Everyone knows that change is part of life. And, if you are in Search Engine Marketing (SEM) those changes happen often and sometimes drastically. We have to adapt to changes in the economy, society, behaviors and of course, Google. To some, it may appear that as many disruptions come from Google as all other sources combined. People who use paid search must take all of these changes into consideration. Even if paid search is not part of your marketing, how and why more changes to Google Ads occur is important to understand.

Two of the most significant changes Google has made recently are to the Search Terms Report and Responsive Search Ads. In both cases the changes were made to make things easier on the user. But both were also part of Google reacting to changes in the digital landscape.

Responsive Search Ads

To understand what changes were made to Responsive Search Ads (RSA’s) you need to understand their predecessor, Expanded Text Ads (ETA’s). For several years the only ads one could write for Google were Expanded Text Ads. Google allows 30 characters for an ad Headline and 90 characters for Descriptions. An advertiser could enter 3 headlines and 2 Descriptions for each ad. Then Google introduced RSA’s. Headlines and Descriptions were the same length, but you can enter 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. The search engine would then put together the ad with 3 Headlines and 2 Descriptions. The ad was based on what Google thought would best answer the search query.

For several years Google recommended advertisers write at least 2 ETA’s and 1 RSA for each Ad Group. In February of 2021 Google announced RSA’s as the default ad and offered Call Ads as an alternative. That does not mean the ETA’s are gone, they are just hard to find. If you already have ETA’s they still function, and you can edit them. But at the end of this Summer Google announced that only RSA’s would be offered after June 30, 2022.

There are several reasons for the move. First, it simplifies things for advertisers and makes the platform a bit more accessible. Second, Google believes that by allowing machine learning to select which headlines and descriptions show, performance will improve. Google believes their Artificial Intelligence can now determine the “intent” of a search better than ever. Knowing the intent allows them to choose the best headlines and descriptions. Google invests more money in AI than any other tech giant. Expect Google to continue implementing AI along with other tech companies.

Search Terms Report

The Search Terms Report has lurched back and forth over the past year. Citing privacy issues Google announced they would not show search queries that triggered ads unless there was “significant” data. In essence, Google started to reduce the data it would share.

The Search Terms Report is a tool advertisers use to understand what people are actually typing to find their ads. Google Ads has several reports on searches Keywords. The primary Keywords report shows how the keywords we have selected are performing. But, the Search Terms report shows the exact query. As an example a Kitchen remodeler may have the keyword, “Kitchen Cabinets”. However, their ad may show for a search “White Shaker Kitchen Cabinets”. If the advertiser were to see this query regularly, they might ad a new keyword “White Shaker Kitchen Cabinets”.

The Search Terms report is one search engine marketers monitor regularly.

Google made the change “In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data”  However, in September of this year Google reversed course and was again allowing us to see much of the data they had previously removed. They even provided some of the data we could not see between February and September of this year. But not all of it. The backlash from the search community was loud, but Google focused on the boundaries between privacy and data and chose privacy.

Like all digital platforms Google is becoming more sensitive to privacy issues. As regulators look at tech giants more closely some are taking proactive steps. By staying one step ahead of bureaucrats, advertising platforms can look like good corporate citizens and save themselves headaches and money.


Tech companies have always prided themselves on being nimble. That’s challenging for a company the size of Google or Facebook. But changes in technology are happening rapidly, often driven by these very companies. And concerns around privacy will continue. So, we should expect more changes to Google Ads and other advertising platforms to happen more frequently and with less warning. Yes, change is part of life.