If there was any doubt as to the effectiveness of online advertising, consider this: About 95 percent of Google’s revenue comes from online ads. We’re still waiting on official 2018 numbers, but experts predicted that 40 percent of the world’s ad spend would take place online, and Google search ad spend soared far above other forms. Social media ad spend was estimated to hit $58 billion and video ads to reach $32 million. Search ads were expected to be the biggest form of online advertising, reaching $95 billion. 

While the potential for success is huge, many firms struggle with finding just the right messaging for their target audience. Since targeted advertisements are almost twice as effective as non-targeted ads, it’s critical that advertisers get the messaging right. This is especially true in the legal industry. “Lawyer” and “Attorney” are in the Top 10 most expensive keywords on Google. In fact, the average cost-per-click for keywords related to personal injury is upwards of $55 per click. You simply won’t see ROI on ads that are not optimized. That’s why marketers make it a habit of testing multiple campaigns over time to see what works. It’s not uncommon to allocate 10 to 20 percent of a marketing budget to A/B testing. As development and testing costs increase, advertisers find it harder to reach maximum ROI.

Combine messaging issues with the increase in mobile device usage, and advertisers are hard-pressed to design messaging that speaks to their audience and displays correctly across multiple devices. Google’s Responsive Search Ads are solving those issues and more. In addition to giving advertisers more space and options, responsive search ads do the testing for you and ensure your ad displays correctly on mobile devices. Here’s everything you need to know about this new exciting addition to the world of online advertising.

man on a laptop that displays pay per click responsive search ads

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Google replaced standard text ads with its responsive search ads (RSA) in January 2017 to help advertisers meet the challenge of a growing mix of content types and screen sizes. Responsive search ads ensure you are getting the right message to the right visitors at the right time. Here are five key ways Google is accomplishing that with RSAs.

  • You get more space. Responsive search ads are the largest ads ever on the search engine results page (SERP), giving you a total of 300 characters. They can show up to three 30-character headlines, a display URL with two 15-character path fields, and up to two 90-character description fields. If you are used to using expanded text ads, that’s twice as much real estate. You get an extra headline, one more description and 10 more characters in each description. 
  • Format will auto-adjust. Content that does not format correctly leaves a bad impression. In fact, 48 percent of users say that if a website is not working well on mobile, they take it as an indication that the business simply doesn’t care. Think about the impression you’ll leave if your ad doesn’t display correctly. Google takes your text and images you input for your RSAs and auto-adjusts the format so it displays correctly regardless of the shape or size of your user’s device. Remember all that extra space we talked about? Google will adjust for smaller screens, so don’t expect your third headline and second description to display all the time. You will, however, always have at least two headlines and one description. 
  • Google does the testing for you. Responsive search ads allow you to submit up to 15 different headlines and four distinct descriptions. That leaves room for a lot of testing to figure out what combinations work best with different users. In fact, according to Instapage, those headlines and descriptions can create 43,680 different versions. Few marketers have time to test out that many possibilities. Google takes care of that for you by using machine learning to test different combinations of headlines and descriptions, monitoring which combinations work best. Those metrics are combined with user signals, such as the keywords they search for, their device, and their browsing history and behavior. Over time, your RSAs become more and more fine-tuned so you are delivering the most targeted content.
  • Keep control over your brand. RSAs allow you to upload an image and logo for Google to use in rich media ads and native ad formats. In the past, Google would automatically select an image from the advertiser’s website or Google+ account for rich text ads. Now, the advertiser will control what images get displayed. Additionally, the expanded descriptions allow you to control your brand better by simply giving you more space. 
  • Display in more relevant searches. Since you have so many possible combinations of headlines and descriptions, your ads will show up in more searches and beat out your competition. Optimized responsive search ads get you in front of more clients, and ultimately reduces your cost per click. 

One of the biggest advantages of RSAs is that you have an ad that can be inserted into whatever ad placement is available. This includes native ads, image ads, and plain text ads. You can opt in or out of certain format types if you want. However, keep in mind that Google is really good at what they do, and they have a vested interest. Remember 95 percent of their revenue comes from Google ads. They benefit from your high click-through rate just as much as you do. So, they work hard to place responsive search ads where they will get the most engagement.

Businesswoman Pressing Question Mark

How Do I Make My Adwords Ad Responsive?

Google has made it very easy to create responsive AdWords ads. Simply go to your AdWords interface. Click on the “+Ad” tab, then select “Responsive Ads” from the drop down menu. When prompted, enter your headlines, descriptions and the advertiser name. Google will suggest images to upload from your website, but you can choose any image or logo you want. When you are done, you can preview your ad in a variety of sizes and formats. While it is super easy to set up, there are some best practices to follow to optimize your search ads.

