5 BIG Changes Coming to AdWords: Everything You Need to Know


For a few years now Google has been making big announcements in the spring, and they’ve usually revolved around mobile – in 2013, there was the announcement of Enhanced Campaigns, which did away with the old best practice of creating separate desktop and mobile campaigns. Every year since then we’ve gotten more and more mobile ad types and features, and this year is no different.

Google continues to emphasize mobile-first, which means that the look of the SERP is changing in ways that favor the mobile experience. Of course, paid ads need to adapt to the mobile-first world too, and today Google has announced some new and interesting changes to AdWords, rolling out over the next few months, that PPC marketers need to know about.

Yesterday I flew out to the Google Performance Summit and got an exclusive first look at the newest ad formats and features coming to Google advertising. Here’s everything you need to know moving forward about these big changes coming soon to AdWords.

Check out: Industry Reactions to the Big News from #GoogleSummit

[If you want an even more detailed look into the upcoming changes, check out my free guide and checklist.]


1. New Local Search Ads to Appear on Google Maps

new google maps ads

Last month, my colleague Erin Sagin wrote about Google’s announcement that Maps would be part of the Search Network moving forward, speculating that “we’re likely to see significantly more ads appearing on the maps platform.”

She was right. Google had unveiled what it calls the “next generation” of local search ads. These new ads will appear within Google Maps (on the app as well as both the desktop and mobile versions of the site), as well as across Google.com.

In the new ads, brand logos and offers will appear directly on the surface of the map, rather than just alongside the map. For example, if you were to search on Google Maps for [electronics store], you’d see the following:

google maps ad example

You can clearly see Best Buy’s logo on the map. Clicking on that logo leads to this mobile local inventory ad format:

mobile local mobile ads

Why the Focus on Google Maps?

Google Maps now has more than a billion users and people visit 1.5 billion destinations based on their Google searches. As Google noted, location-related searches:

  • Account for nearly a third of all mobile searches.
  • Have grown 50 percent faster than overall mobile searches in the past year.

To drive more online traffic from Maps to local businesses, Google is working on other new ad formats, such as promotion pins. Here’s an example of a promotion from Walgreens:

google maps promotion pins

You can see that an offer for $3 off contact lens solution appears right below the map and local store information.

Also, Google is revamping local business pages. Two key changes here: Advertisers can highlight an in-store promotion, and users can search local inventory. Have a look:

google local business pages

This is a nice integration, giving advertisers the ability to add logos and offers.

However, the ad targeting here is a bit complicated. Ads show based on queries, but Google is also looking at several other context signals (similar to display advertising), such as personal browsing history, similar users, time of day, interests, and behaviors.

This should open up a good amount of local ad inventory. I know I use Google Maps a lot – not as much as search, but when I’m looking for local business I’m equally likely to look on Maps or Search.

For more coverage of Google Maps Search Ads: 10 Things You Need to Know About the New Google Maps Local Search Ads


2. Expanded Text Ads Get Double Headlines & More Characters

bigger google mobile ads

Google eliminated right side ads from the desktop SERP in February as a way to create a more unified Google experience across devices. Now text ads are about to undergo a significant change.

With new, expanded text ads, headlines are about to get much bigger – advertisers will soon be able to have two 30-character headlines, up from a single headline of just 25 characters. In early testing, Google found this change dramatically increased CTR – by as much as 25 percent.

Here's a look at the difference between old ads and new expanded text ads on both mobile and desktop:

expanded text ads

[If you're looking for a guide on what Expanded Text Ads are and how to take advantage of them, check out my free guide and checklist.]

At WordStream, we’ve found that adding an ad extension or call extension to mobile text ads tends to increase CTR by about 12 percent. So it makes complete sense that the CTRs for double headlines would be even higher.

In addition to more clicks, Google said longer headlines will be more useful for  advertisers, and result in better qualified traffic for advertisers.

