17 Tips for Writing The Highest Performing Expanded Text Ads [Updated]

The new expanded text ad format has recently been released on the 26th July 2016 as part of Googles most extensive set of updates so far .

They will replace the old advert format by the 31st of January 2017 with Google moving the date forwards several months to give advertisers additional time to make the transition.

So what are expanded text ads and how do they differ from the old text ad format that Google has offered for the last 15 years? There have been three major changes to the ads that you will be able to see in the image below.


Image Source: Inside Adwords Blog

The headline has changed from a single 25 character long headline to two 30 character long headlines.

The description has changed from two 35 character long description lines to one 80 character long description line.

Finally the display URL has changed from one 35 character long display URL to a two path system. Here Google takes your website URL and then allows you to add up to 30 characters after it split into two 15 character boxes.

From early tests advertisers are seeing increases in CTR of around 20% by using the new expanded text ad format in place of the old ad format, so you need to ensure that your PPC agency has upgraded you!

How to Write Compelling Expanded Text Ads

1. Make your ads highly relevant to the search query

The number 1 thing that you need to do is to make your ads highly relevant to the search terms that the user is entering. To do this you need to make sure that you contain the keywords that your advert is going to appear for within the advert like ASDA have done here.

To be able to do this you need really tightly grouped ad groups or better still you can  use single keyword ad groups.

So if you don’t have tightly themed ad groups and single keyword ad groups for your top performing keywords do that first before you start creating new ads and it will make your life a lot easier.

To make your expanded text ads highly relevant to what the user is searching for make sure that you include the keyword that the advert will be appearing for in both the headline of the Ad copy and also in one or more of the paths.

Not only will it make the advert appear more relevant as people can see what they are searching for in the headline of the advert but the words within the advert that match what the user has typed into Google will appear bolded and will help your adverts stand out.

Here is an example of an advert that is highly relevant to the search term “London hotels”


You will notice that the search term London hotels appears in both the headline 1 and in the two paths (green display URL below the headline) of the advert.

Searchers will instantly know that this advert is relevant to what they are looking for and the words “London” and “hotel” bolded within the advert which helps make it stand out from the other ads on the first page of Google.

2. Write conversion funnel based expanded text ads

One of the best PPC articles I’ve ever read about writing better ad copy comes from  from Microsoft that explains how to apply conversion funnel logic to improving Adwords ad copy.

I would strongly recommend reading the full article on Search Engine Watch called “how to write winning ad copy using a scientific approach” but I will recap some of the key points that she makes here.

MECLABS devised a conversion formula that can also be applied to creating expanded text ads, which can be seen below.


Image source: Search Engine Watch 

The formula shows that there are 4 elements that make up a conversion, the motivation of the user, the clarity of the value of the proposition, the incentive to take action – the friction of taking action and the anxiety about entering information on your website.

By maximising the value of C you are most likely to generate a conversion from your ad copy. Take Asos the online clothing retailer, their value proposition is there huge range of low cost clothes as they don’t have to pay for retail outlets, that are delivered to your door the next day.

They understand that there is friction and anxiety when it comes to having return things so they give you fast free return shipping to minimise anxiety and maximise action.

Here is an example of how  suggests that this might be applied to an Adwords advert


Image source: Search Engine Watch 

Here is an example that  gave as to how an Adwords advert would look like that had applied the conversion formula.


Image source: Search Engine Watch 

This is a brilliant piece of methodology for improving the performance of your expanded text ads and will help you move away from writing boring ads in excel as you check that they are under the character limits!

3. Include a strong call to action telling users to take action

A strong call to action will direct users to take action and helps increase the CTR and conversion rate of your adverts.

Jeff Allen from PPC Hero did a brilliant piece of research on what the best call to action is for your adverts based on the data they had.

They picked the wining call-to-action based on a keyword or phrase’s impact on conversion per 100,000 impressions compared to the account average over the past 6 months.

eCommerce account case study


Image source: PPC Hero

Here you will see that based on conversion rate the call to action “shop now” has the highest conversion rate of all of the call to actions and that calls to actions including the word “holiday” had the highest CTR.

