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Google AdWords

Advertiser’s Guide to AdWords Expanded Text Ads

Setup tutorial, testing tips, and optimization best-practices

On February 1st, 2017, Google permanently moved advertisers to the AdWords Expanded Text Ads format for search campaigns – the first major change to text ads in the 16 years since AdWords’ creation.

Despite the proposed benefits for advertisers (which we’ll talk about soon!), there is one downside to this change:

15 years of advertising data and experience creating the best AdWords Search ads is now out the window.

out the window gif

That’s why we created a free tool that speeds up the creation, preview, and testing of Expanded Text Ads: the AdWords Expanded Text Tool.

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) give AdWords advertisers a mobile-optimized ad format, customizable vanity URLs, and 47% more space for ad copy. For most advertisers, this means more tedious ad copy decisions. For the data-focused advertiser, this means a lot more variables to test in order to find the optimal ad copy.

As Google announced back in 2016, advertisers go from 95 characters total (70 of which were below the URL): old adwords standard text ad format

To the new, expanded version with 47% more headline space, an even longer description, and customizable vanity URL paths:

New Expanded Text Ad Format

The easiest way to maximize your ROI from these new ads is to test early and often. And that’s why we built this simple tool to help you do just that: simplify AdWords optimization.

Introducing: The Expanded Text Tool

We created the Expanded Text Tool to help our customers do 3 things:

  1. Save time creating ETAs
  2. Find the CTAs and promotions that generate the most sales
  3. Create ready-to-test ad groups in seconds

By creating ready-to-test ads, our customers tee up their search campaigns for statistically confident optimization:

advertising t-ball

How to create up to 27 ready-to-test Expanded Text Ads in under a minute

Step 1: Open the Expanded Text Tool

Step 2: Preview & build your ads

Step 3: Download your .CSV file

How to Bulk Upload Text Ads to AdWords

Step 1: In your AdWords account, select the campaign where your new ads will be running.

Step 2: From the Ad Groups or Ads tabs, select Edit and Upload Spreadsheet…:

AdWords CSV Upload

Step 3: Upload the downloaded .CSV, Preview & Approve the changes to your campaign.

*Bonus* Step 4: Check your email. We want to know how to make the ETA Tool better & know what tools you’d like us to build next.

3 Account Updates Required to Maximize ETA ROI

Task #1 – Rethink your Copy Strategy

I learned a crucial AdWords lesson when I was in elementary school: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 50 additional characters can be used, and it can be abused. I mean, just look at what 140 characters does for Twitter.

When it comes to writing ad copy, always prioritize quality over quantity.

Task #2 – Rewrite your Callout & Sitelink Extensions

With more space above the fold to qualify your audience before they click, you don’t need to stuff your value proposition into Ad Extensions like Callout Extensions to get your message across. Provide unique information like your customer size for B2B or differentiating attribute of your eCommerce product.

Bonus: Take a look at your Sitelink performance and find the links your audience clicks on most-often. You may be able to bump this up to Header #2 position and change up your Sitelinks to include more granular site navigation.

Task #3 – If It Ain’t Broke…

As we’ll talk about in Test #3, we’re not actually tossing knowledge out the window with ETAs. You should use what’s worked to guide your testing. Look for statistically significant trends across keywords, device performance, and audience demographics to match your ad text with your best-performing audience.

8 Actionable ETA Tests to Run

Asking “what is the best way to test expanded text ads” to 100 different advertisers may yield 100 different answers. It’s important when reading any AdWords content to consider your business type (eComm vs. B2B vs. Consumer goods), industry, budget, and personal experience. Here are

Test #1 – Incremental Optimization

For most of you, it would take months of running a test that tested 3 different Header #1’s against 3 different Header #2’s against 3 different descriptions. In fact, you might never get significant data trying to evenly serve 27 ads. What I like to do is isolate one variable at a time. Keep your Header #1 and Description consistent while testing different promotions or CTA’s. This makes the data-gathering process take 9 times shorter and 9 times easier to follow.

