The Beginner's Guide to Responsive Search Ads

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads (RSAs) are a type of advertising format in Google Ads that automatically adjusts headlines, descriptions, and layout to match the user's context. Instead of creating fixed ads, Google selects the best-performing combinations from your inputs to tailor the ad to each user's search query.

For instance, if you own a coffee shop and want to promote your new seasonal blend, you can input various headlines like “Fresh Autumn Blend,” “Warm Up with Our Coffee,” or “New Seasonal Flavors.” You can also add multiple descriptions highlighting the coffee’s unique taste, special offers, or your shop’s cozy atmosphere.

Google Ads then tests these headline and description combinations to show your potential customers the most relevant messages based on their search queries.

How Do Responsive Search Ads Work?

Responsive search ads utilize Google’s AI to automatically select and combine the headlines and descriptions you provide, creating highly relevant ads for each user’s search query.

Google’s AI technology analyzes the context of each search query and uses real-time signals to determine which combination of headlines and descriptions would be most effective. The aim is to deliver the right ad to the right person at the right time.

Here’s how Google Ads generates responsive search ads:

  1. Understanding the Search Query: Google’s system begins by understanding each search query and the keywords involved.
  2. Assembling Combinations: The system assembles various combinations from your pool of headlines and descriptions, focusing on relevance and expected performance for each query.
  3. Eliminating Redundancies: The system then eliminates duplicate or redundant combinations and scores the remaining ones to determine their effectiveness.
  4. Sending to Auction: The best-scoring combinations are sent to the auction, where they compete for ad space based on their quality and relevance.

Responsive search ads typically include a minimum of three headlines and two descriptions, which appear in various combinations and orders. Part of your ad text may appear in bold if it closely matches a user’s search query based on relevance.

Over time, Google Ads fine-tunes its understanding of responsive search ads by testing the most promising ad combinations and learning which are most effective for different queries.

Why Use Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads offer a flexible way to reach a broader audience, as they adapt to users’ search intent, device types, and preferences. These ads rely on multiple headlines and descriptions provided by advertisers, allowing for greater customization and relevance to different search queries.

On the other hand, dynamic search ads automatically generate ad content based on your website’s content. Google’s algorithm generates headlines and chooses landing pages from your website that align with the searcher’s intent. This type of ad campaign is particularly useful for websites with a large inventory or frequent content updates, as it can dynamically create relevant ads based on website changes.

In summary, while both responsive and dynamic search ads offer automation and customization benefits, they differ in how they generate ad content. Responsive search ads rely on advertiser-provided content, while dynamic search ads use website content to create ads tailored to search queries.

FeatureResponsive Search AdsDynamic Search Ads
Ad ContentAdvertisers provide multiple headlines and descriptions
Content is automatically generated from website content
ControlOffers high control over ad text
Provides less control, as content is auto-generated
TargetingRelies on provided headlines/descriptions and keyword targeting
Utilizes website content and user search queries
FlexibilityAdapts to different queries with varied combinations
Automatically aligns with relevant website content
SuitabilityIdeal for testing different messages and optimizing
Best suited for extensive websites with many products/services


Responsive search ads are beneficial for several reasons:

  1. Adaptability: They can adjust to various device screen sizes, ensuring that your message is effectively communicated regardless of the device being used.
  2. Variety: Offering multiple headline and description options ensures that Google Ads can display the most effective combinations to your audience, increasing the chances of engagement.
  3. Localization: You can tailor your headlines and descriptions based on your customers’ locations, making your ads more relevant to specific geographic areas.
  4. Competitiveness: By providing numerous headline and description options, your ads can compete in more auctions and align with a wider range of search queries, increasing your ad’s visibility.
  5. Dynamic Optimization: Since search trends are constantly changing, it’s challenging to predict how people will search for your product or service. Responsive search ads continuously learn which combinations work best for different queries, optimizing your ads’ performance over time.

How Many Headlines and Descriptions Do Responsive Search Ads Show?

Responsive search ads in Google Ads can display up to three headlines and two descriptions. However, the number of components shown can vary based on factors such as screen size or the amount of information in the search engine results page (SERP). Even in less optimal conditions, your ad will still show at least two headlines and one description.

