Last week Google sent out a friendly reminder that expanded text ads (ETAs) will become the default format for text ads on January 31st. So you’ll no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads after that date and you’ll have to move over all of your ads to the new format, sooner or later.

We already knew all of this, of course, but there are some key questions that won’t be answered until some time after ETAs are fully adopted.

Question #1: What’s the real impact on CTRs?

Google’s big selling point with expanded text ads was a drastic rise in CTRs it saw in testing. The search giant was boasting increases of up to 20%, which was optimistic even by Google’s standards.

Of course, not every ad can see a rise in CTRs; when one brand wins, others lose out.

In our own tests, results have not only been mixed but also inconsistent as well. We’re not the only ones either so, even after six months of testing we haven’t got any definitive answers on the impact upon CTRs.

Question #2: What’s going on with impressions?

Something else we’ve noticed with ETAs is that impressions have been all over the place throughout our testing. Variations from client to client on a weekly basis have been the norm since we started running expanded text ads in tests.

The variations have been pretty dramatic at times, too. We’ve seen as much as an 60% drop in one week for a specific client and similar boosts for a couple of others. Sadly, we don’t really know what any of this means because Google has said next to nothing about the auction system for ETAs.

There are way too many variables right now – especially with ETAs competing against regular text ads – to draw any lines.

Question #3: What about the ‘standard’ campaigns we want to keep?

Okay, so the general rule of thumb is that accounts, ad groups and ads with a history of performing well have a kind of long-term authority. Most of this comes down to the fact that historical click-through rates have a major impact on Quality Score – and that’s fair enough.

So what happens to those ‘standard’ text ads that have a long history of performing very well? Once they’re replaced by ETAs with a clean slate, that track record and performance will be gone as well.

Yes, Google is telling us to keep our best campaigns running until our ETAs consistently outperform them. But how long will this take? And what about the ads we routinely edit (eg: seasonal offers) when standard ads can no longer be edited?

 Those are the key questions we’ve got in mind as the switchover date approaches. Over the last six months there have been some strange numbers flying around and not a lot in the way of explanations – and this probably won’t change for a while. It’s going to take some time for us to get to a point where the data really means anything and we can really determine the performance of ETAs against their former text ads. So it’s going to be an interesting few months ahead as the big migration begins.