Paid Search Impact
The intention behind making RSAs the default ad type is to more overtly push the adoption of RSAs, and enable advertisers to obtain the best performance within their accounts.
Initial Performance Observations:
RSAs appear to be serving on more impressions, which isn’t surprising given they’re now the default ad type. That said, we noticed campaign-level double digit impression increases and CPC improvements when comparing performance when only ETAs were running vs. after RSAs were put in market. Based on these initial performance observations, it appears that RSAs are largely responsible for the improvement. Beyond front-end metric improvements, Google notes that when advertisers adopt RSAs, they achieve up to 10% more clicks and conversions. This is likely the result of Google’s machine learning technology.
While performance seems promising, there is potential impact on ad copy reporting and testing, and the use of ad customizer features.
Ad copy reporting:
RSAs provide details as it pertains to the “Ad Strength” (depicted in the below image). Ad Strength provides insight into what field inputs are underperforming or overperforming to help advertisers easily determine the success of the ad variation. Ad Strength measures the relevance, quantity, and diversity of RSA content even before the ad is served. Performance asset labels give advertisers guidance on which assets are performing well and which assets should be replaced after an RSA is served. That said, advertisers lose some of the control that comes from traditional A/B ad copy testing with performance clearly tied to a predefined KPI. Ad Strength takes into consideration various signals (e.g. headline and description length, keyword relevance), but the combination of those signals and how they are weighed is not as clearly defined.
Ad copy testing:
A benefit of RSAs is that they allow for more variants and testing than traditional search ads, and Google does the heavy lifting by automatically mixing and matching headlines and descriptions to determine the optimal pairing. But similar to performance reporting, advertisers lose some control in the ability to create and execute a more structured ad copy test tied to clear KPIs.
Currently, ad customizers are more limited when it comes to the RSA unit. The only ad customizers that are available today within the RSA format are Location Insertion and Countdown Customizers. This may mean advertisers who are currently leveraging these particular customizers within ETAs may see lower than expected impression volume due to the shift in prioritization toward RSAs. This will also make adoption of RSAs limited in cases where these customizers are critical to the paid search program’s strategy. According to Google, they plan to roll out more availability on customizers with the goal to get all types available currently on ETAs to RSAs.
What should brands do about it?
Advertisers should make sure they have robust coverage on RSAs and ensure they are applied across all ad groups. Advertisers should also bolster their current RSAs by adding additional headlines and description lines to give Google more ability to optimize towards the best combinations. Lastly, advertisers should continue to monitor performance of RSAs vs. ETAs and adjust account setup and strategy to accommodate a more permanent shift to RSAs, assuming Google will expand this update and eventually deprecate ETAs altogether.
Our final take
The push towards RSAs follows the trend of increased automation that leverages machine learning technology to optimize toward performance. While this ad format is powerful, RSAs still require quite a bit of set-up time and human optimization to guide strategic decisioning. It’s important as advertisers to understand the important balance of man + machine campaign management as the inevitable push to automation continues.