Marketing you can measure™

Blog
Richard Price

As someone who has been doing PPC for a while now, it feels like only yesterday when Google first introduced Expanded Text Ads to advertisers. More headlines, more characters, longer descriptions – what excitement! However, after 5 years (I definitely did not have to look that up!) Google has announced it is retiring ETAs as of June 30th 2022. Predictably, Microsoft has also announced that it is following suit via Microsoft Ads as well.

What does this mean in practice? After June 30th 2022 ETAs can still be removed, enabled or paused and reporting will continue for them. However, you will no longer be able to create new ETAs and existing ETAs cannot be edited. Anyone who experienced the transition from the original text ad format to ETAs will be familiar with this process.

Why are ETAs being removed?

The short answer to this question is Google’s ongoing push for automation and machine learning, across all aspects of Google Ads.

Naturally, at some point, this philosophy was going to extend to writing ad copy. This resulted in the introduction of Responsive Search Ads in 2018. Rather than writing several different ad variations and A/B testing individual elements, RSAs allow you to upload all your copy to a single place. Google Ads will then sift through the various headlines and descriptions to find the winning combo which best resonates with users.

For three years we’ve been encouraged to run with both ad variations in our accounts, using ETAs to write specific messaging we have precise control over, whilst utilising RSAs to test the best combination of elements those ETAs are made of. Now it seems this dual approach is at an end, with RSAs our only option for traditional search campaigns moving forwards.

The benefits of exclusively using RSAs moving forwards

I’ve already spoken about Google’s push for greater automation and a reliance on machine learning, which is obviously where RSAs outshine ETAs in every way. In fact, Google has claimed that:

“advertisers that switch from expanded to ads to responsive search ads, using the same assets, in campaigns that also use broad match and Smart Bidding, see an average of 20% more conversions at a similar cost per conversion.”

Here we can see the benefits of allowing Google Ad’s automated machine learning to do the heavy lifting across multiple aspects of the paid search user journey. RSAs represent one key piece of this puzzle.

Beyond this, RSAs really help streamline the ad writing process as well. Rather than having to painstakingly create (at least) three distinct ad variations for each of your ad groups, now you can simply write all your copy in a single place and allow Google to mix and match the best combinations. When you’re working on large or complex accounts this can be a huge time-saver, especially when you need to make bulk changes, such as for a sale or unique event.

How do I manage the transition from ETAs to RSAs?

Now we’ve established why ETAs are being retired and the benefits of RSAs as an alternative, how do we go about making the transition from one to the other?

1. Remember that RSAs are written the same way as ETAs

RSAs are constructed of the same fundamental building blocks that ETAs are, in terms of headlines, descriptions and character limits. As such, the way you write your ads won’t need to change at all.

This also makes it easy to create new RSAs in campaigns or ad groups where you’re only running ETAs currently. As these elements are all the same, you can simply lift all the different headlines and descriptions from your existing ETAs and bundle them into a new RSA for each of your ad groups.

2. Export your existing ETAs as RSAs

Google Ads Editor allows you to export ETAs in bulk to a CSV (Comma-Separate Values) file in the RSA format, making the process of adding new RSAs from existing ads even easier. You may need to add some additional headlines and descriptions to these RSAs to bulk them out but as a quick way of getting started this is an easy way to ensure you’re covered.

3. Pin headlines & descriptions to retain control

RSAs also offer the option to pin certain headlines and descriptions in place. This gives back some of the control ETAs offer, as you can still ensure a key discount or USP will always show in your ad copy, regardless of what other elements are being traded in and out.

This does give Google Ads less room to work with, in terms of testing out new variations of your ad copy but is a good way to ease the transition between the two ad types. Also great for keeping clients who are very particular about the wording of their ads happy as well!

4. Don’t let Google do all of the testing!

Within this framework, you can also continue to do a little manual A/B testing of your own. Let’s imagine you have a specific offer you want to ensure is communicated in your ad copy and won’t get missed by some of the variations RSAs might show. If you pin two or three variations of the same message to the same headline or description, you can ensure the offer is still being communicated, whilst also offering you a smaller way to test which wording works best with customers.

5. Review your best performing ETAs for ideas

Finally, looking back at the historical performance of your best performing ETAs is a perfect starting place for building new RSAs out. This means you won’t have to start from scratch with a wide and very different mix of headlines and descriptions.

Instead, you can target the most successful elements from your existing ETAs and create slight alterations to allow for ongoing testing. In this way, you can continue to make incremental improvements to your most successful copy, without compromising on performance by transitioning to a new ad format.

Summary

Phasing out ETAs entirely is a big step from Google, albeit not an unexpected one. Thankfully advertisers still have plenty of time to prepare for this transition and any existing ETAs will still continue to function after the deadline on June 30th 2022 expires.

In the meantime, becoming accustomed to RSAs and following a few of the points I’ve made above will ensure you’re fully prepared for the changeover. Until Google introduces its next big idea when it comes to ads of course!

If you’d like to talk to one of our experts about any of the ideas covered in this blog, please get in touch today.

More on this subject