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How To Optimize Google Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)



How To Optimize Google Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)

Now that RSAs (responsive search ads) have replaced ETAs (expanded text ads) in Google Ads, it may be time to rethink your strategies for optimizing ads.

Optimizing RSAs takes a whole different approach than what most advertisers have been doing for years.

While you’ll still want to use a similar methodology to decide what text variations to test, the way you go about doing a test that leads to statistically significant results has changed.

RSA Testing Is Different From ETA Testing

Ad testing used to consist of A/B experiments where multiple ad variations competed against each other.

After accruing enough data for each of the contending ads, a winner could be picked by analyzing the right metrics.

A popular metric to determine the winning ad used a combination of conversion rate and clickthrough rate to calculate “conversions per impression” (conv/imp).

The ad with the best rate could be declared the winner after enough data had accrued to allow for statistical significance.

This technique for finding winning ads no longer works for three reasons.

Let’s take a look at what these are.

Reason 1: You Can Only Test 3 RSAs Per Ad Group

In the days of ETA ad testing, advertisers could expand their A/B test into an A/B/C/D/… test and keep adding more challengers to their experiment until they reached the limit of 50 ads per ad group.

While I never met an advertiser who ran 50 concurrent ads in an experiment, I’ve seen many who tested five or six at a time.

But Google now caps ad groups at a maximum of three RSAs so that already changes the way things have to work in ad testing.

Reason 2: You Don’t Get Full Metrics For Ad Combinations

Remember that each RSA can have up to 15 headlines and up to 4 descriptions, so even a single RSA can now be responsible for generating 43,680 variations.

That’s far more than the 50 variations of ETAs we were allowed to test in the past.

So when a user sees an RSA, only a subset of the headlines and descriptions submitted by the advertiser are actually shown in the ad.

What’s more, which specific headlines and descriptions are shown changes from auction to auction.

When comparing the performance of two RSAs to one another, you’re really comparing the performance of 43,680 possibilities of ad A to 43,680 possibilities of ad B.

That means that even if you find ad A to be the winner, there are a lot of uncontrolled variables in your experiment that invalidate any results you may find.

Ad combinations reports in Google Ads show which combinations of RSA assets are shown as ads. Screenshot by author, 2022.

To get more useful data, you’d have to look at the combinations report which shows exactly which headlines and descriptions were combined for each ad.

But the problem with this data is that Google only shares the number of impressions.

And to calculate the winning ad, we need to know about CTR and conversion rate, both metrics that we no longer get from Google at this level of granularity.

Reason 3: Ad Group Impressions Now Depend As Much On The Ad As The Keywords

But maybe the most surprising element of why ad testing methodology needs to evolve is that the old methods were built in a world that assumed impressions only depended on the keywords of an ad group.

RSAs have challenged this assumption and now the impressions of an ad group can depend as much on the ads as the keywords.

In Optmyzr’s May 2022 RSA study, we found that ad groups with RSAs got 2.1 times as many impressions as those with only ETAs.

Optmyzr RSA study about impressions per ad groupImage from Optmyzr, June 2022

And regardless of whether this dramatic increase in impressions for ad groups with RSAs is due to improved ad rank and quality score, or whether it’s because Google has built in a preference for this ad type, the end result is the same.

The sandbox in which we play prefers RSAs, especially those that contain the maximum number of assets and that use pinning as sparingly as possible.

So when we do modern ad optimization, we must consider not only conversions per impression but also the number of impressions each ad can deliver.

Modern ad testing vs old school ad testingModern ad testing needs to account for differences in impressions.

A/B Asset Testing With Ad Variations

Fortunately, Google has considered the problems RSAs introduced for ad testing and has made updates to Ad Variations, a subset of their Experiment tools, to optimize ads.

Rather than requiring the creation of multiple RSAs, the experiments operate on assets and allow advertisers to test three types of things: pinning assets, swapping assets, and adding assets.

You’ll find all the options in the left-side menu for Experiments.

Menu of Google AdsLook for Ad Variations in the Experiments menu of Google Ads.

Test Pinning

Pinning is a way to tell Google which pieces of text should always be shown in certain parts of the ad.

