Google’s Responsive Display Ads: What You Need to Know

Last week Google announced the roll out of responsive display ads–a new type of paid advertisement that may dramatically improve the ad landscape for online businesses. As Google notes, responsive display ads (RDA) use the power of Google’s own machine learning algorithm “to determine the optimal combination of assets for each ad slot” (Source)google responsive display ads

Essentially, as Search Engine Land notes, an online business submits a few inputs “and the ads get assembled on the fly by Google’s machine learning algorithms.”

This is quite a departure from a traditional AdWords campaign, which had businesses create a budget, choose a target audience, bid on certain keywords, and then create their own ads.

Now, with RDAs, businesses submit up to 15 images, 5 headlines, 5 descriptions, and 5 logos, and Google’s machine learning combines certain features tailored for specific browsers.

The RDA program is in its infancy–as Google notes, the ads will be rolling out over the next few months. But Google’s machine learning has been in use since 2015, when Google’s Chief Executive Officer, Sundar Pichai, announced on an earnings call for Google’s parent company, Alphabet: “Machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing.”

In fact, a week later, Google announced they had been using machine learning for several months.

The new system, which Google nicknamed RankBrain, used artificial intelligence to sort browser queries, including, as Bloomberg reported at the time, “the 15 percent of queries a day it gets which its systems have never seen before.” google responsive display ads

Now Google is using the same technology to improve ads–a potentially game-changing improvement for businesses small and large. google responsive display ads

In the following weeks and months, we’ll likely see a slew of articles about optimizing RDA campaigns. As the ads roll out now, though, here are the basic elements of Google’s new machine learning ads–according to Google, with a few optimization tips.

Do You Need Paid Search? google responsive display ads

To use Google’s RDAs, you’ll need a Google AdWords account. If you do not currently have a Google AdWords account, now may be a good time to think about paid advertising.

One caveat. As we’ve noted before: “For many brands a combination of organic SEO and paid search may be the best approach. But cost is a huge factor–especially for smaller brands.”

Ads can be effective, if you optimize your content–and, of course, if you have an appropriate budget. So ask yourself, sincerely: “Do you need paid search?”

Google’s Responsive Display Ads: What You Need to Know

Google’s tutorial, “Create a Responsive Display Ad,” offers a step-by-step guide for setting up your first RDA. Here are a few optimization tips, based on Google’s own tutorial.

Images google responsive display ads

The first step to creating an ad is uploading images–up to 15, as well as 5 logos. As Google notes, images are required to access all the ad formats; and “having multiple assets is recommended,” so Google can easily optimize your ads. google responsive display ads

In this step, pay special attention to Google’s advice on image size and shape.

As WordStream notes, images should be optimized for scale: “When choosing images, think about how they look at full scale, but also how they would look if scaled down. If the images get too muddy when scaled down, you may be losing out on the impact an accompanying image can have.”

To test your own pictures, scale them down to a small size before uploading–how do they look? “Muddy”? If so, you may want to choose a different picture. Along the same lines, as WordStream notes, try to upload different variations to suit both the square and landscape views.

Headlines google responsive display ads

Google advises you to create up to 5 short headlines (30 characters or less) and one long headline (90 characters or less).

As Google notes, “The short headline is the first line of your ad, and appears in tight ad spaces where the long headline doesn’t fit. Short headlines may appear with or without your description.” When crafting your own short headlines, then, create concise enticements with declarative language that catches the eye and simplifies the message. google responsive display ads

HubSpot collected 31 Call-to-Action Examples You Can’t Help But Click,” that may be relevant for your short headlines. google responsive display ads

From Evernote’s “remember everything” to Netflix’s “cancel anytime,” which appears above the “Join Free for a Month” button, the most prominent connection between each example, by far, is simple, declarative phrases. So when writing your short headlines leave passive voice behind–and strive for active voice with active verbs. google responsive display ads

The long headline, as Google notes, “is the first line of your ad, and appears instead of your short headline in larger ads. Long headlines may appear with or without your description.”

With more pace to work with, the long headline offers more opportunities to go awry–unless you stay on point, with simple declarative language. Don’t waste a single word. Make each word relevant to your offering. google responsive display ads

And, as WordStream notes, “Since these text fields can be truncated, it’s important to front-load messaging. Make sure users will get all information at the front of the text so nothing is missed if the end is cut off.” google responsive display ads


The final content element of your RDA will be the description. You can create up to five descriptions, which may appear after the short or longer headline. google responsive display ads

Like the long headlines, the descriptions can be truncated, so you may want to front load your content with actionable content–like a specific call-to-action. google responsive display ads

Since the descriptions will appear with either a short or long headline, make sure you do not repeat information. google responsive display ads

Optimize Your Responsive Display Ads with HRS Consulting How To Start A Blog

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