AdWords new expanded ads performance

With new expanded ads being live in AdWords accounts since 26th July, I decided now is a good time two months after to start analyzing results and see how they perform.

Several people have tried to analyze the performance of expanded ads at an early stage (only a few weeks after the new format was released), struggling to find clear tendencies and common ground. I thought maybe this lack of uniformity was due to early analysis and not enough reliable statistics.

So I decided to give it a go myself and have a look at the data for the last 2 months from various accounts covering different industries, hoping to be able to find some common ground. And I have to admit that was no easy task.

As advised I created new expanded ads in all those accounts as early as possible, letting them run along old ads to see how they perform in comparison.

Expanded ads first common impression

The first feeling I had generally speaking before starting my in-depth analysis was that new expanded ads were performing quite well with a higher CTR. I even ended up pausing old ads on a particular account as the old ads were bringing the CTR down: 0.20% CTR on old ads compared to 1.33% on new expanded ads!

But when I started digging out deeper, although I had the feeling that on some accounts the new expanded ads were shown slightly more than old ads, I realized that for a particular account (the one I mentioned above, which is the account of a company selling collectible legos figures) it was the opposite way around: 43756 impressions and 581 clicks on expanded ads and 87346 impressions (with impressions particularly increased on old ads for exact and phrase ad groups compared to broad) with only 179 clicks on old ads!

See impressions screenshots for one ad group in this account between new ETA and old ads:

expanded ads performance

old ads pefrormance

When I analyzed that account even further I also realized that the position on new expanded ads was lower than on old ads, with a similar CPC. So in the end in that account expanded ads were working better bringing more clicks with lower impressions and lower position. I have to say this account was quite a particular case as I haven’t noticed so much difference in impressions (from single to double!) between expanded ads and old ads in any other account.

When I encountered the first discrepancies between accounts, I decided to look at comparable statistics, splitting by brand/non brand, ad groups, and even match type (I usually create one ad group for each match type).

No common ground for branding

I analyzed the first branding campaign on a waste management company account and noticed that for brand terms, old ads seemed to perform slightly better (25% CTR on old ads compared to 23.03% on new ETA) – except for broad ad group where old ads were not shown at all. The positions were the same for old ads and new ETA and when I looked at the average CPC it seemed to be lower for new ETA in exact ad group, but then for the phrase ad group the tendency was the other way around.

So I had a look at another branding campaign for a company selling this time irrigation products. And I realized that the tendency I had noticed in the previous account for branding was the exact way around in this new account and that the CTR seemed to be higher on new expanded ads (with a higher position) than on old ones (18.21% CTR on new ETA compared to 11.88% on old ads). So I decided to go deeper and analyze this branding campaign by match type and although it was true that CTR was higher on new expanded ads in broad and phrase, the CTR was higher on old ads for exact ad group.

See performance screenshots for one broad ad group in this account between new ETA and old ads:

expanded ads performance

old ads performance

The only tendency that seems to appear in branding campaigns is the following:

Exact ad groups branding: old ads seem to perform better

Broad ad groups branding: new ETA seem to perform better

Phrase ad groups branding: performance seems to vary

No clear tendency for non-branding

I then decided to have a closer look at non-branding campaigns and see if I could find a tendency there.

When it came to non-branding it seemed expanded ads had generally speaking more impressions than old ones, with a higher CTR. But then again there was this particular account (collectible legos figures) were impressions were doubled on old ads, especially on exact and phrase ad groups (not so noticeable on broad ad group).

When I analyzed non-branding campaigns for the waste management company, the tendency was true: higher CTR on ETA, except for BMM ad groups. But then I analyzed non-branding campaigns for that company selling irrigation products: higher CTR on ETA for broad and phrase, but lower for exact.

I decided to have a look at non-branding campaigns for an adventure travel company: impressions were always higher on new ads, with a CTR here clearly always better (on broad, phrase and exact ad groups) on new expanded ads (up to 6% higher!).

See performance screenshots in this account between new ETA and old ads:

expanded ads performance

old ads performance

To sum up

After analyzing this 2 month data, I have to accept a fact: it is really hard to find a common ground in expanded text ads performance. Some branding campaigns might have a lower CTR on new ads, some others won’t. While it is true that ETA will perform at a lower CPC than old ads on some ad groups, it might be the other way around for other ad groups. New ETA might have a higher CTR on exact for some products, and a lower one on broad. Position might sometimes be better on new expanded ads…or not.

There is no clear tendency and it is all relative to each single account.

Maybe it is still early to try and analyze new expanded ads, and more than likely their performance will change again as more and more advertisers start using them and certainly when Google will get rid of old ads forever.

