7 Best Practices for AdWords Expanded Text Ads


They were announced at the 2016 Google Summit, and now expanded text ads are the default ad type in Google AdWords.

 eta best practices

We now have a lot more space to explain our products, services, and value proposition in every ad. Hurray!

However, there is some bad news: When the traditional text ad format was retired, so were many of the best practices of the past 15 years, and advertisers have been scrambling to figure out the best use of 50 more characters.

Luckily for them, we’ve spent much of the last 2 months testing ad copy with expanded text ads inside many of our accounts, and we were able to discover 7 new best practices for these expanded text ad formats.

Before we dive into each best practice in depth, here's a handy visual summary of our recommendations:

Expanded Text Ads best practices infographic

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Now on to those best practices...

1. Write NEW Ads! Use the extra characters to say something new. Don’t just add a second headline.

I get it, you’ve worked hard perfecting your current ads. There’s a big temptation to take the ads that are working well now, combine your existing description lines, add a second headline and sit back and let the shiny new ad format do all the work for you. Even Google basically did this when they first showed this Guitar Center expanded text ad during their May announcement:

 before and after etas

The problem with this tactic though is that you’re just using more words to say effectively the same thing. Guitar Center adding a second headline saying “The Destination for Music Gear” doesn’t make this a more compelling ad and doesn’t enhance the offer at all. Although we’ve seen most advertisers see at least a 28% CTR gain from expanded text ads, we’ve actually seen many advertisers who just add a second headline to their existing ads see their CTRs decrease.

As you write new expanded text ads, use the extra characters to supplement your existing offers and calls to action and include more value propositions than you could with a 95-character limit. Consider an ad like this in the old format:

 expanded text ads tips

If we take the challenge of writing new expanded text ads to heart and write entirely new ads, with a focus on highlighting what makes the product unique, appealing to the user’s emotions, and testing a new call to action, we get something like this:

 new adwords expanded text ads

One of our clients, Namely, took the challenge and did complete ad rewrites similar to the above for their all-in-one HR software. Here's one example of an old ad:

old namely ad

And here's the reworked Expanded Text Ad:

new expanded text ad

The results speak for themselves – the new ads have a CTR 400% higher than their old ads!

2. Include your most important messaging in the headlines.

Even though your new 80-character description is by far the largest field in your new expanded text ads, they still command the least attention. The messaging of the two headlines of your expanded text ad are the most influential in improving the CTR of your ads.

 eta messaging

Spend most of your time testing new ad copy focusing on your headlines and you’ll quickly find the headlines that improve the CTR of your ad the most. It’s worth noting though, that none of Google’s ad policies have changed regarding what you can and can’t include in your ads’ headlines. Most notably, you still can not include an explanation point in either headline!

3. Remember: Headline #1 is far more important than headline #2.

Although both headlines can technically be up to 30 characters long, there’s no guarantees on exactly how or if the second headline shows. The second headline may extend the length of the first headline:

headline one more important 

The second headline may appear after a line break:

 eta headline after line break

Or Google may truncate your second headline: 

eta headline truncated

You can preview how Google may show (or not show) your second headline using the Ad Preview tool, but given that there’s no promise that your second headline will show as you intend it to, it’s best to avoid including critical information such as your call to action in headline 2.

[Not enough time to take notes on this article? Grab our free guide and checklist for creating Expanded Text Ads in your account.]

4. Don’t pause your old ads right away.

Expanded text ads are eligible to show for all the keywords in your ad groups all the time, but you may want to hold off on pausing your old ads, at least for a bit. As with everything in paid search, just because expanded text ads are new doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll outperform your old ads immediately. Some advertisers saw their first try with expanded text ads have lower CTRs than their old ads.

When you create your first expanded text ads, introduce them to your ad groups alongside your old ads. If their performance isn’t as good as your old ads, keep testing new expanded text ads. Once the performance of your expanded text ads is comfortably better than the old ones, you can pause your old traditional format ads.

5. Write your all your ads to speak to users on all devices.

Since more than half of all Google searches occur on mobile devices, it’s important that your ads can speak to all users across desktop, mobile, and tablet. Google’s new expanded text ads will serve to searchers on all devices, 90% of whom will use multiple devices before completing their final goal.

 etas for all devices

In the past, advertisers were able to create mobile preferred ads to serve different ads to mobile searchers. However, expanded text ads have no device preference which means the same message on desktop, tablet and mobile. Even if an advertiser has an old mobile preferred ad in their ad group, an expanded text ad is just as eligible to show that message on the mobile SERP, so make sure your offer and call to action make sense and are possible on different devices.

6. Include top keywords in the path fields.

Google’s new expanded text ads automatically pull their domain for your display URL from your final URL, so advertisers no longer need to specify the domain in each and every ad they write moving forward, which should save a lot of meaningless work for SEMs. Advertisers can also optionally add up to 2 fifteen-character path fields to append to their display URL.

Although optional, I highly recommend using these additional fields in your new expanded text ads. Not only does it reassure searchers that your ad will take them to a specific landing page relevant to their interests and boost your ad’s CTR and CVR. More importantly, though, including a top keyword in your display URL’s path, you make your ad more relevant to the keywords people are searching for and you can improve your ad’s quality score and consequently reduce your CPC.

7. Update your ad extensions.

SEMs have always used ad extensions to promote alternative offers and highlight important value propositions that they couldn’t include in the ads. We know that including ad extensions to appear alongside our ads can considerably improve our ad’s CTR and Quality Score.

However, as you create new expanded text ads and add more detail to your offers within the body of your ads, you’ll likely make many of your old ad extensions redundant. Google won’t serve your ad extensions if they only serve to repeat the text already included in your ads, so make sure as you update your ads you refresh your ad extensions with new, unique content to promote alongside your new, larger ads.

