It’s an exciting time in the world of search and PPC at the moment, although with several changes recently announced or implemented by Google, you might be feeling a little bit lost. One of the latest exciting developments is the announcement of expanded text ads (in addition to some other AdWords changes- stay tuned for details on those!), so here’s what you need to know and how to make the most of the ad expansion.
Why Are Ads Changing?
Before we get to expanded ads, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the developments that led up to this change. Back in February, Google removed ads from the right-hand side of its search results on desktop, in a move towards unifying the Google experience for desktop and mobile users. More emphasis on mobile wasn’t overly surprising, given that there are now more searches performed on mobile devices than on desktops. However, it’s fair to say that not everyone was pleased by the sudden disappearance of their right-hand side ads, particularly considering that this also resulted in a lower number of ads per page.
Fortunately, while we didn’t know it at the time, this move was the first step towards enhancing the way Google displays its search results- SEO of the search engine itself, if you like. In May, people started noticing that the search engine results were significantly wider, with more (visible) characters available for meta titles and meta descriptions. This may not seem particularly important for the regular user, but this meant more characters to describe your page and encourage people to click through. The new 70 character title limit is especially useful when there’s a lot of info to cram in, or if you need to distinguish very similar pages (e.g. products)… I can tell you that from experience. As you might expect, with longer titles and descriptions, there have since been reports of increased click through rates as well.
Take Advantage of Expanded Ads
So, now we come to the latest exciting news. In a similar move to the expansion of organic search engine results, Google have announced that they will be expanding AdWords text ad headlines and descriptions later this year. The current 25-character headline will be replaced by two 30-character headlines, while the current two 35-character description lines will be replaced with a single 80-character description line. That’s an extra 35 characters for an attention-grabbing headline, and another 10 to set yourself apart from the crowd in the description.
If you read my previous post about how to fine-tune your search ads, you’ll be pleased to know that as far as the fundamentals go, not much has changed. When it comes to writing ad copy, you’ll still want to keep it relevant, use keywords (responsibly), include a call to action (CTA), and try to highlight what makes you unique. The great thing about the extra space is that you can now build on these aspects in more detail. At the moment, a lot of the text ad headlines you see are pretty generic- with the tight character limits we’ve got currently, a generic format isn’t necessarily a bad idea, or the fault of advertisers. Once you’ve included the keyword (i.e. product or service) you’re targeting, there isn’t a lot of room for much else. However, this new extra headline will allow for more creativity in ad headlines, and will enable advertisers to highlight something that makes them stand out, right up at the top of the ad. Testing different ad variations will now be even more important, as you will be able to play around with how you use your two headlines, and discover what works best. 10 extra characters in the description doesn’t sound like a lot, but you shouldn’t underestimate this either. You might have room for a (better) CTA, a special offer/discount, or some extra creative flare.
But what’s the point? Will anything of this actually change anything, beyond having to re-do all of your ads? You’ll be pleased to know that during initial testing, some advertisers have reported click-through rates of up to 20% higher than current ads. With more than double the clickable space in the headline, combined with more text to interest your audience, improved ad performance isn’t all that surprising.
In summary, soon you’ll have two ad headlines with over twice as many characters as there are currently, with a bit of extra room in a (single) description as well. You can take advantage of this by being more creative with ad copy- don’t neglect testing. This is great news for advertisers- with a bit of work, the CTR of your ads could improve significantly. This isn’t the only news for AdWords though- soon we’ll be discussing the implications of the other announced changes (e.g. device bid adjustments), so there’s more to come from the Unwritten team.