Why Do Google Ads Look Different? AdWords’ Expanded Text Ads Now Live

Google AdWords Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) Now Live

Without a doubt, 2016 has been the biggest year for changes in AdWords since it was first launched 15 years ago.

In March, we reported that Google removed right-hand-side ads from its search engine results page. Just three months later, at the company’s annual Performance Summit, Google shared plans to increase the size of its text ads by nearly 50 percent.

Now, those changes are officially live, and advertisers worldwide have access to the Expanded Text Ads (ETAs).

What Are Expanded Text Ads?

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are updated text ads within AdWords that essentially “expand” the area of ad copy for headlines and descriptions.

While Google’s ads used to be limited to short, to-the-point headlines and descriptions, the ETAs offer much more room for additional ad copy, including a second headline and a description twice as long as before.

Take a look at the difference between the old and new ads:

Google Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) Before vs. After

(Image via WordStream)

Quite the change, isn’t it? The new ads have nearly 50 percent more characters to work with (see the exact character limits for the new ads below), taking up much more territory in search engine results.

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) Character Specifications

Here’s the official breakdown on how many characters are now allowed in the ETAs:

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) Character Limits Specs

How Will Expanded Text Ads Affect Ad Performance?

You may have already noticed some updated ads when doing Google searches on your own.

The longer headline gives searchers more information about an offer and a better idea of what to expect if they click the ad. The bright blue headlines certainly take visual precedence, but the longer description shouldn’t be overlooked, as it allows marketers to really refine their offer to attract the right visitors.

Google reported increased clickthrough rates (CTRs) of up to 20 percent in early testing of the new ETAs, while marketers have had mixed results.

It’s safe to say that with such a big change to AdWords, marketers likely have to update their existing philosophy of what works best for Google ads. It may be months before we truly have reliable data on the change.

Why Did Google Make This Change?

In its quest to adapt to a “mobile-first world,” Google introduced ETAs for a consistent look and experience across all devices. According to Google, “Expanded text ads are designed to look great across all devices, including mobile devices.”

As we’ve previously said, mobile optimization is no longer optional. In the last year alone, the number of paid search clicks from smartphones has more than doubled. To adapt to this change, Google has been focused on flexibility across platforms.

What Happens to Old Ads?

As of right now, you can still create and edit standard text ads (AKA, ads as you currently know them) by selecting the “Switch back to standard text ad” link in AdWords. But in October, you will no longer have that option. Instead, you’ll be automatically forwarded to the new formatting option for ETAs.

While standard text ads will continue to run past the end of October, you won’t be able to edit them anymore. But don’t worry, because we have some great tips for success with the new ETAs. Keep reading…

Tips for Success with Expanded Text Ads

Re-Write Your Ads for the New Format

Use this opportunity to evaluate your current ads and re-write them for the new format. As Google says, it’s a great opportunity to increase the clickable space in your ads.

ETAs will allow you to choose two headlines, which will be separated by a dash (see below). Since headlines will be much larger, you should brainstorm different ways to describe your offer.

For example, take a look at Last Call’s headline on this ad:

Last Call AdWords Example

Rather than including “Last Call” twice (once in their brand name, once in their website’s URL) in the headline, we would recommend that the company try something along the lines of:

  • Shop Last Call Shoes – Designer Shoes on Sale
  • Designer Shoes – Discount Prices at Last Call
  • Last Call Shoes – Designer Brands at Discounts

Something that reads more like a sentence will not only help readability but will better convey your offer.

Choose Your Ad Copy Wisely

With great power comes great responsibility. While you may be excited to include more detail in your ads, you don’t want it to backfire. Although this additional information might attract more clicks, it could also push some people away.

Take this Nordstrom Rack ad for example:

Nordstrom Rack AdWords Example

While free shipping for orders over $100 might sound appealing, what if a competitor’s ad says “Free S&H Over $50!”? The searcher might end up clicking through to the competitor’s website.

In sum, proceed with caution and always experiment with your ad copy.


Have you experimented with Expanded Text Ads yet? What types of results have you seen? Is there a question you have about Expanded Text Ads that we didn’t address here? Comment below and let us know!