The simplest form of pinning tells Google to show one specific piece of content in a specific location. A common use is to always show the brand in headline 1.

Different ad pinning optionsImage from Google Ads, June 2022

A more advanced implementation is to pin multiple pieces of text to a specific location.

Of course, the ad can only show one of the pinned texts at any time so it’s a way to balance advertiser control with the benefits of dynamically generated ads.

A common use would be to test three variations of a brand message by pinning all three variations to headline position 1.

The most extreme form of pinning is to create what some have called a “fake ETA” by pinning text to every position of the RSA. Google recommends against this because it defeats the purpose of RSAs.

In Optmyzr’s RSA study, we also found that this type of pinning can dramatically reduce the number of impressions the ad group can get.

But somewhat to our surprise we also found that fake ETAs have higher CTR and higher conversion rates than pure RSAs.

One theory is that advertisers who’ve spent years perfecting their ads using ETA optimization techniques already have such great ads that machine learning may have little to offer in terms of upside.

Impact of pinning on performance of RSAsImage from Optmyzr, June 2022

To start an ad test with pinning, look for the Ad Variation option to update text and then choose the action to pin.

Google Ads UI for pinning ads in an experimentImage from Google Ads, June 2022

You can then build rules for which headlines and descriptions to pin to a variety of locations.

For example, you could say that any headline that contains your brand name should be pinned to headline position 1.

One limitation is that you cannot create an ad variation experiment that tests pinning for multiple locations at the same time.

Test Adding Assets

Another experiment available with Ad Variations is to test what would happen if certain assets were added or removed.

This type of test is well suited to testing bigger changes, for example, to see what would happen if you included a special offer, a different unique value proposition, or a different call to action.

Google UI for doing an experiment in RSAs where text is addedImage from Google Ads, June 2022

You can also use this to test the impact of Ad Customizers on your performance.

Some ad customizers available in RSAs are location insertion, countdowns, and business data.

Test Replacing Assets

The third and final type of ad test supported in Ad Variations is to test what would happen if an asset was changed.

This type of experiment lends itself to testing more subtle changes.

For example, what would be the impact of saying “10% discount” rather than “save 10% today.”

Both are the same offer but expressed differently.

Google UI for ad variations for replacing asset textImage from Google Ads, June 2022


Ad Variation experiments automatically come with proper measurement.

For example, here you see the results of a test we ran with pinning.

Statistically significant results are marked with an asterisk.

Google Ads UI showing the results of an ad variation testImage from Google Ads, June 2022

When you hover over the stats, more details are revealed that explain the confidence levels of the experiments.

Google Ads UI showing details of an ad variations experiment resultImage from Google Ads, June 2022

From there, it’s a simple matter of a single click to promote winning tests to become part of your RSAs.

Something to note is that these Ad Variation tests are intended to be done at the campaign level or higher (cross campaign).

Currently, it is not possible to run an ad test for a single RSA or in a single ad group. Google has said they are aware of this limitation and are working towards a solution.


As ad formats in Google have changed, it’s time to also change how we do ad testing.

Ad Variations are an easy way built right into Google Ads to create experiments that work with assets rather than entire ads and you can even test pinning.

Optmyzr’s most recent RSA study showed impressions now depend as much on having good ads as they depend on having good keywords, so working towards ads that have the right combination of not only CTR and conversion rate but also lots of high-quality impressions is the modern way to optimize PPC ads.

More resources:

Featured Image: Imagentle/Shutterstock

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Drive Online Sales With These 5 Search Optimizations



Drive Online Sales With These 5 Search Optimizations

Remember when you had to leave the house to go shopping? What a hassle that was.

But then, way back in 1982, Boston Computer Exchange was launched as the first ecommerce site and the convenience of shopping in your underwear was born.

Today, electronic commerce, the buying, and selling of products and services on the internet is a massive part of the global economy.

In 2021, more than 2.14 billion people worldwide bought something online. And in the U.S., ecommerce sales for just the first quarter of 2022 totaled $250 billion.

We’ve come a long way from those early days of local used computer sales.

These days, you can find everything from shoes to mechanic services to $5,000 heart-shaped potatoes for sale with just a few clicks of the mouse. And nearly every business of every type has a website through which they’re selling their goods and services.

