Getting the right message to the right prospects at the right time is crucial to getting the right students enrolled. That means the amount of time your marketing team, whether they’re in-house or a partner agency, spends strategizing, crafting, and testing your messaging is significant. Imagine if there was a tool that helped them craft the perfect creative while promoting your institution. Wouldn’t you want to make sure they were using it?

Great. It’s time to ask your team if they’re using Google responsive search ads. If they’re not, you’re missing out on messaging opportunities, actionable data and improved results. Here’s how:

What it is: Automated, streamlined ad testing and optimization

Unlike traditional and expanded Google search ads where your team crafts specific headlines and descriptions together to create static ads that display based on search terms, responsive search ads use machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to help you create ads that adapt to show more text—and more relevant messages—to your customers.

Here’s how it works: your marketing team provides up to 15 headlines and four descriptions for a single responsive search ad, and Google combines them to display in an ad comprised of up to three headlines and two descriptions at once.

The more headlines and descriptions your team enters, the more opportunities Google has to test combinations and orders (up to 43,680!) for display ads that most closely match what your prospects are searching for. “Google Ads assembles the text into multiple ad combinations in a way that avoids redundancy,” the company says. Even better, “Google Ads will test the most promising ad combinations, and learn which combinations are the most relevant for different queries.”

This means that over time, Google Ads will learn which combinations perform best by adapting your ad’s content to more closely match prospective students’ search terms, which should result in improved campaign performance.

As Google automatically tests different combinations of your headlines and descriptions and learns which combinations perform best, it will show only the most effective messaging to your prospects, depending on the keywords they search for, the device they’re searching on, their previous browsing behavior and more.

This automated testing and the insights you can glean from which messaging combinations Google’s machine learning finds most effective will save your marketing team time and energy. Instead of manually A/B testing ads and crafting the right messaging through trial and error, they can use Google’s optimized messaging and extrapolate it to other marketing materials.

More text means more differentiation

When you’re trying to stand out among your competition – colleges and universities with similar value propositions – every word counts. The more room you have to get your message across, the more likely it is that it will resonate with right-fit students.

Google responsive search ads display varying amounts of text, based largely on SERP and search device, but have the ability to display up to 300 characters of text. That’s twice as long as an expanded search ad, with an extra headline and an extra description with 10 more characters. This means responsive search ads have the potential to be the largest ads to ever display on the search results page.

And although responsive search ads vary in size, they will always display at least two headlines and a description, so they will never be smaller than an expanded search ad. And if there’s any text you absolutely need to display in every ad, say for legal reasons, you can do so by pinning a headline or description. “ For example, if you need to show a disclaimer in every ad, you can write the disclaimer as a responsive search ad description, and pin it to Description position 1,” says Google.  “That way, all ads that are shown to customers will include the disclaimer in the first part of the description.”

We recommend pinning very sparingly, however. Because pinning restricts the messaging and automatic variant testing on responsive search ads, it could negatively impact your ad’s performance. Mathematically, “pinning just one headline reduces [the] amount of testing Google can perform on these Responsive Search Ads by over 75%.”

Show me the results

We believe the data and insights gained from Google responsive search ads’ automated optimization can save your marketing team time and help them make better creative strategy decisions even off-SERP. But when it comes to clicks and conversions from the ads themselves, we also believe this tool is a no-brainer. Although Google responsive search ads are still in beta, we are already seeing results.

Overall, responsive search ads have out-performed expanded text ads by a factor of 2.05% vs. 2.93% (that’s a 43% better click-through-rate). We’ve found that for our partners who have implemented them, responsive search ads account for 58% of all click traffic. Plus, on average, we have found cost-per-click to be 10%-20% lower than for traditional or expanded search ads, likely as a byproduct of increased click-through-rate.

Quick tips to get started

  • Create at least five unique headlines. And eight to ten headlines is best. Don’t include the same or similar phrases. Make sure to include a target keyword within the ad group as part of several of the headlines. Google’s recommendation is to feature value propositions in this ad component, so things like GMAT waiver, 100% online, 30 Hour MBA, 1-Year DNP can serve as points of differentiation.
  • Create headlines of varying lengths. Do not use the entire character count in each headline. This will vary the size and how your ads appear in the search engine results page(s). Uniformity in search ads can actually have a negative impact in terms of click-through rates and engagement. In the highly competitive Higher Ed landscape, any point of differentiation within the search results can give you an edge.
  • At minimum, add at least two unique descriptions. Google’s algorithm will pull from existing ads in the ad group, as well as from the landing page to show recommended descriptions. You should test these, along with descriptions from other high-performing ads within the account for the greatest potential impact.

If you want more information or need to expand your resources and knowledge on responsive search ads, reach out to our enrollment marketing experts today.