A new type of ad, called “Responsive Search Ads,” is becoming the new standard for Google search ads. The old/outgoing type is called “Expanded Text Ads.” Starting June 30, 2022, it won’t be possible to create or edit new Expanded Text Ads, although existing ones will still be able to serve. Google is strongly recommending that advertisers begin to transition to Responsive Search Ads (RSA’s).

What are RSA’s?

Responsive Search Ads is a new type of ad for Google Search. It brings a much more involved process for ad creation on the belief that higher quality ads can be achieved as a result. And if a higher quality ad can be achieved, it should be a benefit to all parties involved – the person searching, the advertiser, and Google. (Remember that Google doesn’t get paid if there’s no click on the ad.)

With RSA’s, advertisers need to provide a minimum number of variations for headlines and descriptions. For headlines, the minimum is three, but there can be as many as fifteen. With descriptions, the minimum is two, but there can be up to four. When the ad is served, the headlines and descriptions can be arranged in any order. Google will then use machine learning to determine the arrangements and combinations that are most successful.

Google has always encouraged advertisers to create many versions of ads so that it can optimize for results. But now, it seems they are done with simply asking and encouraging. RSA’s make it a requirement that Google be given more elements so that it can optimize for better results.

setup area for responsive search ad

The Challenge

The challenge of RSA’s is that it’s not always easy to come up with unique versions of headlines and descriptions. It’s even more challenging when you realize that the elements can show in any order, if they show at all. You have to consider how each element stands on its own without knowing its juxtaposition.

RSA’s can make you feel that you’ve lost control of your advertising for these reasons:

  • You know exactly what you want (or need) the ad to say, and variations won’t work for you.
  • There are certain elements that can’t be omitted without defeating the purpose of the ad.
  • It seems impossible to create unique variations of the wording.

No doubt, RSA’s will create a struggle for many businesses. But fortunately, Google added a feature that allows advertisers to gain some control. It’s called “Pinning.”


Pinning allows you to gain control of where certain headlines and descriptions appear in the ad.

For example, after you write a headline, you can click the pin icon to the right and then choose the position it should show in. If you choose position one, it will always show in position one. If there are two different headlines that would be appropriate to show in position one, you can pin them both to show in position one. This tells Google that it can rotate and test both headlines in position one. Headlines can be pinned to position one, position two, or position three.

Pinning also works with descriptions. Descriptions can be pinned to position one or position two.

Google advises that pinning should not be used by most advertisers since it limits the ability to create combinations of the ad. Many advertisers know, however, that pinning will be an absolute necessity for them. Sometimes ads have indispensable elements, such as a disclaimer, promo code offer, or specific words that define the purpose of the ad.

pinning elements for responsive search ad

The Ad Strength Pane

While using the RSA creation tool, an Ad Strength pane appears on the right. It’s meant to guide you (and grade you) on the relevance and diversity of your ad elements. It offers specific instructions and also provides ideas to help with the writing.

There’s also an ad preview where you can see how the ad will look on a desktop computer or mobile device. If you click the arrow buttons, the order of the elements will be changed in the preview. This helps a great deal for understanding how various elements can look when placed next to each other.

The Ad Strength section provides an indispensable guide in the ad creation process. Without this help, it would be much more frustrating to create the ad. It serves as both assistant and compass to keep you moving in the right direction.ad strength pane for responsive search ad

Location Insertion

Location insertion is a feature that lets you tailor your RSA text for specific locations but without having to manually create different ads (or campaigns) for each location. This feature is tremendously handy for service area businesses who want the names of certain areas to appear in the ads for more local relevance and higher click-through-rates.

With location insertion, Google will replace the insertion code with one of the locations you’ve targeted in your campaign. One location insertion can be used in the headline, and up to two in the descriptions. It’s a requirement that you have at least three headlines without location insertion. You can choose to set up locations for city, state, and country.

To use location insertion, type a brace ({) when entering ad text and select “location insertion” from the drop-down menu. In the Default Text area, type the words you’d like to appear when location insertion is unable to work. Then, choose the level of location you’d like to appear: City, State, or Country

Check to see that there is enough character space to allow for the location insertion.

info for location insertion


You’ll find the same reporting metrics for RSA’s that are listed for other ad types. The numbers shown represent the totals for all ad combinations that were applied for each RSA. If you want to see segmented numbers for RSA’s only, you can add a filter for Attributes and Ad Type, choosing “Responsive Search Ad.”

If you click on View Asset Details under the ad, you’ll see a table that gives information for each RSA ad element. Columns include: Status, Asset Type, Position Pinning, and Impressions.

There is also another tab for “Combination” that you can switch to. This tab shows the various combinations of the ad that have been served as well as the number of impressions.

assets list for responsive search ad

Getting Ideas

The Ad Strength pane shows instructions for improving your ad, such as:

  • Add more headlines.
  • Include popular keywords in your headlines.
  • Make your headlines more unique.
  • Make your descriptions more unique.

Each of these instructions has a “View Ideas” link that you can click to provide wording ideas below. These ideas might be generated and pulled from your final URL. They might also be common phrases based on: trust, promotion, location, call-to-action, inventory, or shipping.

Once you create five unique headlines, Google suggests that you provide other versions and variations of those unique headlines.

ideas pane for responsive search ads

Best Practices

Here are a few best practices for RSA’s:

  • Remember that headlines and descriptions can appear in any order, so make sure they make sense alone or in combinations.
  • Your RSA will always show at least two headlines and one description but can sometimes show more – including two descriptions in a single impression.
  • Create headlines that contain keywords and some that don’t. Google recommends at least two that do and three that don’t.
  • Keep in mind that the system wants you to add unique content, so simply rearranging words or paraphrasing may not help much with ad strength.
  • Google prefers that you add many different headlines, so think of as many as you can.
  • Use the “View Ideas” feature in the Ad Strength pane. It can spark your imagination for writing unique headlines and descriptions.
  • Google recommends that there be one RSA per ad group with at least a “Good” grade from the Ad Strength checker.
  • No more than three RSA’s can be enabled per ad group. One, however, is sufficient. Normally, there is no reason to have more than one RSA per ad group.
  • Keep in mind that ads may show larger or smaller on different device types, affecting the number of elements that appear.
  • Don’t try to maximize the character count.
  • If you need to use pinning, pin two or three versions to the same position to give the system elements to test.