7 Tips for Writing The Highest Performing Expanded Text Ads

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.

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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.

 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.

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”

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Conclusion

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.

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