Filtering through brand communications has become commonplace for consumers. The web, social media and mobile phones have given way to a global explosion of messaging, all competing for our attention. Combine that with our fears about picking up malware or being bombarded by spam if we click on the wrong link or trust the wrong email, and it’s clear just how much of a challenge advertisers face.

The solution? Smart thinking.

Search marketers put a lot of effort into reaching the right people with exactly the right words. On Google, you can tailor your ads by location, time, demographics, interests and keywords. With this week’s announcement, you will also be able to focus your bids on a particular device type (desktop, tablet, mobile), giving you a better understanding of what stage of the purchase journey your target consumer is at. You can retarget people who have previously visited or bought from your website using dynamic retargeting. And you can test out different messages to see which ones get the best click-through rate.

Our ability to find the right person is getting better every day. But what about our ability to send them the right message?

Big step

Until now, search marketers had to squeeze as much as they could into a very limited set of characters to get their ads on Google. Just 25 characters for the headline and two 35-character description lines acted as a major restriction on what you could say and how you said it. This week’s announcement relaxes this restriction, giving advertisers two 30-character headlines to work with, and merges the description into an expanded 80-character block. 

Expanded Text Ads is a big step forward in meeting the expectations of the more sceptical, cautious internet user. Put simply, people want to know what they’re clicking on before they click. They want to know that the link they are following is relevant, safe and worth their time. This change provides  room to develop a more nuanced and persuasive message that reaches them, reassures them, and isn’t mentally filtered out because it failed to connect. It also gives advertisers an opportunity to bring more creativity into their search ads, expressing more interesting and complex ideas that stand out from the competition.

Google estimates that there could be a 20% increase in the click-through rate with Expanded Text Ads. In practice, this will most likely vary depending on which vertical is affected and which search term is being targeted. But if the new space is used effectively, advertisers can expect their ads to perform better and build stronger engagement with consumers. 

Changes ahead

Of course this move has potentially worrying implications for organic search. There are now a maximum of four ads on the top of Google search results, and extended headlines and descriptions are likely to push organic results even further down the page. This means a lower click-through rate for standard search results, as users increasingly find what they need using the paid-for results at the top of the screen.

No doubt this will prove alarming for some, as the prized spot of “number one in Google search” for a popular term becomes less valuable. Organic search marketers will be paying close attention to their traffic as these changes take effect, while some companies may decide to spend less on SEO and more on advertising.

In the longer term, I think Google is striking the right balance here. The company needs to provide effective and useful organic results to its users if it wants people to visit the search engine. But it also needs ads to prove its value.

To do this, Google needs space to make its messaging clearer and more impactful. Expanded Text Ads may nudge organic results down slightly, but they will provide a significant and much needed boost to ads. And in all, this is in the best interests of users and advertisers alike.