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Responsive Ads 12 Months On – What’s new, what’s working and what’s next?

This time last year, Google removed Standard Text Ads and launched Responsive Ads for the GDN as a brand new ad type to replace them on Display - check out my previous post discussing their set-up and features. AdWords users have had access now since July 2016 and the format has gone through some interesting changes in that time. This post will discuss the evolution of the format, review the ads’ performance compared to image ads and discuss potential future developments.

What’s new?

With any new Google product, we tend to see additional features added in following the initial launch. Responsive Ads have not disappointed in this regard! Since launch, users have gained access to:

Improved Customisation - Custom CTA Buttons

Additional options for custom Call-to-Action buttons have been added giving users a pre-defined list of more specific CTAs:

Responsive Ad CTA Text

There are 45 language options giving international account managers the freedom to advertise in local language.

Responsive Ad CTA Button

I tested this for a recruitment client and found (somewhat unsurprisingly) that Application Rate improved by 17% when using the “Apply now” CTA vs. the “Sign up” option.

Increased Personalisation - Dynamic Ads

Google launched Dynamic Responsive Ads in early Q2 allowing advertisers to create Responsive Ads in their feed-based campaigns. This provides ads with the flexibility of responsive creative and the user-specific targeting of dynamic remarketing.

Ads are created in exactly the same way as other Responsive Ads (check out my previous article here for a handy step-by-step guide) – with additional options due to the dynamic elements:

Dynamic Responsive Options

This allows the campaign to pull dynamic elements from the feed (such as product images, prices and titles) leading to a set of dynamic ad formats:

Dynamic Responsive Formats

In the above example, the Price prefix was set as “from” and the Promotion text was set as “Up To 20% Off” allowing for disclaimers and promotions to be shown.

All of these customisation options allow for very tailored ads to suit your needs. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of the new ads’ successes is in the testing!

What’s Working?

We have seen very strong performance from Responsive ads since launch:

One retail client saw 117% higher CTR for Responsive Ads vs image ads with the same targeting. Not only did these ads result in more traffic to site, they resulted in an 83% higher conversion volume leading to a 4% increase in ROAS.

A financial client also saw 38% improved CTR and 24% higher Conversion Rate for Responsive Ads vs image ads. Both clients saw increased reach (impression volume) for similar bids when running Responsive Ads, leading us to believe the Native placements provide inexpensive, additional inventory for your campaign.

Google’s Point of View


“Users have seen 50% increase in conversion volume” when including Responsive Ads vs. Image Ads alone; with “15% increase in reach compared to standard Image Ads” 


Best Practice Recommendations:

  • For the long headline, draw interest by writing longer editorial­ style 70-­90 character headlines. This will provide the highest visibility when rendered natively in publishers’ content.
  • Make the description different from the long headline. This will allow you to get the most opportunity to get your message out. In certain ad placements, long headline and description may both be included and you want to avoid duplicate text in your ad.
  • Upload simple images that make sense at a glance on a range of screen sizes and support the main point in your headline, description and landing page. Images without text perform better. If you do decide to include text in the image, keep it to less than 20% of the area.


What's Next?

We can only speculate, but hopefully we will gain additional insight into the performance of different formats.

Users have also requested the ability to limit to native and image formats (only exclude text), perhaps this will roll out across all accounts in 2018.

With Gmail ads moving towards a new responsive-style format and the ongoing unification of audiences, might we see crossover between GDN and Gmail in future campaigns?

In Short

Whatever 2018 has in store, I for one will certainly be moving towards increased usage of Responsive Ads and, based on what we’ve seen in 2017, I recommend you do too!