Test #2 – A/B Test your Value Propositions, Calls-to-Action, and Promotion Headers

If you’ve never tested different headlines or Calls-to-Action, you’re in for a surprise. Data has an amazing ability to guide you with the toughest decisions, like whether “Shop Now” or “Learn More” generates more sales to your eCommerce site. Generate multiple variations to figure out what speaks to your customers the most. For example, see how we use the Expanded Text Tool to figure out which messaging resonates best for our campaign to agencies:

expanded text tool tutorial


Test #3 – Don’t Ditch the Old Text Ads (just yet)

Early results of ETAs versus regular text ads were mixed. As of February 1, advertisers have no choice but to follow the ETA format for new ads. Does that mean you NEED to switch? Not necessarily. If you have legacy text ads running, don’t jump ship just yet.

Use the Headline from your best STAs as Header #1 & exclusive promotions or poignant calls-to-action in Header #2

Test #4 – Keep an Eye on Position #3

ETAs hit the market around the same time Google removed its right-side ads. Depending on the device, expanded text ads with ad extensions appended can take up 3/4ths of available screen real-estate. Here’s an example for Brooklyn Real Estate Agents:

ETA screen real estate comparison

The third ad is nowhere to be found. Keep an eye on your ad position report and see if it would be worthwhile bumping up your bids to keep your average position up top!

Test #5 – Explore New Ad Copy Territory

It used to be a struggle to squeeze long words, phrases, or statistics into your text ads. Now is a great opportunity to use the extra space to feature testimonials, research statistics, and more descriptive language up-front like Smart Bottle does with “Sustainable”: smart water bottle advertisment


[Pro] Test #6 – Keyword Insertion + A/B Testing CTAs against promotions

I’m a big fan of dynamic keyword insertion. All of the various dynamic ad types give you that next level of personalization that lets you speak the same language as the high-intent searcher.

Dynamic keyword insertion shows the searcher’s search terms in your ad, which presumably drives more qualified clicks to your site since you’re using the searcher’s exact words. We have found very little significant data around CTR and DKI, but confident data around higher conversion rates from our ads. This is worth a test, since one Search Engine Land article supported claims that Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) actually hurts CTR:

eta case study
image source: Search Engine Land

Combine these with CTA & Promotion testing for Header #2. You’ll improve your ad performance while finding out which of your offerings are most compelling.

[Pro] Test #7 – Maximize Quality Score AND Ad Personalization

We’re often little skeptical of Quality Score in general, but with a little effort, you can shoot for a perfect quality score AND layer that on top of highly personalized ads.

Separate your ad groups by location, time of day, or target keywords and then use your segmentation to customize your Header 1, Paths, or Description. For example, if we were to bid separate our different product offerings into ad groups, we would use different ad copy for different target keywords.

Let’s try Cross Platform Advertising versus AdWords Optimization:

expanded text ads gif

By separating your ad groups strategically, you can tailor your messaging to your target audience and boost CTR and conversion rates.

[Pro] Test #8 – Speak your Customer’s Language

With AdWords’ new Message Extension to its arsenal of Ad Extensions, it’s time to use your customer’s preferred line of communication: direct messaging, call, or standard website visit.

This isn’t necessarily a test for ad copy, but nonetheless worthwhile:

Create two ad groups using your best performing ad copy. If opportunities present themselves, customize your ad text for a more clear Call to Action that caters to either a call or a text message.

Then add call extensions to your call ad group & message extensions to your message ad group.

For bidding, we recommend setting your ad rotation to Optimize for Conversions because until there is confident conversion data, it will optimize for clicks.

What else we’re testing with ETAs

There are a number of question marks that still remain with Expanded Text Ads. Here are a few things we’re hoping to learn with your help and future tests:

  • The number of mobile searches whose first page is entirely filled with ads.
  • The average number of characters for ads vs. organic results. In our initial testing, we saw 12% more characters in mobile ad headlines versus organic headlines.
  • What’s going to happen to position three? With the first two ads taking up the entire screen on mobile and a larger share on desktop, what is going to happen to position 3? Our prediction and early estimates: The cost of position 1 & 2 is going to rise and the CTR of position 3 is going to decline. That places a lot more importance on squeezing out every last drop of your quality score optimization efforts


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Marketing and Growth Director at AdHawk. Helping business find confidence and success online, one hefty article at a time.