Google Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) will be in the AdWords history books for 2016. ETAs may even top the charts for the year’s biggest change. We were made aware of Google Expanded Text Ads in May, before their introduction in July.

The topic received a lot of coverage in July and August. Time has passed, and a lot has happened. It is time for me to reveal my key findings.

What Google Expanded Text Ads are

google expanded text ads

Well, the key is in the name. They are just bigger ads (nothing too magical). To be more precise, there will now be 140 characters available. The 25-35-35 ad formation will now become 30-30-80.

Why Google has introduced Expanded Text Ads

Google want to move advertisers into the mobile-first world. Well, that is what the word on the street is! Whether this happens or not, is something we will find out.

Google Expanded Text Ads were designed for ads to perform better on mobile. But, if everyone adopts ETAs, CTRs cannot rise for everyone.

One thing for sure is, ETAs offer us more search engine real estate. Especially on mobile.

So, total paid clicks will go up, and Organic clicks will most likely go down. Those in the top spots will benefit the most. Whereas, those out of the top positions will struggle. Devices aren’t getting any bigger overnight so the top spots will only take up more room.

ETA losers

Google Expanded Text ads are not going to work well for:

  • Advertisers who do not thoroughly test their ads.
  • Advertisers who do not concentrate on ad relevancy.
  • Impatient advertisers.

ETA winners

Google Expanded Text Ads are a big win for:

  • Google financially.
  • Advertisers who have half a clue about what they’re doing.
  • The companies who have advertisers who have half a clue about what they’re doing!

The differences between Google Expanded Text Ads and Standard Text Ads

google expanded text ads differences

From headline to headlines

We’ve gone from one 25-character headline to two 30-character headlines.

In all instances, there will be a dash between Headline 1 and Headline 2. On mobile, headlines may have a line break.

From descriptions to description

Before, we had two 35-character description lines. We now have one 80-character description. In the past, many of us would have combined the first and second description lines. So, this is a welcome change if you ask me! The extra ten characters give us more room to concentrate on relevancy.

Manual to automatic Display URLs

Before, we had to enter our display URLs manually. Now, we just have to enter our Final URL, and the domain shows.

Optional Path Fields

Google ETAs give you the option to have two 15 character Path Fields for the Display URL. In my opinion, these fields make Display URLs look a lot cleaner. An example of paths used in the right way would be

Approval times

ETAs can take some time to be approved by Google. So, you may not only want to leave ETAs in Ad Groups and risk downtime.

No more mobile preference

There is no longer an option to create mobile preferred ads. So, ETAs will show on all devices. If you have high performing mobile preferred Standard Text Ads (STAs), you may want to leave them running.

Creating mobile specific ad copies is no longer a good idea. Asking users to take an action on mobile when they are on their desktop or tablet will not go down well.

URL capitalisation

ETAs do not allow you to capitalise the Display URL. Standard Text Ads allow you to capitalise URLs in promoted headlines. For example, a promoted headline in a Standard Text Ad had the ability to show a URL like this; Now, for many of us, this is no big deal. But, for others like me, we’d like to keep our URL on brand. We’d like the option to change capitalisation for promoted headlines.

Without this option, we have to leave a visual feature of our ads behind. This isn’t ideal.

Hopefully, AdWords will add this feature to ETAs before January 31st, 2017.

Information you should know about Google Expanded Text Ads


google expanded text ads truncation

Firstly, the meaning of truncation is to make something shorter by removing the end of it.


As ETAs were introduced, advertisers started to notice that headlines were being cut off (truncated).

Google have told us to keep the total headline character count at a maximum of 33 characters to avoid truncation.

This is annoying! Why give us the option to create 60 characters if some of the characters are going to be cut off? As well as the annoyance, truncation can pose legal threats to some highly regulated companies.

Google’s Cassie Hartt posted in the AdWords Community forum on the subject.

“Advertisers who must adhere to strict legal or regulatory ad requirements should consider creating headlines with 33 characters or less to ensure all of their ad text shows — even on the smallest devices. These advertisers should also take into consideration the size (and language) of these characters. For example, an ‘M’ takes up more space than an ‘i.’”

— Cassie Hartt

This statement also confirms that truncation is about pixel sizes and not just the character count. So don’t take the 33 characters as gospel!

Hartt also went on to say that if the Ad Preview Tool shows the full headline that it generally won’t truncate when served. There have been several reports that this is not the case. But, I think that is why Cassie included ‘generally’ in her statement.

Headline 1 vs. Headline 2

If you’re over the 33 character truncation limit, put your most valuable information into Headline 1. Otherwise, you’ll be at risk of the Headline 2 being cut off.


