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The dust has settled on AdWords expanded text ads. What now?

The dust has settled on AdWords expanded text ads. What now?

In April of 2016, a small percentage of search marketers received notices from their Google reps that AdWords was changing. At the time, Google had recently eliminated right-rail ads, and it was making people nervous. When the expanded text ads announcement was released, it sent the SEM world into a frenzy. People panicked.

Now that expanded text ads have been fully released to all AdWords accounts and the initial shock is over, what now?

Depending on when you were granted access to this new ad type, you may currently be in one of the three stages of implementation.

  1. Plan creative rollout.
  2. Determine creative purpose.
  3. Iterate and optimize.

We have outlined these three stages toward optimization and provided some helpful thoughts on approaching each one.


1. How (and when) to make the full ETA switch

When Google officially launched expanded text ads in July, they noted that standard ads will no longer be accepted (or editable) as of October 26, 2016. Before this happens, advertisers should make their decisions about adoption rate and adoption schedule. But how? Benchmarking.

  • Create an ETA for the bottom 10 percent of your ad groups (at the very minimum).
  • Let these ads collect data for 14 days (less if you get enough volume).
  • Segment the average click-through rate (CTR) for each ad type (standard text and expanded text) for the entire 14 days, the first seven days and the final seven days.

The purpose of taking the steps above is to help you determine if ETAs are working well for your account (We have seen mixed performance).

Unfortunately, there is no standard answer here on a rollout schedule for expanded text ads because AdWords accounts vary so much. If your existing standard ads possess history and good relevance, your best bet may be to use ETAs sparingly in the coming two months.

Do we recommend having an ETA in every ad group? Yes, but don’t jump in without testing the water first. Keep in mind that this change is coming, and plan accordingly.

These initial benchmark tests may help you predict impact on clicks, conversions and revenue once standard ads have been sunsetted. These forecasts will need to be shown to clients and team members.

2. Have a purpose for your creative

One mistake that we’ve seen from advertisers thus far is that many of them are merely “getting it done.”

The use of similar ad copy and similar character counts in a new format won’t bring incremental clicks. Change your ETA ad copy to generate additional value from the newly available space. Simply reusing existing headlines or scribbling ad copy to take up space is not an effective use of these new features.

Below we have listed a good jumping-off point for what one iteration of a testing plan can include. Your testing plans should include creative approaches for each ad variable (listed below), the goals for each variable and your hypotheses on how new creative will impact your AdWords account. Feel free to manipulate the “purpose” used within each creative variable. This should definitely be unique to your brand.

Headline 1: Introduce concepts/align with query.

Headline 2: Use numeric values to draw the visual attention of searcher.

Path 1: Tell the user this URL is relevant to what they are searching for.

Path 2: Inspire immediate action. They may run out of time.

Description: Educate and inform.


3. Iterate to make ETAs most effective

New copy is always a challenge. Testing the new variables related to expanded text ads is uncharted waters for all of us.

Here is a creative iteration guideline process we have put together to help advertisers make their new expanded text ads more effective:


After you’ve implemented new AdWords ad creative and collected data, use the following steps to evaluate and evolve your creative testing plan:

Review “new creative” performance data against existing baselines (quantitative analysis). Every two to four weeks, review the purposeful creative you have implemented. If you’ve developed a diagram for your brand’s creative standardization (similar to step #2), you will need to review how effective it was. Compare new creative to what existed previously (baselines).

Ask yourself why (qualitative analysis). The AdWords creative approaches you choose will impact the consumer behavior related to your hypotheses. Don’t just look at the data; try to gauge why certain AdWords ads made users act in a certain way. If your hypothesis was, “I believe using numbers in my Headline 2 will grab visual attention,” and it did not work, ask yourself why.

Use quantitative and qualitative analyses to evolve your plan. Evaluate the impact of what you’ve learned. You may have some idea of what your testing plan looks like, but this document is an ever-evolving organism. Your previous tests should change your future tests. This is one of the toughest steps. Talking about how something should influence behavior is one thing; it a completely different thing to actually go build it into your project plan. Set time aside to make these changes to your planning docs.

Forecast AdWords performance. Part of your test hypotheses should be related to the impact on your AdWords account. Prior to implementing anything new, look at how your tests and creative optimizations have impacted previous results. Use this data to understand how this new test will impact impressions, clicks, conversions and sales.

Build what’s next. Okay, you thought about what you’d like to know, you gathered data, you understand what happened and what it means. You are a creative optimization all-star. Go learn something new and get better!

Expanded text ads for the win

Once you’ve proven that ETAs will improve your SEM results and developed your creative approach, you will be the hero of your organization. We believe ETAs are an effort from Google to improve the results for SEMs worldwide and funnel more search traffic into paid acquisition. Stick with it, and good luck!