The Biggest changes to AdWords in 2016 are…

The 8 biggest updates to AdWords in 2016 so far have been:

  1. Expanded text ads
  2. Mobile and tablet bid adjustments
  3. Universal campaigns for app promotion
  4. Google merchant (shopping feed) applications set up with BigCommerce, PrestaShop, and Magento
  5. True View video CTAs
  6. Brand Lift / Mobile location extensions and store visits measurement for display.
  7. Cross device remarketing lists.
  8. Price extensions (currently mobile only)


The single biggest change to AdWords in 2016 is…

  1. Expanded Text Ads. Google’s infamous text ads just got a whole lot bigger.

Google (amongst other changes) have announced a major change in their core advertising product: a 48% increase in character length within their search ad text – arguably their most significant change in advertising appearance in their 15 year history. These changes have rolled out this week internationally – so let’s have a look on what you can cash in on.

What do Expanded Text Ads look like?

what does an adwords expanded-text look like

The original or ‘standard’ ad copy, still available until October 26th, have a maximum character lengths: headline has a maximum character length of 25. Description line 1, Description line 2, and Display Url have a maximum character length of 35. However, where ‘keyword insertion’ is used ‘{KeyWord:text}’ is used, the character length can be 35.

Expanded Text Ads (or ETAs) have a double headline – 2 fields of 30 characters and then a large 80-character description field. You also have 2 fields of 15 characters relating to your display URL which emulates a URL path of /category/sub-category/ within the ad text.

Writing longer ads

For those of us that are PPC managers, writing PPC ads in this new format might feel a little bit strange – similar to when it was rumoured that Twitter was going to relax the 140-character limit.

You can now get across greater brand messaging, added tone of voice and value proposition. As you’d imagine, it takes a bit of hard work though.


Getting into ETA copywriting

Here is what we have initially found:

  • You will find that combining the headline and description line 1 from the old ‘standard’ text ad format doesn’t work – a square peg in a round whole as they say because ‘old’ is 70 characters and new is 60 characters.expanded text ads copywriting challenges
  • You now have the opportunity to place a call to action (CTA) in the headline because of the new ‘double headline’ advert format. Think about that. Will your competitors all be showing a CTA within the headline to boost the click through rate (CTR)?expanded text ads double headline
  • Maintaining any legacy headlines that have a truly awesome CTR is definitely advisable. Copy ‘headline’ to ‘headline 1’ – in isolation this is easy because the character length is 25 for both.expanded text ads maintain strong headlines
  • You may find that shorter passages of copy lead to you needing a hyphen in headline 1 – which will then mean your new jumbo headline will be double hyphenated. Is this a good thing…? Only some live data will tell you.expanded text ads double hyphenated CTA in headline
  • Finally a rule of thumb for PPC copywriting. With more text available it helps to type in way too much copy and then edit it down. The same could be said for the old text ad limits – but this is accentuated with the larger character length, particularly with the daddy sized 80-character description. Don’t just repeat yourself – take the time out to really think about additional sales messages to take full advantage. Excessive repetition in your new expanded text ad might have the opposite impact on your CTR.

Remember – by making significant, wholesale changes to your ad copy you also impact upon your sitelink extensions. So the next job to quickly move on is ensuring that you don’t have repetition in your new ETA copy in combination with your campaign or ad group specific sitelinks.

What to do next?

Stage 1 for expanded text ads is certainly to migrate over to this new format. For modest levels of media spend, we would recommend moving all ads over to the new format as soon as possible. This is simply a case of entering an ad group, creating a new ad (default is now to ETA format) and then removing the old format. If you work on a large account spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per month, then you may want to consider easing them in over the next 3 months where standard ads will still work by A/B testing old & new.

As ever, for mass text ad copywriting, use a combination of the AdWords front end interface, AdWords Editor and Microsoft Excel.

What should you expect from the results of Expanded Text Ads?

A positive impact in click through rate, measurable via Google AdWords at a campaign / ad group / creative level. This will positively influence your quality scores and in time this leverages more economical AdWords activity in terms of cost per click (CPC) and cost per acquisition (CPA).

Key AdWords Changes in 2016

2. Mobile and tablet adjustments. Announced in May 2016 with the ETA ad format, this change gradually rolled out over the summer giving ecommerce and PPC managers greater versatility at reacting to buyer intent at a device level.

3. In September 2016, Google introduced universal campaigns for app promotion. This spans: the following platforms: Google Search, Play, YouTube, and the millions of sites and apps in the Google Display Network. Then you can set other goals ahead of merely the app install – check out this trivago example where they wanted to optimise their app advertising for ‘book a stay’:

app promotion via adwords

4. Google Merchants now has new applications set up with BigCommerce, PrestaShop, and Magento to make it easier to build and upload data feeds for Google Shopping campaigns / dynamic product remarketing.

5. As Google continue to strengthen their video options, you can now add in a nicely tailored call to action (CTA) within your TrueView video ads:

TrueView for Action YouTube Advertising

6. Using Brand lift, for YouTube advertising you can demonstrate growing awareness and buyer intent impact on the customer journey. Further marketing concept led innovations within Google AdWords include mobile location extensions and store visits measurement for display. This offers the advertiser a bit more punch in their display advertising efforts, where the ad is served based on geolocation to significantly increase relevancy. For the right type of business a great opportunity to push Google Display Network activity forward in terms of return on investment (ROI).

Location Extensions and Store Visits


7. Within remarketing, your list generation can be device specific. Useful for people with highly trafficked sites, the advertiser can retarget users in a more proactive manner. For example, you would be able to build up lists of mobile visitors in the morning that you then retarget midday with desktop and then retarget desktop and mobile crossover with tablet advertising in the evening.

crossdevice ads google adwords

8. Within the extensions area of AdWords, since July 2016 you have been able to develop and publish multiple rows of products/services with prices against them. Currently this is a mobile only extension but in the search engine blog space there have been sightings of this extension being tested in desktop (November 2016) so watch this space. Prices extensions can be set at an account, campaign or ad group level and with start and end dates – perfect for promotional purposes. Check out Google’s example below:


Google AdWords Sitelink Extension for mobile: Price Extensions


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