Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)

How to RSA… Wait, What!?

Over the past few months you may have heard some chatter about RSAs, also known as Responsive Search Ads. RSAs leverage Google’s machine learning algorithm, allowing marketers to easily test ad copy messaging.

How Do RSAs make Ad Copy Testing Easier?

The new responsive search ads format will ultimately give you the opportunity to create more ads per ad group, easily and at scale. Doesn’t that sound great? I think so; below are some key benefits of this new ad format:

  • Efficiency: Now you can save time by creating one ad with multiple headlines and descriptions. Responsive Search Ads can display up to 3 headlines and 2 descriptions at the same time but we can test up to 15 headlines (30-character limit) and 4 descriptions (90-character limit) in one ad. Over time, Google Ads will test for the most effective combinations and learn the combinations that are most relevant for different queries.
  • Flexibility: RSAs adapt to different device widths. This gives you more room to share your message with potential customers. Remember, Google will build and serve the ad combination based on what it has learned to be the most relevant message to that individual customer and their specific search.

  • Control: Machine learning is a major factor but you are still in control! Although Google will pick the ad copy and the precise combination to serve, you still provide the content. Be creative but choose your messaging wisely. And remember—if you need more control, you can pin your headline(s) or description(s) to a specific position.
  • Performance: Google has estimated that ad groups with RSAs have a click uplift of 5-15%. RSA essentially enables you to compete in more auctions and match to more queries, which allows you to reach more potential customers.

Creating Your First Responsive Search Ad

If you’re anything like us, now that you know a little bit more about RSA, you’re eager to give it a test run. One thing to keep in mind: RSA is still in beta as a product, and not all advertisers have access to it. Before getting started make sure you can access the RSA option under the Ads section in your Google Ads interface, or contact your Google representative to request to be whitelisted.

Once you’ve verified that you have access to the feature, follow these simple steps to implement your first RSA ad copy.

  • Create your content directly in the Google Ads interface, editor or upload in bulk if you are implementing more than one ad at a time. Your content—headlines and descriptions—should be unique, include 1 keyword, and highlight different aspects of your business. Remember—the more headlines and descriptions you provide, the more potential combinations your ad will have, leaving you with more possibilities and deeper insights.

  • “Pin” a headline or description. Although not necessary, RSAs allow you to pin a headline to 3 positions (position 1-3) and descriptions to 2 positions (position 1-2), which is effective if you have text that must appear in every ad. For instance, if you want to test different calls to action, you can pin all CTAs to headline position 1 or 2. By setting your CTAs to be tested as headlines 1-5, with headlines 6-10 dedicated to unique messaging (like the name of your service or business, promotions, etc.), you will have efficiently created a quick multivariate CTA test.
  • Test longer and shorter variants of your headlines and descriptions instead of focusing on maximizing character limits. As with all ad copy, think of your business first, the message you want to convey, and the audience you need to reach, and write your ads accordingly.

Incorporating RSAs into your marketing mix might be a great opportunity for your business, but you need to make sure it’s generating positive results. The work only really begins once your ads are live. From there, you will have to track and report on results.

Remember, this is a test against your existing ads. With that said, we recommend ad groups to have at least 2 expanded text ads (ETAs) and 1 RSA. Don’t be afraid of comparing your RSA against your existing ETAs.

Once you have sufficient data to meet your needs, you will be able to decide if RSAs make sense for your business, paid search campaign(s) and/or individual ad group(s). Revise and create more ads as needed, and don’t forget—the most effective paid search campaigns never stop testing.

Do you want to start experimenting with RSAs and other ad formats? Reach out to us today and learn how we can help you grow your business!

Google Ads

Google Marketing Innovations – The View from Charles River Interactive

Google Marketing Live is one of the biggest days on the marketing calendar. The event recently came and went and, as per usual, Google announced some huge advancements within their suite of marketing products and platforms. And while artificial intelligence might be some years away from ensuring your fridge “magically” remains stocked through the holidays and that no appointment goes missing from your calendar, it is ready to make a real impact on your marketing efforts as soon as today.

Artificial Intelligence: The Future of Marketing Begins Today

Perhaps no unveiling was more seismic to how we do and will work with our clients than Google’s announcement that they have fully embraced artificial intelligence across their marketing platform.

