The Rise of AI and the Fall of the Expanded Text Ad
Self-driving cars, digital assistants and AI-driven copy-generating algorithms – technology is changing the world at a rapid pace. The latest update in the inexorable march towards automation is that Google plans to sunset their Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) by June 2022.
According to Google:
The ways people search are constantly changing. In fact, 15% of search queries every day are new searches we’ve never seen before. As consumer trends shift and evolve, it’s more important than ever to make it easier for people to connect with your business through relevant and helpful ads.
Automation is key to keeping pace with these trends. Responsive search ads are a great example of how this is done—they combine your creativity with the power of machine learning to help you show more relevant ads to more people. This is a powerful combination: advertisers that switch from expanded text ads to responsive search ads, using the same assets, see an average of 7% more conversions at a similar cost per conversion.
Advertisers might have seen this coming after ETAs were removed as the default ad type in around February, in favour of Responsive Search Ads (RSAs).
To say reactions have been mixed would be an understatement. While no one is thrilled about the shift, advertisers are expressing various degrees of dissatisfaction and concern — in some cases as a result of personal experience, and in others as a result of their level of knowledge.
Not to say that there is anything wrong with RSAs, but they definitely don’t allow the same kind of control that ETAs do, and it does feel like Google is trying to take full control of our ad accounts.
According to PPC expert Susie Marino, this is at least partially true: “Google isn’t necessarily taking control of the copy, but more so taking control of the order of the copy—which can completely change the context of the ad, sure.”
But advertisers will probably miss the ease of creating ETAs, rather than the control. Those who struggle to come up with three headlines and two description lines are definitely going to struggle to come up with seven and four.
And the problem with RSAs isn’t necessarily a lack of control over the order. There are only so many ways to say “buy our insurance” or “contact us for a consultation” at times.
What Google Has to Say About It
“To prepare for this change, we recommend that you have at least one responsive search ad in every ad group in your Search campaigns by June 30, 2022.”
Google also included some suggestions for how advertisers can repurpose their ETAs into RSAs:
- Repurpose high-performing material from your expanded text ads and place an emphasis on Ad strength.
- In your responsive search advertisements, pin headlines or descriptions to certain locations.
- Assess the performance of your ads based on the number of incremental impressions, clicks, and conversions received by your ad groups and campaigns.
This is just the latest in Google’s efforts to push automation through their ads.
Should You be Panicking?
Not really.Google Ads has done an excellent job of enhancing the ad structure and allowing us to replicate ETA brand integrity while taking use of built-in A/B testing.
And according to Susie.
“In my experience, I’ve often seen RSA actually perform better than the ETAs. Not always, but usually. Maybe that’s because Google has been secretly favoring them and ranking them higher all along. Who knows. But this definitely matches Google’s overall push for automation and trust in its algorithm. I’ll give them credit that their machine learning has gotten better over the years (which is probably why they’re deciding to do this now). But they still have a long way to go.”
You’ll also still have some control through pinning. According to Eben Lowy on Twitter:
“You can make ETAs using pinning. Just make exactly three headlines and two descriptions in the RSA and pin all of them.”
Though this defeats the purpose of RSAs, that’s the goal for some advertisers. Susie recommends another solution in which you fill out only three headlines and two descriptions and leave the rest of the RSA blank, as if it were an ETA. But she cautions that Google detects ad strength in each of those workaround cases, therefore doing so may harm your Quality Score or ad rank.
Another source of worry for marketers is reporting. Reporting enables us to test and optimize, and the goal of RSAs is to include testing into the campaign and let Google handle the rest. The idea is that you will save time in Google Ads while Google will bring up more relevant headlines to its searchers.
No matter our opinion, RSAs are here to stay, and ETAs are on their way out. All we can do is accept and adapt. Regardless of how much this may affect your Google Ads performance, we can’t change Google’s thinking, thus the best option is to accept.
If you haven’t already, familiarize yourself with RSAs, start pumping out ETAs like there’s no tomorrow, and make use of pinning capabilities and call-only advertisements.
Google Ads should provide some new tools to aid with reporting and other issues, so keep an eye out for future announcements and platform upgrades.