Google is Phasing Out Expanded Text Ads: How to Take Action Now

Alec Maes, PPC Specialist

Google has recently announced expanded text ads are going away in June of 2022. As a marketer in the digital space, changes like this aren’t anything new. In fact, with all of the automation changes happening in the last two years, this was an announcement that was on our radar since using automated bidding strategies became a best practice at Portent.

So, what does this change mean? Similar to when Google removed text ads from the interface back in 2018/2019, Google Ads will remove the ad type from its interface after June of 2022. Any expanded text ads created before then will still be eligible for the ads auction; you just won’t be able to make any edits to them. And with expanded text ads on their way out, Google strongly encourages a transition to responsive search ads.

What Are Responsive Search Ads?

Responsive search ads (RSAs) take the idea of expanded text ads… and expand them further. Instead of three headlines, you have the option to create 15. Instead of two descriptions, you have the option of creating four. You don’t have to fill every ad headline or description, but it certainly does make split testing easier.

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Image example from Google Ads Browser Interface

So how do they work?. Using Google’s machine learning, Google ads will serve an RSA depending on the ad quality and relevancy to the user’s search query. Google will take what it deems the best of the best assets you’ve provided and display those to users who are more than likely to click on your ads. They’ll test different variations of headlines and descriptions to land the best fit. With the different variations of ads, engagement is generally higher than we see in expanded text ads.

But don’t worry; If you find the control of regular expanded text ads the most rewarding, you’re in luck. RSAs have a feature that will allow you to “pin” specific headlines and descriptions to the desired position. Most CTAs are featured in position two, for example.

The results, however, can be short of what we’re used to seeing in expanded text ads. The best combinations for RSAs collectively share data since it’s technically one ad. Those certain combinations that outperformed other variations are only given impression data. As a result, we have to assume that the higher the impression data, the more successful a particular ad variant is over the others.

Why and When Is the Change Happening?

The reason Google is doing this is no surprise to us in the PPC world. We expected this change to come with the automation and machine learning we’ve adapted to over the last three years. Google is pushing automation more than ever to give more marketers time to focus on creative and strategy rather than the minutia of PPC optimization that comes with managing a Google Ads account.

While it can feel scary for marketers and brands to adjust to this change, it will simplify split testing with different ad variations. Google Ads can throw different calls to action or unique sales propositions into the mix to see what performs better than the others.

If you haven’t already seen the announcement on your Google Ads UI, June 30th, 2022 is the day to keep on our calendars as the deadline for any more expanded text ad creation or editing.

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When Should You Transition Into Responsive Search Ads?

RIght now! If you haven’t already done so, create your first RSA as soon as possible. The more data you can start collecting now, and the success you can begin to see with the newer ad type, the more confidence you’ll have to eventually pause your expanded text ads.

Will There Be Changes to RSA Reporting?

While the visibility on the performance of ad variants is limited now, we are hopeful that reporting changes will be announced soon and be in place the day expanded text ads are officially dismissed. Only being able to see impression volume, for now, is fine, but being able to get granular with the data on our assets will be on everyone’s wishlist as RSAs become the new standard.

Reporting on the success of the different ad variations can allow us to make those quality control decisions we are missing out on currently with the existing reporting setup.

How Is This Change Going to Affect My Brand’s PPC Strategy?

The short answer is: it won’t.

Google is trying to save marketers time by taking a handful of ingredients and making the best dish based on the user’s search query.

The most significant change we predict will be how you spend your time managing your account; you’ll put less effort into split testing ads and more effort into focusing on different strategies for your paid marketing channels.

That being said, there are things you should consider when it comes to your headlines, descriptions, and assets to optimize the success of your RSAs.

Portent’s Best Practices for Responsive Search Ads

When it comes to messaging and branding, our clients rely on us to ensure their ads reach the right people with the right content. Being in complete control of what asset displays in what position allows us to meet that expectation.

Utilize Pinning

When differentiating what assets to use, Google will often test all assets alongside each other no matter what they say. As a result, you’ll sometimes see things like “Call Now | Call Today” in the headline (two calls to action lined up next to each other).

That’s why we have pins to lock those calls to action in a specific position (position two for the example above). Here at Portent, we pin like it’s going out of style. We’ve got more pins than a bowling alley. We don’t wait when someone says we need to put a pin in that headline for later. We pin it now. You get the idea. We won’t let Google take too many liberties with serving ads, causing us to pay for irrelevant ads and resulting in inefficiencies in spending.

Pay Attention to High-Performing Messaging and Copy

Keeping an eye on the RSA reporting and tweaking what Google will sometimes call “weak assets” are things we will look at often. Google also recommends using similar assets that are considered “strong” or are performing well.

So if you have brand messaging that’s driving a high volume of impressions, try some variations of it within your RSA. Try out that call-to-action with some different vocabulary. Drive more clicks with a new unique sales proposition. This stage of optimizations is what unifies the art and science of paid search.

Final Thoughts

With all of the automation that has become the standard for most practitioners, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing search ads falling into the mix. Mark your calendars, folks. June 30th, 2022, will be here faster than you know it. We’ll be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest announcements coming from the Google Help blog to stay ahead of the curve.

Take action now by creating responsive search ads to collect data before the inevitable termination of expanded text ads. Pin assets (headlines and descriptions) in specific positions (headline 1, headline 2, description 1, etc.) to make split testing easier than it ever has been before. Don’t be caught off guard when the deadline comes around and you aren’t quite sure how the ad type operates.

While the reporting for RSA’s isn’t ideal for seeing the fine details of lower-performing vs. high-performing ad variants, you’re still able to see what Google deems as a high-value ad to build other assets around a similar format. We are crossing our fingers for some more detailed insights on ad performance, but we’ll continue to optimize what is being served for now.

If you have hesitations about building out responsive search ads and are looking for some help navigating the search ads game, get in touch with our PPC team. We’re happy to help.

Alec Maes, PPC Specialist

Alec Maes

PPC Specialist
PPC Specialist

Alec is a self-taught PPC specialist with a background in digital marketing for small local businesses. He has full certifications in Google Ads, Bing, and Google Analytics, as well as experience in Amazon Seller Central. When Alec is not being an absolute powerhouse for Portent's Small Business Solutions team, he enjoys spending his free time with family, cracking jokes, and playing soccer with his son.

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