Guest Contributor: Corey Morris
Director of Digital Strategy
With the deadline now passed for migration to expanded text ads in Google AdWords, we can look back at the big push to get to the new format and what it’s impact has been. (Want background? Check out my previous post on what they are and the transition) The ad format update was a big change for advertisers who managed large campaigns, and even more daunting for marketing agencies (like us) who manage thousands of ad groups across all our clients. This was just one of the big updates Google made as it officially went “mobile-first” in how it approaches the web. Expanded text ads didn’t change the world, but they did have an impact on advertisers through pushing us to adopt a new standard and to get hands on within our campaigns at a granular level.
The new standard isn’t really that surprising. While it was big news at the time, the deadline for converting ads passed with little fanfare. We are continuing to see performance trends more closely linked to the early 2016 update Google made removing ads from the right rail putting all of the focus on a single column of ad and organic search results content. In cases where we have ads in the first through third ad slots on the page when they appear at the top of the page, we’re seeing increased click through rates and lead generation performance; however, when ads fall to the fourth slot (and sometimes even the second) that appears at the bottom of the page after the organic search results, engagement drops off dramatically.
A benefit for marketers who are mostly focus on both PPC and SEO is that we saw organic traffic increase. The increases ranged from 30-80% on average, and some of that can be attributed to there being less noise above the fold on the search results page. In the long run, organic traffic is often cheaper (but don’t always assume so).
Our conclusion is that expanded text ads are a good thing. They offer the opportunity to take up more real estate [and when ads are in the top few slots at the top of the page, can really attract attention]. Couple that with the ad extensions available and it sometimes isn’t fair to the long-entrenched top organic search results below the ads; however, advertisers pay a premium to be on those top slots and that is something that won’t change any time soon. We must work harder and smarter to try to find the right mix of terms that fit our ROI equation for being in those top slots. The big takeaway is that more is better when it comes to exposure on the search results page and the expanded text ads update allows us to have it if we’re willing to invest.