Automation is here and here to stay! But what exactly does that mean?

The algorithms that govern search engines are becoming smarter. The ability to learn user behavior in turn means that paid search strategies need to account for this newfound and expansive ability to speak to and capture specific, valued audiences. Google has launched some new products in order to help marketers develop these strategies including Responsive Search Ads, Advanced Audience Targeting and Automated Shopping Feeds, as well as some new tools to help marketers optimize and understand the user experience, such as Mobile Landing Page Speed and Cross Device Reporting.

Responsive Search Ads

One of the products announced, Responsive Search Ads, promises to make A/B testing on ad copy a whole lot easier. As a Premier Agency Partner with Google, Charles River Interactive has had early access to this tool across several of our clients’ accounts.

The tool, which is powered by Google’s Machine Learning, is able to incorporate up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions into an ad set, with Google then taking the option to mix and match headlines and descriptions and automatically test for optimal performance. How convenient! Once a combination has been determined to be the most successful, Google then shows that ad the most.

Advanced Audience Targeting

Have you ever taken a survey on YouTube to skip to the video? That’s Google gathering information about you!

Google has leveraged this data in creating their Advanced Audience Targeting. The data comes from YouTube and other channels and Google has compiled multiple audiences to allow more refined targeting.

CRI is already leveraging this tool across several accounts. We are able to observe multiple and diverse audiences and assess the topics and content that best lead to conversions. As data accrues, we also are able to credit a specific audience with a higher conversion rate, and to make bid adjustments accordingly—for instance, by exceeding our maximum bid for a specific audience because we know the audience will convert at a high rate.

Automated Shopping Feeds

Scheduled to launch later this year, Automated Shopping Feeds promises to remove a significant barrier to entry into the ecommerce space. It would be hard to argue that brick-and-mortar retail is thriving and, as more people look to begin and complete their shopping solely online, it is more important than ever to have your products available for purchase online.

Automated shopping feeds will rely on Google’s spiders to crawl your ecommerce website. That crawl will allow Google to generate a shopping feed. That is countless labor hours of data entry and management that can be reallocated across your organization, as you will no longer have to manually create and maintain a shopping feed across inventory hiccups or new product roll-outs.

Why CRI is excited: Less time on management means more time to implement better strategies within campaigns, driving a great ROI for our clients.

Smart Shopping Campaigns

Along with automated shopping feeds, Google also introduced Smart Shopping campaigns. These enable marketers to surface the most relevant product to in-market searchers at the precise right time. The machine learning and artificial intelligence underpinnings also make it straightforward to optimize around specific goals, whether revenue, conversion rate, or something else entirely. Within a Smart Shopping campaign, Google will test different combinations of image and text, in addition to automating ad placement and bidding for maximum conversions.

Mobile Landing Page Speed Score

The already-released Mobile Landing Page Speed Score evaluates a single page on your site according to a 10-point scale. Since half of all web traffic comes from mobile devices, this is already beneficial to our web services clients.

The tool highlights available landing page optimizations that will improve pageload speed on a mobile device; for many clients, we are able to immediately implement these optimizations. Since the tool is updated twice daily, we also receive near-immediate feedback, and can inform our client with little delay if our optimizations are having the expected effect—and not just on pageload speed, but also on KPI’s ranging from engagement metrics to revenue and everything in between.

Cross-Device Reporting

Assessing mobile performance in isolation, and following a user across devices, has been a common issue for many of our clients over the years. That makes the unveiling of cross device reporting through Google Analytics 360 that much more exciting.

Now, it will be that much simpler to follow a user, for instance from their discovery of our site via an organic search on a mobile device to their conversion via a remarketing ad on their desktop. Along with machine-learning driven advancements in attribution modeling, cross-device reporting moves us that much closer to holistically understanding user behavior during the shopping and conversion process.

Google Data Studio: Data Blending

Over the past year and a half, Google has consistently rolled out additional features for its data visualization tool, Google Data Studio. We have already gone over some of the key benefits of this tool and why we believe it is revolutionizing the data visualization game in a previous post.