What I do recommend is that you perform your own analysis, but don’t forget to segment by branding/non branding, match types, ad groups etc as new ETA might perform very differently for each segment. And if you notice as I did that for some accounts new ETA already perform way better than old ones, don’t wait to pause old ads and do that now. The most important thing right now is to monitor performance and if you see a sudden decrease in performance after implementing ETA go deeper in your account and try and find out what is working or not. As always in PPC it is all about testing, testing and testing again.

Some good news to end

The good news is that Google might have heard the complaint of several account managers that were probably struggling to create a high amount of new expanded text ads, as they extended the transition period during which you can still create and edit old format ads. The initial deadline of 26th October has now been extended to 31st January 2017, so that advertisers have 3 more months to create expanded text ads and test them along old ones.

 

Images’ source: Google AdWords Editor

AdWords new expanded ads are now live!

 

It happened sooner than expected while no account manager was really aware of it: you have now the ability to create new expanded ads in AdWords.

How to create new expanded ads?

As you probably know already, those new expanded ads contain:

  • Two 30 characters headline (compared to one 25 characters headline before) so 60 characters in total, that’s more than the double amount of characters allowed before!
  • One 80 characters description line (compared to two 35 characters description lines before), that’s 10 more characters allowed than old ads.

You can now create new expanded ads directly through your AdWords interface. If you go on the “Ads” tab on your AdWords account and choose to create a new ad by clicking on the red button “+ AD” and you then select “Text ad” in the drop-down menu, this will automatically give you the opportunity to create a new expanded ad as you can see in the screenshot hereunder. If you want to create an ad with the old format instead, you will need to click on the option “Switch back to standard text ads”.

Create Expanded Ads AdWords

Google has also released a new version of AdWords Editor for the occasion, and if you download the latest update of Editor you will be able to create new expanded ads straight away (I have to say that Google really made a huge effort here to make it easy for account managers as you usually need to wait a few weeks or even months for any new change to be supported in AdWords Editor). Once the latest version is installed, you will see “Expanded text ads” listed under the “Ads” menu as you can see in the screenshot hereunder.

Create Expanded Ads AdWords Editor

What is the deadline to create new expanded ads and what is going to happen during the transition period?

We are now in a transition period where you can still create and edit old AdWords text ads until 26th October. After that date, you won’t be able to create or edit those old ads anymore, so it will be mandatory to use expanded ads if you want to change messaging or create new ads. However, it doesn’t mean that your old ads will stop showing after 26th October, they might still run for a while along new expanded ads (no extra information has been given yet about what will happen to old ads after 26th October, except that you won’t be able to update them anymore).

What is sure is that if you do create new expanded ads now, you can still keep your old ads running along with them, and I would advise you to do that so you can test new expanded ads and see what could be improved.

When should you create your new expanded ads?

Even if you technically can wait until 26th October to create new expanded ads, I would advise you to start creating them now and as soon as possible, for several reasons:

  • If you are an account manager dealing with several accounts, you might need to rewrite hundreds or thousands of ads. This is not going to be done in one day. If you start now, you will have the time to come with a plan and a schedule, which will make things smoother and less stressful that if you leave everything until the very last day.
  • As stated above, if you create new expanded ads now, you can also keep your old ads running during that transition period and take advantage of that period to test your new ads, as it might need time and lot of adjustments before your new expanded ads work as good as your old ad texts.
  • A lot of advertisers will leave creating new expanded ads until September or so, as we are now in a transition period where both old ads and new expanded ads are allowed to run along each other. Which format do you think will get the more attention between the new expanded ads with their 140 characters and the old ads with their 90 characters? That’s right, now is the right time to get your expanded ads ready and gain advantage over your competitors who are not using them yet!

What are the best practices to write new expanded ads?

Here are a few tips to create new expanded ads:

