Evan Sparling

by Evan Sparling | PPC Optimization

Even if you love to drag your feet, you’ve almost certainly implemented Expanded Text Ads in your AdWords account by now. Google released the expanded ad type in the summer of 2016 to give advertisers plenty of time to test and experiment with the second headline and longer text description. While advertisers have generally reported stronger CTRs and conversion rates from the expanded ads, some have found that their new ads actually perform worse than the standard ones. If that’s the case for you, here’s what you can do to improve performance.

Negative Impacts of Expanded Ads on Brand Campaigns

Brand campaigns are one area where we’ve noticed that Expanded Text Ads are more likely to cause poorer performance. If your expanded brand ads are underperforming, you can do more than throw up your hands and blame Google. Here are a few steps you should take if your Expanded Text Ads are hurting performance in your brand campaign.

Step 1: Diagnose the Problem

It’s usually easy to tell if your Expanded Text Ads are hurting performance in your brand campaigns. If CTRs start falling and CPCs start increasing right after you launch expanded ads, and no new competitors have begun advertising on your brand terms, it’s a good bet your ads are impacting performance.

Advertisers with heavy brand traffic and well-known brand names can often see larger impacts from the switch to expanded text ads, since even small changes in CTR can impact quality score, driving up CPCs and impacting average position. This will almost always cause your CPA to increase or return on ad spend (ROAS) to decrease.

Graph of Google data around Avg. CPC rising while Avg. Pos is steady at 1.

If you launched expanded ads on August 20th, it’s a pretty good bet they’re causing these CPC increases.

Why would a different ad type cause such radical changes in performance? It all comes down to searcher intent. Especially for well-known brands, most searchers are trying to go from the Google search bar to the brand’s website as quickly as possible. Most of these searchers will spend a split second looking for the correct URL and merely skim over your ad copy. The second headline of text in expanded text ads can also confuse some searchers, causing their eyes to dart further down the page, past your ad, as they look for the familiar link.

Step 2: Show Your Customers the Way

If you’re seeing Expanded Text Ads perform worse than standard ads, there are a few steps you can take to quickly improve performance.

First, if you are seeing major declines in brand performance, consider pausing your Expanded Text Ads in all but one or two ad groups while you test new variants to find a winner.

When creating your new expanded ad, keep in mind the searcher’s intent and how he or she is likely looking at the search engine results page. For brand campaigns, where most clicks are highly navigational, make it as easy as possible for the searcher to find your ad. In many cases, we’ve seen that repeating the brand name or URL in headline 2 drives better CTR and conversion performance than any other headline.

Graph with Brand Name showing 4.1% Conv. Rate vs. Brand USP with just 3.7%

The extra text in Expanded Text Ads generally allows them to drive better CTR and conversion rate performance than standard text ads. However, in the cases where Expanded Text Ads perform worse than standard ads, make sure to consider your searcher’s intent and create an ad that helps the searcher find what he or she needs as quickly as possible.