How To Make Your Google Ads Stand Out From the Competition

February 12, 2019 Mark Adams

When it comes to running an effective Google AdWords campaign, it's all about knowing which keywords to target and which times of day are the most optimal for your target customers' intents. But while Google ads are a powerful tool at your disposal, the same is also true of your competition who are targeting the same audiences. Executing a successful Google ad campaign also must factor in differentiating your ads from competitors, so you should keep these best practices in mind.

1. Make Your Google Ads Stand Out By Using Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) And Don't be Afraid To Get Wordy.

Google's expanded text ads, or ETAs, rolled out in 2016 and were considered revolutionary since the higher character count empowered marketers to highlight key incentives more thoroughly. Some marketers were initially hesitant of the ETA format and kept using standard Google ads since this old model with reduced character count wouldn't be phased out in favor of ETAs until January 2017. The marketers who were bolder with using ETAs wound up benefiting more from their head start while those who were late to adapt didn't have as enviable CTRs.

Higher CTR equates to good quality scores, which equates to lower CPC, which equates to superior positioning. All around, ETAs are a formidable PPC format.

Come August 2018, Google ETAs were expanded yet again with a second headline and higher character limits in all text fields. There is also an extra description line and both of those descriptions can be up to 90 characters. The following chart breaks down the evolution of the standard ad format to ETA then expanded ETA:

Using Expanded Text Ads (ETAs)

One of the chief takeaways from this year's SMX West is that expanded text ads are like a Swiss army knife when it comes to personalization. They likened ETAs to a set of screwdrivers but Swiss army knife is a more apt descriptor since multiple functions can be utilized with the same tool. Because these increases in character count may not sound that momentous at first, the new ETA format has actually increased 218% in size from the original standard Google PPC ad.

It seems counterintuitive at first since advertising usually takes a "less is more" approach in comparison to purposely long form marketing like content. Creating powerfully effective Google ad copy is a challenge. The expanded ETAs are netting better results than the standard format that relied on brevity, because higher character limits enable you to create more variety as well as symmetry with landing pages, demographics, and what ultimately drives potential customers to look and take desired actions.

Expanded Text Ads example

Ultimately though, that extra headline and description can make your ads stand out from the competition even when they don't reliably show up on SERPs all the time. Because the ad is bigger by default and lists the USP of your product/service, it can trounce a competing company who's still using the older ETA type. Having a third headline to work with also provides another 30 characters in noticeable text that is ideal for highlighting customer intent and driving clicks.

2. Make Your Google Ads Stand Out By Utilizing Ad Extensions And Provide Critical Information That Doesn't Fit In The Ad Copy.

Expanded ETAs have yet another expansion pack to take advantage of: the ad extension. There used to be only one type of extension, the sitelink, when the feature was first introduced a decade ago. There's now 16 different types of ad extensions, ten manual and six automated, that can redirect to different parts of your website opposed to just a homepage or landing page.

Google states that CTR can improve 10-15% per extension. While the intended purpose of these extensions is important to keep in mind for actions the target customer could take, from a practicality standpoint these ad extensions increase the size of your ad placement which can make them stand out from the competition's Google ads. Because extensions are also free to implement, you can't afford to ignore them.

16 different types of ad extensions

Of the 16 different types of ad extensions, the more four most crucial ad extensions are sitelinks, calls, callouts, and structured snippets. All 16 have potential to increase ROI on your ad spend, but these four types of ad extensions are particularly important because they're incredibly easy and versatile to implement. These extensions can also be used to showcase information and calls to action that could exceed the ad copy limits.

  • Sitelinks: Sitelinks can be linked deeply into your site, but a best practice is to create a custom landing page for each sitelink customized to that ad since you can have 2-8 sitelinks associated with each ad. This can also be done at the ad group level as well to hone these extensions for specific searches. Sitelinks can provide more in-depth information aligning with the customer's intent in comparison to the competition who may only be directing to an all-purpose plain landing page.
  • Callouts: Unlike sitelinks, callouts aren't clickable. They have a 25-character limit and their chief purpose is to promote features, time limits, or other crucial selling points that don't fit in the ad copy and/or can't be featured prominently enough in the copy on their own. A callout would be the ideal extension for a benefit you really must highlight, such as "Steps from Penn Station" or a feature that is uncommon and/or highly sought-after like "24/7 Tax Service". What is a benefit or feature that your competition is highlighting, and how can you make yours stand out to your target audience with this extension?
  • Call Extensions: Phone numbers shouldn't waste the character limits in your main ad copy given that call extensions make it easier for both you and the customer. If you want customers to dial in, use the call extension in every ad where that's the desired action because it's quick, simple, and free to implement. This is especially important for mobile searches since a call extension on a mobile device lets the user call your business in one tap without needing to copy the number first.
  • Structured Snippets: Structured snippets are small lists that have a header then an ensuing list of items. For instance, a uniform retailer would have "Types" as a header (there are 13 preset structured snippet headers to choose from) and the list would contain "Nurses, EMTs, police, janitorial". Structured snippets can communicate direly important information that would go well past the ad copy's character limits. They can also be used to stand out from the competition because not only does your ad placement become a lot bigger, you can use MULTIPLE structured snippets to show more information and shove competitors further down the SERP.

Below is an example of a Google Ad with the extensions.

example of a Google Ad with the extensions

You should definitely try to utilize multiple ad extensions that show the most relevant information that doesn't overwhelm the customer: keep it to useful highlights and functionalities like custom landing pages and call extensions. However, bear in mind that not all of these extensions will show up at any given time and appear differently depending on the device although Google does its best to sync the appropriate extensions to relevant searches.

3. Make Your Google Ads Stand Out By Honing Your ETAs' Reach with Geotargeting and Setting Other Appropriate Parameters.

One unfortunate drawback about this new expanded ETA decked out with ad extensions is that it could be getting quality over quantity in terms of clicks, causing ad budgets to burn faster. It helps to stand out from the competition but not at the expense of missing the target.

  • Geotargeting: Showing your ads in certain locations can be key to your success. If your company is in New York and you can't serve customers in California, it doesn't help you if people there see your ad. But geotargeting gets even more granular than that, as you can exclude regions on a hyper-local level by raising or lowering bids based on location with bid modifiers. This can strictly define a delivery zone or service area so you don't get traffic that won't convert because they're too far away.
  • Bid modifiers: Also known as adjustments, bid modifiers allow you to increase or decrease bids based on users' search patterns. These parameters can be set based on when they search, where, how, and what device they use. For instance, a business software ad would prioritize desktop computers and be lax about location while a restaurant would target hungry people using their phones nearby.
  • Ad scheduling: Ads can be adjusted to business hours or peak times that the target audience is likely to search. This also helps save money so ads don't show when you don't need them to.
  • Remarketing for Search Ads (RSLA): You can now target ads to people who've already visited your site whenever they look up words you've bid on. Existing ad groups can have RSLA lists added to them or you can create customs groups for RSLA efforts.
  • Negative Keywords: Not all keywords are something to strive for. Make sure your ad doesn't get triggered by negative keywords like vague, common terms and locations you don't serve. Negative keyword lists is easy to do and you can create themed lists and apply them at the campaign, account, or ad group levels.

Standing out from the competition's Google ads isn't necessarily about having a nicer display ad or taking the "Sega does what Nintendon't" approach. Contrary to traditional advertising techniques where more is accomplished with less text, things have drastically changed in the digital age and people want to see the most critical information about a business that will drive their decision. Whether that information is about solving their problem or simply a selling point, Google ads can differentiate themselves from the competition with this powerful toolkit.

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