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    Responsive Search Ads: To Pin Or Not To Pin?


    As the sun sets on expandable text, many PPC teams around the world have been working hard to ensure their responsive search ads (RSAs) are in ship-shape and ready for the update. As such, many digital advertisers are looking for ways to improve their ads overall. In a recent debate, I found myself questioning the functionality of “pinning” certain aspects of ads like headlines.

    Table of Contents

    What is “Pinning”? 

    For those who are unaware of the ‘pinning’ feature, basically, Google gives ad creators the chance to lock or “pin” an element of their ad in order for it to show above other combinations that Google might feature. As many already know, the more descriptions and headlines one adds, the more opportunities the system has to display ads that could match your potential customers’ search intention, which could improve ad performance.

    When Is It Logical to Pin a Headline or Description?

    By default, when one creates an RSA, headlines and descriptions may appear in no particular order. An ad creator can control where individual headlines and descriptions appear in your ad by pinning headlines and descriptions to specific positions. A perfect example of when one might want to use pinning in the ad copy is a disclaimer that needs to be included in every ad. 

    For instance, you need to show a disclaimer about pricing, shipping amounts, or perhaps a legal disclaimer about a particular product or service. One logical strategy to use in this case would be to write the disclaimer as a responsive search ad description and pin it to the description in position one. This would ensure that all enabled ads would show to customers the disclaimer in the first part of the description, allowing for the second description box to be used for other elements like a value proportion or a call to action. 

    For new accounts starting out, it may be wise not to start pinning until you can find the “magical ad copy combo” between the headlines and descriptions.

    Pinning makes the most sense to use when you have enough account data to showcase what is the best-performing ad copy. For new accounts starting out, it may be wise not to start pinning until you can find the “magical ad copy combo” between the headlines and descriptions.

    The Limitations of Pinning

    As functional as the ad pinning feature might sound, it does come with certain limitations. The biggest drawback that pinning creates for advertisers is that every asset that is pinned reduces the potential of Google’s algorithm to test and find the “winning combo” mentioned earlier. By actively pinning, this action may limit over 90% of the options that Google has available to choose from and deny advertisers the opportunity to thoroughly test and discover their preferred combinations for ad copy. It is crucial for marketers and for ad creators to find the right balance of legal or other requirements in the ads versus pigeon-holing oneself into a situation where RSAs could be initially set up to produce less effective results. 

    Figuring out What Works 

    On the ‘Ads & Extensions’ page, you will find the same performance metrics for each responsive search ad that is listed for other text ads. To see an asset report for responsive search ads, follow these instructions:

    1. Log in to a Google Ads account.
    2. Click into the ads & extensions from the page menu.
    3. Find and select the responsive search ad one wants to analyze.
    4. Look for and click the view asset details at the bottom of the relevant, responsive search ad.
    5. In turn, this will direct one to the assets report for responsive search ads.

    Conveniently, the stats table shows the totals for all of the ad combinations that were created using the headlines and descriptions entered for each responsive search ad. One can also view the reporting for individual assets and the combination of assets and make a judgment call if the ad copy is compelling or not. 

    It should be noted, like everything in the paid search world, every account and business is different, and an individual account performance in the Google Ads auction varies. Usually, the data doesn’t lie, but as many in the paid search world know, there are certain cases, even when conducting A/B tests, where the results are inconclusive, or there is insufficient data to make executive decisions.  In the end, you decide either to do more testing or make a call on what they feel is the best ad to run with.

    Final Thoughts on Pinning 

    From my research and experience, there doesn’t seem to be any readily available data that suggests pinning headlines and or descriptions definitively outperforms non-pinned ads. In fact, due to the limitation mentioned above, it would seem unwarranted to use pinning in most cases. Unless there is a practical reason to use the pinning feature, such as a legal disclaimer that needs to be in every ad, pinning can actually be a restriction to ad performance. 

    It is recommended, especially in the case of new accounts, that advertisers try not to limit the system by using pinning. Likely, the best case scenario is to allow the system the flexibility to try different combinations until a clear winner can be identified, especially while the Google algorithm is in the early stages of its learning phase.  

    We hope you found this article useful. Please stay tuned for more in the coming months about creating effective RSAs plus other ad-creating best practices and tricks of the trade. In the meantime, check out another great article about understanding RSA’s more in-depth.

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