Google confirms it is testing ad copy variation in live ads

Google quietly started placing headlines in ad copy description text without informing advertisers.

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Google has quietly started testing placing headlines within the ad copy description text in live ads.

Advertisers were not given prior notice about the ad copy variation experiment, and the uncertainty about the potential expansion of this test to more accounts has led to frustration within the community.

Why we care. Changing the rules without informing advertisers can make it harder for them to do their jobs and know what needs to be prioritized. The impact is even more significant for advertisers with smaller budgets, as assessing the changes, especially with responsive search ads, becomes challenging, adding to their workload.

What Google is saying. Google Ads liaison officer Ginny Marvin addressed concerns about ad variations following multiple reports on the topic during a PPC Chat Q&A. She said:

  • “This is a small test and I don’t have anything further to share on this at this time.”
Google Ad Copy

Just a small test? Despite Google’s comments, not everyone is convinced that the ad variation experiment is a “small test”. Google Ads expert Anthony Higman told Search Engine Land:

  • “While I understand that Google rolls out tests to the SERPs and paid ads, this test seemed to be more far reaching in that everyone on my team and other people in the PPC community were seeing this in live ads. So this seems like it is one of the larger tests taking place. “
  • “While I understand testing of paid ads, I think we are all just a little over the massive amount of tests and changes that have taken place this year and last.”
  • “This test also seems different to me in that they are altering known elements of a search ad by making ad headlines show as descriptions or almost like “call out” assets in front of ad copy descriptions. This is troublesome because these changes alter the dynamics of ad copy that are well known by all Google advertisers.”

Calls for more transparency. Higman, who first flagged the ad variation test on X, went on to explain how a lack of transparency from Google can impact advertisers:

  • “I think that since this test and other recent tests are changing ad copy dynamics that they need to be mentioned since it can alter planned out and tested ad copy in accounts.”
  • “As others have mentioned, this also can change rules for certain more restrictive ad verticals like legal and medical where ad copy variations need to be approved before rolling out live.”

A move towards full automation? Commenting on the ad variation “small test”, as well as other experiments he’s witnessed within Google Ads recently, Higman claimed that Google appears to be heading towards full automation which could be problematic:

  • “My point with all of these tests and also with the advancement of auto applied assets, recommendations, GBP connected ads, photos and also new asset format variations is that it seems as if everything is a new A/B test with every advertiser using Google ads.”
  • “While this may be beneficial for advertisers with larger budgets, there is no statistical significance that can be gleaned on smaller spend accounts. Also we can no longer see what these changes are doing to our ad data because we don’t know what asset variations are doing to our CTR’s.”
  • “So all of these new tests plus the dwindling ad data and lowered visibility of search query data is just further forcing us towards full automation which will not be a good fit for all advertisers using Google ads.”

Deep dive. Read our guide on How to write compelling ad copy in a Smart Bidding landscape for more information.

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About the author

Nicola Agius
Nicola Agius was Paid Media Editor of Search Engine Land from 2023-2024. She covered paid media, retail media and more. Prior to this, she was SEO Director at Jungle Creations (2020-2023), overseeing the company's editorial strategy for multiple websites. She has over 15 years of experience in journalism and has previously worked at OK! Magazine (2010-2014), Mail Online (2014-2015), Mirror (2015-2017), Digital Spy (2017-2018) and The Sun (2018-2020). She also previously teamed up with SEO agency Blue Array to co-author Amazon bestselling book Mastering In-House SEO.

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