Responsive Display Ads: How to Get Started

Google initially launched its Responsive Display Ads back in 2016 to bridge the gap between its basic text ads and its more sophisticated banner ads. Since then, the company has made them the default ad format on the Display Network.

Google promotes Responsive Display Advertising as a simple, time-saving, revenue-boosting ad option. Today, a massive 72% of its display ads are responsive. But are they really all they’re hyped up to be? Let’s find out.


What are Responsive Display Ads?

Responsive Display Ads – or RDAs – are graphic ads that automatically adjust size, appearance and format to fit available ad spaces. So, for example, the same ad could combine an image and copy to fit in one ad space, while only featuring copy in another spot.

These Responsive Display Ads are automatically created by Google using its in-house AI and machine learning technology. Using the assets that you upload – which include images of different sizes and texts of different lengths – Google will then combine and adjust them as necessary to fit different ad spaces and screen sizes.

These ads can appear in both standard and smart display ad campaigns.


The 3 big benefits of Responsive Display Ads

Leveraging Google smart advertising tech comes with a ton of benefits. Here are just three of them:

1. Greater reach

One of the biggest perks of using Google Responsive Display Ads is that they can help you reach a broader audience.

Because Google automatically adjusts various elements of your ad as required, the number of places where your ad can appear is maximised. This will allow your message to reach your target audience across different content types, devices and screen sizes.

It’s also worth noting that display ads can appear across more than two million websites, videos and apps, which offers more opportunities for exposure than traditional search ads or product listing ads.

2. They save time

Google uses its algorithm to combine your assets in different ways to create countless ad variations in 20 different sizes. This means your team doesn’t have to keep creating new ads.

This is particularly beneficial as the number of screen sizes, device types and display variations increase.

Responsive Display Ads will also reduce the amount of time you spend optimising your campaigns. That’s because Google’s algorithm automatically chooses the combinations that drive the best results for your brand.

3. They’re suitable for all business types

Because Responsive Display Ads don’t require as much input or ongoing management as other visual eCommerce ads, they can be used by all kinds of businesses.

This means that SMBs, bootstrapped startups and large online stores that are feeling the effects of staff shortages can all run successful, self-optimising ad campaigns.


How to get started with Google Responsive Display Ads

The most important part of creating Responsive Display Ads is ensuring that you have the necessary assets. You’ll require:

  • Up to 15 images: These should be high quality and compressed. Google requests both landscape and square images of at least 600 x 314px and 300 x 300px, respectively. Other common upload sizes include: 728 x 90px, 320 x 50px and 1,200 x 628 px.
  • Up to 5 logos: Again, these should be high quality and compressed and you should provide both landscape and square images of at least 512 x 128px and 128 x 128px, respectively. If you don’t upload your logo, Google will generate one consisting of your brand name or initials, so be sure to upload at least one so your ads are on brand.
  • Up to 5 short headlines: This is the first line of your ad and it must be 30 characters or less. It’s worth noting that this headline can be displayed with or without your description, so make sure it works either way.
  • 1 long headline: For ad formats with more room for copy, you can create a longer headline of up to 90 characters.
  • Up to 5 descriptions: The description can appear beneath your headline and should include a CTA that invites viewers to click on your ad.

Then, to upload these assets and create your own Responsive Display Ad campaign, you can sign into your Google Ads account and head to your ‘Display Campaigns’.

Choose the campaign you’d like to make responsive and then click on ‘Ads & extensions’. Select ‘Ads’ and click on the + icon. You’ll see an option entitled: ‘Responsive Display Ad’. Once you click this, you can select the ad group that you want to add responsive ads to.

Now, it’s time to upload your assets, as well as your business name and landing page URLs. If you’d like your ads to feature videos, you can also add YouTube links.

You can preview some of your combinations to see how they look before saving your campaign.


The downsides of Responsive Display Ads

As we’ve pointed out, these ads are great for eCommerce businesses that don’t have huge resources or a large marketing team. However, they come with some negative attributes too.

The lack of control

The first major downside to using Responsive Display Ads is that you lose a significant amount of control over your campaigns.

Google chooses your ad combinations, so each ad mightn’t appear quite as you’d like. So be sure to check that all your visual and text assets work well together – whatever way they are combined.

It is also possible that your ads won’t represent your brand in the best way possible. In fact, sometimes Responsive Display ads will feature little or no branding. Even so, they are generally more brand-friendly than traditional Google search ads.

The lack of oversight

Another problem is that Google doesn’t share detailed analytics for these campaigns. You’ll simply receive an overview of how each individual asset is performing and the best combinations.

While you don’t have the power to optimise these campaigns in any big way, it’s a pity that advertisers can’t access insights that could potentially inform their manual campaigns.


Tips for running Responsive Display Ad campaigns

While advertisers have limited control over their Google Responsive Display Ads, here are five tips that can help make your campaigns more successful.

1. Look at Google’s scorecard

Recently, Google introduced its ad strength scorecard, which helps predict how your Responsive Display Ads will perform before they even launch.

Google will advise you on text length, image sizes and how many assets you should upload. It also ranks your ads as average, below average or above average. It can even suggest specific ways to improve your ads. So watch out for the scorecard in your dashboard.

2. Add extra details

If your ad is dynamic, you can potentially increase engagement and conversions by adding promotion text, such as “Free one-day shipping” and a price prefix.

3. Match your landing page with your ads

To increase conversions and ROAS, make sure that your landing page is consistent with your ad assets in every way – from copy and tone, through to visuals and colour schemes. This will be less jarring for your audience and provide a smoother path to purchase.

4. Add Buy Now buttons

You can use a Where to Buy tool to provide your audience with multiple buying options once they’ve clicked through to your landing page. By letting them check out on Amazon or Walmart, as well your own site, you’re more likely to bag a sale.

This also helps build trust and confidence among shoppers who are interacting with your brand for the first time. Using these Buy Now Buttons also allows you to collect detailed consumer journey insights, which aren’t available through Google Ads.

5. Check out successful ads for inspiration

Google recently developed its ‘Creative Inspiration Hub’. Here, it shares the best asset examples from leading brands that are using Display, YouTube and App advertising. This allows marketers to discover creative assets that can inspire their own campaigns.

Final thoughts

Google Responsive Display Ads give eCommerce brands of every size an opportunity to increase their reach in an easy and cost-efficient way. Whether you’re running a startup D2C store or a large, omnichannel eCommerce hub, it’s a strategy worth trying out.