At the 2018 Marketing Innovations Keynote, however, Google dropped a bomb on us, in the form of Data Studio’s newest feature, called “Data Blending”.

To understand why this update is so important and how to best use this new feature, think back to the difficulties you and your team might have encountered in trying to stack multiple chart elements pulled from different data sources, one on top of another. What once required labor-intensive data pulls and error-prone data manipulation is now accomplished in just a few clicks.

As an example, a client requested Google Search Console impressions, Google Analytics pageviews, and Google Ads clicks in a single chart. Prior to this update, GDS only allowed one data source per visualization, leaving a gap in the story our data was able to tell—or, perhaps an even worse fate, forcing our poor marketing analysts to resort to Excel and other tools to combine data before it could be warehoused in Google Sheets and, from there, brought into a Data Studio visualization.

The only requirement for data blending is that each source have what Google refers to as a “join key”, a term used for dimensions that are shared amongst two or more data sets. In many cases a join key can be a simple dimension—date, channel, user ID, etc. Blending data off of a shared dimension creates the opportunity for more in-depth reporting, including:

  • Contextualizing online performance using offline metrics such as weather, stock market trends, and unemployment rate
  • Comparing goals across multiple Google Analytics properties and views
  • Assessing paid media campaign performance as compared to onsite website performance

One of the most requested features in the brief history of Data Studio just launched and we couldn’t be more excited about the avenues to optimization it will create. This will truly enhance the power of Data Studio, taking the tool to whole new level.

Some closing thoughts

Google AdWords, which is now rebranded as Google Ads, is getting faster, getting smarter, and getting personal. The ability to group users into audiences will provide refined targeting. Digital marketing is shaping the world we live in, and Google’s artificial intelligence is controlling the devices that we use. CRI leverages our team and their deep knowledge of and enthusiasm for the industry to strategize the right mix of digital marketing to make you and your brand successful.

To find out how CRI can work with you, reach out to us!

Google Data Studio: Revolutionizing the Data Visualization Game

What is Google Data Studio?
Google Data Studio is one of the newest additions to the Google Analytics 360 Suite. This interactive data visualization tool was moved out of BETA stage in late Spring of 2017 and continues to evolve weekly. The easy to use tool allows marketing professionals to pull information from multiple data repositories into one centralized, live, visually appealing, interactive dashboard. Google Data Studio dashboards allow its original owner to share important data sets while maintaining control of what information can be accessed. The Data Studio dashboards are perfect for internal use but are equally as valuable for client reporting. Typical to most Google products, the dashboards are saved automatically online within your Data Studio account and can be edited by multiple users at the same time. In a nutshell: Google Data Studio allows all businesses (large or small) to visualize data in a simplistic and efficient manner!



Why Should You Use Google Data Studio?
Google Data Studio is an incredibly powerful visualization tool. The ability to bring in data from multiple sources on one page at the same time gives you the flexibility and ease to consolidate reporting platforms. Are you interested in seeing how your Paid Search efforts have changed Month-over-Month, but also want to see Year-over-Year results at the same time? Not a problem! Or are you trying to determine which channel converts best on a mobile device? After implementing a few filters within your report, this information is only one click away! There are countless reasons why we believe marketing professionals everywhere should be taking advantage of Google’s new reporting tool. Below are the top 5 reasons why we have adopted Google Data Studio as our primary reporting tool here at Charles River Interactive.

1. It’s FREE!
Google Data Studio is free of charge. All you need to do is create a Google account. While in the BETA stage, Data Studio only allowed a maximum of 5 reports, limiting its abilities to be used by marketing agencies and small businesses alike. Google has since removed this limitation and you are now able to create as many reports as you need. Comparable products such as Tableau, Qlikview, FusionCharts, Plotly, and many more can cost over thousands of dollars a month.

2. Endless Customization Options
Let’s be honest, reporting can sometimes be tedious… but not anymore! Google Data Studio provides you with the ability to change colors, fonts, background images, and essentially everything you need to make your reporting look top notch. Here at Charles River Interactive, we understand everyone prefers to look at data differently. Google understand this as well and thus has provided multiple options on how you are able to present your data. Pie charts, pivot tables, line graphs, bar graphs, tables, geo maps, scatter charts, area charts, bullet charts…. Google Data Studio has you covered.

