Earlier this month, Google introduced “responsive search ads” which automate the search campaign optimization process using machine learning. Google takes up to 15 ad headlines and 4 description lines testing various combinations to identify the strongest ad creative for a given search query.
According to Google, this kind of automated optimization of search campaign creative results in about 15% more clicks vs. standard search campaigns. The ads are only in beta but the company plans to roll them out more broadly over the next several months.
While this improves optimization efforts, advertisers and agencies will still need creativity to influence clicks and calls. Even with 15 headlines, the emotional nature of consumers and subjectivity that influences actions can’t be accounted for by a machine. The responsive search ads merely improve the odds of landing on something interesting or compelling.
Over time, however, marketers utilizing these ads will become more versed on what a given audience considers “interesting” or effective from a clicks perspective. This understanding could then inform copy for future campaigns, helping improve ad quality. While extremely helpful, this doesn’t completely solve the creative challenge.
At a minimum, the ads could improve SEM experiences for agencies and the SMBs who self-manage. According to Google, the result of responsive search ads is more flexibility for advertisers, less time spent analyzing results, more reach with ads that can compete across more auctions and queries, and the obvious benefit of improved ad group performance.
Google also introduced new ad tools (Local Campaigns, Smart Shopping Campaigns) for small, time-strapped SMBs. These automate mostly everything, but again, this doesn’t entirely solve the challenge of creativity and the more emotional or contextual components of advertising.
Responsive search ads are one of the biggest changes Google has introduced to paid search in recent history, removing friction from one of the most tedious campaign aspects: optimization. This makes for a more competitive auction by helping small agencies and advanced SMBs compete with large advertisers/agencies on relevance and quality.
While the budget and bid for certain keywords may still be out of reach for small agencies and the SMBs they serve, location serves as another layer of specificity that may help boost ad quality. Whatever the case, the change results in a better search experience for the user with ads that are more relevant and engaging.
In informal discussions across the country at MarketingBitz Bootcamps, we have often heard about poor paid search experiences among SMBs. Many executed self-managed campaigns and the vast majority abandoned paid search because of a poor experience and lacking results. Assuming a more advanced SMB can generate 1-3 high quality headlines out of 15 total, responsive search ads could help drive better results and improve the overall perception of SEM.
Whatever the case, the backbone of all this potential transformation with paid search rests on the assumption that Google’s machine learning technology works as intended. With time being a constraint for advertisers big and small, search ad campaigns where optimization is automated opens the door to more DIY and better overall ad experiences. But creativity will remain the necessary human element of successful search ads.
WordStream offers a comprehensive look at what responsive search ads mean for advertisers as well as some best practices to consider. You can view the article here.