What the Data says about Expanded Text Ads for Google AdWords
On May 24, 2016 Google announced that the AdWords interface would start accepting a new, expanded format text ad as of July. This was a profound change to the ad format that AdWords has been using for over 10 years. Many advertisers were understandably excited by the announcement and expected great improvements in performance from the longer format ads.
We’ve had 60 days of data to look at since the launch of the Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) on July 26, and now we will look to answer the question, “Is Bigger Necessarily Better?”
What’s Different in the Ad Format?
Before we dig into the data, let’s talk about what is different in the new ETA format.
- The headline field has jumped from one headline of 25 characters to two headlines of 30 characters each.
- The description field has combined the previous two separate description lines of 35 characters each into one field of 80 characters in total.
- The display URL now auto populates with the domain of the destination URL and adds two separate field paths of 15 characters each. This is a shift from having to enter both the domain and additional text into one field of 35 characters.
The longer headline field allows the advertiser to create stronger, benefit rich headlines that can do a better job of enticing potential customers to click. The advertiser can now include a strong benefit statement and a call to action in the headline instead of having to choose between the two. This was the first area that Beasley Direct and Online Marketing looked at when we were updating our client’s ads. It remains the key field that we are running split tests on. Google has stated the testing of the new headlines is a best practice to take advantage of the new format.
The combined 80-character description field is a welcome update. No longer does the advertiser need to worry about words and phrases being too long to fit on one 35-character line. The number of times that we’ve had to make a second choice in language because of the two-line split is countless and this change will allow more natural, flowing text that can communicate the benefits of our client’s products to their potential customers.
Display URL Format
The new display URL format takes a bit of getting used to. The splitting of the text following the domain into two separate “paths”. We’ve found that while there is still the opportunity for the addition of calls to action and benefits into this section, the “/”’s that separate the two fields breaks up the flow of the text enough that it is better to approach it as two separate items instead of one combined as existed in the previous standard ads.
Digging in to the Data
What we’ve seen with our clients’ expanded text ads, and what we expect in the next few months:
• We saw an initial spike in CTR when we rolled out our first advertiser ads in late July and early August. Some advertisers saw an increase in performance of up to 52%. This has fallen off somewhat as other advertisers are catching up with updating their ads. We have seen a slightly higher increase in conversion percentage as well, reflecting the new format’s ability to better qualify the potential customer with more info before the click. We expect to see a net gain over time in CTR and conversion rates based on the expanded amount of text in the ads but not at the high levels seen initially.
• We’ve learned some lessons on sharing too much of the client’s story in the ad and thus lessening the CTR because the potential customer doesn’t feel the need to learn more by clicking. This trap of oversharing is not unique to the new format, just a little easier to fall prey to. We saw a decrease in one branded campaign of 5% in CTR due to too much of the offer/story being told in the ad. We addressed this and are now back to a net increase in CTR with the new ETAs.
• Having the expanded 2-line headline gives the advertiser a great opportunity to tease with more intriguing copy and details. We’ve seen an overall increase in the quality of the traffic from ETAs, as measured by conversion rates. To date, this increase as been fairly consistent, regardless of the advertiser being BtoB or BtoC.
Are Bigger Text Ads Better?
So, are bigger text ads better? So far, yes but they are not a silver bullet. Advertisers still need to work the process, testing message assumptions with a steady stream of split tests for all the new, updated elements of the ads. (Remember to keep the tests distinct and separate as you go through the process.)
Good luck and good profits!
About the Author
This post was authored by John Thyfault, Vice President of Search & Social Strategy, Beasley Direct & Online Marketing.
(Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org.)