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What You Need to Know About Google’s New Mobile Ad Format

April 9, 2018

Have you ever noticed that Google loves experimenting with different ad variations in the SERPs? Usually these tests are impromptu and short-lived, but Google recently announced a new mobile ad format that is here to stay. Here are the details you need to know to stay ahead of the curve.

The New Mobile Ad Format: What’s Changing?

As of last month, Google began displaying ads in the mobile search results pages in which ad extensions are substituted in place of the second line of ad text. Check out the example that they published below. As you can see, the new mobile ad format lost the second line of text and now includes a location extension in its place.

new mobile ad format

Don’t worry, Google won’t be scrapping their standard mobile text ad format completely – they’ll be serving both versions at their discretion, for the time being. It’s also worth noting that, for advertisers who do not use extensions (or whose extensions are not expected to have positive performance), Google may still eliminate the second line of the ad without adding anything in its place.

Why the switcheroo?

Good question. Google claims it is all about optimizing the audience’s experience on the SERP. By eliminating the second line of ad text, they can swap in an extension, which gives the user easier access to more information about the business. In the example above, the searcher can interact with Flowers Forever in three ways. They can peruse the mobile landing page, place an order directly or access directions to visit the store in person. In turn, this is a win for the advertiser because they are gaining an additional point of engagement with the customer.

And yet, there’s always another side to the story. In the example above, everything looks fine and dandy because Google is showing two extensions in the new ad format. This will not always be the case—in many instances we can expect only one extension and in some, there will be no extension line at all. We suspect that Google could be shortening the ads so they can squeeze more ads into the top of the mobile SERP. This would give mobile searchers more paid listings to choose from, much to the dismay of SEOs. It would also give advertisers yet another coveted space to fight over at the top of the page. Remember CTR and impression share drop off much more sharply after position 1 on mobile versus desktop:

adwords mobile data by device

Long story short, Google wants to increase mobile ad visibility, without harming their reputation or frustrating the end user.

And that’s not the only benefit for Google! Remember a while back when they announced that the Ad Rank calculation now includes “expected impact of Ad Extensions”? We know that Google implemented that change because they desperately wanted more advertisers to utilize extensions, which boost the CTR of ads and, subsequently, distract searchers from clicking on organic listings. This is yet another way to incentivize advertisers to utilize extensions for mobile devices.

So what should you be doing about the new mobile ad format?

There are a few easy steps we can take to mitigate the impact of this change and ensure it works to our benefit. Here are a few action items:

  • Be sure that the title/line 1 of your text ad makes sense on its own: Your most important, compelling ad copy should appear within the first 35 characters of your mobile-preferred ad text. With the shortened copy, you have even less space than usual to sell yourself, so you need to make every word count. Of course, you’ll still want to write a full ad, just in case Google does not swap in an extension in place of line 2.
  • Take advantage of the mobile-preferred ad option: We all know that searchers’ behaviors vary based on the device that they are using and, as marketers, we want to adjust our message accordingly. Google introduced mobile-preferred ads to allow us to tweak the text that we show for mobile searches. Now more than ever, you should be using this option. That way, you can write more succinct, direct ad copy for mobile ads and stick with your standard text ads for desktops. To do this, click on the “mobile preferred” box anytime you create a mobile optimized ad.
  • Set up ad extensions: In this day and age, there’s really no excuse to avoid setting up ad extensions. If you’re not utilizing them, you may end up losing a line of your mobile ad altogether, which could destroy your mobile performance. Plus, more generally, if you don’t have extensions, you are negatively impacting your ad rank, CTRs and general ad visibility. The setup process is a cinch and, believe me, it’s well worth your time!
  • Test, test, test: The best way to determine what resonates with your audience is to run a split test. Experiment with different copy in your headline/line 1 to see what combination is most effective!

Have you made changes to your mobile strategy to align with the new ad format?

Erin Sagin

Erin Sagin is the Global SMB Solutions Go To Market Lead at Google.