Extended Ad Headlines in AdWords – Are They Really Worth It?

By Scott Garrett | Jul 10, 2015
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Extended ad headlines have been available in Google AdWords since February 2011 and have long been credited with increasing the click-through rate (CTR) of ads, but do they really improve CTR? I was curious, so I decided to put this question to the test. Over the past several months, I have rotated in variations of ad copy with extended ad headlines against ads without and measured their CTRs. In this blog post, I will review the results of this test, but first, I will go into detail about what exactly an extended headline is and how to utilize it. Surprisingly, many marketers do not know how to properly implement it.

What is an extended ad headline?

An extended ad headline is when the text of the first description line moves up to the headline. This elongated headline takes up more prominent ad real estate, making it more visible to the searcher and, in theory, increasing CTR. A hyphen in the headline of the ad signals the additional text from the first description line that has been moved up to the headline. Below is an example of a standard top ad before and after the extended ad headline is applied (please note that extended ad headlines are only applicable to top ads and cannot be utilized for right side ads).


before extended ad headline



after extended ad headline

How do I make extended ad headlines?

Making a portion or all of the first description line move up to the headline is quite simple – all you need is punctuation! Putting a period, question mark or even an exclamation mark somewhere in the first description line will cause all preceding text to that point to shift from the first description line to the formal headline of the ad. Listed below, you will find some minor nuances and rules that go into making an extended headline – I pulled these insights from this great AdWords Community blog post:

  • An exclamation mark will count as punctuation, and your ad headline will be extended; however, Google will not display the exclamation mark as part of the headline
  • Google will not extend your ad’s headline if you punctuate with a comma
  • Hyphens will not stop your ad’s headline from being extended unless they are at the end of Description Line 1
    • If you punctuate as normal, your hyphen will be shown
  • Google will extend your ad’s headline if you use a question mark on Description Line 1, and it will show the question mark as part of the headline too
    • Notice that Google will display question marks and not exclamation marks in extended ad headlines

xtended ad headline example

  • Finally, the punctuation doesn’t have to be the last character of Description Line 1

As you can see, there are many different ways to utilize and test the performance of extended ad headlines. Their various forms allow you to test different ending punctuation, different locations of the punctuation and, of course, ads with extended headlines vs. ads without extended headlines.

Are extended ad headlines worth it?

The Short Answer: No, but…

The overall results of my year-to-date experiment are that extended headlines do not outperform standard headlines. The experiment encompassed 6 months, 5,102,124 impressions, 142,293 clicks and had an aggregate CTR of 2.79%.

extended headline testing

The Long Answer: Yes.

There were some accounts were the extended headline ads did out perform the standard headlines. For example, let’s look at a 1.32% CTR (extended headlines) vs. a 1.27% CTR (standard headlines). When you remove major branded ad copies from these, the results the numbers get even more interesting…

extended headline testing 2

As you can see now with the branded ads removed, the CTR for extended headlines now surpasses that of the standard headline! However, I should note, that some brand ad copies with extended headlines did see higher CTRs compared to brand ad copies with standard headlines, so it is not totally an issue of brand vs. non-brand ads. Therefore, with these results, it is hard to say for certain whether extended headlines really do improve performance or not. I will say, though, that these results dictate that additional experimentation is required. So now, I plan on writing another blog post in three to six months to discuss any updated results from this ongoing test.

I want your input!

What is your experience with extended headlines? Do you have any performance results to share? Comment below or tweet me @ScottGarrett89.


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