Google Extending Text Ads

Written by Nate Wood - 29 Apr 2016

Digital is a constantly shifting space, with new user behaviour arising on a regular basis and new platforms popping up on a seemingly daily basis. Search is no different and, as the market leader, Google never stands still.

Although more changes happen in the organic results, some of the deeper impacts are felt when Google makes changes in the paid results. In February, we saw Google remove ads from the right-hand side of the page, while at the same time increasing the number of top-of-the-page results from three to four. This had the overall impact of reducing the number of advertisers appearing above the page fold, concentrating advertiser activity to an extent. Now, Google is entering into a closed beta to expand the character count of the humble text ad.

What are the changes?

Previously, text ads were made up of a 25 character headline, two 35 character descriptions and a 35 character display URL. Google will be testing an expansion of the headline and description lines, allowing for two 30 character headlines and expanding the total character count of the description lines from 70 characters to 80. Display URL capability will be extended too, allowing for multiple URL paths in the display URL.

So, why all the fuss?

What difference will an extra 45 characters make? Well, quite a bit actually. It’s always been the case that the advertising message within the current text ad format can be very stunted, with a very limited amount of space to get across anything more than very matter-of-fact messaging.

The new format, although only 45 characters longer, will enable more information to be conveyed to the searcher, potentially increasing the click-through rate as ads deliver more relevance.

Why we’re looking forward to it

To make the most of the new format, it’s likely that PPC managers will need to start a new rulebook on writing ad copy.

Tacking on an additional headline and using the extra ten characters in the description line will likely not take full advantage of what’s available. Advertisers will need to think about what they have to say and utilise the elements in potentially new ways.

The second headline addition, in particular, will give advertisers the opportunity to highlight secondary important information or brand messaging. These changes will change the way that text ads communicate with searchers, and will give advertisers the ability to be more detailed and/or more creative with their copy. This is good news for both advertisers and searchers.

What could the impact be?

The new format looks as if they are extending horizontally, not vertically. This means already beleaguered organic results, under pressure from Knowledge Graph, Shopping and four ads above them, shouldn’t face any further encroachment on their page real estate. However, if the ads are now more informative or creative, we might see click-through in the ad space increase, leading to a lower click-through on organic results.

What should organic search marketers do?

Right now, this is a closed beta, and impact across the search scape will be minimal. However, if the format takes permanent hold then, as with any results page change, the first step is to look for any performance changes and monitor organic performance closely. For this particular change, click-through rate and traffic should be monitored closely.

What should paid search marketers do?

Get excited! This opens up the ad format and will allow us to flex our creative and imaginative muscles. For all too long paid search marketers have been boiling down interesting marketing messages into 95 character snippets. We now have the ability to broaden out a little, and really start embracing a combination of brand and sales messaging at the same time.