Date posted

05 Feb 2022

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Expanded Text Ads are dead, long live Responsive Search Ads

What is it?

On 31st August 2021, Google announced plans to depreciate expanded text ads as of 30th June 2022. From this date, responsive search ads will become the only type of ad that can be created or edited within Search campaigns. As a refresher:

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs)

  • Advertiser defines 3 headlines and 2 description lines for each ad, which are served as a single ad unit (headline 3 and description line 2 will only shown in some ad slots).

Responsive Text Ads (RSAs)

  • Advertisers upload up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines. Google Ads rotates and selects what it considers to be the best combination of assets for each auction. 
  • Advertisers can optionally “pin” assets to ensure they are always shown to searchers, but this is discouraged on performance grounds.

After the June 2022 deadline, we are told ETAs will continue to serve & report on performance. Advertisers will also be able to pause, resume or delete any existing ETAs in an account.

This isn’t an entirely unexpected announcement – those frequently managing accounts through the UI will have found ETA creation becoming more difficult, with RSAs pushed to the forefront.

This change goes hand in hand with Google’s continued push towards increased automation, with the direction of travel being broad targeting, automated bidding and responsive ads all working together in unison.

It’s important to understand that RSA “pinning” is being kept

  • Despite being discouraged, many compliance & regulation heavy advertisers (such as pharmaceutical or finance) require certain disclosures within ads. 
  • Whilst this setting could be removed in the future, it seems unlikely as Google would be essentially forcing these types of advertisers off their platform.

Advertisers who want to retain full creative control can work around the system and “recreate” their ETAs through pinning every asset in place – take note that there is a limit of 3 RSAs per ad group if you go this route.

Why is it important?

The biggest downside will be the lack of insight from Google Ads into how our ad creative is actually performing. 

Currently we get a detailed view on ETA results. We can easily compare click through rates of our price-focused ETA in relation to our quality-focused ETA for example. We have access to many metrics which we can export & slice in several different ways and we often use this data to inform other channels (such as email subjects, organic titles etc.)

Despite being launched back in 2018, Responsive Search Ads reporting is very weak and has seen little improvement. Advertisers can only see the following:

  • Performance of the RSA ad unit as a whole.
    • A text rating of “Low”,”Good” or “Best” for each RSA headline and description. 
      • Only if that RSA has 5,000 or more top slot impressions within 30 days.
    • The asset combinations which saw the most impressions (and only impressions – no other metrics) in the last 90 days.

This represents a significant step backwards for advertisers who stay on top of their messaging.

What to do next?

Firstly, talk to your team or agency about current RSA performance – how have the results looked so far? Do note that Google encourages measuring results in a slightly different way to ETAs, with a focus on incremental performance. This also ties in to how you are approaching automation as a whole – are you testing options such as tCPA or tROAS?

With 10 months lead time, make sure you kick ad copy testing into overdrive – we’re able to get a lot of data from ETAs that will be going away, unless Google improve the reporting options of RSAs.

You can even plan & set up ETAs for future tests beyond June 2022, as we’ll still be able to activate or deactivate (but not create) ETAs after the deadline.

Lastly, if you are in a high-compliance vertical make sure you are clear on what needs to be pinned on your assets. Communicate this change with stakeholders on the regulation & compliance side (especially legal teams), so they understand what is happening & how this is being managed.

If you would like to discuss the changes to Google Ads formats, we’re here to help.