Google Adwords Character Limits for Expanded Ads & Best Practices

I typically do not post about standard changes in Google Adwords policies, rules and regulations as they are typically covered in details by Google and there is hardly any new value to add. However, Adwords character limits for ads have undergone recent changes with Google’s introduction of the Expanded Text Ads and this could have significant impact on how they impact your campaigns. So, first let’s address the basic questions –

What Are Google Adwords Character Limits for Ads

A standard Google ad has five elements – Headline : 25 Character, 2 Description Lines : 35 Characters each, Display URL can accept upto 255 characters though only 35 characters are shown and the Final URL. It is important that your Display URL domain is same as the domain for your Final URL.

What are Google Adwords Character Limits for Expanded Ads

For an expanded text ad Google Adwords character limit has increased by 47%. Two Headlines – 30 characters each, one Description Line : 80 Characters. There is no separate field for Display URL and it is extracted from the Final URL, though you can customize the path.

Difference in Adwords Character Limits between Standard and Expanded Text Ads

Ad Elements Standard Ads Expanded Ads What Changed
Headline 25 Characters 60 Characters – 2 lines of 30 character each 140% increase in character limits
Description 70 Characters – 2 lines of 35 character each 80 Characters – one line 14% increase in character limits
Display URL 255 characters limit – 35 character visible, manual entry Automatically pulled from destination URL No manual entry required, path can be customized.


Adwords Character Limits for Expanded Ads

Adwords Expanded Text Ads Interface, with built in preview on side

How Does Expanded Text Ad Impact Your Campaigns

Well, to understand this we need to first understand why did Google suddenly become so generous to roll out this expanded text ads. There are primarily two reasons,

  • Significant share and ever increasing proportion of mobile searches and with Google’s focus on mobile searches, they wanted to bring in a format that would work equally well in both computers and mobiles
  • Likely a continuation of the same agenda, Google also removed all side bar ads few months back. Now that the side ads are gone, there is also increased space to accommodate this extra characters

So now the expanded text ads are presented in two sets – one on the banner or on top of the search results and the other at the bottom of the search results. For some of the campaigns where I used the expanded text ads, theses are few of key observations :

  • For banner/ top placements, expanded text ads typically perform noticeably better than standard ads
  • However, for bottom placements, expanded text ads do not deliver a significant improvement, though there has been marginal improvement in CTR in some cases (10% – 12%)
  • We did notice couple of campaigns where there was no difference in performance between expanded text ads and standard ads.

As you can see that the results are not really conclusive and it can go either ways, it would be important to ensure that like every other Adwords elements, you monitor and test the ads and their performance extensively.While testing the ad performance, here are couple of points that you should keep in mind.

  • Top vs. Other – I would suggest comparing the ad performance after segmenting them into Top vs. Others, as I have always seen that there is a significant difference in performance metrics for both standard ads as well as expanded text ads based on their placements. So we need to ensure that we are considering only similar type of placements and not just the aggregate data for each ad.
  • Volume – For your test results to be non-biased and conclusive, you need to ensure that your expanded text ads are getting enough impressions before you start comparing the metrics. Any statistical analysis done based on a small data set is likely to show biased results. Your standard ads might already have enough of impressions but as the expanded ads are relatively new, you will need to ensure that they get some good impressions before you start comparing them.
  • Labels – Add labels to both your Standard Ads and Expanded Text Ads. This would be helpful as your account grows bigger and you plan to look back at the data in future.

Best Practices for Making Your Text Ads More Effective

While it is normal to assume that the expanded text ads would mean higher CTR ( more characters = more visibility = Higher CTR, right ? ), as I explained above the results could be mixed and there is really no guarantee that the CTR is going to increase for sure. Also, note that the performance improvement that you are seeing now is likely to go down, as Expanded Text Ads become the norm and all advertisers start using the same – the differentiation would be lost and the competition would be more fierce.It is justified for any Adwords consultant to be excited about the expanded text ads but end of the day they are just text ads, so there is no reason to ignore the generic best practices in terms of making the ads more effective. Irrespective of whether you are using standard text ads or expanded text ads, consider the following :

  • Call to Actions : This is basic. While with all the character limits in standard ads you still might had an excuse not to include a CTA, with much higher character limits for expanded text ads, there is no excuse for not to include a CTA
  • Sitelink Extensions : Use them as long as you have alternate pages with specific value propositions to land your users. Gives your users more options, increases your share of real estate on the SERP
  • CallOut Extensions : Excellent option to use to showcase your USPs. Also very effective in securing more real estate for your ad, chances of higher CTR, making it more difficult for your competitors.
  • Update Your Ad Extensions :You might have used some of your key USPs in ad extensions earlier but now some of them could probably be part of your expanded text ads – so it would be wise to relook at the ad extensions.
  • Most Important Messaging Goes in the Headline : Though you have a bigger description character limit in the new expanded text ads, the Headline still gets the most visibility. Also, with two headlines now you have more space, so ensure that your key messaging is clearly served in the headline.
  • First Headline is More Important ( only for expanded text ads) : Yes, you get two headlines but remember sometimes your second headline will get wrapped with a line break and in some cases they might also truncate the second headline.
  • The Path Fields ( only for expanded text ads) : include the Path fields wisely, so the user gets a clear idea as to what the landing page is going to talk about. One easy way of doing this is to include the main keywords in the path fields as they resonate well with the user’s search query.
  • Include Active Verbs : Including active verbs in the ad copy is a great proven way to increase CTR of your ad copies. Use words like Increase, Grow, Reduce, Lower etc

Monitoring Your Competitor’s Adwords Text Ads

While you are working on improving your ads and taking advantage of the increased character limits of expanded text ads, your competitors aren’t sitting idle either. If you are in a highly competitive segment, it might be quite a task to keep track of your competitors Adwords moves and their new ad copies.  Thankfully there are some tools that allow you to do this pretty neatly. I prefer using SEMRush, that allows me to dig through all my competitor’s Adwords keywords and Ad copies and also understand what are their top performing ad copies or when new ads are introduced by the competitor. It’s well worth the small monthly fee and they even offer a free trial access.

Feel free to share what your take is about this increased character limits for Google Expanded Text Ads and how do you see it working for you.

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Check out the About SRC Page for more details about Saptarshi Roy Chaudhury.

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