RSA Optimization Series: Part 2 – Learn to Create and Test RSAs in Google Ads

By Brad


Ad Testing, Ads, General, Google Ads Insights

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) will be the default ad type in Google Ads starting later this year. In our last post, we looked at a data comparison of RSAs vs ETAs.

In today’s post, we will examine how to create and test RSAs. The options to create and test RSAs can quickly become confusing with how pinning and testing various pinning combinations can be done. In order to simplify the process of understanding all of your options, we’ve created a video that will show you exactly how to achieve this.

RSA Optimization Series

To help you create better performing RSAs, we’ll go into more detail in future posts about what you need to know during this transition. Keep an eye out for the next parts of this series which we will cover:

  • How the RSA performance correlates to its ad strength and pinning of its headlines and descriptions.
  • New tools from Adalysis to help our customers manage the transition to RSAs, including analyzing, bulk creating, and bulk managing RSAs.

Video Transcript

0:00:00.0 Speaker 1: Hello. In this video, we’re going to look at all the different ways you can create responsive search ads, and then test responsive search ads. So responsive search ads are one of the newer ad formats for search, where you give the search engine asset lines; you give them headlines, description lines, and then it will go ahead and fill in various options in the ad that’s shown to the users. So, as you’re creating them, you’re going to have ad strengths, which we can’t see yet because we have no URL, and then ways to improve them. So, first off, if we say we’re going to send this… And we’ll just use our homepage here, here, now we’re going to start to see if there’s any ad strengths information going on. Now, it’s poor for various reasons, right? And that’s because we don’t have popular keywords in the headlines, we don’t have unique headlines.

0:00:58.4 S1: So, these are really more about how many lines do you have? If we add a second related to ad group line, we’re suddenly going to go from our headlines aren’t unique, to these are fully checked. Now, let’s remove this for a second. So, one of the things you want to look at as you’re creating responsive search ads, are the previews. So, in many cases, we have a unique selling proposition, an authority statement, a call to action, we have nothing related to the ad group. So, when we think about search ads, one of the big things that makes them so useful is that someone says, “I want this” in their search query, and your ad raises its hand and waves around and says, “I have this.” So, you need ads that are related to the ad group and why someone searched.

0:01:48.0 S1: So, we have a few options to do this, we can either copy this line and we could write a few different ones and go ahead and put in a few different lines related to the ad group. Option one. Option two, we can pin lines, we can tell Google, only put this in position one. And so now, our position one will always have a line related to the ad group and then they can play with everything else that we give it to see how it’s going to work out overall. Now, if you watch closely, as soon as I pin this, some of my options went away, I no longer had all the headlines more unique and so forth, that were checked previously. And so, Google doesn’t like losing a lot of control. In many cases, you’re going to want to do this for various reasons. So, let’s say that you have really good experience with ETAs, you want to keep your expanded text ads and you want to create. RSAs are just like them. We could say, “Let’s pin this position one, let’s pin this to position two, and then we can pin this to position three.” And now we essentially have an ETA, we’re telling Google, “Always put this in one, always put this in two, always put this in three.”

0:03:06.8 S1: We’re going to see some poor ad strengths and so forth, because Google has nothing to play with. Now, we don’t have to stop here. We could say, “Alright, we know from years of experience that ETAs work pretty well and ads work pretty well when we have this kind of formula.” So, let’s just let Google play within how we want to do it. So, we could say, “Well, let’s pin this as well in position two, lets pin a USP in position three.” Now, what we’re saying is, this line, it’s the only one pinned to one, we’ll show in position one. Either one of these lines could be in position two, either one of these lines can be in position three, and you can keep pinning to your heart’s content. So, with the RSAs, the first step is thinking through how much control do you want versus you want to get to Google? You could use absolutely nothing as pinned. Google has full control, and if you have a lot of impressions, this might work out well for you. You could take full control, you could say, “I want to pin the lines, so I know exactly what is displayed.” We could say, “Let’s just pin our headline one, and then let’s go ahead and unpin everything else.” So, we know it’s related, Google has control of the rest of it, or let’s say we have a disclaimer or a statement or a discount we always want displayed, we could take those and just pin those in position two…

0:04:38.3 S1: And let Google play with everything else. So responsive search ads are very flexible in how they can be displayed. And then you could do the same thing with your description lines. You can add your descriptions, you can pin your descriptions and so forth. Now, in addition, if you just type in the brace, you can also do keyword insertion, countdowns, location insertion and add those to your ad groups. Now, as you create them, you’re going to see suggestions, include more popular keywords. So, we could say, “Let’s just go ahead and click on these.” And they automatically get filled in, and of course, as they get filled in, because we’re using Google suggestions, we’re going to see some of these increases. So, you have some as additional options to get assistance of potential lines. Now, watch your character counts when you start making ads that are one and two words for a line, it’s really not that unique, even the machine thinks so. So, if we think about… We have a lot of options here, then our testing, we also have a lot of options. We could go through, and we could say, “We’re going to pin position one, position two, position three.” That’s one ad in the ad group. You can have three RSAs in an ad group. We could then create a second ad, maybe we give Google full control over the second one, so we’re testing fully pinned versus Google’s full control.