This change is huge – literally. Particularly with so little space on the smartphone screen, this headline change is great news for advertisers (as usual, not so much for those on the organic side).

expanded text ads

In addition, Google is expanding the number of characters that can be in the description line. Advertisers will soon have the ability to write a single 80-character description line, a 5-character increase over the current pair of 35-character description lines. You'll also notice that the display URL has been removed, as AdWords will automatically extract the domain from the final URL. Advertisers can then add in one to two paths to enhance the display URL.

Note that these bigger ads are coming to both mobile AND desktop. You'll want to jump on this opportunity right away rather than let your competitors beat you to the bigger ads.

You can learn more about the new ads in this post: 10 Things You Need to Know About Expanded Text Ads.

3. Better Measurement of In-Store Conversions

You know people are clicking on your AdWords ads and this is driving traffic to your local business, but how much exactly? AdWords can now help more businesses bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds by measuring in-store conversions.

Technically this isn’t “new” (Google says more than 1 billion store visits have been measured so far in the past two years), but it’s still a pretty big deal. Soon in-store conversions will become more widely available to more types of businesses, which is critical considering 90 percent of sales will happen in stores, as opposed to online.

The beautiful part is that Google simply looks at phone location history to determine whether the person who searched and clicked on your ad ended up walking into the store.

As an example, Google cited Nissan UK, which discovered 6 percent of people who clicked on ads went to the dealership, resulting in 25x ROI.

4. New Responsive Display Ads

responsive display ads

Get ready for Responsive Display Ads. Soon you will just have to give Google a URL, headline, description, and image, and Google will create responsive display ads for you. You will be able to run ads that adapt to the content of the websites they’re on and apps in the GDN. This includes native ad inventory.

This is really cool because it’s a pain to create ads for all the different formats (skyscraper, leaderboard, square, rectangle, etc). Google is eliminating this hassle with Responsive Display Ads – they will figure out the best format for your ad depending on where it is being served.

Expect all these changes to roll out later this year.

5. Changes to Device Bidding

Finally, some changes are coming to the AdWords bidding process.

Currently, advertisers set a base desktop bid and then set mobile bids as a multiplier on the base bid. This was introduced with Enhanced Campaigns. (And tablet is stuck with desktop, something a lot of PPC people have complained about, though tablet searches only account for about 5% of traffic and aren't growing.)

Going forward, this is all being decoupled. You will have the ability to set mobile bids, desktop bids, and tablet bids independently or make them dependent on each other. This gives advertisers a little more flexibility and further enforces Google's mobile-first viewpoint (why start with the desktop bid if everything is moving to mobile-first?).

For more exclusive tips from Google on how to dominate the mobile marketplace, register for our upcoming webinar! 


A Note on the Updated AdWords Interface

At the Performance Summit, Google also revealed an early look at the newly designed AdWords interface, which is coming in 2017. I provide a more in-depth look at the new design and features in this post.

new adwords interface

Get More Info in My Webinar 

We live in a mobile world. More than 50 percent of the trillions of searches conducted on Google every year come from mobile.

That’s why, every year, Google is innovating in mobile to provide a compelling experience for users and make sure advertisers are able to reach consumers at key moments.

At a bare minimum, you’ll need to leverage mobile ad formats, and get ready for these new formats on the horizon, to make sure you’re attracting and converting mobile searchers when they’re using commercial search queries and looking to find a business fast.

For more details on all the latest changes to AdWords, check out my free on-demand webinar. I’ll share everything you need to know about these changes, what they mean, and how you can take full advantage.



Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

Visit the AdWords Grader.


Aamir Khursheed
May 24, 2016

These changes might be great for advertisers, but in a long run, I think it's not going to benefit them but the publishers.

For example, I advertise my motel. If somebody is finding another motel in the same area and hovering through the maps. Suddenly, s/he sees my ad and click on it and leave the previous motel.

