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Google's has just released yet another major change for Adwords, Expanded Text Ads. Should you jump to take advantage of the new format, or wait until it's use is mandatory in late October?


At the end of July, 2016 Google unleashed the new Expanded Text Ads on everyone. This is a complete reformat of how ads display in the search results. It’s been a big year of changes in both SEO and SEM, and we wouldn’t blame you if this one has missed your radar. A limited selection of beta testers has been using them for a few months, so we had a good idea on what it would look like. Now that it’s rolled out to the general public (and our clients accounts), we’re getting a feel on what the impact is and what happens to your existing text ads.

Everything is mega-sized!

Or at least is feels like it. After so many years of Google forcing us to try and write “amazing” copy in 35 characters or less, not to mention a lowly 25 character headline, the new expanded text ads give you TWO headlines of 30 characters each (60 total), and space for an actual paragraph based description of 80 characters! For the first time it feels like we can write real advertising copy.

What happens to my existing ads?

Google has said they will continue to support the old standard ad format creation until October 26, 2016. After that all new ad copy will need to be written in the new format. Standard ads will continue to display, but as you may have noticed already the formatting will be changed for you. And not necessarily how you want it.

Standard ad display changes

In order to fit nicely in the wide ad (and search) area, your standard format description line will display one after another. This has already been happening for a quite some time anyway, and exclusively since the demise of the right-hand side ads, so you’ve probably seen it. What has also been happening for a little while is Google could promote your first description line to the second headline spot. While this is great as you will fit in with all the other large ads, it leaves a very short description. Not to mention your headline may no longer make sense, or be the largest message you want searchers to see.

1st line promotion. Image courtesy of

Why has Google Made this Change?

After all these years they’ve finally realized that SEO people simply had it better than PPC people. Okay, while that may be conjecture on my part, I do believe that bringing search ads more in line with what the organic results show is a smart move on Google’s part.

As someone who works a lot in SEO, I’ve become quite good at writing 65 character titles and 155 character meta descriptions (and don’t let anyone tell you that meta descriptions no longer matter, they do). Those constraints forced you to keep your topic on point, and not “overwrite” titles and descriptions. It was a comfortable, yet challenging workspace that could yield amazing results.

As soon I felt a client’s website and content were up to par, and I turned their focus to paid advertising, it was like writer’s block had set in. I would down and start writing what felt like great copy only to have every, single, line be over the character limit. Over the years I (and every other PPC marketer) was basically forced to develop a repertoire of generic lines that converted well we could adapt to individual clients needs. This was not always a bad thing, best practices in ad writing became easy to find for beginners to get started, and campaigns could be rolled out quickly when needed. Of course there’s always a flip-side to this, and the ad space started to become crowded with generic attention grabbing descriptions. “FREE Shipping over $20”, or “Always up to 80% off” became common for one or both of the description lines. And the sad thing is these types of headlines with ALL CAPS where necessary to get people’s attention in the busy space that was desktop search.

The fact that mobile phone search has a more compact, easy to read display, searchers were able to clearly read the ads as they scrolled past them. The limited copy ad format simply didn’t create inviting, descriptive copy that gained attention. And when you have a user’s full attention you get clicks, and clicks is how Google makes money. This meant marketers were writing separate ads (with separate bids and budgets) for mobile devices, and sometimes choosing to ignore desktop. This unifies everything and allows Google to serve the same ad to desktop and mobile, keeping the experience consistent. While this looks (okay, is) financially motivated, it creates a better experience for everyone. It’s win-win.

Should I change my ad now?

In short, yes. This is new, and being one step ahead of your competition has never been a bad strategy. But don’t replace your standard ads yet. While you can, run them side-by-side, an A/B test of sorts. In your enjoyment of being able to write full, beautiful sentences, you may miss the fact that that short snippet really did convert better. An this will allow you to go into November with more data while your competition missed the boat on being able to run standard beside expanded.

Not sure where to start, or don’t have the time to write new copy? Shoot us a message, and we can get you started on an Adwords Expanded Text Ads strategy today.

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