Expanded Text Ads vs. Responsive Search Ads: What Should Be Your Business’ Go-To?

Ogno Expanded Text Ads vs Responsive Search Ads

Every time Google announces a new change to its algorithm or ad platform, it sends ripples through the marketing world. In the latest change, Google Ads replaced Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) with Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) as the default ad type.

So what does this mean for your paid search campaign, and should you switch all your expansive ads for responsive ads?

In this guide, we’ll explore the difference between the two types of ads.

You’ll learn about the pros and cons of each, so you can make an informed decision about which ad type is right for your business.

What Are Expanded Text Ads?

Expanded Text Ads are a type of search ad that advertisers can create on the Google Ads platform. First released back in 2016, ETAs are displayed on the search engine results page:

Screenshot of expanded text ad on Google

ETAs consist of three headlines that can be up to 30 characters each. They also include two descriptions of up to 90 characters and a display URL.

The extended length of the ad type allows advertisers to share more information about the promoted product or service.

Despite switching to responsive ads as the default ad type, Google Ads is not removing expansive ads from the platform. They can still play a significant role in your paid search campaigns, driving clicks and conversions.

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive Search Ads are the new default ad type for Google Search Campaigns. Released in 2018, RSAs use machine learning technology to automatically display relevant headlines and ad copy based on search intent.

While ETAs are static and don’t change once they have been created, RSAs are dynamic. They adapt according to the search query.

When creating a responsive ad, you need to write a range of headlines and descriptions. In addition, every headline and description needs to be unique:

Screenshot of responsive search ad headlines in Google Ads

The use of machine learning can lead to a higher clickthrough rate and increased conversions.

But this isn’t true for every advertiser and campaign.

What Are the Benefits of Expanded Text Ads?

One of the most significant differences between ETAs and RSAs is the level of control.

With expansive ads, you can choose the headline and description displayed for a keyword and select the most relevant and compelling combinations.

You also have more control over testing and optimization. It’s up to you to decide which ad elements you want to test and optimize.

This can translate into more clicks and conversions, more qualified leads, and lower advertising costs.

What Are the Benefits of Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive Search Ads require a more hands-on set-up, but campaign management is much less intensive. Google will automatically rotate headlines and ad copy according to the search query.

You don’t need to spend much time testing your ads as Google’s machine learning technology will test and optimize your ads for you.

In theory, your ads should also be more relevant to the search query and attract more clicks and conversions.

For some advertisers, responsive ads have delivered a substantial increase in conversions when compared to ETAs.

Screenshot of CVR bar charts from Portent blog page

Image Source

For a PPC campaign, the conversion rate is the most important metric for judging success.

What Are the Drawbacks of Expanded Text Ads?

While expansive ads provide more control for advertisers, they offer less room for testing in the same ad campaigns. For example, to test different headlines and ad copy combinations, you need to create separate ads.

Once you have completed the initial set-up of a responsive ad, they require far less maintenance than regular ETAs. You can sit back and let Google automatically test and optimize your ads.

What Are the Drawbacks of Responsive Search Ads?

The biggest drawback with responsive ads is that you don’t see the final ad before it is displayed to potential customers. There’s much less control for the advertiser.

This means that RSAs are generally not the best option for a granular campaign structure and are better suited for generic campaigns.

Allowing Google’s machine learning to run your campaign can also result in you paying for irrelevant ads that don’t include your product or service.

There is an option that allows advertisers to pin important assets (product name or service). Google will change other elements of your ad but always include the pinned asset.

But this eliminates one of the key benefits of RSAs as it limits automated testing and optimization.

Google also uses the same templates to create RSAs for all advertisers. This means that your ads can be very similar to your competitors if your product or service offers similar features.

If you’ve established a strong USP, responsive ads can dilute your brand identity.

Which Ad Type Is Better for Your Business

There’s no right or wrong answer regarding which ad type is best for your business. Both expansive ads and responsive ads have pros and cons.

Generally, it’s better to use expansive ads for campaigns with a granular structure.

For example, let’s say that you run a campaign where each ad is assigned the same headline with a different product or service, being the only difference between the ads. In that case, you can benefit more from the extra control offered by ETAs.

RSAs typically work best for more generic campaigns. Creating a responsive ad can also be more time-intensive if you’re new to Google Ads. You need to create multiple short, compelling headlines and variations of your ad copy.

It’s easier to manage RSAs when you have launched your campaign. But you do miss out on insights you can gain from testing variations of ETAs.

For most advertisers, using both RSAs and ETAs in ad groups can be beneficial. You can create a few ETAs for each ad group to test your ad copy and headlines and use Google’s machine learning to scale your campaign when you know what gets the best results.

If you’re unsure which is best for your business, it pays to enlist the help of PPC experts.


Responsive Search Ads are another way the search engine giant has developed its ad platform to rival Facebook Ads’ capabilities. But Google isn’t getting rid of Expanded Text Ads.

While RSAs can be a great asset to your campaign, they are far from perfect. A well-crafted and optimized expansive ad can still outperform a responsive ad.

If you need some help getting more out of your paid search campaigns, schedule a consultation with our team of PPC experts. We’ll help you to audit your campaigns and put a strategy in place to boost your ROI.

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