Stay ahead of the game

Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest digital marketing strategies and insights for the month ahead, delivered straight to your inbox!

    Responsive Search Ads (RSA) to Replace Expandable Text Ads (ETA)

    MarketingMarketing News

    There was a time when Google Paid Ads was a simpler world. Text ads and image ads. Simply invest time in researching and developing quality ads that match relevant keywords, and you are off to the races. Ah, the good old days! Over time, Google decided that the original text ads were limited in what advertisers could promote with regard to their ad copy. 

    Some may remember the old character limits amongst other ridge structures that marketers had to work within. Over the last few years, Google, as they do, has shifted focus again and upgraded its platform. 

    The sun has been setting on ETAs for some time, and it may be an excellent time to upgrade if you haven’t already. However, if you haven’t done so, I would strongly suggest that you test new RSAs before June 30, 2022. 

    This article covers everything you need to know about the disappearing Expandable Text Ads and the best practices to completely transition to Responsive Search Ads.

    Responsive Search Ads Transition

    Standard Text Ads vs. Expandable Text Ads (ETA)

    Here’s a summary for anyone unfamiliar with the difference between standard Text Ads and Expandable Text Ads. The most significant addition with Expandable Text Ads features included adding a third headline field. ETAs also offered a second description text box, where you could better split up your ad message and/or call to action. Finally, ETAs increased the character count limit, allowing up to 90 characters in each description field.

    Responsive Search Ads (RSA)

    In May 2018, Google introduced a new form of text ads called Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). These new ad types were designed to complement Expandable Text Ads (ETAs) and, ultimately to now, are expected to replace them entirely. 

    As such, I want to focus on a few of the key factors that make sense for upgrading to the latest Responsive Search Ads, in case the plan was to stick with the ETAs that may still be running in your account.

    The sun has been setting on Expandable Text Ads for some time, and it may be an excellent time to upgrade if you haven’t already. Here are the best practices to completely transition to Responsive Search Ads.

    Responsive Search Ads advantages 

    So what are Responsive Search Ads, you may ask? RSA is an ad type that works with Google’s algorithm, whereby the system automatically serves the ad headlines and descriptions that marketers pre-set. 

    Wider fields options 

    There are many more fields available through RSAs compared to ETAs. Google can dynamically select and apply the winning combo of headlines and descriptions to result in the highest click-through rate and the highest conversion rate possible for that ad. 

    Test multiple version

    One of the significant advantages of RSAs over ETAs is that you can test and experiment with multiple variables within one ad without creating multiple stand-alone ETAs to perform the same function. 

    A slight difference with RSAs is that they give a little less control to how the ad headline or a description may appear in the final ad. Depending on the type of client you manage, this might be problematic for the company’s “brand police,” especially if they are particular about how ad copy reflects in their digital marketing. 

    Pinned headlines and descriptions

    To combat this fear, RSAs also allow marketers to “pin” certain headlines or descriptions to achieve the exact placement of ad copy. 


    Another critical factor is that ETAs do not apply to auto-bidding settings and features. These features are only available to Responsive Search Ads. There may have been a time when manual CPCs and other inputs may have made sense or would have outperformed auto settings, but those days are well behind us now. 

    Auto bidding has become essential to stay on top of everything, especially to actively manage large ad accounts at scale, with thousands of ads, ad groups, and keywords. And for the most part, there are control levers in place so that the auto bidding settings don’t go rogue.

    What will happen to ETAs?

    In addition to highlighting the benefits of upgrading to RSA ads, I wanted to note a few key elements before the sun sets on ETAs. Though Expandable Text Ads will still serve, they will become limited in future functionality.

      Get exclusive CMO tips that I only share with email subscribers.

      The biggest challenge with ETAs ad types after June 30, 2022, is that they will not be editable. Many paid search marketers would likely agree that having ads running that are not editable is a risk. 

      And the ads would need to be either super evergreen or very generic in the ad copy to work or be relevant. Otherwise, these legacy ads could become problematic in such cases as seasonal promotions, where ad changes may be needed. As such, it may not make sense to keep these ads running all the time in all scenarios. 

      Responsive Search Ads Best Practices 

      The objective is to test and find the winning combinations of headlines and descriptions within these new ads. RSAs, generally speaking, need to bid higher to remain competitive, so don’t be shocked if your average CPC goes up during the testing time. 

      It is likely best to evaluate RSAs on the primary account objective. If ROI is your primary objective, measure the lift (or decrease) in your conversion value/cost (ROAS). The key moving forward is to ensure the best of the best from your previous ETAs (such as your best Calls to Action, Value Propositions, etc.) have been mitigated and tested with the new format. 

      Given the lack of control and functionality that one will have with ETAs after June, should be enough reason to retire these ads. As far as Google is concerned, RSAs are here to stay for the time being, and as such, it makes sense to focus one’s efforts on the new (or at least current) and not rely solely on the past performance of ETAs. 

      Many of our paid search managers have also found a balance of ETAs running alongside RSAs with much success. The main takeaway is that legacy ETAs can still perform well, but they will be set in stone shortly. 

      Final Thoughts 

      Identifying the best ETAs to keep (if any) is a good idea, but the key is to continue using and testing these alongside new RSAs. If in the future you can’t rely on or edit your previous ETAs, you will be happy that you made a move to responsive ads. 

      As the paid search world becomes more and more competitive, the importance of RSAs will be even more critical for account health and sustainability in the future. 

      Given the features of RSAs, such as auto-bidding and target Return On Ad Spend (tROAS), coupled with the need for fewer ads for testing, will far outstrip any legacy value of Expandable Search Ads. 

      Share this article
      Back to top