Just this morning, support for Google’s brand new Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) dropped universally in the AdWords interface. Since AdWords’ big reveal at the #GoogleSummit back in May, advertisers have been eagerly awaiting this new, more robust ad format, which has been deemed the biggest change to the AdWords model since its inception 16 years ago.
ETAs weren’t expected to come out of beta until mid-September, so most advertisers were completely unprepared to wake up this morning, log into their accounts and discover that they could indeed create these giant text ads.
Excited as we all may be with regards to this change, it’s also a bit terrifying. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you if your reaction this morning was to quickly close your browser, wish you could un-see the ETA implementation interface and pray that your clients/bosses/co-workers remain blissfully unaware of the early release. The reality is, while the end result will be rewarding, re-writing all of your ad copy is going to be a huge, painful undertaking.
[NOTE: We've created a brand-new guide and checklist to help you take advantage of these new changes. Download it here!]
So, should you bite the bullet or crawl back in bed and ignore the ETA update? I’d argue that your best bet is to cancel your afternoon plans, buy a carton of Red Bulls and power through that ad copywriting. Here’s why:
#1. Beat Your Competitors to the Punch
Google will eventually sunset standard text ads, making ETAs the norm. As with all major migrations (think Enhanced Campaigns), there will be a bit of a time lag between the release of the new format and the elimination of the old one, giving advertisers time to make the transition themselves. Although Google has yet to announce when ads “as we know them” will be officially retired, my guess is that this change will hit sometime in Q4 2016.
So, in the next 3-5 months, SERPs will display a mix of standard and ETA ads.
Imagine receiving these two ads alongside one another on the SERP. The ETA is basically the standard ad on steroids. It’s so huge that it automatically demands more attention than the standard ad, plus its messaging is more informative and more compelling. Who wouldn’t be drawn to the ETA?
In fact, our research shows that ETAs almost always win. We have multiple accounts in this beta and the vast majority have experienced heightened CTR. That said, these extraordinary trends are unlikely to continue after the mass-migration. Sure, we expect that ETAs will perform better than standard ads did in general, but will the difference be this stark when all ads look the same? Probably not.
Take advantage of this unique situation while you can. Get your ETAs up and running before your competitors do and benefit from these temporary, inflated CTRs. Not only will you score more site traffic, you’ll likely see a nice little boost in Quality Scores, too! (Need some help? Get our checklist for creating Expanded Text Ads!)
#2. Figure Out What Works Early On
Feel like you have an ad copy formula that works down pat for each of your ad groups? I’d be willing to bet that you didn’t come up with it on the first try. You’ve likely spent years iterating on it, testing it and honing it into that perfect copy. In fact, if you’re playing things smart, you’re still running tests against it. Unfortunately, with the ETA transition, that “tried and true” copy may no longer cut it.
When we first gained access to the ETA beta, we expected the ad transition to be fairly simple. We took our best performing ads, tacked on a second headline and set them off and running.
We soon discovered that this approach was failing us. In fact, these ads yielded poorer CTRs than our standard ads (they’re responsible for the CTR loss noted in the graph below).
We quickly ditched the old format’s best practices and started running new ad variations that took advantage of ETAs’ lengthier character counts and keyword-based description paths. These new combinations had significantly higher CTRs and, for the past few weeks, we’ve continued to test new approaches, identifying more ETA best practices.
These new ads are a different beasts and advertisers must be willing to test multiple iterations of them. You don’t have to completely reinvent the wheel for your new ETAs. In fact, you can definitely port over strong components of your existing ads to get started. However, it will likely take a few tries before you figure out what combinations work best for you, so the earlier you start, the better off you will be!
#3. Experience Less Job-Induced Pain this Holiday Season
We don’t know the official date that standard ads will be retired, but we do know that it’s definitely going to happen sooner or later. Scarily enough, many believe that the ad sunset is likely to occur near the end of 2016, potentially smack dab in the middle of the holiday season.
Let’s be honest, the holiday season is already brutal for marketers. That Black Friday—Christmas sprint is jam packed with to-dos and the idea of adding a full account’s worth of ad rewrites to your list is terrifying at best.
Don’t be the guy who is drinking eggnog alone all night at his desk, lamenting his summer of procrastination. Take this early release as an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and start prepping your ads. Even if you only do a couple of ad groups a week, it will still be well worth your while!
Also be sure to check out my colleague Mark Irvine's seven best practices for writing new expanded text ads.
Data is based on a sample size of 11 accounts (WordStream clients) using Expanded Text Ads on the Google Search Network in June 2016.
About the Author
Erin Sagin is a PPC Evangelist and Community Manager at WordStream. She was named the 4th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. When she’s able to take a break from paid search, you’ll find her practicing her hula-hooping skills or planning her next trip to Latin America. You can follow Erin on Twitter and Google+.