And while that’s really good for shoppers, if you’re an ecommerce retailer, that means you’re facing a lot of competition.

How do you stand out? How can you not only get people on your product pages but turn them into customers? It’s no small task.

But you’re in the right place.

In this article, you’ll find five essential ways you should optimize your ecommerce website for maximum exposure and ROI. Ready to get started? Scroll on.

1. Your Homepage Is Where The Heart Is

Your most-trafficked page, it’s often the first thing any visitor to your website will come across.

It sets the tone for your business, starts the conversion funnel, highlights sales or new products, and directs people to other parts of your site.

Of course, we’re talking about your homepage. And the first step to optimizing your ecommerce site to maximize sales is to make sure your homepage is living up to its weighty role.

Make Navigation Easy

One major issue you’ll want to tackle immediately when optimizing your homepage is navigation.

You want to make it easy and efficient for visitors (and search engine crawlers) to find your content. There should be clear direction as to where the content they want lives.

And a key part of that is using a prominent navigation bar.

In addition to helping users quickly navigate between parts of your site, the navigation bar is also a great opportunity to highlight specific parts of your website, for example, your best-selling product line.

Your homepage also should have an effective and prominent tagline.

Your tagline is a short, usually eight- to 12-word phrase that connects your company with its audience.

Sometimes mistakenly called a slogan (slogans are campaign-specific, taglines are brand-specific), taglines are something too many ecommerce retailers overlook – which is a mistake.

Many first-time visitors to your website will only give it a quick scan.

A descriptive and memorable tagline will help them quickly understand what your site is about and compel them to dive deeper. This leads us to our next point:

Content Is Still King

At the end of the day, content is still the single most important factor of your homepage or any page for that matter.

People are using the internet to find a particular product or solution.

If you offer what they need, you can convert them into sales – provided they land on your page and not your competition’s.

That starts with search engine optimization (SEO). And SEO starts with keywords.

Identify which words and phrases your target audience is looking for and include them organically in your copy. (That is, don’t force them where they don’t belong. This is called keyword stuffing and it can negatively impact your Google ranking.)

Have trouble identifying which keywords are most important? Search Engine Journal has a webinar that will help you determine and implement a keyword research strategy.

There are also a number of free tools you can use to help you decide what language needs to be included on your homepage.

Once you have your keyword strategy down, you can sit back and relax and watch the sales come rolling in, right? Of course not. You’re just getting started.

Next, you should think about the visual assets on your homepage.

Are you using generic stock photos to add visual interest or are you using this valuable web real estate to promote products? Smart ecommerce website operators will choose the latter.

You don’t need to include images of every single product you offer (and in fact, that’s probably a terrible idea), but using prominent images of your best-sellers on your homepage is very important. And make sure clicking on these images directs users to that product’s page.

Don’t underestimate the importance of using internal links. Create links to your most important pages directly from your homepage.

This could be a product category page or a link to your best-selling item. They could be in the navigation bar, the page’s footer, the content, or some combination of the three.

Another best practice is to make sure you’ve created a breadcrumb trail users (and search engine bots) can use to find their way back to the homepage.

For some examples of what a great homepage looks like, click here.

2. It’s All About The Products

The purpose of your ecommerce site is to make sales.

To achieve this, your product pages need to compel visitors to make purchases. Your product pages give you the perfect opportunity to control the narrative around each item you’re selling, which can make a big difference.

Here are some tips to make your product pages exceptional.

What’s In A Name?

Words can be very powerful. Your goal is to use that power to influence buying decisions. And that starts with your product titles.

It sounds deceptively easy, but it takes practice and A/B testing to get right.

Exactly what works for you will vary based on your industry, product, and audience, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Use the right language. This doesn’t mean companies selling in Portugal should make sure all their product descriptions are all in Portuguese (though that is important), but rather that you’re using the same type of tone, words, and expressions your targets are. Write so the audience can understand you. And don’t forget your keywords!
  •  Use the right format. This will probably take some trial and error but is worth the effort. Find the length and the format that resonates the best with your potential customers. For example, you may find your perfect format is brand + size + color. Other factors you may include based on performance and product include product line, color, flavor, model number, and package size/quantity.
  • Make your description complementary. Every product title should have a corresponding and complementary product description. Using search keywords, write an interesting description that avoids generic platitudes. For best results, remember the old copywriting adage: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” That means your descriptions should focus on the benefit to the customer, not the features of the product.

