Google Ads Anatomy

Google Ads Anatomy

Google is the best platform to advertise on. You would think its because of its size and popularity but the reason many digital marketers like I rely on Google is because it offers a lot more than other advertising platforms.

Google has several ad formats to choose from:

  • Search ads
  • Display ads
  • Video ads
  • Shopping ads
  • App downloads ads

Google has set the benchmark on what other platforms like Bing and Facebook should try and copy. Although these other companies are not able to match Google they can come up with different versions. Have you noticed that when Google makes any changes on its ad formats, other ad platforms do the same?

Experienced marketers know the power of using Google and if they can harness all ad formats their returns will be much higher. Most marketers combine remarketing with search ads. There is even more to be gotten by having search ads, display ads, video ads and lastly shopping ads running concurrently. This way you get your clients wherever they are going to browse.

The only drawback of using all the various ad formats is that the marketer must properly understand all the features. For example, search ads are the simplest to create but many people do not use them to their full capacity. They would create 3 headlines and 2 descriptions and leave it at that. They do not know they could do much more by adding search ads extensions, adding functionalities like “IF” statements and they can make the headlines dynamic.

Its also important to note that Google changes these formats every so often and of this writing these are the various formats that are out there. The article will be updated as the formats change in the future.

Search ads

Texts ads are the most common and easily identifiable ads that are out there. They are normally seen on Google search, display networks and YouTube videos. There are two types of text ads namely:

  • Expended text ads
  • Responsive text ads

Depending on where these ads appear and the position, the ads are made up of three components. These are

  • Headlines
  • Display URL
  • Description
  • Ad extensions

Ad extensions are not included because they might or might not appear because they depend on Google’s approval.

The headlines, descriptions, Display URL all have character limits.


The ad character limits are the same across all languages. Languages that have double-widths like Korean, Japanese and Chinese, each character counts as two instead of one.

Text ads Advantages

  • They are easy for audiences to see and understand
  • Digital marketers don’t need to use specialized skills or software to create the ads
  • They are easy to create, manage and improve

Text ads disadvantages

  • Due to the character limits, the message could not be delivered.
  • Some products are visually based and text ads cannot properly address these.
  • They do not work well for branding campaigns.

Text ads Cost

Google text ads work on the cost per click model. In that you pay only when someone clicks on the ads. The costs only vary according to the ad auction.


There are normally two or three headlines in text ads, and they appear in the blue colour. The third headline does not normally appear as often as the first two. The headlines are limited to 30 characters only.

Headline one, two, and three are separated by a vertical pipe “|”

Headlines are the most important part of the ads because not many people read the description when they are browsing ads. Headlines should grab the attention of the user and encourage them to click on the ads to go to the landing page.

The first headline should be used to capture the user attention while the second and third one should provide more context, reinforce brand message, and have a call to action.

Headline purpose:

  • Attract attention
  • Emotionally connect with users
  • Encourage users to click the ads to go to the website
  • Emphasize unique selling points of the product or service

Display URL

The display URL, or vanity URL appears just below the headlines and is green in colour. This URL shows the website address as well as the product or service you are selling. It is composed of the URL and path fields.

The display paths are made of 15 characters.


As of this writing, expanded text ads have 2 descriptions each being 90 characters in length.

The descriptions provide the meat of the ads. Although, they are limited in length these parts of the ads provide as much information as possible. The following information is provided:

  • Unique selling point.
  • Additional details about the products and services.
  • Call to action.
  • Reinforce the benefits that have been stated in the headlines.
  • Special offers or deals.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions were a unique invention by Google. There are several different types on offer and gives the digital marketer the opportunity to provide extra information. Although not all extensions will be shown at the same time, they do provide context on what is on offer.

Ad extensions make ads bigger thus encouraging users to click on the ads. This works well on mobile devices. Another benefit for using ad extensions is that they do not cost extra.

