Expanded Text Ads on Bing: Not Quite As They Seem (Yet)

Expanded Text Ads Guide on Bing

Dec 24th, 2016

Both Google and Bing rolled out Expanded Text Ads in the second half of 2016, but their roll-out isn’t as complete as you would think. Advertisers risk losing vital impressions if they don’t treat implementation carefully across different engines.

Christmas is finally here! For many in Paid Search this means longer to-do lists and crammed inboxes during the holiday retail peak. One task that almost all Search practitioners have been all over is the introduction of expanded text ads – first on Google in July with Bing following suit in October.

In the rush to implement these across engines, however, there are things that are easily missed at first. This is especially true for individuals and agencies who import campaigns from Google to mirror across to Bing, so read on if this sounds like you. But let’s take a breath and start at the beginning…

What are Expanded Text Ads?

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) are ads containing more characters in both the headline and description. Advertisers can now have two 30 character headlines and one 80 character description. That’s a total of 140 characters, compared to 95 before – 56% more ad copy to sell your product or service.

Example of Expanded Text Ad from Wordstream

The rivals are agreed that this shift is to better align their Paid Search ad platform with the mobile-first world. There is now more space for advertisers to give meaningful descriptions (and in theory, more relevant ads ‘at a glance’) in mobile search results. However, many of us welcome the opportunity for more descriptive messaging on desktops and tablets, too.

How much better are Expanded Text Ads vs Standard Text Ads?

We have launched expanded text ads across a variety of our clients over the last five months. We’ve observed almost universal improvements in click-through rate, and in many cases this has also positively affected conversion rate.

This is perhaps unsurprising. Advertisers can use a lengthier description to better sell themselves, include an additional product feature or feature a promotional offer where they wouldn’t have been able to before. A more enticing and relevant ad would also naturally lead to an increased conversion rate! That said, however, this varies according to client, product, industry and individual copy.

Why should I be careful using Extended Ads on Bing?

We ran A/B tests on Google and achieved conclusive results pretty quickly, considering their market share in the UK. When Bing also rolled out their offering, we therefore decided to immediately implement tests there as well.

Immediately after doing this we noticed that Bing ads were not displaying on mobile devices. We ran device reports which confirmed the decrease, and also checked manually on numerous devices and networks. Every test showed that our ads were no longer showing. Despite this, on every desktop test we were consistently taking top positions.

We spoke with our partners at Bing and spoke to several people there, who seemed as mystified as we were. Various options were suggested including increasing mobile bid adjustments (which doesn’t work, and is also a bit of a crowbar methodology), which did not solve the issue. Indeed, we tested relaunching Standard Ads back into a few campaigns – and presto, our ads began gathering impressions again on mobile.

Expanded Text Ads on Bing Don’t Work 100% in All Markets

Further discussions with technical teams resulted in this useful information:

“Although Bing Ads has announced that Expanded Text Ads are running, our engineering team has yet to fully implement this to mobile services. On this particular case, ads are expanded text, they run well on desktop and tablets, but on mobile, they have reduced traffic to about 20%. I would like to reassure that ETA will be 100% delivered soon in different markets in Europe.”

It’s somewhat surprising that Bing announced the launch of Expanded Ads without warning that coverage may not be anywhere near 100% in some markets, including the UK. Based on tests across many client accounts, our evidence showed that the traffic reduction on mobile Expanded Text Ads was in fact to 0% rather than 20%! This was true all the way up until the weekend before Christmas (17-18/Dec).

In the days that followed (19-24/Dec) we found mobile coverage of Extended Text Ads was a more respectable 40-50%. We therefore suspect this will be on the way to being 100% delivered soon. The full 100% would be a nice Christmas present, but we will see what happens in the new year!

Takeaway: Don’t kill your Standard Ads on Bing Just Yet!

To be fair, Bing’s original announcement did say in big, bold letters that advertisers should A/B test standard vs extended ads. We just didn’t realise the reason; neither, it seems, did Bing.

Mark Hughes is a Search Engine Marketing lead at Accelerate Digital. You can find him on Twitter at @markadoi84 or visit his profile on LinkedIn here.