For instance, if you’re advertising an online baking class, your ad could include headlines like “Master Baking at Home,” “Easy Online Baking Classes,” and “Sign Up & Start Today,” along with descriptions highlighting course features and promotions.

On a mobile device, the ad might only show the first two headlines and one description due to limited space.

How to Create Responsive Search Ads in Google Ads

To create a responsive search ad in Google Ads, follow these steps:

Access the Ads Section: Log in to your Google Ads account and click on the “Campaigns” icon in the left sidebar, which looks like a megaphone. Then, navigate to “Ads” under the “Campaigns” drop-down menu.

Create a New Ad: Click on the “+” sign at the top left of the “Ads” table to start creating your new ad.

Choose Ad Type: Select “+ Responsive search ad” from the drop-down menu that appears.

Select Campaign and Ad Group: Choose the campaign and ad group where you want this ad to be placed.

Enter Final URL and Display Path: Provide the final URL, which is the web address users will land on after clicking your ad. This should be a specific page on your website that matches your ad content and user intent. Also, enter the display path, which is the part of the URL that appears in your ad to show users where they’ll land. For example, if your ad is about dog care appointments, your display path could be “/dog-care-appointments.”

For example, if your final URL is “https://yourdomain.com/services/dog-care,” your display path could be something like “yourdomain.com/dog-care/appointments.” This display path helps users understand where they will land after clicking the ad.

Enter three to 15 headlines and two to four descriptions for your ad. Google Ads will automatically test different combinations to find the most effective ones. Make sure to follow Google’s character limits for headlines and descriptions.

You can also add site links (additional links in your ad that direct people to specific webpages) and ad assets (like your business phone number) to improve your ad’s performance.

Once you’re satisfied, click the blue “Save ad” button at the end to save your new responsive search ad.

Review your ad to ensure everything is correct. You’ll see ad previews on the right of the page while specifying your settings. The preview is a rough representation and may not show all possible combinations of your ad. Google might shorten some elements depending on the ad format.

Google Ads permits up to three responsive search ads per ad group. This limit allows Google’s machine learning algorithms to test different ad combinations within each ad group, ensuring optimal performance and efficient learning.

How Do Google’s Responsive Search Ads Perform?

Google highlights that many businesses have boosted their clicks and conversions with responsive search ads, with notable results such as a 61% increase in conversions, a 96% increase in click-through rates (CTRs), and 5% higher CTRs compared to expanded text ads.

However, the performance of responsive search ads can vary based on how well you optimize your ads and your specific industry and target audience.

By following the right tips and practices, you can use responsive ads to get more clicks, better conversion rates, and cost-effective results.

10 Responsive Search Ad Tips and Best Practices

Ready to create your first responsive search ad? First, check out some responsive search ad best practices.

1. Provide Multiple Relevant Headlines And Descriptions.

To create effective responsive search ads in Google Ads, it’s important to provide multiple relevant headlines and descriptions. Here are some key tips:

  1. Maximize Options: Use up to 15 headlines and four descriptions to provide a wide range of options for Google Ads to test. Aim for at least eight to 10 headlines and three descriptions to start with.
  2. Match Search Queries: Each headline and description is an opportunity to match your ad with potential customers’ search queries. Ensure your headlines and descriptions are relevant and closely related to your products or services.
  3. Ensure Coherence: Write your headlines so they make sense regardless of the order in which they appear. Google Ads may mix and match your headlines in different combinations and orders, so each headline should be coherent and effective on its own.
  4. First Three Headlines: Write your first three headlines as if they will appear together in your ad, as Google Ads often displays these together. This helps ensure coherence and effectiveness when these headlines are shown together.

By following these tips, you can create responsive search ads that are more likely to resonate with your target audience and improve your ad performance.

