Expanded Text Ads What We Have Learnt So Far

Earlier this year Google revealed the newest and perhaps most exciting change in AdWords for quite some time: Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). They claim it’s the biggest development in Paid Search for years, with optimal performance expected on smartphones as the move is designed for a mobile-first world. The new ad format allows advertisers to increase the amount of text by 50%, with the bold headline message increasing by 140%. With iProspect receiving early access to ETAs, we have been able to review the effects on performance 5 months on. 

Our Observations so far: CTR has largely improved overall

The big statement from Google was that ETAs would increase click through rates by around 20%. Some of our accounts have seen incredible results, with percentage increases into the hundreds. Top line results can however be misleading, so it is important to know where differences lie between campaigns before citing huge improvements.

Most noticeably, brand results have been far less newsworthy. Early results from our clients showed that, whilst non-brand queries for almost all accounts had at least a 10% uplift in Click Through Rates (CTR), brand CTRs were either flat or slightly worse than standard ads. With standard ads for brand being so strong already, it’s likely that Google are still serving standard over expanded. Given that there is also less room to improve on Brand ads, with some brand CTRs already as high as 40%, the performance uplift will usually be less anyway.

Competitor activity also affected results; we noticed that many advertisers were slow off the mark to adopt the new ad format, giving those that did get their ETAs uploaded quickly a huge advantage. This will have intensified the performance increases for generic ads but with brand campaigns having few competitors, they wouldn’t have felt this effect.

Finally, we observed that there is disparity between where the ads are being served, with standard ads getting shown far more across the Search Partner Network than on Google Search. With CTRs lower in general across the SPN, this could be further exacerbating the variance between the ad types. Results can also vary between devices, as ETAs are often performing worse on mobile than desktop, despite what Google have been suggesting.

Key Takeaways:

  • Although the temptation could be to focus less on brand ads, it is vital to get a brand ETA plan implemented. This will ensure the new ads catch up with the standard ad performance and get a strong history behind them well in advance of the deadline.
  • With no mobile specific ETAs available you may want to consider testing alternative options for mobile focused clients such as device based ad customisers.

Opportunity to optimise has improved: Increased testing ability

The increase in copy length has opened up a whole new opportunity for ad testing, with more text in an eye-catching position and a more customisable display URL. Below are three key points to consider that will have a big impact on your ETA planning.

  1. 40% more headline text gives greater chance to get the most significant points visible – due to truncation however ensure that the most important points are in the first headline.
  2. Make use of all characters, don’t simply combine standard text ads, and use the extra length to say something different. Again, with no device preference option available, it is vital to ensure that your ad reads well across all devices. 
  3. Create different transpositions of your ad to understand which point consumers react best to. With many more combinations of your text available, it’s likely you will always be able to find a variation that shows improvement.

DKIs and Ad Customisers:

Expanded text ads are as customisable as ever, with both dynamic keyword insertion and ad customisers supported by the new ad format. This is good news for advertisers who rely heavily on feeds to update their ad. If you have not used either you may want to consider taking them into account when planning your ETA strategy – there is no limit to how many you can have per ad and so the combinations available has increased with the text increase. The beauty of ad customisers is that you can update ads without resetting the quality score, hence not effecting CTR. Combining ETAs and ad customisers has the potential to have a powerful effect on CTR uplift.

Google continue to set the trends: Bing soon followed suit

It didn’t take long for Bing to announce that they would be supporting the expanded text ad format. Advertisers are able to apply to the test pilot for Bing, with a full roll out expected around December this year. Unlike Google however, Bing are not planning to expire the standard text ads any time soon. We will be excited to review the effect that ETAs have on performance for Bing campaigns, and whether this mirrors what we have seen across Google.

Traditional Adwords ads will soon disappear: make sure you’re ready

Google have recently extended the deadline for the expiration of standard text ads, meaning advertisers now have additional time to continue testing variations of ads. As pointed out earlier, there are many who have not made the switch yet; Google have probably extended the deadline as a result of this. Make the most of the extra time to get ahead of your competition; if you have rolled out ETAs fully then you can begin analysing what is performing well and testing new variations to get your ads into pole position. If you are yet to catch on, then pursue an ETA strategy now before it’s too late.