  • Use your headlines! You only need to submit three headlines and two descriptions in order for your ad to show. However, Google’s ad testing is really the best feature of responsive ads. Don’t sell yourself short. Give Google plenty to test to optimize your results. You are allowed to submit up to 15 headlines and four descriptions. Use them. Note that headlines may appear in any order, so be sure they make sense regardless of how Google displays them. 
  • Don’t be repetitive. Vary your headlines and descriptions. An effective RSA has unique messages. In fact, Google provides this warning, “To increase the likelihood that your ad shows, be sure to provide at least five distinct headlines that don’t repeat the same or similar phrases. Providing redundant headlines will restrict the system’s ability to generate combinations.” You’ll limit the benefits of RSAs by being too repetitive. Highlight different offers, value propositions or client pain points. If your firm focuses on multiple areas of law, that is a great way to divide your content. Don’t forget to vary the call-to-action as well. Think outside of a simple “contact us.” Try “read our blog” or “download our legal guide to…”
  • Be strategic with your keywords. Include your top keyword in at least two headlines. Use the Dynamic Keyword Insertion feature offered by Google to give you keywords most common to your searcher’s query. Craft at least three headlines that do not contain your keywords. This will force you to show distinct value to different audiences, and give Google more variation to test out. 
  • Vary your character lengths. There’s no need to max out character count for every headline and description. In fact, you’re more likely to have a third headline or second description display if you have some shorter lengths for Google to choose from. 
  • Pin the messaging you always want to show. As mentioned, Google will select what combinations of your messaging to display. But, if you want something to show every time, you can pin it. For example, your firm may have a disclaimer or brand message you always want to display. Do this by hovering over to the right of your headline or description. You’ll see a pin icon appear. Click it to see the options available. Use this function sparingly, though. Remember variation is the key to an effective RSA. You limit Google’s ability to test a variety of formats if you insist on too many static features. 

Can My Banner Ads be Responsive Too?

Absolutely, and the potential ROI is huge. Research shows that businesses win at least $10 billion in annual sales through mobile banner ads alone. However, the challenge for lawyers is focusing your marketing dollars on strategies that closely align with your expertise, and target your niche clients. Because your industry is so specialized, responsive ads are a perfect fit. 

The same benefits you get from responsive search ads also applies to responsive display ads (RDAs), including banner ads. You can include up to 15 images, five headlines, five descriptions and five logos. Google will use its machine learning technology to test multiple inputs and create the best ad. Google will figure out the best combination of your assets (images and text), and ensure your ad displays correctly by automatically adjusting size and format. For example, your content might appear as a banner ad on a website, but simply as a text ad in a mobile app. 

This optimization maximizes your reach, and relieves your marketer from having to create multiple sizes or guess at which size ads will be used the most. Consider this. Websites that publish ads ultimately have control over which size ad they want to feature. If you create horizontal ads, you’ll lose out on visibility from websites that want vertical ads. The wrong size could limit your reach and exclude you from your target audience. Choosing to use RDAs eliminates this problem. There’s no guesswork. Google automatically formats your ad to fit available space. Here’s how to set up your responsive display ads in five easy steps.

  1. Log in to Google Ads.
  2. Choose “Display campaigns” from the left panel menu.
  3. Click on “Ads & extensions.”
  4. Click on the blue plus button.
  5. Select “Responsive display ad.”

In addition to the AdWords best practices, consider these tips when managing your banner ads. 

  • Use as many distinctive assets as possible. According to Google, advertisers get 10 percent more conversions when they use multiple headlines, descriptions and images in their RDAs. 
  • Use appealing images. Relevant images that support your main point make the biggest impact. Have a strong visual focus with minimal text overlay. 
  • Have a strong structure. Responsive ads must be flexible, but have strong structural elements to protect your branding. An effective structure has these four elements: Logo or company name, a value proposition, an image or visual representation of your service, and a call-to-action. 
  • Monitor your success. It’s true that Google responsive ads, both search and display ads, do the testing for you. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should just upload your assets and sit back. View your asset report within the Google Ads platform to see what’s working. Simply click on “Ads & extensions,” then select “View asset details.” You’ll see each asset ranked from “low” to “best” by performance. 

According to the National Law Review, 96 percent of people seeking legal advice use a search engine. However, a successful PPC campaign isn’t just about how many people you can get to click on your ad. In fact, according to Search Engine Watch, 19 of the top 25 most expensive keywords are related to personal injury law firms, and other legal specialties aren’t far behind. The key to optimizing your PPC campaign is to get the right message in front of the right people. Responsive advertising helps you do just that. Google is making it easy for law firms to overcome the challenge of reaching their target audience. Decrease your CPC by optimizing your PPC campaign with responsive ads.