Get Meta

The meta description is the small blurb of copy that shows up under a link to your website in search engine results.

This is often your first opportunity to attract a customer.

The better your meta description, the more likely a searcher will click through to your site. And that dramatically increases your chances to make a sale.

Use keywords in your brand’s unique voice to create effective meta descriptions.

Make sure you’re specifically targeting the product’s targets with each page’s meta description, rather than using a general blurb about your company.

For more tips on creating the type of meta descriptions that generate traffic, click here.

Show Them What You’ve Got

Product images are vital because they show shoppers exactly what they’re in the market for.

The first thing visitors to your product pages will notice, they draw attention and trigger emotions in viewers. They also help them subconsciously envision the impact they will have on their lives.

Show them different aspects of the product, including different angles or “action shots” of it in use.

A video is also a useful tool, though not everyone will want to watch even short clips, so use them as complementary features.

Images are also a factor in your SEO ranking – and can both help and hurt you.

To ensure you’re getting the most from the visuals on your product pages, you should optimize your images for faster loading.

Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry, we’ve got just the thing. Click here for six tips for optimizing images for your ecommerce site.

Make Sure The Price Is Right

While bells and whistles that differentiate your product from the competition are nice and can play a role in purchasing decisions, many times, what determines if you get the sale is one thing: pricing.

But it’s not always about having the lowest price.

In fact, charging too little for your products can hurt the perception of your brand, as customers will assume they’re getting what they paid for, that is, cheap junk.

Try to find that sweet spot where you make the highest profit from the most sales.

And to help customers overcome analysis paralysis, give them side-by-side pricing comparisons.

This helps facilitate decision-making by allowing visitors to compare their options in one place. And nothing makes a price seem lower than showing it right next to a premium option that significantly costs more.

Another trick, which you’ve undoubtedly already aware of is so-called “charm pricing,” or ending prices with $.99.

The rational part of the customer’s brain knows there’s no real difference between a product that costs $299.99 and another that costs $300, but studies have shown most people judge prices by the leftmost digit. Use this psychological trick to your advantage.

Don’t Take Our Word For It

There’s a reason Amazon features reviews so highly on its product pages – they work.

Consumers trust and rely upon the opinions of people who have already bought your offering.

But, did you know customers who interact with reviews are 58% more likely to convert? That alone should be enough to convince you to add them to your product pages.

Other Tips

Another thing you don’t want to neglect on your product page is calls to action (CTAs).

The first thing most salespeople are taught is if you want the sale, you must ask for it.

Make sure you’re providing clear CTAs on your product pages, for example, a large button that reads “Buy Now.”

And if you sell out of a particular item, do NOT deactivate the link.

By keeping it live, you avoid it being identified as a broken link and dinging your SEO score. Simply indicate that this product is currently out of stock.

3. Don’t Ignore Usability

If you want to make sales, your ecommerce site must be user-friendly.

Without well-designed UX/UI (that is, user experience and user interaction), people will navigate away before you can pitch your product, let alone make a sale.

Minimize your bounce rate by ensuring your homepage avoids common UX pitfalls.

Solve Your Technical Issues

Before you do anything else, you need to make sure your website loads quickly for every user.

Within three seconds, and ideally less, your homepage should display its content to visitors.

If not, users, especially mobile users, are likely to become frustrated and look for another digital merchant.

For more information on how to evaluate and speed up your loading time, this article can help.

And speaking of mobile users, your site absolutely must be responsive.

Phones accounted for 54.4% of global web traffic last year and that number keeps growing. If your homepage isn’t responsive, you’re losing potential customers.

Consider How Your Site Is Being Used

While not everyone will use your website the same way, there should be a general path most users follow.

Identify this and make sure the steps are clear. And remember, from time to time, people will get lost. Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for by including a search bar.

Don’t forget to tell your company’s story.

The “About Us” page is more than a chance to brag about how great you are, it’s also a chance to share your history, your values, and your services.

