How to Create PPC Responsive Search Ads that Work

Gone are the days of having to squeeze characters into expanded text ads on Google (definitely not the good ‘ole days!). Responsive search ads have changed the game when it comes to being able to say what you want in your ads. With this ad format, not only do you have plenty of room for different headlines and descriptions, the opportunity for optimization and testing now seem as though they’re endless.

According to Google, “Responsive search ads let you create an ad that adapts to show more text—and more relevant messages—to your customers. Enter multiple headlines and descriptions when creating a responsive search ad, and over time, Google Ads automatically tests different combinations and learns which combinations perform best. By adapting your ad’s content to more closely match potential customers’ search terms, responsive search ads may improve your campaign’s performance.”

While switching over from expanded test ads to responsive search ads takes some work, I believe it’s worth every minute. For our in-house eCommerce brand, DermWarehouse, we’ve gone through our entire ad account, changing all of our ads over to responsive search ads. These ads are more targeted, more relevant, and have performed better than our expanded text ads. It was hard to rip the band aid off, but in the end, I’m glad we did! While more is not always better, in the case of responsive text ads, if you create them in the right way, it certainly is. Read on for more info on this new(er) ad format and best practices for how to get the most out of your responsive search ads.

Say Goodbye to Expanded Text Ads

Starting June 30, 2022, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads. This means that responsive search ads are more important than ever. According to Google, even after June 30, 2022, expanded text ads will continue to serve, and you’ll still see reports on their performance going forward. You’ll also still be able to pause and resume your expanded text ads, or remove them if needed. However, since expanded text ads will no longer be able to be edited, it’s best to start making the move over to responsive search ads. 

Whenever there’s a change within Google, I am always hesitant at first. Who likes change?! I’ve spent so much time on all of my ad campaigns and put a ton of effort into crafting the perfect ads. Responsive search ads, however, give you the ability to be a lot more creative in the messaging they use, as they allow you to create a maximum of 15 different headlines, plus 4 different description lines. It was always a struggle fitting everything I wanted to say into three headlines and two descriptions, so this was a welcome change to me. 

How Responsive Search Ads Work

With responsive search ads, the more headlines and descriptions you can enter, the better, as there’s a better chance that they will match what your customers are searching for. This will only improve your ad performance, as your ads will become more relevant. 

Google uses their AI to create different combinations of your ads based on search relevancy and what aligns with your customer’s interests. “Incredibly, the 15 headlines and 4 descriptions can be arranged in over 40,000 unique permutations!” [source]

If you need instructions on how to set up your responsive search ads for the first time, Google does a great job of walking you through the steps. You can also contact The Media Captain for help setting up responsive search ads or for any other PPC related questions!

Benefits of Responsive Search Ads


With Google showing the most relevant and best performing combinations of your ads, you can rest easy knowing that ad optimization is happening at all times. The more data Google has, the better they can optimize your ads for different groups of customers. As well as you think you might know the customers, it can be really surprising to see what works. In this case, let the data do the talking when it comes to serving your ads.

Flexibility & Time

With more room to write headlines and descriptions, you have a ton more flexibility when it comes to what you can say within your ads. Not only that, you create all of the potential options up front and then Google does the work of showing the most relevant combinations to your potential customers. 

I love the fact that I’m able to add a lot of different products for each of our DermWarehouse brands into each of the headlines. Now I know that no matter what specific product our customers are searching for, they’ll see an ad that really mirrors their search.


Responsive search ads will increase ad group performance by attracting more clicks and conversions that your existing text ads aren’t capturing because responsive search ads help you compete in more auctions [Google]. You’ll show up in more searches, get more clicks, which should increase conversions. 

The more relevant your ads are for each potential new customer, the higher the chance they’ll click on the ad. If I see an ad that mentions exactly what I’m looking for vs. another ad that has more general information, it’s a no brainer that I’m going to click on the ad that matches my search more closely.

Tips for Creating Responsive Search Ads that Work

Take Advantage of Extra Room for More Headlines

You want to make sure you take advantage of all the space Google is giving you to write your headlines. The more headlines you create and the more targeted and descriptive these are, the better your ads will perform. 

Use Keywords in Headlines

When you’re choosing keywords for your ads, make sure you’re using those exact keywords in your headlines. If we have an ad running for Jan Marini, for example, and one of our keywords is “Jan Marini Bioclear Lotion” we want to make sure that the Jan Marini Bioclear Lotion is mentioned in our headlines as well. This will ensure that anyone searching for this particular product will see the exact product they’re searching for show up in our ads. As you can see in the image above, we utilized a lot of product names as our headlines, as these are the keywords we’re going after. 

Utilize Call to Action

Calls to action can be used both in your headlines and descriptions and it’s important to utilize these to get potential customers to take action when they see your ads! You can mention something like “Call Now for a Free Quote.” In our case, we use call to actions such as “Chat with a Skin Specialist On-Site” or “Shop Hundreds of Top Rated Skin Care Brands” in our descriptions. In our headlines, we use more specific calls to action such as “Shop Jan Marini Skincare.”

Be Descriptive in Your Descriptions

Writing a description that’s descriptive may sound pretty obvious, but you want to make sure you’re really taking advantage of this space to highlight important information that you didn’t already cover in your headlines. Your headlines are much shorter, so utilize the 90 characters within each of your descriptions to get across important messaging that you may not have been able to fit elsewhere.

Pin Important Headlines

One of the really cool features of responsive text ads is that you can pin the most important headlines or descriptions to the top (or in the top three positions) so that they’ll always show in your ad. Using our same example from Jan Marini, we pin the headline “Shop Jan Marini Skincare.” This allows customers to always see which brand we’re focusing on. Then other headlines may reflect more specific keywords, such as the exact product they were searching for. We leave that decision up to Google. You can also pin any descriptions that you always want to appear in your ad. 

Mention Unique Selling Propositions & Customer Benefits

The purpose of your ads are to sell your business! Make sure you’re including unique selling propositions within your ads to ensure you stand out among the competition. For DermWarehouse, we always love to mention “Authorized Seller of All Brands”, “Free Shipping & Samples”, and “Dermatologist-Owned Company.” These are three of our USPs that really make us stand out and we know potential customers may be looking for!

Check Ad Strength

Google will display a score for ad strength and make suggestions for how to improve each of your ads. Make sure you’re paying attention to this and creating ads that are delivering the best possible message to your customers.

Use What You Already Have

If you have expanded text ads that performed really well, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Use headlines and descriptions that have performed well in the past and just add to them in your responsive search ads. This will also make you feel like you’re not completely starting from scratch and will hopefully make the transition to responsive search ads feel a little bit less overwhelming.

In Closing

  • Expanded text ads are becoming a thing of the past. Make sure you start switching over to responsive search ads if you haven’t already.
  • Responsive search ads have a lot of benefits, including additional space for ad text, better optimization, and increased performance.
  • In order to make the most out of your responsive search ads, make sure utilize keywords throughout your ad, take advantage of all the space Google gives you, mention benefits and unique selling propositions within your ads, and pay attention to your ad strength.

Stefanie Parks

Stefanie is the Co-Founder of The Media Captain. She's currently the CEO of DermWarehouse, The Media Captain's in-house eCommerce brand. Stefanie is an expert on all things eCommerce. She's grown DermWarehouse to beyond $5 million in annual revenue and has a customer base beyond 250,000. Stefanie provides helps with eCommerce strategy development for The Media Captain. She's a frequent contributor onto the TMC blog.

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