Understanding Google Responsive Display Ads

How do Google responsive display ads work?

A responsive display ad automatically and quickly adjusts in size, format, and appearance to fit the available spaces in GDN. These ads combine both visual and text elements created by Google using assets that you upload. 

Google uses machine learning to combine images and text in different formats and combinations across audiences and online placements, constantly optimizing to ensure your ads are performing to their potential. The look of the ad itself is not as tightly controlled as if you’d designed it specifically for each placement - but keeping the images and copy true to the brand and to the campaign ensures that each machine-created variant is a positive reflection of your brand.

For many of our clients, we prepare a range of images that include branded assets (like logos), campaign images, and native images that complement the campaign. This gives Google’s machine learning tool lots to work with - and to ultimately match the best images to the right audiences in the right places. 

Alongside the images, we prepare a deck of copy headlines and captions for each audience and customer journey stage. Every client and industry is different, but we’ve learned lots about what performs on the GDN and how to drive the most clicks using copy.

What are the benefits of responsive display ads?

1. They save time

Creating a suite of unique ads - built out to all the sizes within the Google ecosystem - can be a serious time- and resource-consuming venture. Responsive display ads can help do the heavy lifting for you so that you focus on other valuable tasks. Once you provide the tool with images, logos, videos, and text, your assets will combine to fit GDN standards, including a great diverse mix of screen sizes and devices.

2. They’re an excellent source of low-cost traffic

If your campaign goal is to achieve higher click-through rates, responsive display ads are a great option. The general rule is that the more ad sizes you have, the higher your outreach success. Typically, it is an excellent practice to have at least the "big three" ad sizes covered (Leaderboard, Medium Rectangle, and Wide Skyscraper) to maximize your exposure. In this case - because Google creates the ads - you can add even more sizes and create ads that fit all available ad space on the GDN, including both dynamic text and native ads.

3. They’re easy to measure and optimize 

Google responsive ads provide an exceptional reporting tool to help you gain insights on the performance of each of your assets - including headlines, descriptions, and images. This helps us keep an eye on the campaign as it’s running and adjust as needed (for example, we could add additional images that are similar to the ones that are performing best for you). It also helps us learn for the next campaign - or apply what we’re seeing to the other campaign work we’re doing (for example, knowing that a certain headline really resonated with a specific target audience may lead us to try similar messaging in a targeted print ad).

How have responsive display ads worked for Metric clients?

Over the past few years, we’ve seen excellent results from responsive display ad campaigns across many industries - which is why you’ll hear us talking about them a lot as a key component of a digital campaign.

In the independent and private school sector, we’ve seen responsive ads outperform standard image ads by a wide margin.

One independent school ran both responsive and image ads between September 2020 and March 2021 (a typical recruitment campaign cycle). 


  • 205,194 Impressions
  • 359 Clicks
  • 1 Conversion



  • 1,795,557 Impressions
  • 6,921 Clicks
  • 27 Conversions

In the credit union sector, we have one client who was able to generate significant results by using responsive ads as part of their annual mortgage campaign.


  • 363,459 Impressions
  • 525 Clicks
  • 1 Conversion



  • 931,282 Impressions
  • 4,962 Clicks
  • 6 Conversions


The moral of this story is not that standard digital ads - like image ads - are obsolete. They’re an important part of the overall campaign mix and work to help us reach and target different audiences in different ways. But building responsive ads into our digital campaigns is yielding fantastic results, and they’re an important tool in our toolkit.

Get help from Metric Marketing 

If you are looking for a reliable marketing partner to help you get started with responsive display ads, contact Metric Marketing today. 

Metric Marketing leverages measurable performance data for intuitive advertising concepts through an integrated campaign process. With the right numbers and ideas, you'll have what you need to make confident decisions and chart your path forward. Contact us today to learn more.


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