The components of a Google Search Ad
Expanded Search Ads, the most common search ad type in Google Ads, are made of 4 components:
- 3 headlines
- 2 descriptions
- 2 paths
- 1 final URL
The ad headlines are made of up to 30 characters and are separated by either a dash "-" or a pipe "|". Take these separators in mind when writing your ad copies.
For example, you might not want to use other dashes in your text in order not to confuse users with the separator dash. On the other hand, you might want to take advantage of it and create sort of a fourth headline.
Headline 1 and 2 are mandatory, Headline 3 is just optional.
Descriptions are made of up to 90 characters.
Description 1 is mandatory while Description 2 is optional.
Paths represent the display URL path you want to show in your ads. Both paths are optional and can host up to 15 characters each.
This is the landing page for your ad.
Responsive Search Ads
Although Expanded Text Ads probably remain the most popular search ad format, nowadays Google is encouraging advertisers to create Responsive Search Ads instead. In fact, this is the only option you see when pressing the + button in the ads section. However, you can still switch back to Expanded Text Ads if you wanted to.
You have to click on "+ Responsive Search Ad" first and then click on "Switch back to text ads".
Responsive Search Ads are made of up to 15 Headlines and 4 Descriptions. Paths and Final URL are the same as for Expanded Text Ads. The idea is that the system automatically chooses which Headline and Description combination to show at any given time. Of course, search ads on the SERP can still show up to 3 Headlines and 2 Descriptions, not more.
Because any combination could be chosen, it is important that every component of a Responsive Search Ad makes sense by itself, so the ad can make logical sense in any combination scenario.
Why you need to improve your ads
Before going further in our guide, we need to clarify why you need to make such an effort in optimising your ad copies. Of course, a better ad copy drives people's attention and therefore more clicks. However, this is not always a good thing. Your ads need to drive only the clicks that are relevant to your product or service. Quality of traffic is certainly more important than quantity.
Because the more your ads are relevant to your product and to a user's search query, the more you are offering a good service to Google's users (and yours too!).
By proxy, Google is also offering a better service to its users. Therefore, Google rewards you for doing a good job. It does so by decreasing your cost per click. So better ads not only mean higher-quality clicks but also more clicks at a cheaper price. Which means more conversions at a cheaper cost.
So what's the end result of this equation?
This is the key to understanding the importance of good ad copies.
Now it is time to dig into some techniques you can use to improve your ads!
#1 Use all ad components
As mentioned above, not all ad components are mandatory. However, we strongly recommend you use all of them.
This means creating all 3 headlines and 2 descriptions in Expanded Text Ads and possibly all 15 headlines and 4 descriptions in Responsive Search Ads.
Of course, also do create the 2 paths. Google always rewards you for fully using its features, especially the newest ones. The reward comes once again in the form of a lower cost per click.
But this is not all. If you use all components your ad will literally look bigger on the SERP. This means more attention from users and most importantly less room for your competitors, especially on small mobile screens.
We guarantee that many of your competitors don't bother in creating all headlines and descriptions. So this is your chance to stand out! All it takes is a bit of extra work.
#2 Create multiple ad variations
Google recommends a minimum of 2 Expanded Text Ads and 1 Responsive Search Ad per Ad Group. We agree with this but nothing stops you from testing more ad variations. For example, having an extra Responsive Search Ad wouldn't harm and we're sure Google wouldn't dislike it either.
Obviously, Google is only able to show one ad at a time. It chooses the best fit for any given auction. So having more options could help you better match every specific user's query. The way Google chooses the best ad is called Ad Rotation and it is an automated process based on machine learning.
#3 Give ad variations enough time to optimise the rotation
Building on the previous point, because the ad rotation is based on a machine learning system, you need to give your ads enough time for the system to learn how they perform. So Google can make an informed decision.
Therefore, avoid constantly editing your ad copy. Rather, plan properly in advance and stick to the planned ad copies for a few weeks.
#4 Understand the role of the different components
As you might guess, Headline 1 is the most important. This is what users read first and likely the only part of your ad they will ever read. Therefore, it is paramount that you nail this component. Use the name of the product you are advertising or a short description of your service. It also should contain the keyword your ad is triggered by.
For example, if a user is looking for "Running red shoes for women", you want to highlight this specific text in your Headline 1.
What you shouldn't do is to show a generic "Women Shoes" headline. The more the Headline 1 is relevant to every specific search query, the better!
There are several macros or automated systems you can use to dynamically populate Headline 1 (or any other ad field) with relevant text. One is keyword insertion, another one is feed-driven search ads, which we are going to talk about later in this article. Otherwise, you might also want to look at the IF function, the Countdown function, Location Insertion, or even Ad Customisers.
Headline 2 is your opportunity to give additional details about your product or service. Or, it could also be used as an extension of Headline 1 in case 30 characters were not enough to properly describe your offer. This ad component can show the product price or a potential sale. Or simply tell something more about the product, like the brand or store location.
Headline 3 doesn't always show up. It is up to Google whether to show it or not and it usually depends on the size of the screen your ads are showing on. For example, you are way more likely to spot your Headline 3 on desktop rather than on mobile.
Expert Tip: Beware the "Longer Ad Headlines" automated extension.