Descriptions can also go through truncation! There have been reports of descriptions being cut down to 57 characters. Search Engine Land will post more updates on this subject.

Display Network

Google Expanded Text Ads are also available on the Display Network. You simply have to select the text ad option. Or, you can copy Search Network ads into the Display Network. Keep in mind; Google has disclosed that the second headline may not show in certain ad formats.

Call Extensions

If your ad uses Call Extensions, the call button may appear instead of some text. Also, an ellipsis could show.

What to do with Standard Text Ads

As of January 31st, 2017, Standard Text Ads will no longer be able to create or upload standard ads. Now, while our immediate reaction may be to sling those STAs in the bin, there are a few things to consider.

Keep the best performers

Firstly, STAs will continue to serve past January. So, if you have a STA outperforming an ETA, you’ll want to keep hold of certain ads for as long as possible.

Secondly, only pause your STAs once your ETAs are consistently beating them.

Also, use your best performing STAs to help you create better Google Expanded Text Ads. Don’t just ignore your data and create completely different ads.

Start with a clean slate

If you manage large accounts, it is likely that not all ads will be fully optimised. Take this chance to remove them and replace them with Expanded Text Ads.

I would recommend removing STAs when Ad Groups have limited search volume. It would take too long to run tests to compare ETAs to STAs.

More time to test

The initial date for advertisers to stop receiving support for Standard Text Ads was October 26th, 2016. But, it is now January 31st, 2017. Google extended this deadline to give us more time to test and iterate.

An emphasis on quality

Google also emphasised that the quality of our ads matter. Therefore, we shouldn’t just rely on the extra characters to do all the work.

Take full advantage of the new character limits

We have more space, so we should use it!

If your competitors upgrade to ETAs, then the new extended character counts are no longer an advantage. Concentrate on ad relevance to make the extended character counts beneficial. We have more characters to focus on ad relevance, and this should make our jobs easier.

We know what our users search terms are, and we should know what they care about. Including deeper messaging should not be difficult.

Test smart and ahead of schedule

Don’t take this extra time for granted. Use this time to test, test and test some more.

The number of ads per Ad Group

I would suggest testing two to three ads per Ad Group in most cases. However, you may want to test up to five ads per Ad Group when you have more impressions.

Focus on headline tests

Up until January, it may be wise to concentrate on headline testing. Create descriptions based on relevance and your Standard Text Ads. So, you can stick with these descriptions and spend your time testing headlines.

Remember, our headlines are the clickable space on our text ads. Big blue clickable headlines are more prominent than our description. Therefore, they will have a greater impact on how our ads perform.

Try to steer clear of creating headlines that rely on line breaks because there’s no guarantee that a line break will occur.

How to upload Google Expanded Text Ads

Now, this is where it is important to understand your options. If you don’t, you’ll waste a lot of time!

The interface

Uploading Google Expanded Text Ads using the interface is way too slow! Okay, if you want to add a few ads here and there, it’s all good. But, if you’re looking for a bulk operation, this isn’t it.

The AdWords Editor

This option allows us to easily convert Standard Text Ads into Expanded Text Ads using the AdWords Editor. We don’t want just to insert a new Headline 2 without changing the rest of our ad. However, converting our ads is the first step. We can then improve our ads further by adding relevant content and taking advantage of character limits.

The video below walks through how to quickly convert your Standard Text Ads into Expanded Text ads.


Combining the AdWords Editor and Excel

Now, this method, in my opinion, trumps the rest.

This method allows us to efficiently:

  • Make a smooth transition to Expanded Text Ads and meet best practices at the same time.
  • Create multiple versions of our Expanded Text Ads.
  • Count characters so that we are making the most out of our character limits.
  • Keep an eye on truncation.
  • Replicate what worked for our Standard Text Ads and add further optimisations.
  • Review all of our ads in one spreadsheet.

The video below is an in-depth walkthrough on how to upload Google Expanded Text Ads with the AdWords Editor and Excel.



The buzz that Google Expanded Text Ads has created in the AdWords community has been great!

Change can be worrying when it comes with heap loads of extra work! However, I believe that ETAs are an excellent chance for us to rethink the messaging and purpose of our ads.

My key takeaways from researching Google Expanded Text ads have been:

  • Take full advantage of character limits.
  • Focus on ad relevancy and speak directly to the user’s search term.
  • Test headlines first.
  • Use efficient processes to create and improve ETAs.

As always, I’ll be updating this post as I go. Help me out, interact with me and tell me how I could be improving my posts.

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