last Updated 23 July 2021

Does Size Really Matter?

Towards the end of July 2016, Google made one of the biggest ever changes to AdWords by introducing Expanded Text Ads.

Previously, the standard AdWords text ads that appear at the top and bottom of Google search results had a headline of up to 25 characters, and then two description lines of up to 35 characters each. They looked like this:

google adwords new format - Does Size Really Matter?

or, if you put a full stop at the end of your first description line, Google would move that description line up to be next to the headline, and your ad would look like this:

google adwords new format - Does Size Really Matter?

So What's Changed?

With the introduction of Expanded Text Ads, advertisers can now have two headlines of up to 30 characters each, plus a single description line of up to 80 characters. So the total space you’ve got available to put your message across has leapt from 95 characters to 140 characters. That’s nearly a 50% increase!

The display URL that appears in the ads has changed too – instead of being in the format, it can now be, which gives you more room to get those all-important keywords appearing in your ads.

Here's an example of an Expanded Text Ad:

google adwords new format - Does Size Really Matter?

As you can see, the ad is physically bigger so it should catch the eye more easily. And it has more room for you to include USPs, benefits, and calls to action - all of which ought to increase the clickthrough rate (CTR) of the ad. And that's a good thing because a higher CTR means you'll get more visitors than your competitors and you'll get a higher Quality Score which, in turn, will give you higher rankings and/or a lower cost per click.

That's the theory, anyway. So how do these new ads stack up in reality? Does a larger ad equal a higher CTR? Well, at the moment, advertisers can run both the old style and new style ads at the same time, which means it is pretty easy to test which format works best.

I've been testing Expanded Text Ads in all the client accounts that I look after since they launched about six weeks ago and the results have been very interesting. In most cases, the CTR for the expanded ads has been significantly higher than for the traditional ads. For example, in these two ads for one of my clients who provides private cancer screening, both ads convey pretty much the same message, but the Expanded Text Ad has a much higher CTR:

Google AdWords CTR comparison of old ads versus expanded text ads

The larger format ad allows me to include an extra call to action in the second headline, and it has room for me to repeat the "skin cancer" keyword in the body of the ad - and both these things help make it more clickable.

Really the only downside to Expanded Text Ads is that if, like me, you've spent the last 13+ years thinking in short, sharp 95 character soundbites, it takes a bit of effort to retrain your brain to come up with longer messaging!

On the whole, though, I'm a big fan of the new ads (which is just as well because from October it won't be possible to create ads in the old style anymore). The new expanded ads certainly increase CTR in the majority of cases, and often by a big margin.

Of course the impact of the larger ads could reduce a bit as time goes on because at the moment a lot of advertisers still haven't started using expanded ads, so as an early adopter you can gain more of an advantage. But that's all the more reason why you should get on and upgrade your ads now if you haven't already done so!

Have you tried Expanded Text Ads yourself yet? Have you found they increase CTR or have you had different results from me? Please comment below and let me know.

And if you're looking for other ways to get more sales or leads from AdWords or if you want to reduce your AdWords costs, you can download my free 30-point AdWords audit checklist.

UPDATE: Google has just announced that advertisers will now have until 31 January 2017 to make the transition to expanded text ads (instead of the original cut-off date of 26 October 2016). After 31 Jan you’ll no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads — you’ll only be able to create and edit text ads using the new expanded text ads format. They say they are doing this because some advertisers are still learning how to use the new longer ad format effectively.

About the author 

David Miles

As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services sector use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.

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