The introduction of expanded text ads represents one of the biggest shake-ups to hit the AdWords platform, ever. We saw the death of right hand column text ads earlier this year. We saw enhanced campaigns hit in 2013. But the shake-ups keep shaking. Expanded text ads are a whole new beast, and one that reflects Google’s commitment to a mobile-first world.
This is going to be quite a change. You see,
even in my day-to-day life,
I find myself writing in
35 character bursts.
The AdWords ad writing skill is about to change, perhaps dramatically. As long as I can remember, the format has remained constant. Ol’ reliable text ads were something PPC practitioners could always rely on. Ninety-five characters have been a mainstay in digital marketing, but no longer.
What are expanded text ads?
Until now, the anatomy of a standard text ad was as follows: a 25 character headline, two 35 character description lines, and a display URL, which you could manipulate with a subdomain or whatever directory text best embellished your ad.
Now, expanded text ads are the new standard. If you start an AdWords account today, here’s what you’ll have to work with: two headlines of 30 characters each, a single 80 character body, and two optional URL paths to establish navigational context.
Expanded test ads clock in at 140 total characters (versus the 95 we grew accustomed to since AdWords debuted). There is now 47 percent more ad space. The question is: what should you do with it?
What are the differences beyond character count?
The biggest difference beyond character count is structure. There are now two headlines, and the first description line is no longer eligible to become part of the title.
**Here’s an example of a potential text ad. Description line 1 is thrown into the headline because it ends with acceptable punctuation. This will no longer be an option.
This means your old ad approach is unlikely to fit in the new ad format. Standard text ads used a 25 character - 35 character headline (in the cases where your description line 1 ended with appropriate punctuation), which means your legacy ads will likely be incongruent with the new format displaying 30 character – 30 character headlines. It’s the same total number of characters, but it changes how you use ad text because the dash between your two headlines is part of the new format. Legacy headlines will no longer make sense, unless you like using a dash in your writing.
And no matter what you do, your domain before the URL “path” is generated from your final URL. The “www.” is added to your URL even in cases where you use a subdomain of your site (though, to be honest, we haven’t observed enough of this new ad format in the wild to be absolutely sure of this).
The third notable difference is the lack of a “mobile preferred” ad option. After getting the option to deliver mobile specific experiences through enhanced campaigns, it’s somewhat frustrating to find that we can no longer write mobile-specific ad copy. On the other hand, from Google’s perspective, expanded text ads were created to deliver more information to a mobile audience.
By far the biggest change here is the freedom to write uninterrupted for 80 characters. At some point, every PPC manager has created a perfect ad that’s one character too long. We’ve all had to walk away from our desk when the perfect articulation of a pain point doesn’t quite jive with our call to action, because of character restrictions. But now we have more ad real estate to seize those opportunities and communicate our marketing message better than ever.
How can I use expanded text ads?
As of July 26th, 2016, all accounts have access to expanded text ads. And thankfully, they’re easy to implement outside the AdWords user interface. Agencies like ours got a preview of these new ads, and we were initially frustrated by the lack of support for tools like the AdWords editor, but now there’s full AdWords editor support. This makes bulk uploads, editing and ad labeling easier.
Expanded text ads are not yet available through AdWords Scripts, but we expect that to change shortly.
So what do expanded text ads mean to you?
Bing Ads uploads will probably not work in near term, though it’s been announced that Bing will support Google’s new format. It’ll just be a matter of time before uploads from Google to Bing are smooth again.
If you’re not ready for the change, you can go back to standard text ads in the AdWords UI.
That said, I recommend adopting the new ad format and embracing the possibilities. Sure, not everything you’ve had success with in the past will transition smoothly, but this format will open new doors that the previous 95 character ads prohibited. Like anything else in world of PPC and digital marketing, your motto should be “test, test, test.” And now we have more characters to configure and play with! Also, if you were in the group that constantly had to make a choice between your value proposition and your call to action, it’s time to rejoice.
I don’t recommend pausing your old ads quite yet. Legacy ads that have been winners of many ad testing cycles remain ad test champions. We’ll test new approaches out, but remember, new doesn’t always mean better.
That said, we should actively look for the new ads that do work. Google states on the AdWords blog that you won’t even be able to create a new standard text ad past October 26th. Apparently your legacy standard text ads will still be allowed to run, but you won’t be able to create any more of the old versions once October 26th rolls around. So I guess we can all safely start to embrace expanded text ads. No one knows when the standard ads will be retired, but since it’s a Google product, I expect the change to be sudden.
In a year wrought with change, expanded text ads represent one of the biggest changes by far. While it’s tough to foresee the true impact of this update, it could very well be bigger than either enhanced campaigns or the removal of right hand column ads. One thing’s for sure either way—it’s time to start testing expanded text ads and start thinking in terms of 30-30-80. And if mobile ads are now the true priority, this is the first instance where mobile actually delivers a better format to convey the message.