How to Create Expanded Text Ads [Guide + FREE Template]


how to create etas title image

Just last week, the crew at Google made advertisers’ wishes come true when they released support for Expanded Text Ads in the AdWords interface. This giant new ad format gives advertisers an additional 45 characters to work with, making it easier to build a compelling case for searchers to click on their ads.

The excitement I felt when ETAs were surprise-released in the AdWords interface was akin to the excitement I felt when Beyoncé surprise-dropped Lemonade on Tidal. I cleared my schedule for the afternoon in eager anticipation of building out these new and improved ads.

Unfortunately, my happiness was short-lived, as composing these ads wound up being way harder than I’d anticipated. I found solace in Twitter, where I was relieved to see that many PPC vets were struggling, too.

 creating etas is hard

What's So Hard About Writing Expanded Text Ads?

Why all the griping? Well, for years, we’ve trained ourselves to mince words. Like compulsive tweeters who manage to nail the 140-character limit on the first try, long-time PPCers have grown accustomed to writing super-short, succinct ad copy. Now that ETAs are becoming the “new normal,” we’ll have to adapt to the new formats and develop new, go-to ad formulas.

Luckily, the Managed Services team here at WordStream had numerous accounts with beta access to Expanded Text Ads, so we’ve been experimenting with them for a few months now. Early on, we assumed that this transition would be pretty straightforward. We went the easy route—pulled our existing ad into the new template, tacked on a secondary headline and added fluffier language to the description portion.

If only it were that easy.

We quickly discovered that, if we wanted to make the most of this new ad real estate, we’d have to step up our game. In this post, I’ll show you how we’re approaching each component of this new formula to create super-clickable ETAs. Keep reading, or grab our free guide and cheat sheet to learn our secrets to Expanded Text Ads success!

The Anatomy of an Expanded Text Ad

create etas 

Final URL

Your final URL should be the landing page where you wish to drive searchers who match to keywords in this particular ad group. I love that Google kicks off the ad creation process by forcing advertisers to pick this URL before creating their copy, because it forces us to create copy with that particular page in mind.

Headline 1 – 30 Characters

example h1 

This is, hands down, the most important component of your new ad. We know that humans’ attention spans are abysmal. When we’re on the SERP, faced with a multitude of both paid and organic listings, our attention to detail is even worse. We jump into “scan mode” and rarely make it past most listings headlines. That said, a strong, relevant headline has the power to disrupt our scanning and compel us to actually read the entire listing.

Since Headline 1 is essentially the gateway to the rest of your ad, it deserves special attention. Capture your readers’ attention by using language that is relevant to what they’re looking for (ahem, your top keywords) and/or your key selling point. Remember, you can absolutely kick things off with a question but you can’t use exclamation points in your headline.

Pro-tip: Have you identified headlines that work well on other channels? You may finally have enough room to use them in your PPC ads, too!

Headline 2 – 30 Characters

The challenge with Headline 2 is that it doesn’t always show—at least not in its entirety. When it does appear, it has excellent visibility, so it’s the perfect place to feature supporting information that complements the critical information shared in Headline 1.

example h2 

I love the example above because, although Headline 1 is solid on its own, Headline 2 strengthens the message by introducing an emotional component (protecting yourself from a financial ruin) and highlights a serious value prop (this insurance won’t break the bank).

 ad truncation

Why is Headline 2 at risk? Although Google polices the size of ad creative by character-count, it actually determines the way it’s displayed on the SERP based on pixel-count.


All of these qualify as 5 characters, but the number of pixels that they consume varies.

If the combination of Headline 1 and Headline 2 exceeds the number of pixels allocated to ads on the SERP, Google will truncate your ad to save space.

Pro-tip: If you’re super-sensitive to displaying truncated ads, Google officially recommends being uber-conservative and limiting the character count for both of your headlines to only 33 characters.