For more tips on creating a top-notch About Us page, check out these examples.

And sometimes, your customers will need to speak to a real person, whether over the phone or via email.

Make sure you have a contact page that doesn’t require a lot of searching to find. Make sure your phone number and email address are listed, so you can be reached with questions, concerns, exchanges, and the like.

4. Blog Your Way To Sales

Does your ecommerce site have a blog? It should.

And no, that short-lived personal blog about inconsistencies in the Star Wars universe you ran 10 years ago isn’t going to cut it. You need a dedicated business blog discussing topics relevant to your products and customers.

There are several reasons blogging is important, not least of all from an SEO point of view.

Creating new posts means you’re creating new content, which signals to search engines your site is active. It’s also a means to generate those all-important backlinks.

A quality blog also helps establish your reputation as an authority in your niche, contributes to your brand image, and even decreases bounce rate.

Make your blog an asset to your ecommerce site by creating and implementing a good content strategy built on three key factors: people, technology, and process.

And remember, your blog is your chance to show off your personality. Because it’s a more informal conversation with customers than other, more rigid marketing materials, you can have more fun.

Create the kind of posts that show you’re passionate about your products and happy to share your expertise.

And don’t forget the social media share buttons (which are also an excellent idea for product pages). This allows people to spread your posts outside of your normal audience, generating more exposure and ideally leading to more sales.

Looking for inspiration? Here are nine ecommerce companies doing blogging the right way.

5. Build A Solid Structure

We’ve touched on different aspects of your ecommerce site’s structure so far, but it’s so important it deserves its own section.

One rule you should live by is that all your content should be accessible to visitors within three clicks from your homepage.

Any more than that, and you run a very real risk of customers abandoning the journey.

On that note, your purchasing process should be as streamlined as possible.

Use the minimum number of pages possible to complete a transaction and keep your checkout page simple and straightforward.

Make sure it is always clear to customers where they are in the checkout process.

Have you ever noticed how many e-retailers use the shopping cart icon in the top right corner of their pages? That’s because it works. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

Make sure your URL structure is logical and easy to follow.

For example, a product web address of will get more clicks from search engine results pages than

Build your entire site around a solid, easy-to-find, easy-to-navigate sitemap, and make sure it’s optimized to be indexed by search engine crawlers, so your pages show up in search engine results.

Finally, because you’re dealing with financial transactions, make sure you’re using adequate security measures.

Make sure your ecommerce site is hosted on a secure platform and consider adding two-factor authentication to prevent purchases made with stolen user credentials.

You should only collect and store the personal data you need.

The Bottom Line

Unfortunately, there is no one magic bullet that will work for every ecommerce business.

What works for an organic dried mushroom merchant is not guaranteed to work for a video game reseller. And what works for the video game store may not work for a beauty brand. It’s up to you to find what works.

However, armed with the knowledge you’ve gained in this article, you should be prepared to begin taking steps to optimize your own ecommerce site.

Above all, remember what your site is trying to accomplish: selling specific products to specific targets.

If you can keep potential customers in mind, while tweaking some technical things to boost your search engine results and smooth out the customer journey, you’re doing all you can to set your business on the path to success.

Happy selling!

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Featured Image: fizkes/Shuttertock

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Daily Search Forum Recap: June 28, 2022



Here is a recap of what happened in the search forums today, through the eyes of the Search Engine Roundtable and other search forums on the web.

We have yet another unconfirmed Google search ranking update rolling out now. Google said near duplicate URLs with canonicals still can lead to the wrong URL ranking. Google seems to be adding pros and cons to some snippets. Google Shopping Ads is testing a brand/merchant slider. Microsoft Bing autocomplete tab is awkward.

Search Engine Roundtable Stories:

  • Google Search Ranking Update Brewing Again June 27-28th

    After maybe four or five days of calm, we are seeing new signs of more larger Google Search ranking algorithm tremors and volatility. This new one seems to just be kicking off, some of the tracking tools are already picking up on it and we have chatter from within the SEO community about a possible update on June 27th and today, June 28th.

