New Text Ad Format: Only 33 characters

With the arrival of expanded text ads, advertisers are discovering nuances about the new format and starting to see how bigger stacks up against standard in testing. Here’s a look at what we’ve learned so far from industry experts and Google itself about implementing, testing and evaluating expanded text ads in these initial weeks.


The knowns & quirks

1. ETAs are now running along with standard ads. With a change of this magnitude and scale, introducing ETAs this way was a necessity. It gives advertisers time to write new ads and test ETA performance against standard ads. Presumably, those doing the testing now will have a leg up on those who wait.

2. As of October 26, 2016, standard text ads will no longer be accepted in AdWords. Existing standard ads can continue to run (for a time), but advertisers really should take this time to write and test ETAs before that October deadline.

3. Headlines can be truncated. We wrote about this quirk earlier. Turns out content is actually limited by pixel width, not character length. Meaning an “i” will take up less space than an “m.” If you want to be sure your full headline displays, Google now recommends limiting the combined count of both headlines to 33 characters.

4. Descriptions can be truncated. Advertisers have also told us descriptions are sometimes cut off. One reported 80-character descriptions have been truncated to as few as 57 characters. We’ve asked Google to confirm and if there are any recommended limits. We will post any updates here.

5. Ad Preview Tool is not a great indicator of how your ads will display. Google has said that if the preview tool shows the full headline, it “generally won’t be truncated.” Yet in the UI, you can type in too many characters and still look fine in preview. In Editor (example below), two headlines of pixel-heavy “M”s aren’t truncated in the preview either. In fact, it looks like the headline will take up three lines with the dash showing on the second line.

google adwords

6. DKI in headlines. Someone asked me if dynamic keyword insertion is supported in ETA headlines. It is (along with countdowns); in fact, it turns out you can set DKI in both headlines if you want to keyword-stuff the heck out of your ad. I don’t recommend it, but Google will approve ads with it in both.

7. No more mobile preferred option. Google did not communicate this one well, and it’s a significant change for advertisers that have been writing distinct ad copy for mobile — and checking the mobile device preference box. With ETAs, messaging is the same across all devices. The only option is to designate a separate mobile landing page URL in ETAs.


8. Two optional Path fields for the display URL. This update gets less attention than the double headline and longer description, but it’s another feature to experiment with (more below). Each has a 15-character limit, and both are meant strictly to help offer more landing page context. An example is

If you have a question, you can contact LitExtension for a help hand.