  • You should take advantage of the new full characters limit. Don’t just use your former description line 1 and use it as headline 2. You should rethink your entire ads and write new versions, creating deeper messages. Try and focus on needs and benefits, including concepts important to your customers that will make you stand out among your competitors.
  • You should focus on the headlines as they will appear in blue and be the most viewable part of your ads. Write your most important messages in your headlines. You should particularly focus on headline 1 as there might be a line break between your two headlines, especially on mobile devices, or your headline 2 might appear on same line as headline 1 but be truncated (during the tests a lot of users already complained about that and Google advised to limit both headlines to 33 characters maximum to be sure headlines are not truncated, which is a bit extreme!).
  • Use the path fields and add your top keywords to display URL to make it clear for users that they will end on a relevant landing page.
  • Mobile preferred ads are no longer supported with new expanded text ads, so you should use messaging that speak to users on all devices. You can also choose to add a mobile specific URL, so if you have landing pages that are best optimized for mobiles, don’t forget to use that feature.
  • You should create multiple versions of expanded ads and test them. Remember how it took you years to figure out what messaging was working best in your old ads? You are back to square one now, and you should start A/B testing different versions of your new expanded ads.
  • You should keep your old ads running along with new expanded ones, and not pause your old ads directly. As stated above the current transition period is ideal for testing. Keep your old ads running so if your new expanded ads don’t perform as well at the beginning you have time to adjust and test between different versions of expanded ads to see what works best.
  • You should check your ad extensions and update them if necessary. Now that you are allowed more characters in the new expanded ads, you might add messages that you were before using in your ads extensions because you were limited by characters in old ads. You therefore have to make sure that the message you now use in your new ads don’t repeat in your old ad extensions.

What about display?

Following the release of new expanded ads on the search network, Google has also announced that a new ad format will be ready for display soon: responsive ads.

As for the expanded ads on the search network, the new responsive ads on the display network will have more characters:

  • Two headlines: the first headline will contain up to 25 characters and the second one 90 characters (compared to only one 25 characters headline before). That’s 90 characters more.
  • One 90 characters description line (compared to two 35 characters description lines before). That’s 20 more characters allowed.

 

Those new responsive ads are rolling out at the moment, if they are not available in your account yet just be patient a few more weeks.

 

Images’ source: Google AdWords interface / Editor

AdWords new expanded ads: how to get prepared for the change – optimization tricks and strategies

expanded-ads

 

Google announced several AdWords changes during their 2016 performance summit last month, the most important one probably being the increase of characters limits with new expanded text ads.

Google has been working on this for years (the side ads removal in February happened for this reason) and this might be the biggest change since the creation of AdWords! Finally marketers will have a bit more space for their creativity and will be less frustrated by the very restrictive characters limit they had to deal with until now. But unfortunately such important changes usually don’t happen smoothly and there is a high price to pay for improvement… If you are part of an agency dealing with several huge AdWords accounts, you might need to cancel your forthcoming holidays and work your whole summer on new ads to be ready for the change. And if you are not an AdWords expert and you only run a campaign for your small local business, you might be lost and not sure where to start. The goal of this post is to give any advertiser tricks to get ready for that huge change as quick as possible so you have your campaigns updated and don’t lose deals when the new ads format rolls out.

But first let’s have a look at what is changing.

What are the new expanded ads characters limits?

The new expanded ads will now contain:

  • Two 30 characters headline (compared to one 25 characters headline before) so 60 characters in total, that’s more than the double amount of characters allowed!
  • One 80 characters description line (compared to two 35 characters description lines before), that’s 10 more characters allowed.

So the new ads will be allowed to contain 140 characters in total, that’s 47% more than the current 95 characters!

What are the benefits of this change for advertisers?

Google has announced that the new expanded ads will work better across screens, especially mobiles, and that this change was designed especially for today’s mobile-first world, where more and more searches are done on mobile devices.

With the number of characters expanded, there is no doubt that advertisers will get more visibility, and you can therefore more than likely expect a higher CTR.

When and how will this change happen?

Google didn’t communicate any exact date yet, they just gave a vague indication of “later this year”. That’s why we advise you to get ready as soon as possible, and we will keep you updated on how and when exactly the change will happen when more information is given.

It would be great if those new expanded ads could be somehow automated, as it was the case for Upgraded URL’s. When that changed happened last year, Google set up an upgrade option in the AdWords interface that helped advertisers along the way, simply copying their current destination URL’s to the final URL’s fields. That made upgrading pretty straightforward and advertisers with small and simple accounts were able to be ready for the update in just a few minutes and clicks through the AdWords interface (it was also very easy to upgrade through AdWords Editor).

However an automated system is unlikely to happen with the new expanded ads, as the changes here have more consequences and the whole ads structure will be changed with now 2 headlines and 1 description line. Things would certainly be easier if there was an automated option in the AdWords interface that could just copy your existing description line 1 and use it as your new second headline, and keep your existing description line 2 and use it as your new description line. But the problem with that would occur with the characters limit: your first headline would remain the same and only contains 25 characters while your second headline would contain up to 35 characters and might exceed the new 30 characters limit if you used them all, and your new description line would only contain the 35 characters of your previous description line 2, instead of the new 80 characters allowed. Besides that, you might not want to use a previous description line as headline, depending on its content. So we just don’t see a way for this change to be automated, and if it is somehow anyway, it won’t be a perfect solution. Extra work will definitely be needed on your side to make sure you take full advantage of the new expanded ads and you are not left aside and losing deals to your competitors that got prepared quickly and have created amazing new expanded ads while you were just waiting for the last minute…

Our only hope is that Google will give enough time to advertisers to get prepared for this update. We assume that as for any AdWords change there will be a transition period during the which you will still be allowed to use your old ads while writing new expanded ads and a deadline date when your old ads won’t be allowed to run anymore, therefore you will start losing deals from that date if you don’t have expanded ads ready.

