The Truth About Expanded Text Ads
- Posted by Conner Jennings
- On October 23, 2019
It has officially been a year since Google rolled out the Expanded Text Ads format.
Originally, ads consisted of two headlines and only one description. In September 2018, Google provided advertisers with the option for a third headline and a second description. At first, there were plenty of reasons to be ecstatic about it – the school of thought being that an increased space for the copy would naturally result in an increase in click-through-rate (CTR); however, this is a claim that has been difficult to actually verify.
Recently, Search Engine Land shared a script that allows advertisers to pull a report based on ad copy length in headlines and descriptions originally designed to report on the new Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs). After making a few tweaks to the script, it can actually provide some much-needed insight into Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) as well. After analysis of the data pulled, it turns out ETAs might not be bringing the performance you originally thought.
This adjusted script was run over a collection of eight different accounts, with the results broken out into three different sets of data in order to analyze the different aspects of ETAs.
Headline Character Count Comparison
These accounts, each under the same brand, all used similar keywords in order to remove as many variables as possible. As most advertisers may tend to believe, if anything increased CTR it would be additional headline space. However, when combining data across all accounts involved, the third headline delivered a lower CTR and conversion rate. In fact, only three of the eight accounts actually saw an increase in performance from headline 3.
|60 Character Headline||90 Character Headline|
|19.31% CTR||13.08% CTR|
|9.81% Conv. Rate||5.78% Conv. Rate|
The second set of data analyzed, looked specifically at if the ad served with only one or two descriptions. Some advertisers may question how often users actually take the time to read the full description of a search ad; however, the extra 90 characters are where an advertiser can really get opportunities to give users more info on the product prior to visiting and create more ad relevance to the search term. In this case, it was found to have mixed results for the performance.
The CTR was lower but users who were served a second description did actually have a higher conversion rate. Advertisers may be hesitant to ever attribute ad copy directly to the cause for more conversions. It can be suggested; however, that users who click on an ad with longer descriptions are more informed about the product being offered and less likely to bounce without completing a conversion.
|1 Description||2 Descriptions|
|20.16% CTR||13.69% CTR|
|6.29% Conv Rate||5.78% Conv. Rate|
With or Without Expanded Text Ads
The final set of data looks at whether the ad was served without the use of ETA features or did include extra headlines/descriptions. This section was important to examine because the previous stats do not tell the whole story and similarly, the non-ETA ads did out-perform those with an increased copy in terms of CTR but had a lower Conv. Rate.
|22.51% CTR||13.41% CTR|
|6.5% Conv. Rate||8.69% Conv. Rate|
More data will need to be gathered before a final decision can be reached regarding the performance of ETA’s.
There were certainly accounts in this dataset that actually saw an increase in CTR when using the third headline, even if that was not the case for most others. Furthermore, whether the third headline works better for unbrand but not brand is something else to be explored. This could result in it looking like ETAs perform worse when in some instances they are actually better.
The biggest argument to be made for using the ETA space on ads is that it gives Google more room to optimize for performance. While it was not the case with every account, there were instances where Google clearly showed a preference for serving more impressions to whichever variation of the ad was performing the best.
In the end, it is the responsibility of the advertiser to run their own tests to find what works instead of hoping to find some miracle button to improve performance. Contact your digital marketing agency partner to ask questions and gain insight on what tests they may be running for your brand.
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