Ad Extensions: To Automate or Not to Automate?

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Ad extensions are the perfect sidekick to ad copy: they can direct the user to a better landing page, they give context on pricing or offerings before the user clicks and costs you money, and they can facilitate conversation without ever making the user land on your landing page. Google knows the value that extensions bring to advertisers and will sometimes add in extensions on your behalf.

Star Wars’ Han Solo and Chewy proving sidekicks are heroes in their own right!

Some extensions, like seller ratings, are a no-brainer for Google to add in. Others requiring copy and matching up the correct location or number warrant more control. It’s important to remember that extensions, like their name implies, are an extension of your ad copy. Google is already making a grab to write ads for you with debatable success, as well as automate your a/b tests with responsive search ads.

If you genuinely have no time to own your copy and have some brand messaging flexibility, this is awesome news! If your brand has strict guidelines and you have very specific messaging you need to adhere to, this could be a nightmare. Odds are most of us are in the middle and can pick and choose when we delegate “grunt” work to Google and when we take the time to own important strategic messaging. 

To figure out when to delegate and when to own your copy, you need to know the extension options available and how to use them. Here’s a guide to all extensions available and whether you can feel safe allowing Google to automate.

Sitelinks

automated ad extensions sitelinks

What are they?

Sitelinks are 25-character links to a page on your site. You can serve up to eight, depending on the search engine results page (SERP) and the device. These extensions can guide the user to a specific product or service grouping, to learn more about your team, to read or watch client testimonials, and to any other actions you’d like the user to do.

Will Google automate them?

Yes, Google will add sitelinks to your ads if you do not create your own.

Should you let Google automate?

NO! Sitelinks give your business the opportunity to guide users to additional landing pages that could lead to conversions. Relinquishing control means foregoing the opportunity to enhance your conversion rates and ensure messaging is brand compliant. Be sure to add in both description lines so you’re able to capture the full real estate on the SERP.

Callouts

automated ad extensions callouts

What are they?

Callouts are 25-character non-clickable statements designed to give additional information and context to your offering. They can highlight reasons a client should do business with you, what you’re near, special promotions, and other info you want the user to know.

Will Google automate them?

Yes, Google will automatically add callouts if you don’t build them.

Should you let Google Automate?

NO! Callouts, like sitelinks, enable you to add additional context to your ad in your brand voice. Additionally, automated callouts often leverage “action” terms like “Book online”:

automated ad extensions example of a callout

Image via Google

Structured Snippets

automated ad extensions structured snippet

What are they?

Structured snippets are collections of up to 25 characters of information that speaks to product offerings, locations, types, and more. These extensions can be a great way to highlight offerings that don’t have enough search volume to be keywords, as well as showcase full offerings when you don’t have budget to build campaigns for your entire business.

Will Google automate them?

Yes, Google will automatically make structured snippets.

Should you let Google automate them?

Yes! Google has structured snippets that are exclusively available (highlights) when you go with dynamic structured snippets. Additionally, sometimes structured snippets created by humans can face disapprovals that are time intensive to solve for (using the wrong header, etc.). That said, if you have specific copy you want to leverage, absolutely take the time to create your own.

Call Extensions

automated ad extensions call extensions

What are they?

Call extensions are a clickable number on mobile devices and non-clickable number on desktop and tablets. The call extension can be set up to be tracked as a conversion by using a Google call forwarding number.

Will Google automate them?

Yes, Google will create a call extension on your behalf if it appears the goal of the site is to get phone calls.

Should you let Google automate them?

It depends! If you have a single location and phone number on your site, then there’s no harm in letting Google do that grunt work. It gets trickier if you have multiple numbers and objectives on your site. The safest path is to set up call extensions yourself, and then ensure the call extension is routed to the right campaign.

Message Extensions

automated ad extensions message extensions

What are they?

Message extensions serve on mobile ads, allowing prospects to text or email you. For advertisers who have long sales cycles, this extension provides a means to communicate and win business, without typing up phone leads of prospects who are ready to close. It also honors the growing population who prefer to text over call.

Will Google automate them?

Yes, Google will create a message extension on your behalf if you created a call extension or have a phone number on your site and it appears the goal is to drive calls.

Should you let Google automate them?

NO! If you’re not aware the extension is running, you may be getting folks funneled to you that you’re not prepared for. Worse, the number may not be right. Additionally, you need to manually configure the extension to forward to emails.

Location extensions

automated ad extensions location extension

What are they?

Location extensions take the data from your Google My Business and turn it into a clickable link giving directions to your business, as well as access to additional ad spots.

automated ad extensions location example

Will Google automate them?

Yes, Google will automatically create the extension when the query warrants a location. This can mean your extension won’t always serve.

Should you let Google automate them?

YES! Between giving additional context to your business, as well as access to additional ad formats, there’s only good that can come from having a location extension. Be mindful that when you connect your Google My Business, all locations attached will be synced, so be sure to audit your campaigns and get rid of multiple locations in any one campaign.

Promotion Extensions

automated ad extensions promotion extension

What are they?

Promotion extensions allow you to highlight specific discounts and offers that can be related to an event or not. These allow you to create flash sales and “urgency” without editing your winning ads, as well as taking up additional real estate on the SERP.

Will Google Automate them?

No, Google won’t create promotions for you.

Is it worth it your time to make them?

YES! Promotion extensions protect your ad copy data by letting you run promos alongside the ads instead of removing them with an edit. In addition, the scheduling feature allows you to build out your entire promotional calendar without having to make last-minute copy.

Price Extensions

automated ad extensions price extension

What are they?

Price extensions are clickable links to product or service landing pages, giving a price preview before the user engages. These are an invaluable way to ensure your clicks are only going to folks who have bought into your pricing, as well as directing that highly transactional user to where they can spend their money. Service providers can leverage them as well – price extensions include the qualifiers “from,” “up to,” “hourly,” “nightly,” as well as others.

Will Google automate them?

No, Google may suggest you create them but will not make assumptions on which parts of your business you want to draw attention to.

Is it worth the time to set-up?

YES! Price extensions can only benefit you by qualifying your users and offering targeted messaging. While it’s true some businesses offer unique quotes for every customer, it still helps to give a baseline price. Gone are the days where customers will blindly contact a business, and hiding pricing is only giving your prospects an excuse to choose your competitors.

Some Final Takeaways

Extensions can help you cover parts of your business that need attention, but they aren’t profitable enough to dedicate specific budget to. While it’s true that running an extension won’t make you come up for the specific search, you can highlight your additional offerings on campaigns with cheaper auction prices like branded campaigns.

Extensions can have their own unique schedule, which is vital if you don’t want folks calling you at 2 a.m. looking for service. Unless you’re a DUI lawyer with a dedicated late-night team, a 24-hour locksmith, or a pizza shop owner located near vibrant nightlife, odds are that call will be wasted spend. Set schedules on extensions that involve communicating with your prospects.  

automated ad extensions scheduling for extensions

Automated extensions aren’t inherently bad, but you do need to be mindful of when they’re happening and assess the data. Be sure to audit by click type every month or so to see if there are any “surprises” or any “hidden conversions,” like phone calls or directions.

automated ad extensions hidden conversions

And, finally, make sure that you’re not wasting extension copy repeating messaging in your ads – use the opportunity to add additional context making you irresistible to your prospects.