3. Calculated Fields
Are you looking to transform, categorize, and make calculations within your data? Are the default dimensions and metrics from your data repository just not enough? Calculated fields give you the ability to create new dimensions and metrics in your data source that perform arithmetic, apply mathematical formulae, extract or transform text, or return new information based on logical comparisons. Once the calculated field has been established, you are able to use the new dimensions and metrics in charts and filters, just like the default fields. This means grouping pages, creating ratio formulas and custom naming conventions can now all be done within the visualization tool itself.

4. Community Connectors
Out of the box, Google Data Studio natively connects to other Google products such as Analytics, AdWords and Sheets. However, at Charles River Interactive we understand that many businesses operate and report on multiple different data sources outside of the Google family. This is where the power of Data Studio Community Connectors comes in! The best way to think of a Community Connector is to visualize it as a pipeline between Data Studio and your favorite web service, where your data is stored. As mentioned before, Google continues to make small upgrades to the Data Studio platform and one of those upgrades includes an option for third-party connectors such as Supermetrics. These third-party connectors allow you to easily bring in data from sources such as Bing Ads, DoubleClick, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, Twitter Ads, and Yahoo Gemini to name a few. Once the third-party connection is setup, the process for creating reports is the same as when you are using a Google data source.

5. Sharing Capabilities
Google Data Studio is built to efficiently optimize collaboration capabilities. Much like a Google Doc or Sheet, Data Studio allows you to seamlessly share your report with others by simply sending them a URL link. Data Studio also provides you with the ability to control how each user can interact with the dashboard by assigning “view” and “edit” limitations. These sharing options give you (the report owner) total control and allow you to easily collaborate with clients and teammates without having to exchange password information that could in turn provide access to your Google Analytics account.

Getting Started
So now that you better understand some of the capabilities and power of Google Data Studio, you are probably wondering how do I get started? Luckily, we have put together easy to follow instructions on just how do that.

1. Establish a Google Data Studio account. Most people choose to use the same account as their Analytics & Search Console setups. We recommend this method (utilizing the same account login email as the one you have for Analytics & Search Console) as this will make the sign-up process quicker and easier.
2. Complete the tutorial. Google offers an extremely helpful tutorial to get you up and running. It only takes about 30 minutes to go through the tutorial and by the end, you will know enough to create your own very first dashboard.
3. Explore the Data Studio Report Gallery. This report gallery is a collection of both Google product templates and user submitted dashboards that are available to you, free of charge! We have found these templates to be tremendously useful and instructive when trying to display data effectively.

An example of a Charles River Interactive analytics dashboard

Final Thoughts
In the competitive business landscape we operate in today, being able to make data driven decisions is more important than ever. Google Data Studio provides organizations of all sizes the ability to easily visualize their data in ways that will foster new insights and recommendations. Here at Charles River Interactive we use this tool on a daily basis, we set up reports for our various clients, and we believe that other businesses would benefit immensely from using it as well. So, what are you waiting for? Stop laboring over messy excel spreadsheets and manual diagrams and start creating professional looking reports by leveraging the power of Google Data Studio!

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Google Data Studio and some of its incredible capabilities. At Charles River Interactive, we believe Google Data Studio is revolutionizing the data visualization game. Still have questions? Or want to share what you love most about Google Data Studio? Reach out to our Integrated Web Services team at

Out With the Old, In With the New: Google’s Updated Expanded Ad Text (ETA)

In May of this past year, Google announced what they are calling the biggest change to text ads since AdWords, which launched 15 years ago. Soon-to-be-gone are the days of the tried and true 25-35-35 character limits of current standard ads, and here is the future: extended text ads (ETAs) catering towards AdWord’s “mobile first” world. What exactly do these extended text ads mean for agencies and their clients?

The new extended text ads will be available for both search and display campaigns and will feature two new headline fields at 30 characters each, replacing the old 25 character headline. In lieu of the 2, 35 character description boxes, there will now be one, long description field with an 80 character limit. The new 140-character extended ads are designed to stand out among mobile search results and maximize ad performance. As more and more searches are done on these devices, we will now have more opportunity than ever to engage users within the first click. Below is a comparison of the old standard ads and the new extended ones, on both desktop and mobile.