Overall the best performer when taking into account conversions per 100.000 impressions “shop now” performed the best. We would therefore suggest using the call to action “shop now” for your ecommerce campaigns.

Lead generation case study

Here is PPC Hero’s data for the call to action case study when they examined lead generation accounts.


Image source: PPC Hero

When it came to ecommence accounts PPC Hero found that Learn more had by far the highest conversion rate, however when it came to CTR calls to actions that contained the words “apply” had the highest CTR.

Overall when looking at conversions per 100,000 impressions which takes into account which advert has both the highest CTR and the highest conversion rate the call to action “learn more” was best.

We would therefore suggest using this within your adverts, however would suggest testing others as these results may vary depending on the vertical that they are in.

This cases study did not take into account possible mobile calls to actions which may be more effective at generating call conversions, so we would suggest that you also test calls to actions such as “Call now’ or “phone now” when you are displaying adverts to users on mobile devices where your goal is to generate the maximum number of call leads.

4. Segment mobile adverts at campaign level

The mobile preferred option that used to be available on the old ad text format has now been removed for the expanded text ads so if you want to change your messaging then you will need to segment your adverts at campaign level.

To do this you will need to duplicate your current campaigns and then add bid modifiers of – 100% to both tablet and desktop devices.


If you are looking to generate calls from your adverts, which is a smart idea as research by word stream shows that leads where somebody calls you is X more valuable to your business than leads where a users has filled out a form on your website, then using mobile friendly call to actions is essential.

We would suggest change your enquire now, or buy now call to action on your main desktop and tablet adverts to a mobile friendly one such as “Call now” or “phone us now”.

5. Lead with benefits not product or service features

This is a great point that has been made before by Brad Geddes in his book Advanced Google Adwords and also by David Greenbaum from Boost media.

In your adverts you need to focus on benefits not features if you want to generate more conversions according to the data within Davids case study.

The reason that benefits convert better are two fold.

Firstly because features appeal to people who are in the comparison section of the buying cycle who are comparing features of different products to decide what they are going to purchase, whereas expanded text ads that contain benefits tend to appear to people who are later in the buying cycle.

Secondly because customers only really care about what your about the benefit that they are going to get from your product.

If you are selling golf clubs for example, customers don’t care that it has a titanium face, they are not buying it for the titanium face they are buying it so that they can hit the ball further.

Davids study also found that certain Adjectives such as [durable], [longer], and [classic] are what we call feature-focused adjectives.

These adjectives have little impact on CTR while deteriorating the conversion rate. Using [reliable], however, provides strong lifts in both CTR and CPI.

The key is to translate the features that your product has into benefits for the end user. By doing this you will appeal to people later in the buying cycle and help eliminate the extra mental step that buyers have to take as they read your search results.

6. Make your expanded text ads localised by including the name of the city they are targeting (service providers only)

Writing location based adverts that contain the name of the location that they are targeted at can be a very effective way to improve the performance of expanded text ads for service-based advertisers.

When we changed our national adverts into location based ads for one of our clients we were able to achieve the following results.

  • Decrease in cost per conversion by 19.11%
  • Increase in the number of conversions by 45.91%

Jonathan Dane over at KlientBoost also found that having a national number alongside your ads would lower their performance if you were using local ads so instead opt for using a local area number where possible.


You will see that by using local number instead of national numbers more than doubled the conversion rate on some of the ads that they were running.

To use location bases adverts you will need to segment your national or regional campaigns by city. For example if the headline of your adverts is going to be “discount boilers Edinburgh” then the adverts would have to be contained within a campaign that was targeted at Edinburgh.

We suggest that you include the name of the location once in the headline of your expanded text ad and once again in one of the paths. Here is an example of a Google location based expanded text ads.


You will see that they have included the location sheffield in the headline of the advert and once again in one of the paths within the display URL.

7. Split test your expanded text ads like crazy!

Split testing your adverts is one of the most important tasks in PPC management because it helps you determine which ad copy is best aligned with your goals for that account whether it be increase CTR, Conversion rate or other metrics such as revenue per impression.

At a very basic level split testing is where you will create two to four adverts per ad group and split traffic evenly between them and see which advert performs the best.

You will need to choose which metric that you want to optimise for which will vary on the strategy of the account.

