 2 benefits, you will end up with some ads with 2-3 CTAs in them since there are more CTA lines than other ad lines. Therefore, we want to be consistent using the same number of CTAs, relevancy lines, and benefits or features.

Lastly, we need to think about data. If we create 3 relevancy lines, 3 benefits, 3 CTAs, and 3 feature lines, we have hundreds of combination possibilities. If you add a few descriptions to the headlines, then we quickly run into thousands of combinations. As most ad groups don’t get enough data to statistical significance in a single month, giving an ad group thousands of combinations will make it, so Google never figures out a great RSA combination for an ad group.

Therefore, if we use this straightforward list of combinations, we often find RSAs increasing in effectiveness over how they are currently structured.

The biggest problem advertiser’s run into is ensuring there are 3 lines related to the ad group to start. We will often see the exact same RSA in tens or hundreds of ad groups. When that happens, your ads become less effective. Search is about answering the searcher’s question by showing your ad is relevant and useful. If you use the same ad in hundreds of ad groups, your ads are rarely relevant, and your quality scores drop as well as your CTRs and conversion rates.

Automatically Create RSAs from Existing Ads

If you have relevant ads in all of your ad groups now, then you can use the Responsive Search ad creation tool within Adalysis to quickly create relevant RSAs in all of your ad groups.


Creating winning RSA combinations is quite simple. You need to go back to the basics of a great search text ad:

  • Being relevant and useful to the searcher
  • Showing your benefits and features
  • Using a CTA to show someone what to do next

Many of your best ETAs use this ad writing formula.

As RSAs just combine the data you give it into multiple ad renderings. If you take that formula, expand it 2-3 times to come up with all your individual lines, and then put them into an RSA, your Responsive Search Ad has a chance of rendering into a very nice ad that the user will see, click on, and convert. When you give poor inputs, the ads become useless, and no one wants to see a useless ad. If you give your RSAs a nice combination of ad lines, then your RSA has the necessary inputs for Google Ads to find a great combination to show for your account.

Related Post


  • Mike

    Thanks for this article. Do you have thoughts on using element pinning to force Google to show your elements in the order you want?

    • Brad

      If you are doing 2-3 pins, then you should just use ETAs since you can control everything.

      The most common usage of pins is for appending something that legal requires to the h2/h3 or to pin the h1 to make sure the headline 1 is always related to the ad group. While pinning can be useful, at some point in time you’re taking so much ad control that you should switch to ETAs instead of RSAs.

  • Leave a comment

    Discover the issues in your Google Ads Account … and how to fix them fast!

    Check Your Account For Free!
    14 Day Free Trial. No Credit Card Required

    PPC Marketing Tips

    Subscribe to our blog and receive free, powerful marketing tips delivered directly to your inbox.

    Around the Web

    How well is your account performing?

    Find out, in minutes, what your account score is with our FREE audit report.

    Get my account score