Google Extended Text Ad Before and After

What is the opportunity for AdWords Marketers with expanded text ads?

Along with the sheer amount of clickable space doubling, advertisers can now make every extra character count, extending their clients’ emotion-evoking stories, descriptive product features, and compelling promotions. No longer will advertisers feel that they have to exclude important information in their descriptions. Google has offered advertisers the perfect chance to reinvent their messaging in search, not just add meaningless text to fill space. Advertisers will now be able to utilize ads even more to their advantage and target potential customers more accurately than ever. ETAs provide additional opportunities for advertisers to connect with users and drive more qualified leads.

Does character limit really affect clicks?

Charles River Interactive (CRI) has already started rolling out ETAs amongst clients, and the results are very promising. Within a month of running the new ETA’s for one client, CRI found that click-through-rate (CTR) for the expanded ads was 53% higher than that of the remaining standard ads. With the same client, CRI analyzed that conversions also increased and the average cost per conversion for expanded ads was 41% lower than that of standard ads. Other early reports indicate that ETA’s increase CTR by 20% on average. So, from what we can tell, the expanded ads are having a positive effect all around for advertisers.

Google Expand Ad Text

What other changes are being made?

Along with expanded descriptions and headlines, expanded text ads in AdWords will also now automatically pull the display URL from the final URL. Advertisers will then be able to add up to two optional paths to boost the display URL, both of which can be up to 15 characters long. These paths offer another opportunity for strategizing which allow advertisers to add short terms to describe to users what they will find on their landing page, and show them that it’s exactly what they were looking for, enticing them to click even more.

New Expanded Text Ad Google

When will ETA go into effect?

Previously, Google had announced that all ads had to be switched from standard to expanded format by the end of October, but this past week, this deadline was pushed back a few more months to January 31, 2017. While this may seem like a while away, this extra time shouldn’t be ignored, and it’s smart to get a head start before advertisers and clients are rushed to write and approve all new copy. This additional extension also gives agencies, advertisers and clients extra time to strategize on how they want to implement these changes. Have clients been able to say what they want in their ads, or do they get cut off? It’s important that all advertisers consider how this may affect their brand – and how they want to use the new characters to tell more about their brand story and products.

Interested in learning more about marketing trends? Check out Charles River Interactive’s blog View from the Charles:

Mobile First Strategy: What You Need to Know
How to Write Strategic Calls to Action

Facebook launches Canvas: Mobile Interactive Full Screen Ads

Facebook’s newest mobile ad creation is Canvas, which debuted at the Cannes Lions advertising festival in France, had a brief beta period and was recently made available to all Facebook advertisers using Power Editor.

With Facebook Canvas, advertisers are able to provide users with a full screen interactive rich media ad experience that lives within the Facebook app.

How It Works

Facebook Canvas ads exist only within Facebook’s popular mobile app.

Canvas ads appear to users as normal sponsored posts in their news feed. When users click on a Canvas sponsored posts, it expands, taking over the users’ full screen, immersing them into the rich content.

According to Facebook “You can easily build your Canvas using a combination of videos, still images and call-to-action buttons. In Canvas, people can swipe through a carousel of images, tilt-to-view panoramic images and zoom in to view images in detail.”

Initial Results

Canvas’ beta release was limited to well-known global brands including Carnival Cruise Lines, Wendy’s, Target, BMW and Macy’s.

In their first Canvas campaign, Carnival Cruise Lines targeted a broad audience of newcomers to cruising. TechCrunch provided some initial overall metrics, reporting that “53% of users that open a Canvas, view at least half of it, and the average view time is a stunning 31 seconds. The top Canvas ads can see more than 70 seconds of view time per user.”

Digiday reported that “Carnival said that 50 percent of people who opened the ad scrolled through until the end. Also, the average time spent with the ad was between 135 seconds and 174 seconds, longer than the ad’s running time of two minutes.”

Wendy’s Deconstructed Cheeseburger Canvas ad let people scroll, swipe, and see GIFs of different ingredients received 65 seconds of average view time. 2.9% of viewers even got all the way to the bottom and used the Wendy’s restaurant locator.

