Expanded Text Ads: a Postmortem

It has been almost nine months since expanded text ads, the new AdWords text ad format, has launched for everyone, and a lot has changed since July of 2016. While there has been a lot going on with updates to Google search results and AdWords, we’ve seen some incredible leaps and bounds from this “new” text ad format. While postmortems are usually reserved for discussions of a product or service after it’s been discontinued or no longer in use, we couldn’t wait to say: expanded text ads are here to stay!

Watching the new expanded text ad testing we’ve done internally, as well as for our clients, has been an incredible opportunity to observe a new format go through the beginning of its life cycle. From initial implementation to optimization and A/B testing, we’ve had the chance to dive deeper into this new AdWords format and pull out some incredible takeaways.

If you don’t manage your AdWords account or you haven’t touched it in a couple of months, now’s the time to start asking questions about expanded text ads.

What are expanded text ads?

Expanded text ads launched in late June 2016 and have nearly revolutionized how we build and structure our presence within AdWords. Expanded text ads were created to bridge the gap between mobile and desktop and provide one, cohesive advertising format across any platform. Furthermore, offering more characters and a larger chunk of real estate on search result pages has made our boring old ads into something more.

Expanded text ads offer us 45 additional characters to craft our messaging. With two 30 character headlines and one 80 character description, these new text ads almost double the character counts from the previous 25-35-35 iteration. Here’s the official example comparing the old text ads (left) versus the expanded text ads (right).

expanded text ads from Google

How are expanded text ads different from the old ad format?

Aside from the differences in character counts for the major ad fields, the expanded text ads come with two 15 character vanity URL fields. These vanity URLs offer us even more opportunities to insert our brand, keyword or messaging into our ads.

We’ll be honest; we massively undervalued the expansion of the vanity URL to two fields in our original assessment because we were struck by the sheer increase in character counts. After working with this new format, we’ve learned to put almost as much focus on the two vanity URL fields as the description.

How have expanded text ads improved our AdWords efforts?

We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response to expanded text ads from both internal teams and clients. Who knew that developing longer, more descriptive ad copy would be seen as a positive from clients and advertisers alike.

We’ve seen an almost meteoric rise in click-through rate (CTR) since July 2016. We are not at all surprised that deeper, more engaging copy and ad content has allowed us to increase CTRs across the board.

We took a closer look at a few of our accounts who have not had any budget increases over the last nine months, and the results are pretty staggering (see below).

expanded text ads Click-through rate

While we will acknowledge that keyword list additions and ad extension optimizations do impact these results, we believe the largest factor is implementation and optimization of these new expanded text formats. So how can you see results like this?

Our 5 (Revised) Tips for Expanded Text Ads

We’ve had a lot of time to play around with expanded text ads in the last nine months, and we’ve learned some great things you can do right now to make an immediate impact on your campaigns. You’ll recognize some of these from our expanded text ads announcement article, but they’ve been updated to match our findings.

1. Write new ad text that works.

Our last recommendation to write for both mobile and desktop platforms has become irrelevant. With the prevalence of smart devices, almost every user begins their journey on one platform and picks up on another. Ad copy should work across mobile and desktop because the lines for each platform are starting to blur. After all, the easiest way to make your messaging fit across both platforms is to use the same (successful) messaging in both places.

Successful ads are any ads that perform above your company’s target KPI. Here are a few examples of ways to optimized for different business goals:

  • If you’re trying to drive conversions, optimize for your number of conversions or conversion rate.
  • If your goal is driving traffic, optimize for clicks or click-through rate.
  • If you’re running an awareness campaign, optimize for impressions.

2. Spend a little extra time on the vanity URL paths (and make them different).

While we did diminish the value of the additional 15 character vanity URL fields at the beginning, we certainly are not doing that now. These expanded fields have proven to be a major factor in how users see our ads and validate if they are worth clicking on. Seeing high-value keywords or keyword variations in the vanity URL goes a long way to ensure that the user is headed where they think they should be going.

3. You have a lot of characters available. Use them.

45 additional characters can be quite daunting for seasoned SEM managers, but we saw it as a healthy challenge. The additional characters gave us room to breathe and incorporate more of our or our client’s branding into the copy. If you’ve made the switch to expanded text ads, don’t just migrate your existing ad copy; develop new, engaging copy for your ads.

4. Pause your old ads after you have success with expanded text ads.

We previously mentioned that old ad copy shouldn’t be paused right away because the expanded text ad format needs time to make an impact. We can safely say that this is no longer the case. Pause those old 25-35-35’s and start implementing the new and improved format.

5. Test, test, test!

Testing was on our list last time, but we felt it was important enough to cover again. Any AdWords manager worth their salt knows that you need to be actively testing multiple ad copy variations and styles to help determine the best possible route for your AdWords campaign(s).

The Final Word on Expanded Text Ads

Our final word won’t be much of a surprise if you’ve made it this far. We LOVE this new AdWords format. We encourage every PPC manager to get in, make some changes and make the most of this new ad format.

Need help optimizing your AdWords spends?

The SEM experts at Blue Compass can help improve your AdWords or Bing Ads performance. Contact us today to find out more!

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