2. Highlight Something Different in Each Headline and Description

Crafting diverse headlines and descriptions for your responsive search ads is crucial for matching with different search queries and highlighting various aspects of your product or service. Here are some tips to help you create compelling and varied ad content:

  1. Highlight Different Benefits and Features: Each headline should emphasize a different benefit or feature of your offering. Consider what sets your product or service apart and how it addresses specific customer needs or pain points.
  2. Experiment with Message Versions: Try different versions of a similar message to see what resonates best with your audience. For example, if you have a headline about a discount offer, create another one that emphasizes savings or exclusive access.
  3. Cover Various Aspects of Your Business: Include headlines that focus on different aspects of your business, such as product quality, customer service, or ease of use. This ensures that you appeal to different customer priorities and interests.
  4. Vary Your CTAs: Use different calls to action (CTAs) across your headlines to encourage different actions from your audience. For example, one headline might prompt immediate purchase (“Buy Now”), while another could encourage learning more (“Discover Our Range”).
  5. Mention Discounts and Special Offers: Include headlines that directly mention discounts or special offers to emphasize the value and savings you provide to customers.
  6. Highlight Unique Features: To stand out from competitors, include headlines that highlight unique features or offerings that competitors don’t provide.
  7. Vary Headline and Description Lengths: Use a mix of short and long headlines and descriptions to make your ads more adaptable and appealing in different search contexts.

By following these tips, you can create diverse and compelling headlines and descriptions for your responsive search ads, increasing their effectiveness and appeal to your target audience.

3. Don’t Include Keywords in All Headlines

In responsive search ads, it’s important to strike a balance between including keywords and focusing on customer-centric messaging. While keywords are essential for relevance and ad performance, not every headline needs to be keyword-focused. Here are some tips:

  1. Communicate the Value: Focus on communicating the value or benefits of your product or service. For example, instead of a keyword-focused headline like “Buy Watches Online,” you could use “Stay on Time with Our Stylish Watches” to highlight the benefit.
  2. Highlight Features: Use headlines to highlight key features of your product or service. For instance, instead of just using a keyword like “Waterproof Watches,” you could say “Explore Our Waterproof Watches for Adventure Seekers.”
  3. Encourage Action: Use clear and compelling calls to action (CTAs) in your headlines to encourage users to take the desired action. For example, instead of just using a keyword like “Fitness Classes,” you could say “Start Your Fitness Journey Today – Join Our Classes!”
  4. Address User Needs: Write headlines that directly address the needs or concerns of your target audience. For example, instead of a keyword-focused headline like “Weight Loss Programs,” you could use “Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals with Our Tailored Programs.”

By focusing on customer-centric messaging while also including relevant keywords, you can create more engaging and effective responsive search ads.

4. Use Top-Performing Static Ads to Come up with RSA Assets

Using your top-performing static ads as inspiration for your responsive search ads (RSAs) can be a smart strategy. Here’s how you can leverage successful static ads for your RSA strategy:

  1. Analyze Top-Performing Static Ads: Review your past static ads to identify which ones have performed the best in terms of key metrics like click-through rates (CTR) or conversions.
  2. Identify Successful Elements: Determine what made these ads successful. Look for compelling calls to action, effective headlines, or engaging descriptions.
  3. Extract Core Messages: From your top ads, extract the core messages, phrases, or value propositions that you believe contributed to their success.
  4. Use Elements in RSAs: Incorporate these successful elements into your RSA headlines and descriptions. You may need to rephrase them for variety while keeping the core message intact.
  5. Create Variants: For each successful element, create variants to increase the number of your RSA assets. This could involve using synonyms, altering sentence structures, or changing the focus slightly while maintaining the underlying message.
  6. Monitor Performance: After incorporating these elements into your RSAs, monitor their performance. Use the insights gained to further refine and optimize your ads.

By applying these recommendations, you can leverage the success of your static ads to improve the performance and efficiency of your Google Ads campaigns.

5. Pin Headlines and Descriptions to Specific Positions


Pinning headlines and descriptions in your responsive search ads can ensure that specific information, such as disclaimers or unique selling propositions, consistently appears in your ads. Here’s how you can pin headlines and descriptions to specific positions:

Identify Information to Pin: Determine which headlines or descriptions you want to pin. This could include important messages, unique features, or disclaimers.

Click the Pin Icon: While creating your ad in Google Ads, click on the pin icon next to the headline or description you want to pin.

