Search Text Ads – Which Type Is Right for Your Business?

Search Text Ads – Which Type Is Right for Your Business?

Google’s Search Text Ads

Search text ads are Google’s original ad type. These are the text ads that appear just below the search bar and typically above the organic results.

Search text ads are eligible to display based on keywords that an advertiser enters that Google matches with a user’s query using a real-time auction that determines the ad rank (the order) for which advertisers’ ads appear.

For more information on search keyword types, readers can review my article [Properly Using Keyword Match Types in Google Advertising].

Although there have been a few tweaks over the years to the character limits for the ads and the of course the change of removing search text ads on the right side of the Google page (Feb 2016); however, for the most part search text ads have remained constant.

However, Google has over the last year been introducing different types of search ads that are more automated which include: Expanded Text Ads (EXTRA), Responsive Search Ads (RSA) and Dynamic Search Ads (DSA).

This has many advertisers a bit confused on which type of search text ad they should be using. Below you will find a summary of each along with some recommendations for best-practices.

Expanded Text Ads (EXTRA)

Expanded Text Ads are the most like standard text ads with a few differences in terms of the character limits of the ad.

  1. Extra Headline Field – The first two lines are required; however, with Expanded Text Ads advertisers have the ability to add a 3rd optional headline consisting of up to 30 characters. This 3rd headline will appear more often on widescreen mobile devices.
  2. Extra Description Field – With Expanded Text Ads, advertisers have the ability to add a 2nd description consisting of up to 90 characters.
  3. The domain URL is based on the final URL domain. While standard text ads show the full domain ‘www.example/product/or/category/url’, the Expanded Text Ads will only show the final URL ‘’.
  4. The display URL can include two optional paths. This is where advertisers can add descriptions to their URLs. Paths should be used to give users a sense of where they will be directed if they click on the ad although it does not have to exactly match the destination URL.
  5. Mobile-Optimized – Expanded Text Ads will generate a preview for both desktop and mobile format inside the Google Ads interface when advertisers are creating the ad.

Expanded Text Ads are available to serve on both the Google Search Network and the Google Display Network and are full compatible with all ad extensions (automatic and manual).

Responsive Search Ads (RSA)

Responsive Search Ads allow advertisers to show multiple headlines and multiple descriptions to their customers. Over time, Google will test the different combinations discovering which perform the best.

Using a Responsive Search Ad, advertisers need to provide a minimum of 3 headlines and can add up to 15 headlines (30 characters each). Advertisers also need to provide a minimum of 2 descriptions and can add up to 4 descriptions (90 characters each). These minimums are required for every Responsive Search Ad.

Like standard search ads and Expanded Text Ads, the advertiser determines both the Final URL and the Display URL.

How It Works –

In any given user search, Google will assemble a maximum of 3 headlines and 2 descriptions to display in different combinations and in different orders. Therefore, each headline and description should make sense individually as the order may change.

Over time, Google Ads will learn which combinations are the most relevant for different queries thus increasing the effectiveness of your ads.

If there are certain headline or description that advertisers always want to display, advertisers have the ability to ‘pin’ those to a specific position in the ads. However, for most advertisers this is not recommended as it will prevent Google’s algorithm from testing all headlines and descriptions, but it is an option.

You can view reports on your responsive search ads within the ‘Ads & extensions’ page. Data provided will show totals for all the ad combinations that were shown for each headline and descriptions.

Note, there is a current limit of 3 Responsive Search Ads per ad group.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA)

Dynamic Search Ads are ideal for advertisers with well-developed website or a large inventory. These ads allow advertisers to help fill in the gaps of keywords based on campaigns.

With Dynamic Search Ads, the headlines and landing pages are automatically generated by Google using content from the website. This dynamic creation ensures that the ads are relevant and saves time.

With Dynamic Search Ads, advertisers just need to add creative descriptions and Google will pull data content from their website to complete the rest of the ad.

How It Works –

When a user searches a term that is closely related to title and frequently used phrases on your website, Google Ads use your website title and description to select a landing page and dynamically generate a relevant headline for your ads. Keep in mind with this type of ad, the HTML page title is extremely important as this is what Google is using to create your Dynamic Search Ads headline.

Creating Dynamic Search Ad Targeting.

While you can add other search ad types inside the same campaign, with Dynamic Search Ads those are the only type of ad that can be used within a single campaign. You cannot therefore have a campaign running both Dynamic Search Ads side by side with either Expanded Text Ads or Dynamic Search Ads.

In addition, Dynamic Search Ads work a bit different than the other search ads type as advertisers need to direct Google which URLs are eligible to appear for those types of ads.

Advertisers can select specific URLs through the URL_Equals option or capture many URLs at once through the URL_Contains option.

In addition, for websites that are organized by theme, advertisers can determine which subset of a website to advertise using Dynamic Search Ads or use standard ad groups to make certain products are eligible to appear.

Dynamic Search Ads are a fantastic way to make sure that all products are being represented with an ad by allowing Google to identify items that may not be currently appearing for some of the other search ads types.

Dynamic Search Ads have provided an essential tool for many retailers with large product offerings where creating a search ad for each product would be near impossible.

Last Word

Which type of search text ad you use depends upon your business, your goals and quite frankly which one performs better for your business.

For best-practices, Google recommends advertisers use 2 Expanded Text Ads (EXTRA) and 1 Responsive Text Ad (RSA) in EVERY ad group.

In addition, retailers with many skus would be most likely benefit from the additional use of a campaign that uses exclusively Dynamic Search Ads (DSA) ads in order to make sure all products are running with a search ad.

Although there is some work involved in creating this many different types of ads, those advertisers that do will gain a measurable advantage over their competition still using standard text ads or those who lack the knowledge to use the different types of Google search ads properly.

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Happy Marketing!
Andy Splichal


About The Author - Andy Splichal

Andy Splichal is an online marketing strategist with more than a decade and a half of experience helping companies increase their online presence and profitable revenues. Although this blog focuses on driving profitable traffic through Google AdWords, True Online Presence offers additional services for lead generation as well as other proven marketing strategies customized for each client.