NEW AdWords Message Extensions Enable High-CTR Click-to-Message Ads [Data]


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.

message extensions

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:

message extensions setup

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.

message extensions data

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.

message extensions best practices

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!

Data Sources:

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 TwitterLinkedIn, and Google +.

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Jessie Beaudoin of
Oct 24, 2016

Hello Mark, great article and yes, we believe this is a massive opportunity. You can use a call tracking / call capture service like ours to instantly capture, track and respond to those leads.

Oct 27, 2016

People expect immediate response when they send a text... What kind of profitable business has time to stop what they are doing and respond to a text? Sounds ridiculous to me.... I guess it could be good if you have plenty of time due to zero business though, in which case one would probably not be able to afford adwords ads anyway. Am I crazy?

Catherine Fogarty
Oct 27, 2016

No Steve, you're not crazy!!!!

Geoff Lord
Oct 27, 2016

I am never too busy to receive messages from targeted prospects !! These text leads are GOLD !!

Mark Irvine
Oct 27, 2016

I totally understand that not all advertisers will benefit from this. A retailer taking text messages? I wouldn't expect them to get much benefit from it.
But what we're seeing that these leads ARE valuable for a lot of service (particularly local services) and there's high CTR around these extensions from it. Salons, barbers, dentists, other appointment based services have seen that roughly 25% of their mobile clicks are from this extension at the moment!

Nov 21, 2016

PPC agency clients of ours have been using our platform to set up auto-responders and automatic SMS drip campaigns when their clients' potential customers contact them via SMS.

It's really easy to do and instant, 24/7. That's the future of this type of acquisition channel.

I wrote a short case study about it here if you're interested:

Nov 06, 2017

Hi Alex-

Don't you need some kind of mobile compliance language for the subscription campaigns? Doesn't look like WordStream provides enough characters to accommodate.

David Wang
Jul 06, 2017

You have a point Steve, but I think well run businesses have someone or a team of people handling customer service requests similar to phone/email customer service. Plus with advanced business text messaging software, it makes it easy to automate responses based on common questions so there is not a lot of manual effort from the employees themselves.

Aug 11, 2017

Or, these business are run so well they have a marketing dept or an individual who normally responds to website emails/inquiries/chat can now be responsible for communicating or sending the lead to the appropriate dept within the company to be nurtured.
What's the difference between having to stop what you're doing to take a phone call for someone who wants your/service product versus answering a text?
Unless you're under the assumption that everyone is a small business owner where they're the only employee. In that situation, I can understand what you're saying - but what do you do when phone calls come in during the day? Ignore potential prospects? Probably not. So whatever it is you do to capture clls during the day so you don't have to dtop what you're doing, I would consider how you would be able to receive and answer these texts, whether it is or is not you personally answering/responding.
Coming up with a solution should not be a deterrent to nurturing/converting prospective customers, regardless of what medium they come from.

Geoff Lord
Oct 27, 2016

Thanks for that handy dandy information. I hadn't realised that they had added to to our campaign advertising system. I just set it up in a couple of minutes by following your guide.(the google guide as usual is over complicated !!)
Thanks once more useful tips and tricks

Mark Irvine
Oct 27, 2016

Glad to hear your success, Geoff! Be sure to follow up if you see anything interesting in your account after setting it up

Brad Johnson
Oct 31, 2016

would this fall under the same laws as any other SMS strategies set forth by the Government?

Like, if people message through this Ad Extension, do we have to send automated messages back to ensure we comply with the law. Or does this work differently, since they could me messaging us directly, like a phone call?

Mark Irvine
Nov 01, 2016

Hi Brad,

That's a good question!
Google does not measure or monitor the correspondence of these messages and sets no requirement for advertisers to follow up. Google will not disapprove a message extension for being non-responsive.

Certain industries however have laws that regulate what kind of information they can include in prospect or advertising materials. Legal, Pharma, and higher education advertisers in particular should be wary of their local laws.

Rohit Tugnait
Nov 01, 2016

Yeah, Its a very good feature and definitely help advertiser who are promoting their ads on mobile also improve their quality score.

Nov 08, 2016

Who sends SMS anymore? Too late

Nov 10, 2016

Really awesome new feature of Adwords for a direct contact. Just love it!

Thanks for the awesome explanation!

Nov 26, 2016

Click to SMS feature is a great initiative by Google Adwords that help advertisers and the end user to interact in most productive way ...

Feb 01, 2017

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Feb 14, 2017

Click to text is a huge way for many companies to engage with new prospects. We have found at Zipwhip that many small/medium businesses get much higher engagement when they provide texting to their customers, especially when they text enable their existing business phone number via Zipwhip. Take a plumber for example. You search Google, you see a click to text icon for the plumber, you click it, snap a photo of your broken garbage disposal, they text you back and say they'll be there in an hour. I can't wait until I can order my pizza this way, my Chinese food, and setup my hair appointment.

AdWords AgenTurbo
Mar 16, 2017

Hello Mark,
Thank for sharing! And thanks for explaining what exactly AdWords Message Extensions are.
Maybe you and your readers can learn something new about AdWords on our website We would appreciate the visit and a constructive feedback.
Best regards!

Nev Rodda
Apr 24, 2017

These message extensions work fantastic. CTR is up!

Pasi Silvennoinen
Dec 01, 2017

This is not possible in European countries i suppose. But very interesting indeed.

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