Why We Love It

  1. Increase Brand Awareness: For branding and awareness campaigns attention and engagement are top priorities. Facebook Canvas gives companies and brands the ability to create an immersive experience that grabs 100% of a user’s attention. The level of engagement driven by Canvas ads is unparalleled across social media platforms.
  2. Enhanced Mobile Experience: Facebook Canvas ads are designed for and run exclusively on mobile, so it only makes sense that the Canvas ads are fast to load and are very user friendly.
  3. Standard Advertising rates apply: Facebook Canvas ads run as sponsored post ads and there are no additional costs associated to run them. Advertisers will be able to use the same pricing and bidding models available for standard Facebook ads.
  4. Content Marketing Opportunities: With all the hype around content marketing, Canvas ads are like delivering small websites to your consumer’s thumbs. Great content nudges consumers closer to conversion goals.
  5. Higher Engagement: With Canvas’ advanced visual features you can create an immersive storytelling experience, translating into long consumer engagement and higher conversion rates.
  6. Ecommerce made easy: With Canvas you can add more details, including full product catalogs and even Buy Now CTAs.

Interested in learning more, contact your Charles River Interactive Account Manager, or check out Facebook’s official site for Canvas.

Interested in learning more in social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
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Facebook & Twitter Unleash New, Exciting Features

Google SERP News: Right Rail Ads are Gone

As of Monday, Google has confirmed a huge adjustment to search results: right hand rail ads are disappearing.

Last week, on Feb. 18, a dramatic increase in SERPs (marketing lingo for Search Engine Results Pages) with four ad positions, as well as a slow but noticeable decline in right rail placement, led many PPC leaders to question if the change was finally happening. Hinted at last December, when Google began beta testing four ad SERPs alongside Shopping PLAs across a very limited number of results, this update is a game-changer for search engine marketing as a whole.

Why is Google Removing Right Rail Ads?

Google claims the new layout will help searchers find (read: click on) more relevant and engaging content. But the change suggests an effort by Google to standardize the advertising ecosystem across all devices – mobile, desktop, and tablet – by serving the same number and style of ads in the top results. While this makes room for a variety of right rail results such as Knowledge Panels and Shopping PLAs on desktop, the effects on paid advertisers will be swift and global.

Google SERP Before

Google SERP Before

Google SERP After

Google SERP After


Top 3 Changes in Google’s New Ad Layout

So what do the changes mean for paid search? Here are the most dramatic potential changes:

  1. Cost-Per-Click Increases: With the number of paid advertisements decreasing, competition for those top spots just got hotter. The potential for a rise in CPCs across all SERPs is a possibility, as companies compete for an even smaller advertising space. Not to mention the effects of bidding for a top 4 spot, only to find oneself in spot no. 5, now at the very bottom of the first search result page.
  2. Higher Competition for fewer Ad Spots: While adding a fourth spot is good, total paid listings has decreased from approximately 10 to 7.   This puts even more pressure on appearing in those top four spots.
  3. Less Above-the-Fold Real Estate for Organic Results: An additional ad pushes all organic listings further down a page already chock full of PPC, Google My Business results and Local Packs. While overall organic strategy shouldn’t see any seismic shifts, there is opportunity to adjust SEO tactics to focus on long-tail term optimizations (in addition to more competitive ad-filled SERP keywords), so that your business can continually increase traffic from all positions in the search funnel.

How does the Google Ad Layout Impact Paid Search?

It’s estimated that 85 percent of clicks came from the top ads and only about 15 percent came from the side and bottom ads.  The data shows that right rail ads have a much lower likelihood of a click regardless of position, and the fight has always been for top three spots.

So now we’ll have an extra spot to bid for, as well as shopping PLAs and Knowledge Graphs on desktop (when applicable). Quality Scores and efficiencies will be more important than ever, and other factors such as search relevancy and ad copy, are expected to become increasingly more influential in advertisers’ ability to efficiently maintain position in the top four ad spots, while successfully driving traffic to their site.

Google is telling us loud and clear that good, relevant ads will be rewarded with coveted top positions for an affordable price. All you have to do is listen!

Interested in learning more in paid search and SEO trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
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