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5 min read

What’s That Again?: A Search Ads Explanation

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of easy to digest ad format explanations, as well as their benefits and disadvantages to help you better understand what all the words mean.

As someone who’s worked on Search campaigns for a long time now, I can well understand that the jargon and terminology of Google & Bing search formats can be an absolute minefield. Moreover, when you go on your long hunt for answers, you’re met with a brick wall of further jargon, fluff and made up marketing words – fear not! Our guide explains Google’s many search ad types, as well as their pros and cons.

What are ETAs?

The staple of many ad accounts, the ‘ETA’ – or ‘Expanded Text Ad’ – is the standard ad format within Google Ad accounts. Made up of three headlines (Each 30 characters long), two description lines (Each 90 characters long), two page paths (two small superficial url additions which help to indicate where the ad is taking the user) and one final URL (where the user is sent), these typically account for the majority of ads seen.

That being said, these are soon to be no more!

A classic example of an ETA

By June 2022 ETAs are to be removed by all accounts, with advertisers unable to create or update them from the end of January 2022. It is universally considered that these will be replaced by RSA’s (covered below) but nonetheless leaves me with a tear in my eye as I wave goodbye to an old friend.

  • Pro’s – Easy to set up and understand as well as greater control over messaging.
  • Cons – Need refreshing to remain current, being phased out, more difficult to test when compared to RSA’s.

What is an RSA?

The student has very much become the master!

Launched in 2018, RSAs (Responsive Search Ads) offer advertisers the opportunity to create an ad that adapts to the individual customer. Advertisers are offered the opportunity to provide 15 headline variations, four description variations as well as the standard two paths and one final URL. From here Google will automatically test ad variations, typically showing those which perform best.

That being said, it’s not all plain sailing with RSAs, as we discovered earlier this year… The ‘best practice’ of ‘pinning’ – wherein users pin a specific headline or description in a certain position to ensure it being seen, may not be a best practice at all! As part of our previous blog, we found ‘If you fill up your responsive search ad with 15 headlines and four description lines and pin just one headline, you automatically eliminate more than 93% of your ad testing permutations’.

To completely contradict myself, however, there are occasions where pinning is necessary, such as legally requiring certain copy to be visible (for insurance or law firms, for example). So it is very much a case of being alert with RSA’s and ensuring that you are constantly looking to provide Google with more options to test to ensure strong results.

  • Pro’s – Enhanced testing capabilities, greater likelihood of relevance to the user.
  • Cons – Less control than standard ETAs, can take more time to create.

What is a DSA?

Dynamic Search Ads have been around for a long time now but have really started to come into their own over the last few years as Google ads has provided greater options for advertisers to refine and test DSA content. 

DSAs have the look and feel of regular ads, but with enhanced relevance to the user. Google bases your ad copy around the content of your site, generating a headline and landing page most suited to the user’s search term (Advertisers do have the ability to write their own description lines for DSAs).

Google bases this content off of three dynamic ad target options:

  • Categories – Pre-selected categories based off of your website content, with users selecting which categories best align with their business.
  • Specific webpages – Advertisers determine specific webpages for Google to target, with Google basing ad copy off of this,
  • All pages – Google bases content around the entire site.

Whilst these can prove very user specific, it does require advertisers to be on the ball with on-site content. Speaking personally, there have been times where I have looked at an ad and realised that what had been pulled was massively irrelevant to the business and that Google had pulled this information from the deep dark depths of the site for all to see. As such, it is crucial for campaigns where DSAs are run to be really ‘on it’ when it comes to negative keywords.

  • Pro’s – VERY specific to the user, Catches search queries you may have missed.
  • Cons – Require advertisers to be much more focused with negative keyword lists, capable of showing content you may not want seen.

What are Call Only Ads?

I’ll keep these guys short and sweet as their role is in the name. These ads (which show only on mobile) allow users to directly call your business, rather than visiting your site. These ads are made up of two headlines, two description lines, a ‘business name’ and unsurprisingly a phone number.

It is crucial to consider these slightly differently to standard search ads as the focus is on direct calls rather than website clicks. Taking this into account, the user has the potential to be less informed as they have not had the opportunity to visit your site.

  • Pro’s – Direct phone calls, easier for customers to contact your business.
  • Cons – Only shown on mobile, potential to have ‘less informed audience’

Well that’s all from my whistle stop tour of search ad formats and hopefully I have been able to cut through any ‘Googleisms’ and help explain what each ad format is all about. Of course, for help and information on any Google ads services, feel free to get in touch today!