0:06:02.9 S1: We could make one that maybe ad one is full of discounts, and so we have some different discounts are running in ad one, we pin them both to position two, we have nothing else pinned, we make a second RSA. Instead of discounts, we’ll focus on free shipping or a price or something else. And so, we’re letting Google control much of the ad, but we’re really just testing the idea, “Is discounts better than a price?” And letting Google have control over how everything else is being served. So, if you’re not going to pin anything, one of the items you really want to look at is ensuring you have roughly equal parts of what you’d want to show it in H1 and H2 and H3. In other words, do you have three lines related to the ad group and then three calls to action, and then three USPs or authority statements and so forth.

0:07:01.7 S1: If you only have one headline that’s related to your ad group and then you have like nine other lines and nothing is pinned, your ads aren’t going to be very compelling for users. So, you might meet Google’s requirements of a good ad strings, but you’re not going to have great metrics. So, we do want to often create equal parts related to ad group, our calls to action, authority statements, our USPs, so forth, or use pinning to manage those aspects. Now, as you run these ads and you get metrics, you’re going to have a report called asset details, where you can see the assets, the status, the asset type, is it pinned? And then, performance. Now, this performance will only show if you have a large number of impressions. If you don’t have a lot of impressions, it will not show.

0:07:51.0 S1: There is one other way to get some nice asset data, but it’s sort of hidden by default. So, at first, we go to our campaign list. Right now, we’re under All Campaigns. We don’t have another option here. If we click on Only Search Campaigns, we now have this other option called Assets. If we click into the assets, we’re going to see the asset name, how many different ads use that asset, its type of headline or description or any pinned, and then broken out by impressions, the percentage of impressions that are best, good, low, learning, or unrated and the total impressions. So, this is another way to get a nice overview of how different asset lines are trending across your ads.

0:08:38.5 S1: Now, this is a bit of a convoluted screen when you get into some of these things, so ad analysis, we’ll be launching some better ways to analyze this data. But based upon how pinning works and performance ratings, we will see another way that ad testing is done. Someone will create an ad like this where they won’t pin anything. They’ll look at the top combinations, and they’ll make those top combinations into fully pinned ads, so they can see the individual metrics for what those ads look like, because when we look at the combinations, we only get impressions, the assets, we only get impressions. So, you don’t know if your ad with the highest click through rate, the highest conversion rate, the lowest conversion rate is getting the most impressions. So that’s another way to do testing, is just, “This is my pinned, fully pinned ad based upon what has the most impressions, and then here’s my other ad,” which may be slightly pinned or no pinned at all. So, there’s a few different ways to test.

0:09:39.5 S1: So, before you create RSAs, you often want to think conceptually, what am I trying to do? Do I want full control? I’m going to pin a lot of things. Do I want to give Google some control where maybe I will pin multiple items in the same line so Google can play, but I know the idea of what that ad is going to look like, and then I can create other ads to test against that to find out the best combinations and ways to manage RSAs. So, you ensure during the ETA to RSA transition that you maintain your conversion rates and your overall volume, and that you get the same or better results, and that you suddenly don’t have a drop in conversions as you’re switching to new ad format. So, there’s a lot of options available, there’s a lot of testing options available.

0:10:31.9 S1: So ensure you have a strategy that works for you for how to create and manage responsive search ads going forward.

Related Post


  • John

    Great video, Brad.

    We always pin at least one headline in position one (usually the keyword). We sometimes pin unique propositions or a call to action in position two. Also, we completely ignore “ad strength” and have noticed the strength does drop if you pin headlines and descriptions, but it has no impact on impression share.

    • Brad

      Ad strength seems to be related only to how many options, and how much control, you give Google over your ads.

      We’re doing some in-depth analysis in regards to ad strength to understand the relationships between pinning, ad strength, and other metrics. We’ll publish this once we’ve had a chance to fully analyze the data and make sure it’s all statically valid.

      • John

        Thanks, Brad. Will be interesting to see the data once you have analysed it 🙂

  • Matt VW

    If you are right, Brad, the metric should more appropriately be called testing strength. If they would include estimated impression volume (or actual) they could also have a testability score. Then, we’d know whether to look at the metric one per week or month, or once or less in our natural lifespan.

    • Brad

      That’s a great point, Matt.

      However, I don’t think Google knows estimated impressions for an ad since you can have multiple ads, multiple RSAs, etc within the ad group. They could probably make an educated guess based upon the current ads in the ad group, but since ad serving can be a bit random if you have 2 RSAs with fully unpinned lines, I’m not sure how accurate guesses would be at times.

  • Ruben

    Hi Brad,

    Curious to see your results. We have set ad strength mostly aside, except for poor, which is usually an indicator the queries don’t match the headlines (keywords). Ad strength does not seem to improve CTR or other metrics such as ROAS unfortunately. Your other article also proves how RSA’s usually perform worse than ETA’s, which is a shame.

    Wish Google actually gave some insights in the assets besides impressions. The best/good/poor is also kind of useless. We have accounts running hundreds of thousands in spend per month, and yet most assets are still learning. With such volumes you’d expect some insights, right?

    • Brad

      It also looks like you’ll get poor ad strength if you pin a lot of lines. In accounts where a lot of pinning is being done, the results can be great, and the ad strengths are misleading.

      Hopefully, one day we’ll get some stats on actual conversion data by renderings or asset lines. That’s the dream.

  • sophia

    “Fantastic guide on RSA optimization in Google Ads! Clear and actionable tips that will definitely boost my ad performance. Thanks for sharing! 👍🚀”

  • Leave a comment

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