How to get prepared for the change?

Depending on your ads messaging, we can think of 2 different options for a smooth update. Either you update your current description line 1 to become your new headline 2 (reducing characters to maximum 30 if needed) as outlined in previous paragraph, either your merge your current description lines 1 and 2 to become your new 80 characters description line.

If you are already using extended headlines (where your description line 1 is combined with your headline – your ads need to be eligible to appear at the top of the page and your description line 1 needs to end with proper punctuation) we would advise you to choose option 1. The first and only thing you will absolutely need to do for the update is to reduce your new headline 2 if it exceeds the 30 characters limit.

You will also need to rework your current description line 2 and add extra messaging (filling the at least 45 characters empty space) to take full advantage of the new format, as the limit for the new description line is now 80 characters.

You might also want to rework your new headline 1 to add 5 extra characters, but this is just a small change and it can wait until later as your new ad will still look good without those 5 extra characters.

For those who don’t use extended headlines, we would strongly advise to use option 2 as you will keep the same ad structure and messaging and it will be pretty straightforward. You will just need to merge your current description lines 1 and 2 into the new 80 characters limit description line. Then you will need to think of a new 30 characters headline 2. You might also want to rework your new headline 1 to add 5 extra characters and your new description line to add 10 extra characters, but as stated above it can wait until later as your new ad will still look good without those extra characters.

In order to summarize:

Option 1: make your current description line 1 your new headline 2, and your current description line 2 your new description line:

  • Eventually reduce your new headline 2 so it doesn’t exceed the 30 characters limit.
  • Update your current description line 2 and add 45 extra characters.
  • Optional: add 5 extra characters to your new headline 1.

See with an example:

Current ad:

24/7 Accident Recovery

Reliable & Fast Recovery Service.

24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a Week!

New extended ad:

24/7 Fast Accident Recovery

Reliable Recovery Service

24 Hours a Day and 7 Days a Week. Call Us at Any Time and We Will Come and Help!

Option 2: merge your current description lines 1 and 2 into your new description line, and create a new headline 2:

  • Create a new 30 characters headline 2.
  • Optional: add 5 extra characters to your new headline 1 and 10 characters to your new description line.

With the same ad example as above:

New extended ad:

24/7 Quick Accident Recovery

Certified Professional Towing

Reliable & Fast Recovery Service. 24 Hours a Day and 7 Days a Week, Call Us Now!

 

Whatever option you choose, you can see that you will still need a bit of extra work to get ready for the update and your new expanded ads won’t be written in 1 hour, unless you only have a very small account with 10 ads. That’s why you need to get prepared for the update as soon as possible, starting today.

Another question that might cross your mind if you are dealing with several huge accounts with thousands of ads is where to start to be ready on time and make sure you don’t lose deals. You need to schedule and prioritize. Start with the top campaigns bringing the most leads/sales. Inside of each campaign select the ad groups bringing the more conversions and start working on them first, so that if you are running out of time and you are not 100% ready for the update, your top ad groups and campaigns will contain expanded ads and only secondary campaigns/ad groups will be left aside and you won’t lose your main deals to competitors. If you don’t have the time to create several expanded ads per ad group now, just create 1 for now, so that your campaigns can still run when the change rolls out.

Once again, don’t wait to get ready for the change, the earlier you start the smoother this huge change will happen for you. Allocate 1 hour of your time today to start thinking about it and elaborate your own plan of actions:

  • Depending on your current ads messaging, choose either to follow update option 1 or 2 stated above.
  • Run reports/download statistics and select your top performing campaigns, and top performing ad groups within them.
  • Select your current top performing ad within those ad groups.
  • Copy that data (the top performing ad, along with the ad group and campaign names containing this ad) in excel and start writing 1 new expanded ad, with the messaging inspired by your current top performing ad. Please make sure you add a formula to calculate the number of characters for each line in order to respect the new characters limit:

30 characters for headline 1

30 characters for headline 2

80 characters for description line

 

 

Images source: Pixabay