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Qi (Vincent) Zhao

SEMrush Analysis: Impact of July 2016 Google Mobile Ads Update

Qi (Vincent) Zhao
SEMrush Analysis: Impact of July 2016 Google Mobile Ads Update

The shift to a mobile-first world is well under way.

On July 26, Google rolled out these three new mobile advertising innovations to advertisers globally: expanded text ads, responsive display ads and device type bidding adjustments.

Every year, there are trillions of searches on Google and nearly half of these searches are from mobile devices. Earlier this year, Google announced changes to its advertising platform, from updating how text and display ads work to changing the way advertisers can optimize campaigns.

Source: http://www.statista.com/statistics/297137/mobile-share-of-us-organic-search-engine-visits/

With this growth, advertisers are allocating big budgets to catch the eyes of a growing class of mobile-first users.

To help marketers succeed in this mobile-first world, Google has redesigned AdWords from the ground-up, and re-thought everything from creatives and bidding, to workflow and measurement.

Expanded Text Ads

In an effort  to make the user experience consistent across different devices, Google removed the ads bar on the right-hand side earlier this year.

This could be because most cell phones now have wider screens and higher resolution. The new expanded text ads give advertisers more space to put information about their products and services. This update allows you double the previous amount of characters in the headline and also add more characters in the description line.

Source: adwords.googleblog.com

Reaction from top advertisers

The update has been rolled out for nearly two weeks, and many advertisers have already created and edited their extended text ads. Some advertisers have reported increases in clickthrough rates of up to 20% compared to previous text ads. Equipped with SEMrush data, we can see how many of the top advertisers in the US reacted to the update.

We selected the top 50 advertising spenders over the past year and analyzed their mobile ad copy. There were more than 1 million ad copies in total in our analysis, and we saw that over a third of them had already transferred to the extended text format.


The following bar graph shows the advertisers with the highest percentage of extended text ads. It’s surprising to see a private college, Southern New Hampshire University, moving at the fastest pace to convert their standard text ads to extended text ads.

Less surprising, however, is that within the top ten we saw online travel agencies (OTAs) reacting the most rapidly, followed closely by insurance companies. This is because OTAs and insurance companies compete intensively and rely on the Google Adwords traffic  for a lot of their business.


Starting on October 26th, 2016, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads – meaning you’ll only be able to create and edit text ads using the expanded text ads format after this date.

Any existing standard text ads will continue to serve alongside expanded text ads until their budgets run out.

Responsive Display Ads

In the mobile world, we can see display ads on websites, apps and videos. To deliver the best user experience, Google built responsive ads. These ads can adapt to millions of different sites and apps. The responsive ads are designed to fit in the content the audience is browsing and the device they are using.

All you need to do is provide:

  • headline
  • description
  • image
  • URL

Google will do the rest to make your display ads neatly match the layout of the publisher.

Bid Adjustments for Each Device Type

The newly released bid adjustment gives marketers control and flexibility needed to optimize their bidding strategy

It allows you to set a different bid plan for each device type: desktops, mobile and tablets. Use this new feature to focus on the channel with the highest conversion and ROI.

Display Ads Evolved

Display ads are also growing in popularity right now. However, like anything else, display ads come with their own set of pluses and minuses.

Display ads spread far across the internet. Based on the Google’s Display Network, you ad can be published on millions of websites. Also, display ads are straightforward to measure. You can easily monitor your ads performance, the number of clicks, conversion rates, etc, so that you can edit your ads and make them better.

Despite the growing popularity of display ads among advertisers, the majority of web users find them irrelevant. In fact….

A study revealed that only 2.8% of participants thought that ads on a website were relevant.

(Source for above stat.)

Here’s where responsive ads will help. Responsive ads unlock new native inventory so you can engage consumers with ads that match the look and feel of the website or app they’re using.

Also, different websites may focus on different devices. The bid adjustments for each device type would let you anchor your base keyword bid to the device most valuable to your business and then set bid adjustments for each of the other devices.

The following top display advertisers chart (using SEMrush data) shows how different companies have their own strategies on different devices.

The newly released updates enable you to optimize your bidding plan with higher precision, meaning higher conversion rates and lower CPA (cost per acquisition).



Thanks to the growth of mobile devices, our lives as consumers are becoming  more convenient. For businesses, this means it’s more important than ever to build and optimize your online presence for mobile browsing.

Have you had the chance to edit your AdWords ads or display ads? What is your experience in the update? Have you tried SEMrush to help you improve your ads? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

Qi (Vincent) Zhao is a data scientist at SEMrush. He loves making beautiful things with data. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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