Choose the Position: Select the position where you want to pin that specific headline or description.

For the headline:

For the description:

You can choose the position under the “Pin this headline” or “Pin this description” window.

Save Your Changes: Once you’ve selected the position, save your changes to ensure that the pinned headline or description appears consistently in your ads.

By pinning specific headlines and descriptions, you can ensure that important information is always displayed in your responsive search ads, helping you meet specific messaging or compliance needs.

When pinning headlines and descriptions in your responsive search ads, consider the following points:

  1. Unpinned Position: If you choose to show a headline in any unpinned position, it may appear in headline position 1, 2, or 3, depending on Google’s algorithm. This ensures the message always shows but allows flexibility in its placement.
  2. Limited Visibility: Headline 3 and Description 2 won’t always show, so pinned messages in those positions won’t always be part of the responsive search ad. To ensure visibility, pin headlines to positions like Headline 1 or 2, and descriptions to Description 1.
  3. Multiple Variants: Try pinning two or three headlines or descriptions to each position. This increases the number of possible combinations, avoiding performance loss, and provides flexibility to determine which messages perform better.
  4. Impact of Changes: Altering or removing pinned headlines and descriptions can change your ad’s appearance and potentially affect its performance. Consider the implications before making changes.

6. Pin Sparingly

Pinning headlines or descriptions in your responsive search ads can limit Google’s ability to optimize your ads, potentially leading to decreased performance. Here are some guidelines on when to pin your headlines and descriptions:

  1. Reserve for Critical Elements: Pin headlines or descriptions only for critical elements such as disclaimers, unique selling propositions, or offers that must be consistently visible in your ads. For example, if a headline contains a limited-time offer or an important product feature, pin it.
  2. Monitor Ad Strength: Use the Ad strength indicator to evaluate the impact of pinned elements. If you notice a decrease in ad strength or performance metrics, it might indicate that you’re overusing pinning.
  3. Experiment and Adjust: Experiment with different combinations of pinned and unpinned content, then adjust based on performance data. If you’re not achieving the desired click-through rate or conversion rate, you might be overusing pinning and limiting the ad’s ability to dynamically match various user queries.

By using pinning sparingly and strategically, you can ensure that your responsive search ads are optimized for performance while still highlighting important information.

7. Use the Combinations Report

Using the combinations report in Google Ads can help you understand which ad combinations resonate best with your audience. Here’s how to use this report:

Access the Combinations Report: From your “Ads” table in Google Ads, find the specific responsive search ad you want to analyze. Click on “View assets details” under your chosen RSA’s name.

Navigate to the Combinations Tab: In the asset details, click the “Combinations” tab to access the combinations report.

Analyze the Data: The combinations report shows which combinations of headlines and descriptions are getting more impressions. Use this data to understand which ad elements are working well together.

Make Adjustments: Based on the report, consider changing or adjusting headlines or descriptions that aren’t performing well. Experiment with different combinations to see what resonates best with your audience.

Avoid Over-Pinning: While the combinations report can provide valuable insights, avoid over-pinning headlines or descriptions based on this data alone. Responsive search ads are designed to adapt to real-time signals, so it’s important to allow for flexibility in your ad variations.

By using the combinations report effectively, you can optimize your responsive search ads for better performance and engagement.

8. Assess Responsive Search Ads with Ad Strength

Ad strength in Google Ads provides valuable feedback on the effectiveness of your responsive search ads. Here’s how you can use it to optimize your ads for better performance:

Understand the Feedback: Ad strength provides a rating, categories, and action item ticker to help you understand the quality and effectiveness of your responsive search ad.

Rating: The rating ranges from “Poor” to “Excellent” and indicates how well your ad aligns with attributes correlated with increased performance.

Categories: These include factors like the number of headlines, the uniqueness of headlines, the relevance of keywords in headlines and descriptions, and the uniqueness of the descriptions.

Action Item Ticker: This provides specific suggestions for improving your ad. You can use these suggestions to prioritize changes that could significantly impact your ad’s performance.

Improve Your Ad Strength: Aim for a “Good” or “Excellent” rating.

