Expanded Text Ads- After One Year

Expanded Text Ads from Google and Bing should have been implemented in everyone’s campaign for about a year now. It seems like a good time to review some of my findings and the implications.

A quick review- after 15 or so years, google decided to add additional characters to their adwords that you see. You will usually see these in the first and second position. Sometimes all of the positions have them. It depends on the device.

Let’s take a look at the search term “buy rings online” on a desktop:

expanded text ads google

Here you can see the top position is maintained by Gemvara, followed by jensen’s then rarecarat.com. Let’s take a look at Gemvara’s ad. The Expanded line of text is the line “Create Unique Rings on Gemvara.” A year ago, that space would not have been there.

Interestingly, people have gotten so used to the format from years’ past that often it turns out that the best strategy is to drastically shorten your ad so that it appears to be the same length as before. Note the length of the text of Gemvara vs jensenestatebuyers.com. Gemvara’s ad is short and sweet. I would imagine it converts better and has a higher CTR than jensens.

We can’t confirm this but it seems to be the trend across the board the experienced retailers. (Ignore the part of the ad that says ‘free 101 day returns’ and everything after it. Those are features that are tested separately and only shown for position one.)

Here are a couple other examples of retailers using short ads in spite of the expanded ads: Asus is a killer company

Google expanded text

Here is an ad for TVs with Walmart and Newegg:

google expanded ad

All of these ads are much shorter than jensen’s and I suspect they are the results of more rigorous testing.

One other interesting thing I have noticed in the past year is that you must get rid of old ads that are not in the current format or Google will punish your Quality Score. I don’t know if they have outright said this is the case, but in my experience it is true. Regardless of how well that old ad converts, you have to convert it to the new format or get punished by Google!

Overall I thought the transition was rough at first but things have stabilized after implementing these lessons. Since the short ads seem to convert better it remains to be seen why Google thought we needed these extra characters now, but maybe they didn’t test enough. Or maybe some industries convert differently. Enjoy.

Search Trends & The Stock Market

Here is a different type of Google search tool that combines business insights with search data. It is geared toward stock investors but there is probably insight for us too.  It shows how different verticals trend relative to the S&P500. What verticals do you think would correspond closest to search traffic?

s&p500 and google search

Here is an interesting graph using Google’s financial tools and search query results. The blue line shows searches for phrases like “financial planning advisers”, “fidelity” “smith barney”. The red line shows the trend line of the S&P 500. Note how clearly they correspond to each other! As the S&P500 does well fewer people look for a financial planner.  This seems to be the most closely corresponding vertical.* But negatively.Why?

Imagine a middle class person has a little extra cash and wants to invest it. If the S&P500 is doing well, they can just buy a couple companies they recognize and watch their worth increase. In more difficult financial times people start to look for financial help. I would guess the correlation coefficient is -.8: Strong negative correlation.

You can do this for any vertical you are in or thinking about getting in. So we saw that financial advisers has a strong positive correlation. What vertical do you think has a positive correlation? My guess was luxury but I was wrong. Here’s luxury:

searches and stock market correlation


If I had to guess a correlation coefficient for luxury it would probably be .35. Small correlation but nothing I’d bet the house on. So what has the best correlation? It’s Automotive! I would guess the correlation coefficient as .55: Medium positive correlation.

automotive and search stock

Durable goods and house buying are about the same. So people perform fewer searches in these verticals as the stock market fluctuates. How can you use this to your advantage? Well, if you are a financial adviser I suppose you should be rooting for the S&P500 to go down. 🙁 Or if you are a financial adviser and you suspect the stock market to go down you can start increasing hiring advisers.  Or for my readers who are search marketing consultants- if/when the stock market goes down expect belt-tightening from your car and housing clients but seek out financial advisers!**



*Google doesn’t mention which search terms it uses to define a vertical. It just gives examples. I’ll assume they put a little thought into this. It also does not mention every vertical. For example, I don’t see aerospace.

Also, google does not provide exact numbers so we can’t find true correlation we can only use “eye-ball analysis”. I think that is fine.

** One other thing to note that while I implied a cause and effect relationship—or a causal relationship of some sort—I think it is stock prices that are doing the causing not vice versa. I have made this assumption in all commentary.

The-Next-Big-Secret-SEO-Variable: Reading Level

Not only is the search algorithm a secret but it also changes. Who needs that headache?

No one outside of Google (Yahoo, MSN) knows the algorithm for calculating the Google organic SERPS. But we all give advice –and with such certainty!—about how to improve organic rankings. That makes me very uneasy…I don’t like being proved wrong. I don’t need Matt Cutts to issue a statement condemning italics after I tell all my friends and admirers that italics are the secret to high rankings.

For the most part I tell everyone the same thing: concentrate on link-building and good copy if you want to improve your SEO. Your site is not so advanced that you need to think about anything else.
Of course, no exec wants to hear this. I get hateful looks like “how dare he tell me something I could have read on Wikipedia”. They want inside information and conspiracy theories.

My friend who is a salesman always tries to remind me, “No one wants to be ‘leveled with’; make sure you wait until they give you the job to try anything silly like that. In fact, don’t ‘level with’ anyone, ever. In fact, what you need to do is hire me to do your talking for you”.

Since I enjoy work, I am going to let my readers in on The-Next-Big-Secret-SEO-Variable: Reading Level. For a couple months I have noticed that one of the search parameters in Google’s advanced search is called “Reading Level”. The user can select “Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced”. Or you can leave them mixed together.

Why Will Reading Level Matter for SEO
To be clear, right now I doubt reading level affect your SERPS, though it will soon. Answer this question: “Does Google value user-experience?” Yes. Bounce rate and page load time can negatively affect your ranking. The next question would be, “what makes for a better experience, things that are easy to read or things that are hard?” Easy things, of course.

There are many ways that this change could be implemented in the serps. Currently, you are given the choice to choose between basic, intermediate, advanced. I guarantee “advanced” won’t be the highest choice. Thus, if brilliant page ranks #1 but is written in advanced language, it may not be as valuable as something that currently ranks #10 but is written in basic language.

There are other ways the change could be implemented. Google could simply tweak the rankings of sites that are written better. By “Better” I mean “Basic”. Anyone who sat through a horrible class should understand. There is nothing inherently good about advanced language. Even if the subject is a horribly advanced subject like particle physics, basic language is best. The purpose of language is to communicate.

So How Can I Use This Knowledge to My Advantage?
I would still refer you to my first paragraph. Concentrate on links and content. You really shouldn’t be doing anything different. This is a just a way that Google showing us that I am right (I mean, that content is important). 🙂

If you really want to act on this info here are a couple things you can do:
1) Hire a better copywriter.
2) Write shorter sentences.
3) Writer shorter paragraphs.
4) Use shorter words.