Sometimes Google replaces your Headline 3 with some automated text, usually your domain. You can opt-out from this automated extension by accessing the "advanced settings" under the Automated Extensions section.
Headline 3 is usually used to show the name of your company or your website domain.
There is no strict rule here, but this is what we suggest as sometimes the display URL is overlooked and it is important to showcase your brand, especially if it is a well-known one. You can also pair your brand name with a CTA, for example "Shop on Adidas.com Now!".
Because Description 2 doesn't always show up, treat Description 1 as it was the only one users will see. Further describe your product or service and add a CTA (call to action).
Buy Now!, Shop Now!, Sign Up Now! etc, are simple but effective examples of CTAs. Although the use of CTAs is an old marketing technique, we reckon it is still relevant in online advertising as it shows users that they can accomplish what they're looking for, straight after clicking on an ad.
It also highlights what is going to happen after clicking on an ad. Say a search ad advertises tennis classes: will I be able to book them online straightway or do I need to speak to someone on the phone first? If the CTA says "Book Online Now!" then the user already knows what to expect.
On the other hand, it could have said "Call Us Now To Book Your Free Class".
Description 2 could be a bit more generic and talk about your business and your brand in general, instead of a specific product or service, unlike Description 1 or the Headlines. You could highlight your brand values and your USPs (unique selling points).
For example: fast and reliable customer service, free delivery, free returns, etc.
#5 Properly strategise Responsive Search Ads
As we mentioned, responsive search ads automatically choose which headline and description to show.
Therefore, you can't tell which headline is going to be Headline 1, or which description is going to be Description 2.
So, how can you apply what we explained in the previous point? Actually, you can pin some components and make sure they always show where you want.
So for example, you can make sure one specific headline always shows as Headline 1. Or else, you can pin more than one headline so you can have 2 or more variations for Headline 1.
Simply hover your mouse on a headline or description, in the proximity of the characters limit. A Pin symbol will appear. Click on it to pin that headline or description.
#6 Choose the most relevant landing page
This is possibly the most important element of all. As we mentioned, the ad copy needs to be very relevant to the user's search query and the product or service you want to advertise. Therefore, you should also make sure users land on that specific product or service's landing page.
Avoid generic landing pages and show clearly what you want users to do on your page. Implement prominent buttons like "Add to Cart", "Request a Free Quote" etc, that should match your CTA in the ad copy.
#7 Test and evaluate your ad variations
As always, don't just take our word and test ad copies by yourself. Measure the CTR and CPC of each ad variation and decide whether it is time to make some adjustments. A lower-than-average CTR, for example, might mean that something is wrong. Also, try the Ad Variation feature:
#8 Use as many ad extensions as you can!
Ad Extensions, as the name says, extend your ad with additional information or links. The most common are Sitelinks, Callouts, Structured Snippets, Call Extensions and Location Extensions. But also, Image Extensions, Lead Form Extensions and more! They not only make your ads bigger and add extra information, they also give users more chances to click!
Feed-Driven Search Ads
We mentioned earlier that one of the best practices when it comes to ad copy is to include keywords in your ad text so that the ads are as relevant as possible to each search query. Actually, it is not just about including keywords, but also making sure that the product or service the ad is promoting is relevant for the query.
Therefore, ideally, you should have a different ad copy per every product you sell or every keyword. If you sell a small number of products or services this can be easily achieved manually. But what if you are a large e-commerce business that sells thousands of products? The answer is Feed-Driven Search Ads!
Thanks to Feed-Driven Search Ads you can populate your ad copies with the content of your product feed. Ideally, you will have one ad per feed row and therefore one unique copy per each product. This means that you can include the product name, product price or any other relevant attribute into your search ads, making them super relevant to product-specific search queries. You can also create keywords based on your feed content. In fact, you can create keywords and ads based on the same feed fields. For example, you can create keywords out of the product name, and then include that same product name into the ad headline.
This way you can achieve a super ad relevance, which as you might know is an important part of the quality score and contributes to decreasing your cost per click. Because this type of solution is "feed-driven", it means that you can use all the DataFeedWatch feed capabilities to organise your campaigns. For example, you can make sure ads get paused (or removed) when their respective products go out of stock. Or you might want to advertise only certain categories or certain promotions.
When you pair the power of product feeds with search ads, the sky is the limit! In DataFeedWatch you can create both Expanded Text Ads and Responsive Search Ads, as well as creating more ad variations for the same product. So no regular Google Ads features are left behind.
Advantages of feed-driven search ads over regular search ads
Now that you have understood the basics of search ads and feed-driven search ads, it is time to recap the advantages that you can achieve with the latter.
As mentioned already, with Feed-Driven Search Ads you can achieve a very granular ad relevance that cannot be achieved otherwise. This improves CTR, Search Impression Share and quality score, which in turns contribute to lower your CPC and improve your bottom line.
Thanks to this automated solution you are able to create thousands of ads in a matter of minutes. But most importantly, the ads will be automatically updated based on the content of the feed. If a product price changes, this will be reflected in your ad copy without any manual editing. Same for discounts, stock level, etc.
Google Ads is all about a well-organised 360-degree strategy that covers account structure, keywords and ad copies. Every element needs to fit within the others and be as much relevant as possible to users' search queries. Our suggestions above make sure you nail the ad copy part!