The History

For over a decade, Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) allowed advertisers to create ads based on the wording of their choice. The basic components of an ad were: the headline, description, and URL. For the purpose of optimization, Google always encouraged the creation of more than one ad. This allowed the system to rotate the ads to determine which version had a higher click-through-rate. (Google likes higher CTRs because they get paid only when someone clicks on an ad.) In addition to the basic components of an ad, additional information could possibly be displayed with the ad. This additional information was called “ad extensions.” Common types of ad extensions included:

      • Call extension (Phone number)
      • Location extension (link to business profile)
      • Sitelinks extensions (links to specific pages on a website)
      • App extensions (links to a mobile app)
      • Callout extensions (short phrases to give more information)

Some ad extensions required a setup process by the advertiser, and others could be automatically added by Google. Whether or not extensions appeared with ads was always at Google’s discretion. They’ve never been completely controllable by the advertiser.

The Trend

As I mentioned above, Google gets paid only when someone clicks on an ad (in the case of search engine ads). And Google has always encouraged advertisers to create more than one version of an ad so the versions can be tested for click-through rate. The problem is that many advertisers didn’t do it. So, Google has been moving more and more in a direction that forces the inclusion of more information. Introducing Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) a few years ago was a step in this direction, as it allowed an additional headline. Introducing Responsive Search Ads (RSAs) in 2021 was a huge step in this direction, in that they require several versions of headlines and descriptions to be written in the ad creation process. Loading up an ad with an assortment of information, including several variations of each element, gives Google flexibility to test and optimize for click-through rate. Although this gives less control to advertisers over what exact words appear to viewers, Google added a feature that acts as a sort of compromise. They allow advertisers to “pin” certain phrases for certain slots. For example, if an advertiser wants the headline “$29 Oil Change Special” to appear in the first slot, it can be pinned there. With RSAs, the various headlines and descriptions are listed as “assets.”

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The Newest Change

When changes are announced for Google Ads, my reaction almost always tends to be, “Oh yeah. That makes sense.” (At least after I’ve thought it through.) This latest announcement is no different. I didn’t see it coming, but it does make sense. With RSAs as the new, required ad type, ads are not the fixed elements they used to be. They are a collection of “assets.” Apparently, it occurred to Google that ad extensions are also simply “assets” that may or not appear with an ad. So, they decided to get rid of the label “ad extension” in favor of calling them “assets.”

Putting ad headlines, descriptions, and extensions all under the label of “assets” will help streamline the process of ad creation, but it will also be useful when it comes to reporting. For ad creation, asset types will be suggested based on the chosen campaign goal, and the preview tool will show them as you add them. For reporting, you’ll be able to see a combination report with data for all assets, such as headlines, descriptions, sitelinks, callouts, images, and more.

One thing that will not change is that assets, such as sitelinks and callouts, can still be associated with different levels in an account (account level, campaign level, or ad group level).

How Will the Change Take Effect?

Any ad extensions that currently exists in Google Ads accounts will transition automatically to assets. They will also keep their current association level in the account (account level, campaign level, or ad group level).

In Closing

Times change, and so does Google Ads. We can count on it. Google’s brilliant engineers are always working to find better ways to achieve a win-win-win: A win for the ad viewer, a win for the advertiser, and a win for Google. This newest change appears to be sensible and appropriate in the new age of RSAs.

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Subject: Google vs. Meta for Marketing