Google began testing expanded text ads in June 2016, increasing the character limit of text ads and giving advertisers exponentially more space to create better ad creatives with more specific and engaging copy.

Expanded text ads (ETAs) mean that current character limits have been extended as follows:

Current character limits:

  • Headline – 25 characters
  • Description text – 35 characters

Expanded character limits:

  • Two headlines – 30 characters each
  • Description text – 80 characters

Initial Results From ETA Testing

Here at ClickThrough, we wanted to ensure that our clients will be fully prepared for when expanded text ads roll out permanently later this year. In order to understand the impact this change could have on click-through rate, the paid search management team conducted split tests across six of our clients, comparing results of standard text ads to that of ETAs.

Initial results were mixed. Split testing revealed that two out of six of the sites’ tested saw an improved click-through rate with ETAs, while the remaining four saw a decline in CTR. Results found that one client saw a good increase of 18% in CTR while another saw a decrease of 32%.

Note: This data excludes the Google Search Partners as expanded text ads do not seem to run here. Our results focus purely on Google SERPs.

Why Have Expanded Text Ads Not Performed?

While the move to expanded text ads has only been in its beta phase of testing by Google, it appears that our mixed results from split testing may be due to the automatic modification of standard text ads by Google. We have found examples in Google SERPs where the search engine has modified standard text ads to mirror expanded text ads, even where this has not been implemented by the advertiser.

The below two ads from Ford.co.uk and Carwow.co.uk demonstrate how Google has modified a standard text ad in this way:

eta ads

The top ad from Ford is an expanded text ad and the bottom ad pictured is a standard text ad, in which Google has taken the first description line and transformed it into a second headline. This has resulted in the standard text ad headline being longer than the expanded text ad.

Another important factor that may have affected our initial tests is the fact that Google may only currently expose ETAs to 20% of traffic, which will soon switch to 100% of traffic when out of Beta.

Google haven’t yet confirmed when the complete switch over to expanded text ad format will be but we don’t imagine it will be long so it’s important to be ready.

How To Prepare For Full ETA Rollout

Over the next few months, the paid search management team at ClickThrough will continue to roll out and monitor the performance of expanded text ads in preparation for the permanent rollout. We will be using Google’s recommended guidelines in order to get the most out of ad creatives. This will mean a new way of thinking about ad creatives; with new keyword and ad customising potential, as well as cross-device optimisation to create a seamless transition for all our clients.

Need support with the writing of your ads during the changeover to extended text ads? Get in touch with our team of paid search management experts. Harnessing our continued research, we can help you make the change as seamlessly as possible. 

Did you find this page useful?

Comments

About the author:

Lisa Coghlan is a digital and content coordinator at ClickThrough Marketing. She writes SEO content for many of the company’s larger clients, and assists in the implementation of content strategy. She writes live gig reviews and has a mild obsession with finding new documentary podcasts.