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In the past few months, you may have noticed that some ads on Google have extended headlines; these ads are called Expanded Text Ads, and Google released them from beta today. In this post, we’ll talk about how the ads are different; what our early testing results showed; and how to leverage best practices we’ve learned from working with these for months before rollout.

What’s new

An earlier version of extended headlines appeared when advertisers wrote a Description Line 1 that ended in a period, question mark, or exclamation mark. Google then pulled that line into the headline, making it more prominent in search results.

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More recently, in phased roll-outs, Google added in a second headline, which took the place of that extension without taking away from the description line. In addition to a second headline, the description copy will have a limit of 80 characters, instead of a combined 70 from Description Line 1 and 2 in standard text ads. The two headlines themselves will also be longer – 30 characters each. If you count just the headlines and description, the new ads will be Tweet-length (140 characters) – 47% longer than standard text ads.

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In addition to the ad copy length itself, Google is getting rid of the display URL as we know it and replacing it with 2 “paths” that will be tacked on to the end of the landing page domain name, which is auto-populated based on the final URL.

For example: www.domain.com/(path1)/(path2)

Here’s a quick breakdown of the new fields and character limits:

  1. Ad State (paused or enabled)
  2. Customer ID
  3. Campaign
  4. Ad Group
  5. Headline 1 (30)
  6. Headline 2 (30)
  7. Description (80)
  8. Path 1 (15)
  9. Path 2 (15)
  10. Final URL
  11. Mobile Final URL (if applicable)
  12. Tracking Template (if applicable)
  13. Custom Parameter (if applicable)

Obviously, there are clear advantages for advertisers. With a higher character limit and the description lines consolidated, you’ll no longer need to think about splitting the description into two parts to take advantage of the extended headline. There’s also much more room to highlight features, offers, and services. Another important opportunity is that advertisers can incorporate more of their brand’s voice within the ad messaging so that their ads would stand out more; in the past, it was difficult to distinguish between all of the ads on the search results page.

Some quick notes/caveats: bulk upload is available through the UI only, and Google is truncating Headline 2s if you use up the full 60 characters. Be sure to test and QA (as always) before setting live.

Results and testing

In their testing, Google said they saw a significant CTR lift with the expanded text ads. However, it’s important to test the expanded text ads against your existing standard ads as a baseline.

At 3Q, one of our first attempts with expanded text ads for one client actually showed a lower CTR. Full disclosure: we kept our original headlines and tacked on a generic headline 2 that described the client’s main product. However, we tried a second time by tailoring the second headline to the keyword (which we already do for the original headline) and realized a CTR lift. That being said, we were one of the early advertisers opted in, so it’s difficult to say if that CTR lift will continue once the expanded text ads are rolled out to everyone.

Early best practices

To prepare for the rollout, here are a few tips for writing copy that will take advantage of the new expanded format:

  • Keep your old headline in either the first or second, and use the other to highlight a special offer or feature that used to be in the description line. Some advertisers choose to use one of the headlines to add a question, or hook, that addresses a potential customer’s pain point.
  • Use the description to expand on the special offer or feature, or incorporate more language from the landing page. This will both improve Quality Score (by providing a better match between the ad and landing page, and thus a better user experience) and help your brand stand out.
  • Customize Path 1 and 2 to the keyword and use words that describe the type of landing page. A few examples:

There is a lot of opportunity with Google’s new ad format, but keep in mind, it’s always important to test each element. Like we saw with one of our clients, our initial tests did not show improved CTR until we retested new second headlines.