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Google Dynamic Search Ad Headlines So Long They Look Like Organic Links

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) have been around for a while, and its known that they can produce headlines that are longer than the 25 character string advertisers are allowed to use in creating their own headlines.Google’s own literature states that:

Dynamic Search Ads also include a generated headline that is slightly longer than standard text ads, giving your ad more visibility and relevance for people searching on the web for what you have to offer.

So Google gives themselves a little wiggle room in creating longer headlines for DSA. But what our analysts and others have noticed is that ‘slightly longer’ actually means ‘wayyyyyy longer.’

That DSA Looks Like an Organic Link

Here’s a screenshot of a paid listing generated through DSA:

 DSA_Long_Headline

The headline generated in this example is 61 characters long, more than twice the 25 character limit Google enforces for advertisers coming up with their own headlines.

This is not the product of Google kicking the line 1 up into the title, as the ad still receives the line 1 and line 2 copy designated by the advertiser. Rather, Google has pulled the majority of the H1 from the landing page it has selected and inserted it directly into the copy, ignoring the fact that this is much longer than any headline an advertiser could use for a standard text ad.

The theoretical upper limit of just how many characters might get used for a DSA headline appears to be equal to the longest possible length of an organic listing title, which is determined by factors such as capitalization and the mix of characters used as these can impact how many characters fit in the allotted space.

While the ad is still clearly distinguished with the yellow button telling searchers that the advertiser paid to be there, the longer headline makes this paid ad look a lot more like an organic listing.

The combination of the line 1 and line 2 underneath the review extension further makes this listing look more organic than it would otherwise by allowing the description to sprawl further across the page, though Google will combine the line 1 and line 2 for traditional text ads as well.

Opportunity for Advertiser Optimization

With these longer headlines drawing from the H1 on the landing page, there is the possibility for on-page content optimization which could help produce longer, more detailed paid ad headlines through DSAs.

This would take some buy-in from the SEO team, but particularly for product-specific pages, placing greater detail about the product in the H1 seems like a great optimization for both paid and organic.

Kookier ideas such as placing offers or selling points in the H1 might be riskier, but for sites who are having a really hard time ranking organically anyway, maybe it makes sense to test out what these longer headlines can do for Dynamic Search Ads. This is particularly true if DSA does become a greater part of paid search in the years to come.

Is this…Weird?

The 25 character limit for headlines has always been a bit arbitrary, as there’s clearly plenty of additional space Google could allow advertisers to take up with headlines. However, Google long ago made it so that advertiser headlines would be shorter than those featured for organic links, and up until recently, longer headlines have only been possible when Google kicks the line1 up into the headline.

There’s nothing wrong about them deciding to change the maximum length of a headline, but there is something strange about only allowing it to occur through DSA. Advertisers everywhere would love to have more characters to work with in conveying their message to searchers, especially if they deal in industries with long naming conventions (think corrective spinal surgeons).

So why not just expand the number of allowable characters for all types of text ads? Longer headlines might actually be good for all parties involved.

Users would get more information before clicking through to a site. Advertisers could do a better job of communicating exactly what it is they’re offering and their value proposition, which could not only help to draw in more clicks but might also better qualify that traffic. Google might be able to get more revenue as a result of higher click-through-rates.

However, Google might be concerned over how it would be perceived if they were to make paid advertisements ‘equal’ to organic links. The aesthetic of the SERP with all long headlines may also be of concern if it makes for a more cluttered experience for users.

Conclusion

As commentators across the industry begin speaking more and more about the possibility of a paid search future in which keywords are less involved, any sign that Google is ‘stacking the deck’ in favor of their keywordless feature seems risky.

Many advertisers are already uncomfortable handing over controls to Google in terms of deciding which queries ads should be showing for and which landing pages they are assigned to. The perception that Google is giving its dynamic system an advantage over traditional text ads may only heighten advertiser concern.

At the same time, advertisers like search traffic and the revenue that it brings. If advertisers don’t like something Google does, they can choose to shift spending to other search engines, but it won’t impact the share of users that go to each engine in the first place, and chances are that most advertisers are already maxed out on what they can profitably spend on search elsewhere anyway. Brands can either pay to reach Google’s audience or forfeit it.

It would also take an unknowably large number of advertisers moving spend away from Google to have an appreciable effect on Google’s ability to please its users and keep them coming back. Thus, Google can more or less make its own rules with regards to the restrictions it places on advertisers without much fear of a negative outcome.

But does it make sense to establish rules and then give your own tools the ability to operate significantly beyond the limitations of those rules? I don’t know.

What do you think?

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