  • Google: Near Duplicate URLs With Canonical Still Can Lead To Wrong URL Ranking

    There is an interesting thread on Reddit on a topic we touched on here several times, the topic of Google ranking the wrong version of the URL in Google Search. It all stems back to the URLs you want Google to rank being near duplicate to the URL Google ends up ranking.
  • Google Adds Pros & Cons To Search Result Snippets

    Normally when someone sends me a sophisticated search result snippet from Google and I dig in, I find a reason for how Google came up with this snippet. But it seems like in this case below, Google is being a bit more sophisticated and showing pros and cons in the snippet without the web site having mentioned pros and cons specifically.

  • Google Shopping Ads Tests Retail Brand Slider

    Google seems to be testing a new feature for shopping ads, where as you slide through the shopping ads carousel, it shows you which stores retail brands are being displayed.
  • Bing Autocomplete Tells Searches To Use Tab To Fill In

    Microsoft Bing is testing a new annotation in the autocomplete search results to communicate to searchers that they can tap the tab key to finish the autocomplete without clicking on the term. Here is a screenshot of this that I can replicate – no you cannot click on the word “tab” but using tab on your keyboard does do the work.

  • Mundo Bita At Google Brazil Office

    I saw this photo on Instagram, used Google Lens to figure out who this cartoon character is and discovered his name is Mundo Bita. They were at the Google Brazil office I think for some YouTube subsc

Other Great Search Threads:

Search Engine Land Stories:

Other Great Search Stories:


Industry & Business

Links & Content Marketing

Local & Maps

Mobile & Voice



Other Search


Have feedback on this daily recap; let me know on Twitter @rustybrick or @seroundtable, you can follow us on Facebook and make sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or just contact us the old fashion way.

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Marketers want better features from their martech solutions



How did you change up your stack? Take the 2022 MarTech Replacement Survey

Marketing organizations are still doing it. Ripping out martech solutions in favor of alternatives with better features, better integration capabilities and more data centralization.

And that includes mission-critical solutions like marketing automation and CRM.

The 2022 MarTech Replacement Survey showed a continuation of some of the trends detected in 2021. Organizations are still re-training team members to handle new technology rather than bringing on new hires. Proving ROI has always been important, but the importance is growing. Businesses are still switching from homegrown to commercial technologies. And the voice of marketing operations is getting louder.

Solutions replaced. It never ceases to surprise us to see so many marketing teams facing the challenge of trading their existing marketing automation and CRM platforms for something new. It’s easier to swap out SEO tools, and that’s the third most frequently replaced category in this report.

Up this year was the replacement of project management, ABM and e-commerce platforms — but respondents seem to have figured out virtual events in 2020 and 2021, because there was less activity in that category in this latest report.

A deep dive. The survey, based on responses from almost 300 marketers, not only looks at which solutions were replaced, but also:

  • The key reasons for the changes.
  • Who championed the changes.
  • How the new implementations were managed.
  • How long the replaced solutions had been in place.

Download the 2022 MarTech Replacement Survey here. It’s free and requires no registration.

Why we care. Marketing technology is no longer a nice add-on that supports campaigns and creative initiatives. In fact, it stopped being that a number of years ago. The martech stack is at the center of marketing, determining what marketing organizations can attempt and achieve, defining viable and exceptional strategies, and creating the conditions for success — or failure.

Within the constraints of budgets and the need to demonstrate ROI, every savvy marketing team sees the stack as something constantly evolving and hopefully improving. You’re all on a journey — what we are humbly trying to do is help show you the way.

Get the daily newsletter digital marketers rely on.

The 2021 MarTech Replacement Survey is here.

About The Author

Kim Davis is the Editorial Director of MarTech. Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software ten years ago. His experience encompasses SaaS for the enterprise, digital- ad data-driven urban planning, and applications of SaaS, digital technology, and data in the marketing space.

He first wrote about marketing technology as editor of Haymarket’s The Hub, a dedicated marketing tech website, which subsequently became a channel on the established direct marketing brand DMN. Kim joined DMN proper in 2016, as a senior editor, becoming Executive Editor, then Editor-in-Chief a position he held until January 2020.

Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was Associate Editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village, and has previously worked as an editor of an academic publication, and as a music journalist. He has written hundreds of New York restaurant reviews for a personal blog, and has been an occasional guest contributor to Eater.

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