For the past few years, Google has been driving home their mobile-first mantra as more and more people increasingly rely on and search from their smartphones. In 2016, they’ve put their words into action. This year, Google redesigned the cluttered desktop SERP to look more like the mobile in-line SERP, gave advertisers back more control of their mobile and tablet bid adjustments, and introduced price extensions for mobile ads, another innovation to improve the look and performance of ads that show up in mobile search. They’ve even announced they’re moving toward a mobile-first search index.
This week, Google announced one more mobile ad extension, message extensions.
What Are AdWords Message Extensions?
Message extensions, like all other ad extensions, are eligible to show alongside an advertiser’s ads on the SERP, generally making them larger and more feature-rich while increasing CTR.
Here’s what’s new: As you can see from the image above, message extensions give users the opportunity to click to text a business directly from the SERP! Advertisers can even include a pre-written text message to make starting that conversion easier for mobile users in a hurry. AdWords advertisers are charged the same CPC fee when a user clicks on a message extension as if they clicked on the ad’s headline or another ad extension.
How to Set Up Message Extensions in Your AdWords Account
Message extensions are currently available in very few accounts, but Google promises they’ll be available in the coming weeks to all advertisers.
From the ad extensions tab, advertisers can create message extensions at either the ad group or the campaign level. Creating a new message extension opens the following prompt:
You’ll need to provide the following information:
Business Name (25 Characters): Provide a business name people are familiar with.
Text Phone Number: This is the number that people will be sending texts to. The only requirement here is that this number can receive SMS text messages. Obviously, your landline won’t work but you’re welcome to use any texting solution your company uses, whether that’s your sophisticated SMS system or your personal cell phone number.
Extension Text (35 Characters): This is the text that will appear on the SERP alongside your ad. Use language like “Text us” or “Message us” within this extension text so that it’s clear to searchers that by clicking here, they should expect to send you a text.
Message Text (100 Characters): After a user clicks on your extension, Google will populate this message in the text field of their native messaging app. Use this message to help your prospects begin a conversation with your sales team. Specific messages like “I’d like to schedule an appointment” or “I’d like to hear about upcoming events in Boston” will help your team answering these texts begin a useful conversation and ultimately close more deals than generic messages like “I’d like to know more,” or “Call me.”
How Do Message Extensions Perform?
Like all ad extensions, we know that AdWords Message Extensions can improve click-through rate. In beta testing, we’ve seen these message extensions significantly improve mobile click-through rates when they’re shown. Five separate WordStream Managed Services clients using this feature in beta saw CTR improvements from message extensions, averaging 50% higher CTR than the mobile ad alone! These message extensions even rivaled the success of call extensions.
More leads and higher CTR aren’t the only gains for accounts that create these new message extensions. Like all ad extensions, AdWords Message Extensions can improve your ad’s relevancy and Quality Score.
Best Practices for Message Extensions and Click-to-Message Ads
Revisit Your Mobile Search Strategy
Message extensions will only show on mobile devices and may not show all the time. It can be particularly difficult to be successful on the mobile SERP, so if you aren’t seeing your message extensions show, it may be a sign that you need to increase your mobile bid adjustment or increase your Quality Score.
Create Multiple Message Extensions to Cater Your Message to Different Customers
Be sure that your message and extension text makes sense to all searchers. You may need to create different message extensions for different products or services you’re offering. If someone is looking to schedule an appointment in Boston, you don’t want to send their message to your team in New York and vice versa.
Schedule Your Extensions
Despite his best efforts, even Larry Kim needs to stop working and sleep sometimes. If you or your team isn’t available to answer texts outside of business hours or on the weekend, be sure to schedule your extensions to only show during hours your team is ready to respond to customer’s messages.
The One Caveat of Message Extensions – No Conversion Tracking!
There’s one downside to note with this new feature. Advertisers can see how many people see and click on their message extensions, just like with any other AdWords extension. However, Google is currently unable to track texts from message extensions as conversions in AdWords.
That means that advertisers who want to see how many texts their message extensions are generating have to create their own system to track and measure the success of their message extensions. Some advertisers have found success by either tracking how many texts they receive with their message text or by using a different number exclusively for the AdWords message extensions.
Keep an eye out for this extension within your account as Google plans to roll them out to all advertisers over the coming weeks!
The aggregated data in this post is based on a sample of five WordStream client accounts with early beta access to Message Extensions who were advertising on the Google Search Network in September 2016.
About the author:
Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.