 Unfortunately, not all extensions are applicable to all business. Some are suited for a certain business as opposed to others. Another disadvantage of extensions is that they appear upon Google’s discretion and are not seen all the time.

Here are some of the extensions on offer

Call extension

This extension lets you display a phone number that people can call your business directly. It works well on mobile devices or computers that can make calls. Its very convenient in that customers do not have to visit your site to make the calls.

Site link extension

Site link extension lets users see additional relevant links of the ads to help users find out more information. The links could be to the same page or several other web pages.

Message extension

Message extension was recently introduced and acts like call extensions but differs in that that users can send messages to the web owners. So far, we have seen mixed results with them.

Callout extension

These are the more popular ad extensions as they have been there for a longer period. Callout extensions help provide additional information that was not able to be highlighted in the ads. Information, like 24/7 service, free shipping, and any other benefits.

Price extension

With this extension, web owners can show the prices of the items they are selling. This works great for ecommerce stores or any business that has customers who are sensitive about price.

Location extension

After linking with Google My Business, location extension provides the address of the business. This is perfect for local ads or when people are looking to find your business. They highly encourage store visits.

Structure snippet extension

This extension provides more information about the product or service being sold.

Other extensions

  • Affiliate Location extensions: If your products are available in retail chain stores, the affiliate extension allows you to show nearby locations where customers can find your brand.
  • App extensions: If your business has an app that you want customers to download and use, then this is a necessary extension to include in your ads.
  • Promotion Extension: This extension allows you to show special sales and offers to your customers.
  • Lead Form Extension: This extension allows you to get lead (Name, contact etc.) from people who submitted your forms.

Call-Only Ads

Call-only ads are another variation of Google ads that appear on the search network. They are mobile-specific ads that encourage people who are searching for a service to call the business directly. They are more commonly seen on mobile devices that can make phone calls.

Rather than going to a specific landing page, when a user taps on the ads the phone app is activated, and the user will be able to call the business.

Like search ads, call-only ads have headlines, descriptions, and display URLs.

The main advantages of call only ads are they are easy to setup; you do not need to design an elaborate landing page; great for companies that rely on calls for their business; setting up conversion tracking is extremely easy; conversions are higher.

The main disadvantages are they normally have a higher cost per click; they are not suitable for all types of businesses; and accidental calls are common, and customers miss out on the landing page experience which can be used to answer most of the objections.

Dynamic Search Ads

Google came up with dynamic search ads for two kinds of people. These people either do not have much experience with Google ads or the sites are too large to create ads for each product or service.

Dynamic search ads rely heavily on Google’s AI technology to find the right keywords to match the right headlines, copy and landing page. The AI atomically targets keywords that relate to the business and generates ads and matches the landing page.

Google goes through the website content and then uses that information to create dynamic search ads to target users. When a user searches for items closely related to the content or titles or phrases used in the content, Google would create a relevant ad for that user.

The user has some controller over dynamic search ads through targeting. The user can tell google target certain web pages either through using categories or page feeds.

The main disadvantages of dynamic search ads are:

  • They are not suitable for websites that are updated often.
  • They are not for all businesses like gambling and pharmaceutical.
  • A lot of control is given to Google’s AI.
  • Some of the keywords that Google thinks are relevant could be a waste of money and do not convert.
  • Sometimes Google does not get the wording right for the text ads.

The main advantages are:

  • They are a huge time saver.
  • There are times the keywords Google picks leads to conversions.
  • They are easy to create and launch.

Responsive Search Ads

Responsive search ads are a newer versions of expanded text ads. They follow the same format with 3 headlines and 2 descriptions, but they differ in other ways. For example, responsive search ads let you enter 15 headlines and 4 descriptions in a single ad. This gives Google the option of picking 3 headlines and 2 descriptions to run on the search network

Google, using machine learning, tries to find different combinations amongst the headlines and descriptions to provide the best performance. As this is one of their newer features, Google prefers to show more of responsive ads as opposed to standard expanded ads.