I will enjoy a lead, but when I am done with my campaign. Then there will be someone else ad appearing which will take away my customer.

Therefore, in a long run. It doesn't benefit.

May 26, 2016

So you're just saying that you don't continue to get an advantage after you stop advertising? Well...

1) Of course, you need to continue to keep advertising if you want to continue to attract customers. If it's working and cost-effective, why would you stop? And if you do stop, why would you complain that you don't have any effect anymore? Why should you have an effect anymore if you choose to abandon your advertising?

2) If you have a good motel, your new customer will hopefully return and also tell other people about it, so the effect of having attracted that customer via advertising should continue into the future anyway, but continue advertising to find the next customer...

Larry Kim
May 26, 2016

well you get to keep the customers that you acquire...

Anthony Trollope
May 24, 2016

Maps has been an underutilized medium for Google for some time. I guess they were cautious to release an ad product that underwhelmed. Obviously very happy to have opportunities to market this, but as a BIG end user of maps, I'm pretty excited about these different integration's too. The in-store promos could finally offer iBeacon technology the kick start it needs for end-user adoption in a massive way.

Jeff Aspacio
May 25, 2016

I think the promotion pin will be a great additional ad option for advertisers. That would target users that were not previously targeted before.

Larry Kim
May 26, 2016

yeah it's the internet marketing equivalent of a guy on the street with a sign.

May 25, 2016

This is really a pleasant news for advertisers like me. now we can deliver better conversions to our clients. I loved two new changes. one of expansion of headline and description and another one is responsive GDN. Now not to worry about Image sizes.

John Chablo
May 25, 2016

Exciting times for AdWords consultants!

Larry Kim
May 26, 2016

i think this was the best google performance summit i've been to in 3 years!

Sanjay Katariya
May 26, 2016

Responsive GDN is an excellent and much awaited change. Expansion of Headline & Description space is again a good move. Let's hope it works for advertisers!

Larry Kim
May 26, 2016

especially if you consider that 2/3rds of display ad impressions are just plain-text. this new format will be way better.

Fernando D'Annunzio
May 26, 2016

Great information, thanks for sharing .
I believe, as some others do, that this approach will propel a new channel for advertising with maps. There are some low hanging fruit to gather there.

However, even when I understand the better conversion rates from the new ads formats. I'm not that sure where Google will go, I mean, at this pace in 2020 we'll be talking about 2nd page rankings since ads will take over the 1st page.

Lee Pelletier
May 26, 2016

The biggest yahoo for me is better tracking of in-store conversion for brick and mortar stores. Because of the type of business that we do, our business will never (well who knows) be an online business. We do a lot online. We educate. Clients can book appointments online. We can create excitement for our products. But our industry just doesn't produce a product that sells and services well online.

It has been extremely difficult to get solid data on what percentage of people click our ads come to visit us in person. If Google can bridge this gap . . . we will finally have solid conversion data. We know what percentage of people who visit us buy products. We just need that missing link of what percentage of people who click our ads visit us.

So VERY excited. When does this happen?

gerald murphy
May 26, 2016

would like more info.

Eric Marshall
May 26, 2016

Any idea how the display URL changes will affect media companies that use subdomains for clients and then just frame the client's website in on that subdomain (e.g. http://billingsvision.dex-digital.com/KgVZgNWpztc:0Kx3J4wYh6BMa0uRCLkjGppgeRf7OocA)

The way that I understand AdWords TOS, this is a violation because they are using the domain www.billingsvision.com as the display URL and the final URL is a suddomain of a different domain (billingsvision.dex-digital.com). However, I've been seeing this used for the last 6 months or so.

If the changes to the display URLs eliminate the ability to do this, that could actually be the change I'm most excited for!

May 26, 2016

Very efficiently written information. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work. For sure i will check out more posts. This site seems to get a good amount of visitors

Scott Ensign
May 26, 2016

I'm really interested to see how they manage the inventory of the Promoted Pins. Obviously, they won't want to fill up the screen with logos and promotional texts, but I feel like brands are going to flock to this new product.

