Expanded Ad Text: A Gift From the Heavens

08.05.16 // Ashley Kennedy

At the Google Summit in May, the search giant announced arguably the largest feature change in AdWords during the last several years – expanded character limits for text ads. No longer will a search marketer be constrained by one 25 character limit headline, but would now be given the ability to utilize two 30 character headlines. Description lines were also revamped, moving from two separate 35 character limit lines, to one 80 character line. In total, this announcement gives marketers an additional 45 characters to play with, an increase of 47%. In a space where coming up with creative ad copy has always been severely restricted by a small character count, this is a fairly sizable shift.

Standard Vs. Expanded


This update has just been made available to all accounts as of July 26th, 2016. And while most advertisers are still wrapping their heads around how to best leverage the new character limits, Obility was lucky enough to get into an early beta for several accounts, gaining a head start on adopting expanded ad text.

Expanded ad text opens up the opportunity to be more creative with how search marketers message their ads. It’s always been a best practice to focus on inserting keywords you’re targeting into your ads to boost click through rate, and while this works well to accomplish that, it can result in ads that aren’t completely relevant to the landing page, or the searcher. With 47% more space to play with, more focus can be provided to taglines and more clear messaging around what the user is actually going to be provided with if they do click on your ad.

Despite giving users more incentives to click on your ad, it may not have a huge increase on click through rate in the long run, as all other advertisers are eventually going to be taking advantage of the same features. Conversion rate is where the real impact should arise; you may still get the same number of clicks, but the clicks you’ll get should be more valuable and more likely to convert if you’re writing your copy in a way that clearly highlights what the user should expect if they click on your ad. It was difficult to do this in 90 total characters, but with 140 total characters, you have a much better chance of grabbing the attention of someone who wants what you are offering, and weeding out those who are wasted clicks and spend.


Initial Results

It’s still early and data is limited, but Obility clients have actually seen a slightly lower click through rate, but much higher conversion rate in A/B tests that are running standard and expanded ads. While conversion rate will certainly level out some, initial results do support the theory that expanded ads can result in a higher conversion rate.

CTR CvR Graph 1
Average CTR and CvR for Expanded and Standard text ads for Obility managed accounts.


Example ads:

Standard Search Ad Ex
Standard Search Ad
Expanded Ad Ex
Expanded Search Ad

Some tips to get you started:

  • Use the headlines to their fullest extent
  • Clarify what you’re offering and write text relevant to your landing page
  • Update to the most recent version of AdWords Editor. The new version (11.5) supports expanded ad copy, making it much easier to bulk upload new ads
  • Run expanded ads in conjunction with standard ads before completely abandoning the old format
  • According to SearchEngine Land, the new headline format is resulting in expanded headlines being truncated in some cases. Do a search on your ads and ensure your ads aren’t being truncated. If they are, keep the headlines to 33 characters (so they won’t get truncated) to avoid this until the issue is solved.
  • Take advantage of the new ‘Path’ feature. There are two paths available for each ad and these can help clarify the offer and serve as indicating relevance to the prospect. The Display URL is no longer available and is dynamically populated by the Final URL. This can cause an issue if you use designated landing pages, causing ‘info.’ or ‘pages.’ to appear before the display URL, making it even more important to use this feature.

The standard ad format will be retired on October 26th, 2016, meaning you will not be able to upload ads in this format anymore. Your current standard ads will still run past this date, so if you have high performers don’t feel the need to immediately move away from them. However, it’s best to be an early adopter. So write your expanded ads, be creative, and boost your conversion rates before your competition does!


About Ashley Kennedy

Ashley is currently the Director of Paid Search & Display at Obility, where she is responsible for the management, support, and implementation of strategic programs that create interest and demand for our clients. She also works closely with her team to nurture their professional development and to expand their knowledge on new topics and trends in the industry. View all Ashley Kennedy’s posts >