Making the Transition to Expanded Text Ads

by on July 30, 2017

Google’s transition towards larger text ads is something that anyone using their advertising platform has already known about for quite a while. Expanded text ads went live in a year ago. While advertisers could still run the standard text ads, changes made by the search engine giant in February 2017 make it impossible to create new ones or edit your “old style” ads in any way. You can’t even update the landing page URL anymore. Your only options are to pause your ads and unpause them.

If you want to make any changes, no matter how small, you will need to write completely new ads. Obviously, this has left some advertisers worried about how those newly-created ads will perform once they go live. According to information published by many search engine marketing experts, these worries aren’t completely unfounded. Some advertisers have reported better performance with expanded text ads when compared to the standard ones. On the other hand, there is no shortage of those who say their ads are now doing worse.

In any case, if you use Google AdWords, there will come a time when you need to update your existing ads or create new ones. The good news is that there are ways to navigate the transition to the expanded ads while minimizing potential problems.

Differences Between Standard and Expanded Ads

The previous ad format (25/35/35):


  • Headline – 25 characters
  • Description 1 – 35 characters
  • Description 2 – 35 characters

was replaced with a larger format (30/30/80) in the following layout:


  • Headline 1 – 30 characters
  • Headline 2 – 30 characters
  • Description – 80 characters

According to Google, the change was made to give mobile searchers more information. They reported an average rise of 20 percent in CTR during early tests conducted last year.

Why New Ads May Perform Worse for Some Advertisers

One reason for this is that the new ads are larger and thus require advertisers to completely rethink their message. For many advertisers, this means their ads aren’t merely rewritten, they’re completely new.

Bigger advertisers often have ads they consider “proven winners.” That is, ads they have tested and optimized over a period of years. It’s therefore normal that their new ads may not do as well as their previous ones right after they go live.

Expanded Ad Testing Strategy

If you’re unsure of how your new ads will perform, some prominent SEM experts reccommend creating an ad group with four ads written by using this strategy:

Ad 1 – Write a small ad using wording as close as possible to one of your standard ads with the highest CTR.

Ad 2 – Create a longer second ad with completely new messaging.

Ad 3 – Use the same description as ad 1, but swap headline 1 with headline 2.

Ad 4 – Use the same description as ad 2, but swap headline 1 with headline 2.

Should swapping headline positions not make sense for your ads, you can instead swap them for a portion of the phrase you use in your description.

With this approach, you get four ads instead of just one, increasing the chances that at least one of them will be successful. You’re also keeping some of the elements of your highest performing standard ad, which makes it more likely that your new one will get a high CTR as well. Run the ads as a test and you’ll get to see how each of them does. You can then use what you’ve learned when you create more expanded text ads.