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Responsive Ads for Display: What They Are, How They Differ and Why You Should Be Using Them!

We’ve all seen our fair share of Display ads; the good, the bad and the ugly! Designing attractive creative in all the relevant sizes to maximise impact can be time-consuming. It’s not always easy to adjust messaging in Display ads if design teams need to be involved. With Responsive Ads for the GDN, Google’s given us an answer to all these issues and more! This post will discuss what Responsive Ads for the GDN are; how they differ from other display ad formats; how to set them up; and what kind of results we’ve seen in-agency so far.

What are responsive ads?

As of January 31st 2017, Responsive Ads for Display were brought in as a replacement for standard text ads on the Google Display Network (you can still create Expanded Text Ads on the GDN, but with a slight caveat).

Google “built Responsive Ads for Display to help your ads adapt to the increasingly diverse mix of content types and screen sizes...” available on the vast GDN. This new ad format combines text, which is as easy to input and edit as standard text ads, with images you choose. Google auto-adjusts the format to suit the size, shape and – in some cases – the design of the page on which they are displayed.

How do they differ?

The key difference and USP of Responsive Ads is versatility. They can display in three main formats:


Responsive Text Ad

An upgraded version of Text Ads on the Display Network:



Responsive Image Ad

Combinations including the short headline, description and suitable images:



Responsive Image Ad in Native Format

Formats utilising the long headline and images with a less “advert” feel (can match colour/style with the page):



  • Quick and easy to upload and edit – only two images required and text can be easily customised.
  • Increased inventory due to more versatile sizes/formats – can appear on almost ALL Google Display inventory.
  • Enhanced user experience on mobile devices due to ads adapting responsively to screen size.


  • No longer possible to optimise for size/format performance – this is done automatically by Google’s algorithm.
  • Cannot guarantee how ads will appear – automatically opted in to all the above ad formats with no (current) opt-out.
  • ‘Not all uploaded assets will appear at all times’ – as mentioned, some ads will show with only the short headline; without a description or even image-less.


All that being said, responsive ads are devilishly simple to create. It’s as easy as:


+Ad Dropdown

The option to create responsive ads is the first in the dropdown when you select +Ad.



Ad Copy Interface

Add your short (max 25 characters) and long (max 90 characters) headlines and your (max 90 characters) description along with your business name and URL.



Image Interface

Adding images can be done in one of three ways:


Scan Website 

Website Scan

AdWords will scan your website for suitable images (for agencies, remember the requirement that your client must have the right to use these images for advertising!)



Image Upload

You can upload images which meet the criteria stipulated by Google.


Stock Images

Stock Images

You can also use one of AdWords’ many stock image assets



Several of our Account Managers have tested Responsive Ads’ performance with some promising initial results:

For a B2B client - when split-testing between the standard image and responsive formats, we saw a:

  • 10% increase in CTR
  • 59% increase in conversion rate
  • 19% decrease in CPA

In a similar test between text ads on the GDN and responsive ads for an event sales client, we achieved:

  • 13% increase in CTR
  • 80% decrease in CPA
  • Achieved a positive ROI!


The ease of updates and lower resource investment make this an ideal way to begin making Display work for your business. Why not try it out yourself?

Find out more about our Paid search training:

Click here