Advertisers should be excited to test out Google’s new expanded text ads as soon as they can, but don’t forget to do your work as a marketer and write great ads. As we test more, we’ll develop more best practices and publish them to our blog so be sure to check back regularly. What do your best expanded text ads look like?

7 Expanded Text Ad Best Practices: Summary

  1. Write brand new ads
  2. Include your most important message in the headlines
  3. Remember Headline #1 is more important than Headline #2
  4. Don't pause your old ads right away
  5. Write ads that speak to all users on all devices
  6. Include your top keywords in the path fields
  7. Update your ad extensions

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.

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Nicholas Protonotarios
Jul 26, 2016

Hi Mark,

Great article here, good job.

In regards to

5. Write your all your ads to speak to users on all devices.

What was the findings around truncation on mobile devices during the 2 months of testing?

Completely random or was there a pattern seen?

We used to leave 10 spaces free on description line 2. Is this now 20?

If we have a pattern, then seperate campaign device setting manipulation could be something worth exploring?

Mark Irvine
Jul 27, 2016

Hi Nicholas,

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article.

Google designed expanded text ads with the mobile user in mind and so far we haven't seen any truncation of the ETAs on mobile devices. The truncation appears to be a problem unique to desktop devices at the moment.

Duston Moore
Jul 27, 2016

I am curious as to whether or not the expanded text ads that were successful were going up against other expanded text ads. If not, then perhaps the CTR increase would not have been as great as if they had gone up against ETA's. Just a thought. Thanks for the research and the tip's. Very helpful as always.

gillian meehan
Jul 28, 2016

Very clear article, thank you.

Will keyword insertion still work as before?

Mark Irvine
Jul 28, 2016

Hi Gillian,

DKI and ad customizers still work with Expanded Text Ads!

Sep 19, 2016

I have been trying to use Ad Customer with Expanded Ads, but it is not working for Display. The Ad Group already has back Ads, but still it does not work. Could you please provide the solution. I feel that it only works for Search, but could you please confirm as Google AdWords says it works for Search and Display Networks, but does not seem to be true.

Patrick McDaniel
Jul 28, 2016

Just to clarify and confirm on item #6 (Include top keywords in the path fields)--

Does the path fields operate like the old display url? Meaning: you can put additional copy there that does not necessarily correspond to the actual url path? Or does the real subdirectory path of the landing page need to correspond to what you put in the path fields of the ad?

Caro Price
Jul 28, 2016

Just asked this question but in a different way - I should have read yours first :)

Mark Irvine
Jul 28, 2016

Hey Patrick,

You're right, the path fields do not need to accurately reflect the final URL, so you're free to include additional copy there!

Gale K. Smetana
Jul 28, 2016

How does the extended text ad impact imports to Bing Ads?

Mark Irvine
Jul 28, 2016

At the moment, Bing does not import ETAs.

So if you import a campaign from AdWords to Bing, the campaign, ad groups, keywords and old ads will all import into Bing. But ETAs will not. So if you import a campaign to Bing that only has ETAs, you'll need to add new ads to the Bing campaign.

Caro Price
Jul 28, 2016

Point #6 - does the URL you write (that includes they keywords) have to correspond to and actual landing page with that URL?
In other words, if you complete the two 15-character fields like this:
company.com/dogfood/kibbles, do you have to create a corresponding landing page called company.com/dogfood/kibbles, or can the destination URL be your existing page?

Carmela Cruz
Jul 29, 2016

Bing is adapting its support to expanded text ads, it was confirmed by Bing Ads Program Manager, Jamie Chung. Mr. Chung stated that they will be integrating some major updates and improvements of their own (see: www.optimizex.com/blog/preparing-multi-platform-expanded-text-ads/ for the full details). Advertisers only need to import the data to Bing because Adwords has a feature the import from Google Adwords so you can seamlessly move your expanded text ads between platforms.

Jul 29, 2016

Great Article!

I`m not an Adwords expert, but I didn`t know about this change that Google was about to make. Maybe I should read more information about Google Adwords and optimize my campaigns more.

I`m reading all emails I`m getting from you guys. Keep up the good work. Thank you

Zapya for PC
Jul 30, 2016

Great information and this steps are aamzing

Ozair Akhtar
Aug 02, 2016

I am new to SEM and looking to learn. Guide me the best practices of SEM for Google - Bing - Yahoo - Yandex - Baidu....

How to start learning SEM?

Mark Irvine
Aug 02, 2016

A great resource is Wordstream's PPCU which walks you through everything from the basics to the best practices:

Beth Baxter
Aug 02, 2016

Thank you for your help and advice!

Terry Lane
Sep 12, 2016

Hi Mark

Great article! Can you confirm whether I can still include {KeyWord} function in the title & whether you recommend this for campaigns where a product is known by more than one name?

Deepak Mathur
Oct 19, 2016

Thanks Mark,

It is really helpful. It is the first thing I read today and it made me learn something new.

Keep feeding us with such information.

Nov 06, 2016

Great article! Thanks for sharing! :)

Vin Boris
Dec 22, 2016

Thanks, Mark!

Thanks for sharing the article. I found it interesting and informative as well. A great source to learn PPC.

Jan 20, 2017

Great article Mark, thanks for this.

With more space for the text, what would be the role and ideal setup for highlight extensions.

keep up the good work,

Bram from the Netherlands

Naimuddin saifi
Sep 26, 2017

it is a great article and informative.

Rehan a
Oct 07, 2017

Thanks for sharing a nice information.

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