08 September 2021

Google Ads to retire Expanded Text Ads

Google Ads has just announced its plan to retire the Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) by June 2022, leaving Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) as the format of choice.

This move will definitely shake up how advertisers set up ad copy. ETAs are currently the standard and most used ad format across paid search campaigns and engines (Google and Microsoft Advertising), allowing advertisers to create a ad copy with three headlines and two descriptions.

This move emphasises the tech giant’s push towards automation by forcing marketers to leverage machine learning systems and move away from direct control. This news aligns with previous changes such as the reduction of search terms available which was announced this time last year.

Why does this matter?

The adoption of RSAs has proven to be mostly beneficial, with marketers reporting improved CTRs across their campaigns. Additionally, RSAs display the same headline and description specs as ETAs on the research page.

So, if the results are good and specs are the same why is this change important?

To answer that, we need to look at the way RSAs work:

  • Expanded Text Ads are created by entering 3 headlines along with two description lines, all in a specific order. Those headlines and descriptions show in that order when an ad is triggered on the Search Engine Research Page (SERP).

  • Responsive Search Ads work differently. Marketers add a list of up to 15 headlines and four descriptions in the system, and the Google Ads algorithm creates different combinations of the assets to create an ad when triggered. The system leverages its machine learning and internal signals to predict expected performance and determine which combination is the most efficient.

It’s important to note that complete control over the headline and description order is not necessarily lost - marketers can choose to pin a specific headline to a certain position within the ad. Advertisers with compliance considerations who require to show legal mentions in their ads can choose to pin a headline text to always show said legal disclaimers.

In a nutshell, ad variation will become completely automated in Google Ads, replacing ad testing and manual control from marketers by machine learning capabilities. On a positive note, advertisers will now have a system continuously testing ad variations, reducing time spent on manual tests.

Interestingly, some Google Ads accounts may already be finding that ETAs are no longer an option in the ad creation menu (see screenshot below). However, advertisers can still leverage Google Ads Editor to create ETAs for the time being.

Retire ETAs

Image: Example of a Google Ads account that is missing the option to create an Expanded Text Ad (ETA).

Are there any limitations?

There are a few:

  • Unfortunately, the Google Ads platform reporting is limited to impressions. There is no option to add additional metrics for RSAs, thus removing the ability to analyse which headlines and descriptions are more likely to be clicked.

  • The interface only shows best performing ad variations with their associated volume of impressions with no additional insights.

  • There is no option to extract the data and analyse combinations outside of the platform.

  • RSAs are not currently compatible with Business Data. This means that advertisers leveraging ad customisation via Business Data feeds for offers or price updates, may be forced to manually make those changes moving forward, or onboard additional pieces of technology such as Search Ads 360 to automate the workflow.

Next steps

Louder recommends implementing RSA ads as soon as possible to facilitate a smooth transition and provide enough time to analyse performance.

Google’s announcement includes additional tips to assist with the change:

  • Repurpose high-performing content from your expanded text ads and focus on Ad strength

  • Check your account’s Recommendations page. These customised suggestions can help you quickly add or improve responsive search ads.

  • Pin headlines or descriptions to specific positions in your responsive search ads. This is useful if you have certain messages that always need to be shown.

  • Use ad variations. This can help you test different versions of your assets at scale and review their performance across multiple campaigns.

  • Evaluate the success of your ads based on incremental impressions, clicks, and conversions your ad groups and campaigns receive.

About Arthur Hascoet

Arthur Hascoet specialises in performance media strategies and automation opportunities. In his spare time he enjoys the great outdoors and discovering the unsealed tracks of the backcountry.