In practice it is better to have 2 expanded text ads and one responsive search ads in an ad group. Most advertisers pin the first headline to ensure that it always appears on the ads. Each headline should be written in such a way that when they are combined with the others the ads should make sense.

 This way you can easily compare what is and is not working. In the rare case the responsive search ads are not doing their job the system can fall back on the default extended ads.

The few benefits of responsive search ads are Google is able to match search intent with the right headlines giving better performance, the constant rotation keeps the ads fresh, redundant headlines can be avoided, flexible ads can appear on various device widths and reach more people as Google is pushing them more.

Display ads

Display advertising is vastly different from search advertising as you would be moving from search intent to looking at audiences. As the name says, display ads are mostly seen on websites as opposed to the search engine.

Display ads offer a unique marketing opportunity, like outdoor billboards that are seen, they can communicate the marketing message clearly.

There are over 2 million sites and apps on the internet and each having its own audience.  Around 90% of these sites allow ads to be published on them.

The image ads are best suited for branding or awareness campaigns. Even though users may not click the ads, they will be familiar with the product or service being promoted.

Display ads are significantly cheaper than search ads. It should be noted that different ad sizes have different costs. Naturally, larger banners would cost more than the smaller images.

 Although, there is a trade off as fewer people convert from display ads. This is mainly due to targeting is harder on display ads.

Advantages of Display Image Ads

  • Display ads offer a visual element, this helps to better communicate the marketing messaging. This lets you include brand colours, actual products, or services and many more.
  • The image ads come in various size options.
  • Rather than focusing on search intent, display ads rely on audiences of websites to find suitable end consumers.
  • Brand awareness is a latent advantage of display ads.

Disadvantages of Display Image Ads

  • Most of the display ads require professionals to design them.
  • There is little control on where the ads would appear on certain websites. You are left to the mercy of the web publisher.
  • When people are browsing websites, they are not necessarily interested. This is a form of disruptive marketing.
  • Due to the recent rise of ad blocking softwares, most display ads are not shown on desktops.

Responsive Display ads

Like the responsive search ads, responsive display ads have several headlines, and descriptions. In addition, they have 5 logos and videos, 30 seconds in length.

In essence there are 5:

  • Headlines
  • Descriptions
  • Logos
  • Videos
  • Images

Also like the responsive search ads, Google uses machine learning to mix and match different headlines, descriptions, logos and images to find the right fit to get more clicks and ultimately more conversions.

Responsive display ads are preferred because:

  • The images can be scaled to fit various ad spaces. From small to large.
  • Text will be sometime shown depending on the availability of space.
  • There are times the text will be truncated.
  • They save time as there is no need for new image sizes

Standard Display Ads

In order to control how image ads look like many marketers prefer to create their own standard image ads. This ensures that the messaging remains the same in all ad formats.

The image ads can be:

  • Static
  • HTML5
  • GIFs
  • Flash images
  • Interactive messages that pop up

They come in the following sizes


Text ads

Text ads are available on the google display network. They follow the same format as search text ads, but the ads could be truncated to fit certain positions. They are normally harder to see and less intrusive hence they have a much lower CTR.

The main advantages of text ads are they are easy to make; they are less intrusive, and they don’t require professionals to make them. The disadvantages are as follows: they are harder to see; the ads could be truncated meaning the messaging could be lost and people can easily confuse them.

Video ads

Video ads or YouTube video ads are one of the best ways to communicate a marketing message. If they are done well, they are the most attractive and compelling way to tell consumers about products or services being advertised.

Banking on the fact the YouTube is the second largest search engine have 2 billion users and a million videos being uploaded every second. It is the best medium to reach as many customers as possible.

Video ads are disruptive in that users are forced to watch them before YouTube videos begin, in stream and at the end of videos. There are some AdSense publishers who chose to have several instream ads which can be very annoying.

Video ads are seen mostly on YouTube and other Google video partners which include apps and some websites.