Click “View Ideas” next to a factor on Ad strength to see recommendations,

And choose from any of the suggestions to improve your ad.

Make Informed Adjustments: Use Ad strength as a guide to make informed adjustments to your responsive search ads. By following the prompts to improve your Ad strength, you can make your ads more compelling and well-positioned to capture your audience’s attention.

Overall, Ad strength is a valuable tool for optimizing your responsive search ads and driving better performance. Use the feedback and recommendations provided to make your ads more effective and engaging for your audience.

9. Combine Smart Bidding and Broad Match with RSAs

Combining responsive search ads (RSAs) with Smart Bidding and broad match in Google Ads can significantly improve your search campaign’s performance. Here’s how each component contributes to this approach:

  1. Smart Bidding: Smart Bidding uses machine learning to optimize bids for conversions or conversion value in each auction. It considers various signals like device, location, time of day, and more to determine the optimal bid. By using Smart Bidding, you can ensure that your ads are competitive in auctions that are more likely to result in conversions.
  2. Broad Match: Broad match is a keyword match type that allows your ad to show on searches that include misspellings, synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations. It casts a wide net, increasing your ad’s reach and visibility.
  3. Benefits of Combining:
    • RSAs can appear for many relevant searches with broad matches, increasing your ad’s reach and potential to attract relevant clicks.
    • Smart Bidding optimizes your bids automatically for each auction, adapting to real-time data. This aligns with RSAs’ adaptive nature, which adjusts headlines and descriptions based on search queries.
    • This approach saves time and resources by automating bid adjustments and keyword targeting. It allows you to focus on other aspects of your campaign strategy.

By leveraging Google’s AI and machine learning capabilities through Smart Bidding and the flexibility of broad match, you can create a more dynamic and responsive advertising approach. This approach is more likely to lead to better performance and return on investment (ROI) for your Google Ads campaigns.

10. Track Crucial Metrics to Judge Responsive Search Ads’ Success

Tracking the right metrics is crucial to judging the success of your responsive search ads (RSAs). Here are some key metrics to consider:

  1. Click-Through Rate (CTR): Measures the percentage of people who clicked on your ad after seeing it. A high CTR indicates that your ad is relevant and engaging to your audience.
  2. Conversion Rate: Tracks the percentage of clicks that result in a desired action, such as a purchase or sign-up. This metric is particularly important for evaluating your ad’s ability to drive conversions.
  3. Cost Per Conversion (CPC): Helps you evaluate the cost-effectiveness of your RSAs by measuring the cost of acquiring a conversion. Lower CPCs are generally desirable, as they indicate lower costs for acquiring customers.
  4. Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Measures the revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising. A high ROAS indicates that your ad campaigns are generating a positive return on investment.
  5. Engagement Metrics: Includes metrics like average session duration and pages per session on your website. These metrics are important for evaluating the effectiveness of your ad campaigns in terms of brand awareness and engagement.

By tracking these metrics, you can gain valuable insights into the performance of your RSAs and make informed decisions to optimize your campaigns for better results.

Get Started with Responsive Search Ads

Responsive search ads are a dynamic approach within Google Ads, adjusting to user queries to enhance engagement. However, they are just the beginning. Leveraging Semco’s comprehensive suite of tools can elevate your paid advertising strategies, surpassing competitors and increasing your ROI.

The Advertising Research tool is invaluable for dissecting competitors’ approaches, analyzing their chosen keywords and ad copies. This deep understanding allows you to fine-tune your RSA strategies, maintaining a competitive edge.

The PPC Keyword Tool aids in the meticulous planning and optimization of your Google Ads campaigns. Organize your campaigns efficiently and eliminate irrelevant traffic by setting up negative keywords, refining your RSA targeting for optimal results.

Ads History offers a glimpse into competitors’ historical ad strategies for specific keywords, including their past ad copies. Utilize this information to tweak and refine your RSAs, ensuring they are competitive and relevant in the market.

Take advantage of a free Semco trial today to access these tools and elevate your ad performance with deeper insights, giving you a distinct advantage in the competitive landscape.