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How to Improve Click-through Rates and Maximize Reach with Google's Responsive Ads

The online advertising world is as solid as mud. It’s also just as clear. Online advertising used to be a fairly simple method of getting your message out to the masses, but it's grown increasingly complex as new technology develops. And now we've got Google's new responsive ads. What does this mean for your marketing strategy?

Years ago, publishers sold advertising space on their websites directly to an advertiser. Then, static advertising space gave way to Google’s Display Network and AdSense and the automation associated with loading tons of advertising inventory onto the publishers’ websites.

Since the GDN came about, we’ve seen simple text ads and display ads, flashy pop-up ads and rich-media ads, dynamic and interest-based advertising, and, just recently, extended text ads. Not to mention the increased adoption of ad blocker software. The pulse is always changing and this quarter has been no different.  

Enter Google’s newly released responsive ads.

Currently, in order to render an ad to your target audience, it requires many different versions of an ad to optimize for the space allowed on the publisher’s website: leaderboards, skyscrapers, square, mobile-only... the list does on. And, just double those numbers if you’re looking to do some A/B testing.

It also pigeonholes your creative to fit the space instead of the space fitting your creative. Depending on the robustness of the campaign, an agency or marketing department can spend many hours creating the creative and managing what can be hundreds of ad groups at the same time.

The responsive ads, by contrast, allow for a greater level of creative input for advertisers and less management of multiple text and display campaigns. For starters, the headline character count has been more than doubled to 90 characters for desktops!

By removing the barrier of creating all these different-sized ads and letting GDN format the ad responsively, your brand is able to be displayed across a much larger pool of publisher websites, thus increasing your overall reach. Google reports advertisers have seen a 15 percent increase in reach compared to similar standard text ads.

It also removes the need to manage both a separate text and display campaign.

For instance, if you are in the ski industry and promoting discounted lift tickets, one responsive ad is all you need to show up in both search engine results as a text ad and on a web page as a display ad with an associated image. Not only will the responsive ads generate based on the type of ad space available, but they'll also automatically optimize the design for mobile devices as well.

After all, the theory of responsive design was created for mobile in the first place.

Another benefit of using responsive ads is that you’ll gain access to what’s called native ads. Native ads maintain the look and feel of the publishers website, so if you are browsing a web page on ESPN.com, your ad that displays will use the same bold ESPN headline and the same sans-serif font in the description, just like the rest of the web site. If an image is also used, it will be cropped and displayed the same way as the other photos on the page.

The whole goal is to provide an exceptional user experience by making the ad look as if it’s part of the web page. Google is finding native ads are viewed 53 percent more often than traditional banner ads. Eyeballs anyone?

Google also likes to mention they’ve seen a 12 percent increase in click-through rates when using responsive ads. So more eyeballs seeing your brand or product and more clicks to your website doesn’t seem like a bad deal. One thing to note, however, is by using responsive ads you are trusting Google to format your ad and present your brand to potential customers.

Letting go of the reins this much might make some companies uneasy, but the beauty of online advertising is if the plan isn’t working, change it. You can always run simultaneous campaigns to see which is performing better and we’d recommend doing so as responsive ads become more widely adopted by publishers. 

As with everything else, it’s important to decide whether this would be a good fit for your business if you're looking to advertise online. If you're still not sure, just reach out to us and we can discuss the best solution for your individual needs. Responsive ads are not a path to the end of the traditional text and display ads--they're just another arrow in the muddy quiver. At least for now.

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