Larry Kim
May 26, 2016

it's just adrank. they'll show pins with the highest quality score * bid.

May 26, 2016

Segmented Device Bid Modifiers!!! Yes!!!!! bout time

Larry Kim
May 26, 2016

yeah - in the livestream recording if you listen closely when they announce the thing, i'm the guy who started cheering first which got the whole crowd to start cheering.

Emmanuel McCoy
May 28, 2016

It's been a long time coming for tablet modifiers. I have several clients where tablet is performing horribly and we can do nothing about it. Finally I can achieve the golden equal ROAS on all devices.

Miguel Garcia
May 28, 2016

It has dramatically changed over the years, it just keeps getting smarter and smarter way to publish content, ads and so forward, I used google ad words for about 6 months and it can be quite confusing till you learn it inside out. and trust me it can get very dificult trying come up with the best keywords for your website (or) business and if keywords have lots of competition you campaing can get crazy expensive thats why I Use the "Key Word Tool" from google it's free to use and it can save you tons of money.

Miguel Garcia
May 28, 2016

It has dramatically changed over the years, it just keeps getting smarter and smarter way to publish content, ads and so forward, I used google ad words for about 6 months and it can be quite confusing till you learn it inside out. and trust me it can get very difficult trying come up with the best keywords for your website (or) business and if keywords have lots of competition you campaign can get crazy expensive that's why I Use the "Key Word Tool" from google, it's free to use and it can save you tons of money.

May 31, 2016

Very Good News for the paid advertisers. But at the same time, I am a little bit worried about the organic results. The way Google is making changes these days, the value of organic results is going to decrease (this is what I think personally). Larry, I am curious to know your thoughts on this?

Sep 23, 2016

Greetings from Ohio! I'm bored at your workplace therefore i chose to check
out your site in my iphone during lunch break.
I enjoy the information you present here and can't wait to have a look after i get back home.
I'm amazed at how fast your site loaded on my small phone ..
I'm not using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, good site!

IA Whtl
Jul 15, 2016

Thanks, Larry Kim.
Has it been implemented for all regions?
I noticed no change in text length for the India & Australia yet.

Jul 23, 2016

I'd love to be able to print this.

Aug 16, 2016

It's very good to hear about increasing the no. of words in Adwords. Because most of the times, it was difficult to place all necessary words. So for this update, I am very happy.

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Sep 09, 2016

I am disgusted in google adwords, keyword planning tools is no longer free, we have more details about the searches per month! must start a campaign!

Gourav Manuja
Sep 15, 2016

Very helpful information. Really appreciated!

Kelly Bamson
Nov 04, 2016

Thank you for your valuable information.

Nov 11, 2016

Nice and useful information for my business.

Danial Jerry
Jan 18, 2017

Nice article, and the way you explain everything about new updates of AdWords, its gives clear information about how its will be and very useful.


Raj Mudgal
May 16, 2017

Yes I was also expecting this from Google, as maps or local listing creates an outstanding impact on users. I was surprised that google has never focused on local listing advertisements, but finally they are doing now. :)

Jhelum Sen
Jun 12, 2017

Its a brilliant post! This is absolutely perfect for someone standing in 2016, but we have successfully crossed another six months in 2017 and now it wont be enough to stick to the old updates. I just want to add a few more updates that have recently rocked the digital marketing world such as introduction of new Ad Rank thresholds, unveiling a new feature of visual sitelinks in mobile search ads, adding quality score and many more. The most noticeable factor is that Google has itself confessed that Google AdWords is complex for small businesses. That's very surprising!

Jun 28, 2017

This content creates a new hope and inspiration with in me. Thanks for sharing article like this. The way you have started everything above is quite awesome. Keep blogging like this. Thanks.

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