Google is retiring Expanded Text Ads in 2021

Jenna Lamb, online marketing analyst at Ontario SEO
Jenna Lamb
October 25, 2021
Google Ads is retiring Expanded Text Ads in 2021

Act now to prepare for a future with more automated ads.

AS of July 2022, you won’t be able to create any new expanded text ads (ETAs) in Google Ads; it’ll be all about Responsive Search Ads (RSAs). 

In Google’s announcement of the change, they stressed that automation is key to keeping up with digital trends. They mentioned, “15% of search queries every day are new searches we’ve never seen before.”

A small piece of good news – if you already have ETAs in place, they won’t disappear. You just won’t be able to create new ones.

What is the difference between ETAs and RSAs?

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs)

Expanded text ads were an “expansion” of the classic standard ad that was once available in the former AdWords. ETAs offered an opportunity to fill-in more real estate in the SERPs (search engine results pages) when your ad placement was in first or second position. Your ads can (but do not always) display with an additional 3rd headline, as well as an additional ad description.

Relative to RSAs, ETAs give the advertiser significantly more control. You control the order of your headlines and the order of your ad descriptions, while Google decides how much of the ad copy it will display.

Responsive Text Ads (RSAs)

RSAs are generated dynamically and deliver the ad headlines and ad descriptions from a set of up to 15 headlines (yep, 15!) and four descriptions.

The advertiser has much less control over how ads are displayed; Google uses algorithms to change the headlines and descriptions to find the best combination – the one that results in the best click-through rate and highest conversion rate.

Why it matters to advertisers

With RSAs, you lose control over your brand messaging. For RSAs to be effective, you are required to create a large inventory of headlines and ad descriptions with very little control over how they’ll be combined. If not done effectively, you could wind up with loads of ads that do not have a meaningful or compelling message, and don’t convert to clicks.

Reporting for RSAs also is limited and difficult to work with. Google doesn’t give you any detailed stats to be able to make strategic decisions from your ad performance. Google has promised improved reporting on RSAs in the future, we hope to see these updates before ETAs are phased out.

RSAs are not all bad news. They offer more ad characters to play with and, over time and with sufficient user data, Google will learn what combinations work. We have seen them used very effectively in campaigns with a good ad testing framework; when you use ad copy that you know works!

It’s time to prepare for the transition to Responsive Search Ads

You’ve been given a great chance to get ahead of the game with this warning from Google. It’s not so easy to create 15 unique ad headlines that all work with all four of your ad descriptions. Unfortunately, that’s the game now.

How to transition to RSAs

If you’re working with us, we’ve already started the transition. If you’re not, here are a few tips:

  1. Use ETAs, while they last, to test headlines and descriptions.
  2. Create some evergreen ETAs. Existing ETAs will continue running even after they are phased out next summer.
  3. Implement Ad Extensions to compliment your ad copy. Advertisers still exert full control over ad extension copy (for now)
  4. Optimize your RSAs and get use to using them

How to Optimize your Responsive Search Ads

  • Fill in all the headlines and descriptions.
  • Use targeted keywords but avoid repetition and keyword stuffing
  • Make sure all your content is cohesive and use title case
  • Avoid using headlines that mean the same thing.
  • Google recommends you minimize the use of pins
  • Insider tip: Pin your brand name so that it always appears in your copy.
  • Use Google’s Ad Strength tool to get feedback and actions you can take to improve

As Google flexes it’s muscles with greater automation, advertisers lose more control over their brand messaging. It has never been more important to work with a partner who understands the changes in online advertising and how to navigate them. Don’t let the machines guide your business decisions, get advice on navigating Google Ads updates from our PPC specialists.