26th May 2017
Not long ago, Google announced the biggest change to their ad text format in 15 years – the introduction of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). This was a natural transformation for Google after removing the right-hand-side ads, and means more blank space screaming to be filled.
The buzz around these hit everyone, from the smallest agency to the largest client. And not for nothing: the new ETAs are almost twice as big as the standard text ads (45% to be precise) and they claimed to boost the CTR by as much as 20%. This meant that instead of a 25-character headline and two 35-character description lines, there were now two headlines (two!) of 30 characters each, plus an 80-character description line. For many digital marketing practitioners, writing the ads in the new format was unusual and even a little uncomfortable as the 25-30-30 combination was something that could be repeated even while asleep. Nevertheless, the change has happened, and businesses are trying to take the advantage of the extra characters – testing out different strategies.
For many of us, while starting to shift to the new ETAs, the question of Bing came up: Will Bing adapt their ad formats to match Google? Or will the account syncing between Google and Bing become a headache?
It turned out to be good news and Bing is already running ETAs in beta and the ad specifics are identical to Google’s. There is one difference though, Google has announced that it will retire the standard ads on October 26, while Bing has no plans of getting rid of the old format. This means that both ad formats will get served interchangeably.
Unfortunately, the first results of the Bing ETAs have not yet been published so surely this is something we all look forward to.
Within Further’s clientele, results indicate that the change in CTR is negligible. One reason for this is that more advertisers are adopting this new ad format thus not making ETAs to stand out as much.
Another reason is the increased number of ads showing on top of the SERP (up to four ads), meaning there are more options for the searcher to click on. This stresses the importance of having higher ad rank, especially when search is done through mobile – where typically 1-2 ads are displayed above the line (ATL). It also highlights the importance of having ad extensions, as these can boost the quality score (and ad rank), as well as visually make the ad bigger, hence increasing the likelihood of someone clicking on the ad.
We have found that certain clients are now able to include their full brand name in the headline. Those with long names had previously had to abbreviate them (e.g. International vs Int.).
The additional characters also allow you to put a call to action in the headline. This is a great opportunity to reinforce the action you want someone to take after clicking on your ad.
Finally, the dash sign in between both headlines could potentially be used to your advantage, for example: travel clients, where it can serve as a replacement of prepositions, thus saving couple of characters (e.g. ‘Cheap Inbound Travel Tickets London – Manchester’) – something our agency will be looking at when the opportunity arises.
From a more technical perspective, we find labelling the new ETAs useful when doing a comparison with the Standard Text Ads. Another way for a quick comparison within Adwords, is to filter by ‘Ad Type’ and select only ‘Expanded Text Ads’ to compare both formats.
As always, it is important to take the click volume into consideration as it can inflate the CTR significantly.
Next, we would still suggest keeping the Standard Ads active for some time to compare like-for-like – as well as testing different messaging with the new ETAs. Finally, it has to be remembered that this new ad format is aimed at all devices, so having a message that appeals to all of the devices is key.
To summarize, the introduction of Expanded Text Ads has definitely been a significant change. Whether positive or negative, it has pushed advertisers to review their existing ad copy, which is often forgotten or left on the bottom of the task list.
Even though there is still hype around ETAs and everyone’s rushing to update their ads, there is no urgency to do so as Google is still using the same principle of automatically extending ad headlines by pulling up description line 1 when there is a full stop after it.
However, ideally we should be all rolling out ETAs sooner or later, so let the most compelling ad copy win!