Beginning life on Google back in 2002, pay-per-click advertising has been helping businesses to make their millions for the last 15 years. Back in February this year, Google made waves in the search community when the decision was made to remove all sidebar ads due to low click-through rates and decreasing engagement. It’s no secret that Google loves to make huge announcements with little to no warning so we went straight to Google for comment where they told us it was primarily down to usability and wanting to focus more on the areas we actually look at. You can read all of what Google had to say here.

But that wasn’t the biggest shake up in it’s 15 year history. Back in May at Google’s Performance Summit, we were made aware on another interesting development from Google - the launch of expanded text ads which made their debut on the 26th of July this year. Today we’re giving you the lowdown on what they are, why Google has decided to roll them out and how it can benefit pay-per-click advertisers.

What are expanded text ads

If you are familiar with the format of standard text ads, the 25-35-35 character limits are likely to be ingrained in your memory, as are the struggles to fit all your ad copy within the characters available. But it’s time to forget that! Although they are similar to standard text ads, expanded text ads have been labelled as the next generation of ads, designed for a ‘mobile-first world’ with both users and advertisers in mind. But let’s not beat around the bush, the main advantage of expanded text ads is in terms of character limits. Providing more space for ad copy, expanded text ads are designed for ‘optimal performance on mobile devices’ allowing advertisers to reach their customers in the all-important micro-moments.

Example of an expanded text ad

Key Differences

  • More prominent headlines: from the 25 character limit headline that we were once used to, expanded texts ads headlines have increased by a whopping 140%, offering space for two headlines of 30 characters each. With expanded text ads, both headlines will appear side by side and depending on the screen size where the ads displays, the headlines will simply wrap around.
  • Two description lines merged: fear not, the extended headline characters hasn’t compromised the character limits of the descriptions. Instead of the two description lines of 35 characters each that we were used to with standard text ads, with expanded text ads, we now have 80 characters to play with giving us greater control over the messaging of our ads. Hooray for 14% more space!
  • Display URLs based on final URL: we no longer have to enter the display URL when creating a new ad! With expanded text ads, the AdWords system will use the domain from the final URL you set and allow you to add up to two new ‘Path’ fields to give people a better idea of what they are clicking through to (up to 15 characters each).
  • Optimised for mobile: gone are the days where we have to select the mobile device setting - as expanded text ads are focused on reaching customers on-the-go, when you create your ad, both desktop and mobile previews are created for you when you are building out your ad in the AdWords interface.

You can read Google's full guide to expanded text ads here.

What sparked the change?

Considering Google has historically been restrictive with character limits in the past, like us, you might be wondering why the sudden change of heart in increasing character limits? Following the removal of Google’s right hand sidebar ads which we’ve mentioned above, Google has been placing more and more focus on mobile and with the removal of the sidebar ads on desktop, this has paved the way for expanded text ads.

With digital constantly evolving, Google has recognised how much time we are spending on our mobile and what we are using them for and as such, has introduced text ads to blur the lines between mobile, desktop and tablet - after all, the majority of us are cross-device consumers.

In fact, just a few days ago on the 25th of September, Brad Bender, VP of display and video advertising at Google, announced the introduction of cross-device retargeting for signed-in users, helping to reach users across devices. Speaking more about this at Advertising Week’s Times Center Stage event, we will chat more about this as it becomes available.

Will expanded text ads improve click-through rate (CTR)?

In short, yes. The more space available, the more the advertiser can include and with more information, the end user will be more likely to click through. Early research reports have shown many advertisers increasing their CTR’s as much as 20% however, research from Merkle showed expanded text ads saw a 16% increase on desktop, 8% on tablet and only 4% increase on mobile so results have varied.

Kirsty Woolley, Multi Channel Acquisition Manager at L’Oreal Luxe said that since launch, expanded text ads have deliver a 92% increase in CTR compared to historic text ads whilst EE have increased CTR by as much as 79%.

After launching only two months ago, only time will tell whether CTR will increase moving forward so we’ll be sure to keep you updated.

Transitioning from standard to expanded text ads

Previously stating advertisers would have to transition across to expanded text ads by the 26th of October, this put fear amongst many and Google has since changed the date to the 31st of January 2017 following the busy festive period. See Google’s official comment below:

“To make sure you have ample time to test and iterate your expanded text ads for the holidays, we are giving advertisers more time to upgrade your creatives. You now have until January 31, 2017, to make the transition to expanded text ads (instead of the original date of October 26, 2016). This means starting on January 31, 2017, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads.”

If you have any questions about transitioning over to expanded text ads or if you would like to share your success stories so far, we’d love to hear from you on Twitter or LinkedIn.