July 12, 2016

Google’s Expanded Text Ads Mean Expanded Opportunity for Paid Search Advertisers

Image of a laptop searching for google


Google recently announced it will be rolling out expanded text ads (ETAs) later this year. This is the first major change to Google’s search text ad template in 15 years.

Expanded text ads are paid search ads that will provide nearly 50% more space for ad copy, as well as a more prominent headline. ETAs will give advertisers additional characters within the existing fields and also add new fields.


Expanded text ads are designed to be visible across all devices, from desktop to mobile. They will:

  • Allow more characters for the headline and add a secondary headline
  • Combine the two description lines into one, allowing for more characters
  • Remove the display URL field and pull directly from the destination URL
  • Allow for the addition of two path fields that can be used to add pages to the display URL
  • Offer up to a 20% higher click-thru rate compared to existing text ads
  • Provide a mobile-optimized experience

Below is an example of the current and new formats.

ad guidelines

Google has provided an estimated timeline for the transition:

  • End of July 2016: Full launch of ETAs expected in the AdWords™ UI and in the WebAPI
  • Fall 2016: AdWords UI and API users will no longer accept standard text ads from being created/edited
  • Beta through launch and beyond: Google will support serving standard text ads and ETAs
  • TBD (estimated in 2017): Google stops serving standard text ads


Expanded text ads allow advertisers to provide a more detailed message and take up more space on the page; for pharma, this means it will be possible to add additional callouts, especially for things like branded boxed-warning ads, which currently have space restrictions since the boxed-warning safety information consumes most of the branded ad copy.

The ETA format causes another change to the display URL field, which received an overhaul for pharma disease-state (i.e., unbranded) ads earlier this year. In April, Google changed the ability for vanity URLs to show — a change that impacted the majority of pharma ads. To implement this, Google designed a new campaign setting and provided two options to comply: either a fixed-text option (e.g., “prescription treatment website”) or using the company name as the URL (e.g., Intouchsol.com). The fixed-text option for unbranded ad copy will remain supported with the ETA rollout and will be the only option available for the ETA rollout.

There is also a possibility that ETAs could impact organic search traffic, since it could mean less visibility for the organic listings. When Google recently removed the right-hand ads from search engine result pages and instead added the possibility for a fourth ad to show at the top of the page, pushing down organic listings, there was concern that organic listings would be negatively affected. Since there has been little to no impact on organic with that change, we could potentially see a minimal effect with this update as well. The inbound marketing team will be sure to annotate and monitor the impact once the ETAs launch to determine how or if organic search is affected. Additionally, the team can use the messaging of the ETA to determine whether they should make any text changes for their organic targets.


At Intouch, we understand that this is an exciting development in the world of paid search. As a result of this update, all ad plans will need to be adjusted and approved before the ETA deadline, estimated to go into effect in 2017. Intouch will ensure that all current and future paid search plans have advertisements that are compliant with this Google update. Even though Google has not officially opened this ad format to the public or given a launch date, the Intouch media team will work proactively with our clients to develop an approach and timeline. Brands currently running paid search or that are in the approval process may be updated to align with the new ETAs and resubmitted.