What do you want to do? The metric you should use
Increase conversions Conversion per Impression (CPI)
Increase visitors Click Through Rate (CTR)
Get the most revenue possible Revenue per Impression (RPI)
Improve quality scores Click Through Rate (CTR)

Table Source: Adalysis 

Advert testing strategies

There are two main strategies that Brad Geddes outlines in his book Advanced Google Adwords for effectively split testing adverts. You first need to use something called “unique approach” ad testing which is where you test 3 to 4 different adverts per ad group with very different copies to see what style of adverts resonate with your audience.

Once you have narrowed this down you should move into “methodical testing” Which is where you test less significant things such as alternating the headlines, punctuation and calls to actions.

One thing to bear in mind when split testing is to ensure that you keep the adverts relevant to the search terms and follow ad creative best practices.

Unique Approach

So this is where you should always start when you are testing and setting up your initial adverts. As mentioned before write 3-4 different ads per ad group.

Each will have completely different components from the other ads that you are testing. This is the best way to establish which adverts resonate with your audience best.

Here a good place to start is by looking at your competitors ads for similar searches and then testing both their ad type and completely different ones, to let you see how consumers in your industry are responding to different messages.

Methodical approach

Here you are going to test less significant things once you have created an advert that resonates with your audience. Here is a non exhaustive list of things that you should consider testing:

  • Customer benefits
  • Geographic adverts (requires that you campaigns are geographically targeted at that location)
  • Including numbers
  • Product features
  • Service features
  • Title case v sentence case.
  • Guarantees
  • Symbols
  • Call to action (for example, call us today, or buy now, or shop now)
  • Testing reversing the headlines.
  • Punctuation
  • Landing pages
  • Display URL / Paths
  • Different USPS

Test mobile ads separately

Generally the performance on mobile devices is very different from desktop devices so it makes sense to test mobile specific ads separately from desktop devices.

Statistical significance

One thing that you need to make sure that you focus on when split testing is statistical significance, I can’t tell you how may advertisers get this wrong or don’t fully understand what it means.

At Clicteq we generally aim for a confidence rating of 95% which means that 19 in 20 times we will make the correct call on an advert. This is our compromise between having enough data to split test and making sure that we are making the rights calls.

To calculate statistical significance you can use a tool such as Optmyzr or Adalysis That has the statistical significance calculation built in or alternatively you can calculate statistical significance using a tool called Splittester that was created by Perry Marshall.

The tool allows you to enter the number of clicks that each advert has got and the respective CTR or conversion rate and it will tell you the probability of you making the correct decision if you conclude the split test at that point.

8) Pre Qualify Your Visitors

This is particularly useful if you are selling high end product, here you may want to consider including the price of the product within the ad copy.

Visitors will then not be surprised when they visit your landing page and see the high ticket price item and as a result leave.

This will reduce the number of non serious visitors to your landing page and will reduce wasted spend and increase conversion rates.

Here is an example of TM Lewin using pre qualification within their Ads as their price is higher than their competitors.

You will notice that they have included their price prominently in both the display headline of the advert and also within the ad copy itself.

9) Use countdown timers to increase your conversion rate.

Countdown timers are an incredibly effective tool for creating urgency and driving more sales.

Here is an example of an advertiser using this feature

This feature is heavily underused and presents a great opportunity for you to stand out from your competition.

When Search Engine Land conduced research into the effects of using countdown timers they found that conversion rates significantly increased towards the end of the countdown.

Image source

There research showed that conversion rate increased from 8.24% 5 days before the sale was due to end up to 10.80% 2 days before the sale was about to end. This is a fairly impressive increase in conversion rate for simply adding a countdown timer to your extended text ads.

10. Break Up With Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Experts have been telling advertisers to use dynamic keyword insertion for a long time now to make their adverts more relevant by dynamically changing the headline of your ads to the most relevant keyword within your ad group.

However when looking at the data the numbers just don’t add up. Single keyword ad groups that use standard ad text outperform ads using dynamic keyword insertion according to data from Wordstream.

Their data shows that when looking at that top 5% of adverts running on their platform that ads that don’t use DKI outperform ads with DKI when looking at their relative CTRs.

