New Updates to AdWords Mobile Ads & How to Deal with Them

This wasn’t the blog I was supposed to write, the post I was supposed to write was an investigation into the way Google renders their ad results on mobile devices. However, as I was putting the finishing touches together I notice that they have updated it all! In September 2014 Google announced that they were changing the way mobile ads are presented, the essence of which was that description line 2 would become truncated and ad extensions would be shown instead. This resulted in ellipses appearing in most ads where the end of description line 2 should be. It now appears that a recent update to the results page has resulted in a further change, and the reintroduction of the full second description line. The space for this has been made through changes to the call button, the two screen shots below detail this. Additionally, a grey line has been added between the display URL and the description section.

Screenshot taken on September 9, 2015, vs August 28, 2015

Google ads mobile September 2015

These changes are also reflected in the ad preview tool:

Google ad preview tool

Initially my post was going to investigate the effects (if any) that different screen sizes make to the way ads are displayed on mobile. The results from this proved that there was very little difference between a 3.5in screen and a 4.7in screen. It now looks like these latest changes have made more of a difference when it comes to the size of the device. The images below show the results on a 4.7in screen on the left and a 3.5in screen on the right. It’s evident that the smaller screen still has a truncated description line two (denoted by the ellipses) and the call button is missing the telephone icon. This suggests that the way results now render is more unpredictable and device dependant than they were before this change came into effect.

Results on a 4.7in screen vs. a 3.5in screen

Google results per device

In light of the new changes I’ve formulated 7 best practices to help maximize the potential with mobile campaigns, and minimise any effect from the unpredictability across devices:

  1. Headline and Description Line One: With Description Line Two being unpredictable it is vitally important to make sure that your main call to action and product benefits are stated upfront in the headline and Description Line One.
  1. Callout Extensions: These are still a new feature for some many advertisers so there is still some competitive advantage to be gained from using them. They can be customized for mobile and when this is combined with some short copy there can be some excellent benefits.
  1. Positon Matters: Ad position really does matter in mobile search, especially with smaller screen sizes as lower positions will meaning being bumped below the fold.
  1. Sitelink Extensions: As with Callout Extensions these can also be modified especially for mobile, short (preferably one word) phrases will increase the chances of seeing more than one show up. Standard practices of making the text action oriented will add to the click through rates of the ads, and if they can be specifically related to mobile, even better!
  1. Display URL: In addition to the Headline and Description Line One the only other line of text that is guaranteed to show is the display URL, don’t miss the opportunity to cram keywords into here to increase the amount of text on show. Use something that is either highly related to the ad group keywords, even including the word “mobile” has increased CTR in previous test.
  1. Extended Headlines: Using punctuation at the end of Description Line One enables the possibility of your ad showing with an extended headline. An Extended Headline is when Google takes Description Line One from the ad and places in the headline. When this happened you receive the boost of having much more text in large blue font than you otherwise would.
  1. Structured Snippets: Google’s shiny new ad extensions could also be useful in maximizing the potential of mobile ad copy. Similar to callout extensions this added line of text allows advertisers to highlight specific aspects of a product or services under one of several predefined headers. These can also be customized for mobile in the same way as Sitelink and Callout extensions.

Writing this has highlighted the constant fluctuation that PPC marketers are dealing with and I think having clear, regularly updated best practices becomes even more important to cope with the changes and updates. Hopefully this post will be helpful to anyone running mobile campaigns, until they all change again!

Daniel Mew
Daniel works with our paid media clients, helping them develop strategies across various mediums including search, display and social. Based in Mediative’s Vancouver office he is originally from the UK and when he’s not in the office Daniel enjoys being in the outdoors, usually skiing or mountain biking.