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5 min read

Expanded Text Ads: Does Bigger Really Mean Better?

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

From 31st January 2017, Google is all set to roll out a new text ad format to all advertisers, marking the biggest change to the text ad format since AdWords launched 15 years ago. For many of these advertisers the pressure is really on: if an ad isn’t updated into this new, longer format, they will no longer be shown on the Google search network.

What’s the big deal?

These new text ads, or ‘Expanded Text Ads’ (ETAs), are almost twice the size of standard text ads, the format that Google has been running until now. The intention is that this will maximise an ad’s presence on the search results page, giving users more information about your product or service which will in turn make them more likely to click your ad and convert on-site.

Upgrading from the standard text ad format of one 25-character headline and two 35-character descriptions, the new ETA format features two 30-character headlines and one 80-character description, which means there will be a total ad size increase of 47%. This is massive for paid advertisers, as it gives us plenty more characters with which to write engaging, compelling ads – the former limitations of the AdWords standard format have been largely removed.

Google’s 25-25-35 standard text ad format

Google’s new 30-30-80 Expanded Text Ad format

(Image source: AdWords Help)

Also new to the AdWords text ad format is the ability to customise the URL that is displayed to your users. The final URL domain remains the same as the root of your final domain in ETAs as with standard text ads. However, advertisers can now opt to customise one or two URL paths, each with 15 characters available, providing opportunities for more keyword insertion that will further increase the ad’s relevance for potential customers.

Below are three examples of how these customisable URL paths have been utilised by different advertisers all bidding on the search query ‘paris holidays’.

Designed with mobile in mind

Since so many users now are browsing the web online on mobile devices over desktops, it’s crucial that paid ads are making as much impact on these smaller devices as possible. This is highly likely all in accordance with Google’s forthcoming move to begin indexing pages using mobile content over desktop, which means that over the coming months websites may begin to experience a natural shift in their organic ranking. Surely this can only mean good things for the paid pack – with high enough bids and good enough quality scores, ETAs should be hitting the jackpot.

(Image source: Google Inside AdWords blog)

Are ETAs living up to the hype?

Ever since Google announced the changes they’d be making to the AdWords text ad format, rumours of a 20% increase in click-through-rate in ETAs have been floating around digital cyberspace. But it’s unclear where this statistic has come from, or even if there’s any truth behind it. Advertisers are already reporting mixed reviews from their initial ETA experiments. Eva Rey, in her blog post about ETAs, reported that consumer giant L’Oreal Luxe saw a massive 92% increase in click-through-rate for ETAs in comparison to AdWords’ standard ad format, and mobile company EE also experienced a 79% CTR increase.

Contrastingly, an investigation by PPC Hero found that one of their accounts actually saw a reduction in click-through-rate for ETAs in comparison to desktop and mobile-preferred ads on the appropriate device type. However, the article does stress that all campaigns in the account analysed were set to optimise for clicks as opposed to some of the more conservative ad rotation settings, which may give us reason to take this data with a pinch of salt.

Pros and cons

Whether or not you’re concerned with the statistics at this early stage in the ETA roll-out phase, it’s clear that the new ad format has some distinct pros and cons.

One immediately obvious downside is the time taken to rewrite the ads for each campaign. You’ve just perfected the copy for your standard text ads and got some conclusive data rolling across your campaigns, and now it’s time to start over. For smaller AdWords accounts this re-writing process won’t have been such an issue, but for large accounts and in particular agencies this changeover presents a mammoth task. In fact, Google pushed the compulsory date for the official ETA implementation back two months to give businesses extra time to effectively rebuild their campaigns.

Furthermore, a new ad format brings with it a whole host of new ‘best practice’ guides, many of which will be conflicting. As with any AdWords decisions, what converts best for one client may not convert at all for another and the same applies to ETAs: only a sizeable amount of time and significant split-testing of text ad will tell.

Blogger Amin Rashid is concerned about the impact of Google’s new mobile-optimised focus.

“Expanded text ads provide harsh and severe competition as there is only one top spot available. The so-called position 2 or 3 will be pushed further down, especially on the smaller device.”

It’s certainly not all bad news, though. Moving forward, it is expected that the ad writing process itself will be easier for advertisers – gone are the days of figuring out how to split sentences across the two 35-character description lines in the standard ad format. As already mentioned, the 47% larger ETA format provides more opportunity to add detail about products and services and increase keyword density, which are both crucial to creating relevant, click-worthy ads. In time, the ETA format is likely to boost the average quality score of ads and drive down the cost of clicks – we can’t complain about the prospect of that.

Have your AdWords accounts experienced any significant positive or negative impact as a result of Expanded Text Ads? Leave your comments below.

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