The Death Of ETAs And Advertisers’ Control

Amber Dawson | September 6th, 2021

Google has recently announced that come the end of June 2022, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit their Expanded Text Ads. While they’re not removing ETAs (yet), the lack of control means they might as well have; past this date, PPCers will only be able to pause, reactivate and remove ETAs. 

Expanded Text Ads allow you to directly control the wording of what you put in front of your audience. You dictate the headline and description text, in the precise order you want it to appear. The only option advertisers will now have is to use Responsive Search Ads. These allow you to provide text variations, but it’s left to Google to determine the best combination of lines to display. 

Why Is Google Doing This?

Google says they’re limiting ETAs because they want to ensure they deliver the best message to individual users; their view is that Responsive Search Ads answer specific user queries more effectively. 

While Responsive Search Ads are highly effective, it’s frustrating that this has become an either/or situation. Previously, advertisers would use ETAs to test specific messages and use the data to influence other campaigns. With this restriction set to be implemented, PPC Managers will be forced to trust Google’s algorithms to deliver the best results. 

It boils down to control: removing ETA capabilities isn’t a huge deal, and there are workarounds such as pinned placements for those who are determined to show specific messaging. However, the fact there has become a trade-off between benefiting from automation and retaining control feels wrong. 

From next summer, Responsive Search Ads will be the only type of Search ad that can be created or edited – something which is very restrictive. Google is demanding we trust their algorithms more and more, and whilst they are good at what they do, is it fair for them to say they know our audiences better than we do? It doesn’t seem too much to ask for a say in what gets shown – we are paying for the privilege after all. 

Steps Towards Transparency

It’s likely that Expanded Text Ads will be phased out entirely as they’ll become pretty unusable with such limited features. Until then, all advertisers can do is make the most of being able to test their own ad copy combinations while they can and ensure any ETAs that may be wanted in the future are set up before the deadline.

But what about staying in control? As Google rolls out new features and forces marketers to use them, we’re slowly getting less of a say in how our campaigns are run. And sadly, this seems to be the direction in which Google is headed: automated processes in which we have to blindly trust they know what’s best.

So, now is the time to go back to basics and focus on what’s really important. Go beyond preparing for the removal of ETAs (and whatever Google decides to change next.) 

The beating heart of campaigns is, and always will be data. Owning and understanding that data is what will set advertisers apart and stop them from being railroaded into trusting Google’s algorithms to determine their next move. It’s just a case of getting your hands on what Google won’t share with you. 

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