11. Use emotional triggers within your ad copy.

Journalists have been using emotional triggers to increase CTRs for years. so why not apply this to your extended text ads to increase your CTR too?

Here are 9 emotional trainers that have been proven to increase CTRs:

  • Laughter
  • Amusement
  • Curiosity
  • Awe
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Joy
  • Empathy
  • Sadness

Wordstream did ran some tests to see how fear effected CTRs of Adwords ads.

They tested two different ad copies, one with a negative connotation and one with a positive connotation as shown below.


Wordstream thought about who their target customer was – likely a frightened woman, with kids, a husband, and responsibilities.

She was searching something along the lines of “breast cancer symptoms,” so more likely than not she was thinking she might have breast cancer, so the ad copy was designed specifically to reach out and scare this type of women into getting screened.

They found found that when they used a negative twist to their adverts that they generated 125% more appointments.

You can even apply FOMO (fear of missing out) elements to spice up your Expanded Text ads an increase CTR. This works particularly well for sales and exclusive offers.

Here is an example of Acme using FOMO physiology to incentives clicks for their 15% off Black Friday event.

Their ad copy makes users feel like they are going to miss out on the 15% off deal if they don’t act before the end of Black Friday.

12. Use the full range of ad extensions.

A simple and easy way to increase the performance of your Expanded Text ads is to use the full range of ad extensions.

These have been proven to both increase CTR and increase conversion rate by taking up more space on the first page of Google and instilling trust in searchers.

You will want to ensure that you have all 9 of the following ad extensions applied to your expanded text ads.

  1. Sitelink extensions (increase CTR by 10-20%)
  2. Callout extensions (increase CTR by around 10%)
  3. Structured snippet extensions (increase CTR by around 10%)
  4. Location extensions (Increase CTR for local searchers by up to 9%)
  5. Seller rating extensions (increase CTR by 17% and conversion rate by 4.9%)
  6. Review extensions (increase CTR by 15-20%)
  7. Price extensions
  8. Call extensions
  9. Message extensions

13. Use title case within your ads

Capitalising the first letter of every word within your extended text ads is a great way to help make your ad stand out without violating Adwords policies on capitalisation.

Periscopix conducted a study into the effects of using title case on CTR and found that title case outperformed sentence case.

Below is a table that shows the high level metrics from the 6 week test that they conducted.

We have seen that on mobile title case has had a slightly higher overall CTR, this may be due to standing out on a smaller screen or due to being in a slightly higher ad position.

If you are struggling to work out how yo use title case then I would suggest using this converter here.

14. Ask Questions.

Here you will reflect what the user has searched for using a question. For example if a users searched for a hotel they may see this advert. Because you are reciprocating a question users assume that the website must be relevant and have been proven to increase CTR.

Here is an example of how this might work for a hotel.

Here’s an example of how we included a satisfaction question in AskNicely’s PPC ad copy:

By asking “Are Your Customers Happy?” in AskNicely’s ad, Klientboost saw an increase in conversions by 67% and the click-through-rate (CTR) by 219%.

14. Put you most important information in headline 1

Mark Kennedy spotted that Google sometimes will truncate headline 2 and posted this screenshot of it online.

Although both headlines can technically be up to 30 characters long, there’s no guarantees on exactly how or if the second headline shows.

It is therefore very important to ensure that you include your most important features within headline 1 of your ad copy.

Google has responded with tips to avoid truncation, which is to limit your ad character count to 33 characters across headlines 1 & 2, and using the ad preview tool will identify truncation issues.

15. Use a strong USP

Having a strong unique selling point to differentiate you from your competition is key to success.

You need to ask yourself:

Why should searchers click on my ad over your competitors? What makes me different?

Perry Marshall identifies 6 ways that you can be unique within your Adwords ads.

  1. You’re unique because of the buyer you serve.
  2. You’re unique because of what you sell. 
  3. You’re unique because you have an unusual angle.
  4. You’re unique because of what your product or service does not do.
  5. You’re unique because of the time frame around your offer.
  6. You’re unique because of how you guarantee your product.

A good example of a strong USP comes from this over 50s dating website.

