In our latest blog post regarding expanded text ads (ETAs), we talked about the expected outcomes of running expanded text ads within your campaigns. Now that we’ve had these ads live for a few months for several of our clients, we found some surprising results and unexpected outcomes.
When first launching this new ad format across our high volume ad groups back in July, we were not seeing the results we expected. CTR was not significantly improving (and in some cases they were worse), conversion rate was lower, and most curiously – impressions for our expanded text ads were lower than our standard ads (even though we were set on indefinite rotation). Given all the hype Google had created around this beta, we were understandably disappointed.
Our team spent some time brainstorming different ideas as to why performance was down for our ETA ads. Were people confused by this new layout and unsure of whether they wanted to engage with these new ad formats? Did the ETAs look too busy with the extensive text and double headlines? Perhaps the display URLs that were automatically pulling in were not perfectly optimized in terms of URL structure, and thus looked strange within the ETA ads. The performance indicator that truly had us baffled, however, was the low impression split for ETAs. Unable to explain the discrepancy in impressions, our team did what any search team in crisis has learned to do: we called Google.
The Google representatives we spoke to confirmed that prior to July 26, ETAs were not eligible to show 100% of the time. Up through July 26, Google had gradually increased the percentage of impressions that ETAs were eligible to show for (i.e. 20%, then 50%, etc.). On July 26, the update was made that allowed ETAs to show up for 100% of impressions, just like standard ads. This piece of information made a big difference in how we were analyzing our ad performance. Below, we’ve outlined the differences in ETA versus standard ad performance both before and after the update on July 26, when the ETAs became eligible to show 100% of the time.
Impression volume and CTR
Prior to the update in July, impressions were down for ETAs by 25-30% versus impressions for our standard ads. CTR for standard ads was also not too far off from the ETA CTR, with less than a 15% difference between the two. This was not in line with the expectations Google had set, which was an average 20% improvement in CTR for ETAs versus standard ads. It wasn’t until after the switch on July 26 that impressions evened out for ETA ads (and in some cases even outweighed standard ad impressions). CTR also improved for ETA ads after the update in July, (21% above the CTR for standard ads) finally meeting the expectations that Google had set.
Prior to the update in July which allowed ETAs to be eligible for 100% of auctions, conversion rate was down 5% for ETAs versus standard ads for our higher volume clients and ad groups. Post-July update, ETA conversion rate actually outperformed standard ads by 10%. While Google originally had not made any promises regarding shifts in conversion rate, it’s great to see that the longer ads are leading to a stronger rate of conversion.
Cost Per Click
Before the July update, ETAs still had more efficient CPCs, however the margin between ETA CPCs and standard ad CPCs only improved with the July update. Prior to July, ETA CPCs were 11% more efficient than standard ads for our highest volume clients. Once the switch was made in July, ETA CPCs were 17% more efficient. Why could this be happening? Potentially due to improvements in Quality Score with ETA ads now that more characters are allowed, which allows advertisers to more easily incorporate relevant keywords into their messaging.
There are still some mixed reviews out there on how expanded text ads are performing versus standard ads, but across our clients we have certainly seen improvements now that all ETAs are 100% eligible to show. With Google permanently rolling out ETAs in October, it’s important for advertisers to begin analyzing performance on their expanded ads as soon as possible. Synapse clients have certainly seen improvements, but it remains to be seen whether improved ETA performance will be able to stand the test of time. If you tested ETAs when they first launched and were disappointed by the results, consider retesting. The initial issues surrounding impression share have been resolved, and we’re seeing in many cases even better impression share for ETAs vs standard ads.
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