Google AdWords update: expanded text ads

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Author information: Phil McMinn , Director of Digital Marketing , Post information: 29 Jul 2016 , 5 min read ,
Related post categories: Digital Marketing , PPC ,

On Tuesday 26 July Google rolled out a major change to AdWords, announcing the release of expanded text ads to all advertisers, with immediate effect. This is the biggest change I’ve seen in my time working with AdWords. Expanded text ads will eventually replace standard text ads, so if you have a Google Ad Grant, or you’re running paid search activity, what are the key changes you need to know about?

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Firstly, this change had been expected for some time: it was announced in May 2016 at the Google Performance Summit along with a recommendation to start preparing for this upgrade ahead of time. We didn’t know when these changes would come into action, and I certainly wasn’t expecting this change to come out of beta for all advertisers quite so soon.

What are the main changes?

The way ads are written has fundamentally changed. The three key changes are as follows:

  • Instead of one 25-character headline, ads can now have two 30-character headlines, both of which need to be used. Headline 1 will be separated from headline 2 by a hyphen.
  • Instead of two 35-character description lines, ads now have one 80-character description line.
  • Display URLs have been entirely rethought. You now get two paths (subdirectories) of up to 15 characters each, with no control over how the domain is displayed.

As a result, expanded text ads offer 50% more ad text for you to promote your services, events or products, so this is definitely a good thing. We’ve started writing ads in the new format, and first impressions are good—much more space to play with, but this comes with its own set of challenges. It takes longer to write a well-crafted ad, and the shift in focus on to the headline changes the structure of how an ad should be written. If you’ve picked up habits when writing ads, such as always finishing up with a strong call to action, or including key information in callout extensions rather than in ad copy, you’ll need to rethink some of these approaches.

AdWords Editor has also been updated to accommodate expanded text ads. The update allows you to export your standard ads and reimport them as expanded text ads, which will save you some time upgrading your ads. However, you’re still going to need to write a second headline and a new display URL for your new expanded ads, otherwise you won’t be able to post your changes to the live account.

What do you need to do?

The biggest thing advertisers should be aware of is that standard text ads will no longer be accepted as of 26 October 2016. You’ll also no longer be able to edit your existing standard ads—if you want to tweak ad copy, change a final URL, or change the date of an event you’re promoting, you’ll need to create a brand new expanded text ad instead. In other words, this is really happening and you really need to respond.

Whilst standard ads will continue to run after 26 October, Google will discontinue the standard ad format in time, at which point you’ll be forced to make these changes. And it’s not entirely unthinkable that Google will favour these new ad formats when calculating ad rank (in the same way they favour the use of ad extensions in paid search, https sites in organic search, or mobile-friendly sites in mobile search).

We’re going to start the process of upgrading all of our client accounts with immediate effect to stay well ahead of any enforced changes. We also want to make sure that our clients aren’t left behind—if you’re last to make these changes, your standard ads may look less impactful in a sea of expanded text ads, which could cost you clicks.

Google have reported early signs that expanded text ads have significantly better clickthrough rates, so moving now to make your ads stand out more might put you out in front of the competition. Lastly, don’t underestimate the time this upgrade may take: if you’ve got a large account, you’re no doubt running thousands of ads that will, in time, need to be rewritten. Don’t forget to review your ad extensions too: if you’re going to use the expanded character limits for ads to add in additional messaging, be sure you’re not already mentioning this information in callout extensions, sitelinks and structured snippets.

Summary

It’s early days but we’re welcoming these changes. There are still some unknowns, particularly around whether these new double headlines might truncate when making full use of the 60 character limit.

Google have attempted to clarify the situation, but it’s still not entirely clear. On the one hand, Google’s post on the Google Advertiser Community forum recommends advertisers “consider creating headlines with 33 characters or less to ensure all of their ad text shows,” whilst also stating that “we recommend utilizing all of the characters allowed by this new format.” 33 characters would make writing in this new format extremely difficult.

These are heady times in the world of Google. In the last few months alone we’ve seen the removal of ads on the right-hand side of Google’s results pages, a shift from yellow to green ad labels for text ads (which makes it harder to differentiate paid ads from organic results) and a change to the width of organic results in the SERPs (allowing for longer titles and meta descriptions). Next up: a major overhaul to the AdWords interface, which is going to be rolled out later this year and into next. We can’t wait to see it.

Summary

It’s early days but we’re welcoming these changes. There are still some unknowns, particularly around whether these new double headlines might truncate when making full use of the 60 character limit.

Google have attempted to clarify the situation, but it’s still not entirely clear. On the one hand, Google’s post on the Google Advertiser Community forum recommends advertisers “consider creating headlines with 33 characters or less to ensure all of their ad text shows,” whilst also stating that “we recommend utilizing all of the characters allowed by this new format.” 33 characters would make writing in this new format extremely difficult.

These are heady times in the world of Google. In the last few months alone we’ve seen the removal of ads on the right-hand side of Google’s results pages, a shift from yellow to green ad labels for text ads (which makes it harder to differentiate paid ads from organic results) and a change to the width of organic results in the SERPs (allowing for longer titles and meta descriptions). Next up: a major overhaul to the AdWords interface, which is going to be rolled out later this year and into next. We can’t wait to see it.

Questions

If you’d like to find out more about expanded text ads and how our team can help you, please get in touch and one of our experts will get back to you.

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Author information: Phil McMinn , Director of Digital Marketing , Post information: 29 Jul 2016 , 5 min read ,
Related post categories: Digital Marketing , PPC ,