There are hundreds of dating websites however this advert is very niche and targets a particular demographic, the over 50’s which makes it stand out from generic ads from match and other dating services for everyone.

A second good example of a USP come from Intorglass. This advert stands out because of the unique guarantee that comes with the product, there are no other iPhone screen protector providers that offer a lifetime guarantee!

16. Use RLSA

RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) work a lot like display network remarketing but on the Google Search Network.

They allow you to show tailored adverts to users who have visited your website before but have not converted on the first visit.

A great way to make use of this feature is to give users a benefit that they did not receive on their first visit to try to entice them to convert.

Here is an example of how this might work. The first time searchers see you advert they see “summer dresses for $99” but for users who have visited your site before they see a discounted advert with the headline “summer dresses for $79”.

Image source

Research by Wordstream finds that visitors who have already visited your website are 2 – 3 times as likely to click on your advert as new visitors. Which show just how effective using RLSA are on improving your CTR.

17. Scope out your competition

The key to creating a winning offer is to analyse what your competition is doing and then do it better.

There are lots of tools available out their such as SEMrush or Spyfu that allow you to analyse your competitors ad copies.

Within SEMrush you can either enter the name of your competitor or you can enter a keyword that you want to see ads for.

For example I have entered the keyword “PPC management”.

Once you have done this you can analyse your competitors USPs for example, Colewood offer monthly terms on their contacts and Periscopix offer “in house bid management software”.

Based on this I could then go away and create a better advert with the USP “custom bid management technology to your needs” to make Clicteq stand out from other PPC agencies.

Creating expanded text ads within Adwords editor using Excel

To create new expanded text ads at bulk we suggest using Excel and Adwords editor if you are a mid sized account and for larger ones the Adwords API may be a more effective method.

STEP 1. To create expanded text ads within Adwords editor you first need to create a excel template that you can use. Here is a screenshot of the one that we have created a Cliteq. We suggest that you also create a similar one.


To do so you will need the following column headers:

Campaign | Ad group | Headline 1 | Headline 2 | Description | Path 1 | Path 2 | Final URL

We would also suggest adding a count column after each one so you can ensure that you are not over Adwords character limit for each one. You can use the formula =Len(cell you want the character count of) and then use conditional formatting to highlight anywhere that you have gone over the character limit.

If you have thousands of new ads that you are going to create then using freeze planes will help you to see the column headers as you scroll down. Functions such as concatenate and v lookup will help you create bespoke adverts quicker, however I will not cover this here. If you are interested I suggest reading “6 Excel Tricks to save your PPC Life” by Eric Couch over at PPC Hero.

STEP 2. Enter the campaign, ad group, headlines, description lines, paths and final URL  for your advert into the sheet with a new advert on each line.

STEP 3. Open up the Adwords editor interface. To add the new expanded text ad format you will need to be using versions of the Adwords Editor that are later than V11.5. Make sure that you are viewing in Adwords editor at account level and then select expanded text ads from the Adverts dropdown as shown in the screenshot below.


STEP 4. Now click the make multiple change button at the top of the interface as shown in the screenshot below.


STEP 5. Make sure that you have copied all of the data in your Excel spreadsheet including the column headers as Adwords will match these and it will save you time. You are now going to paste these into Adwords editor and you should end up with something that looks like this.


Once you have done this hit the process button and your adverts will appear within the Adwords editor interface.

STEP 6. All of these changes will have been made offline and your expanded text ads will only appear in Adwords Editor at this point. You then need to post them into Adwords interface by taking the following steps. Go to post changes along the top grey bar and then from the dropdown select “post changes” or on a mac you can use the shortcut cmd P.




The new expanded text ad format is probably the biggest update Google has released in the last 15 years and has had a profound effect on the performance of our clients Adwords ads.

Although we have seen a strong uplift in CTR for our clients we think that this will become less profound as all advertisers make the move to the new format.

When moving to the new format the Adwords editor interface and Excel sheets will make your life a lot easier even if your are just changing over a few hundred ads so we would strongly recommend using these!

Please feel free to ask any questions below and if you enjoyed this post we would appreciate it if you shared it with your followers.

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Search Engine Journal, Econsultancy and Certified Knowledge. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

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