Description – 80 Characters

The description section is the meat of your ad. Your headlines’ mission is to capture your searchers’ eyes. Once you’ve got their attention, it’s up to the description copy to compel them to act. When it comes to body copy, the creative process should mimic that of a standard ad—you just have a little more artistic freedom, thanks to the new character limits.

description example 

Here are a few creative strategies that we’re using to create compelling new description copy:

  • Using emotional triggers to push searchers to take action
  • Running ad customizers to instill a sense of FOMO in searchers
  • Dynamically customizing ad copy to create ads that resonate with individual searchers

Your description should also feature a clear call-to-action telling searchers exactly what you want them to do when they arrive on your landing page. Including this in your ad is critical, because it’s a subtle way to invade their subconscious and push them to take action after viewing your site.

URL Paths – 15 Characters Each

paths example 

This new ad component is optional, but we highly recommend using it to your advantage. In fact, for years, we’ve been coaching advertisers to take advantage of the extra space alongside their domains in their Display URLs.  This does not have to produce a working URL—it’s simply a vanity link to strengthen your copy and show searchers that you’re sending them to view relevant content.

With standard ads, only 35 characters were permitted in the Display URL. This was problematic for advertisers with lengthy URLs, who didn’t have sufficient space to add new keywords. These new, URL paths even the playing field.

With ETAs, Google will automatically extract the domain from your Final URL and plug it into your Display URL. Then, regardless of your domain’s length, you can use the two, 15-character paths to enhance your URL.

dki example 

To populate each of these fields, I recommend turning to your ad group’s keyword list. Identify your most popular keywords and plug them into the path fields. If you really want to get fancy, you could also try using Dynamic Keyword Insertion for one of these paths, to ensure they’re truly catered toward your searchers’ needs.

Need more ideas on how to craft your ETAs? Check out Mark Irvine’s 7 Best Practices for Google’s NEW Expanded Text Ads.

Uploading Expanded Text Ads in Bulk

Let’s face it, composing new ETAs will be time-consuming. Luckily, you don’t have to build them all directly in the AdWords interface. Just one day after Google released global ETA support, AdWords Editor was updated to provide support for building new ETAs.

create etas in editor 

The creation process is simple. All you have to do is select ETAs on the ads tab, select the option to make multiple changes and then begin building your spreadsheet.

bulk creation in editor 

Once you’ve populated the spreadsheet with your new ads, submit and review your changes, then post them live to AdWords!

FREE Expanded Text Ad Creation Template for Excel

Not a fan of AdWords Editor? You can also build your new ETAs in Excel, then upload the document to AdWords. Download our expanded text ad creation template (with detailed instructions included) here!

About the Author

Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.

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Aug 12, 2016

Headline 2 at risk of truncation.

I have recently set up my first ETA ad using the full 30 + 30 for the headline.

I understand that the actual headline display is based on a pixel width and not a character count, but why can't Google use the same pixel width to show the desktop ad in the AdWords UI, the Ad Preview Tool and the Live search results?

The Live search results showed all 30 characters.
The AdWords UI dropped 5 characters replacing them with ...
The Ad Preview Tool dropped a whopping 14 characters replacing them with ...

This isn't a case of the advertiser needing drop characters from headline 2 to prevent truncation, it is Google's job to provide an accurate preview tool.

The UI has improved, but I fail to understand why Google does not provide an accurate preview for advertisers.

Sep 08, 2016

Hi Erin,

Great article as usual. You are right that writing good ETAs is harsh when you are accustomed to writing standard ads.
My major doubt about ETA copywritting is the following: it is better to focus the full ETA on the single (assumed) most important benefit for the Ad Group or to try to include 2 or 3 major benefits in the ETA (especially in the Description) in order to answer other doubts for the same customer or to capture attention for a wider range of customers.
Do you have any expert opinion on the subject or have you read/done any reserach on this issue?
Thanks a lot.

Nov 23, 2016

You might want to add that expanded search ads are not displayed on EVERY page of the content network (yet) which might occasionally be a reason to keep old ads running while already serving new ads.

Gabriel Guzman
Dec 04, 2016

Thank you, the explenation and the excel format is great!

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