Video ads offer several benefits including:

  • The ability to properly convey a marketing message in a short period of time.
  • They tell stories which are easy to remember and positively associate with a brand.
  • All the targeted users must watch a minimum of 5 seconds before being allowed to skip the ad.
  • YouTube has billions of users each month hence being the best platform.
  • The ads can be viral, and more people can see them without paying extra on advertising.

The are some disadvantages of using video ads as well. They are:

  • If done properly they are expensive to produce.
  • They could be very annoying and cause many viewers to have a negative opinion about the brand.
  • They may appear next to videos that are not on brand with what the ads are about
  • The first 5 seconds may not be enough to get viewers engaged to watch the rest of the ads.
  • Google heavily scrutinizes videos and many of them are rejected.

Most business should embrace video ads but should only be used if they align with the advertising goals. Video ads are charged on a cost per thousand impression basis, CPM – cost per mille. Depending on various issues there are times when 1000 impressions would go for $20.

Here are several video ads formats to choose from:

Skippable in-stream ads

These are the more common video ads that appear on YouTube. They play for 5 seconds before the viewers are given the option for skipping. They can play at the beginning of videos, in-stream and at the end of videos.

Advertisers are only charged if the viewers watch more than the 30 seconds, watches the full video ad and if the viewers interact with the ads.

These video ads are great for generating sales, getting leads, getting web traffic and brand awareness.

Non-skippable In-stream ads

Like the name says, these video ads can’t be skipped but must be watched for their entire duration. They are normally shorter in length that then the other ads being 6 to 15 seconds in length.

They are placed before, during and at the end of YouTube videos. This video ad format is great especially if you want the viewers to see the full video and get the marketing message.

These video ads are best for brand awareness and increase reach. The best bidding model would be CPM- cost Per Mille.

Video discovery ads

Video discovery ads act like search ads but on YouTube network. When a viewer types keywords on YouTube searching for specific videos, video search ads are shown to him or her alongside other related videos. These ads encourage the viewer to click on them to learn more about what they are about.

Like search ads video ads are payable only when they are clicked. These forms of ads are used to promote video content during searches. They appear on YouTube search results, alongside related YouTube videos and on the homepage of YouTube on mobile.

Masthead ads

Masthead ads are the video ads that appear at the top of YouTube homepages on desktop, mobile and TV screens. They start play automatically without any sound as soon as a viewer logs on to Youtube.com

By virtue of them being on the top of YouTube, they get a lot of views. To use masthead ads, you will have to get in touch with one of Google’s sales representative as they are only available through reservation.

On desktop, the masthead video ads play automatically for 30 seconds without sound. After 30 seconds the video defaults to a video thumbnail. They appear on 16:9 aspect ratio and on widescreens. On the right of the ads are panels which provide information picked from the YouTube channel.

On mobile, the masthead ad plays the whole video without sound at the top of the YouTube app. Unlike the desktop version, the masthead ad contains video thumbnail, headlines, descriptions, and a call to action. When the ad is tapped, the user is taken to the YouTube channel.

Like on mobile, masthead ads on TV screens autoplays for the whole length of the video without sound. After the video playing it defaults to the video thumbnail.

Masthead ads are charged on a CPM basis.

Bumper ads

Bumper ads are like the non-skippable YouTube ads but they are only 6 seconds long. They are short video ads that play at the beginning, during or the end of the video.

They are great for branding, reaching more customers and increasing customer awareness. They are also charged on a CPM basis.

Outstream ads

Outstream ads are unlike all the other ad formats in that they only work on mobile and they do not run on YouTube. These ads are seen on mobile apps and websites that are affiliated with Google video partners.

They are great for expanding the reach of the video ads outside YouTube to other platforms on mobile. The videos play automatically without sound when a page is loaded, or an app is started. Outstream ads appear in banners, interstitials, in-feed, native and both portrait and full screen.

They are good for reaching more clients. The advertiser is charged only if the video is played for 2 seconds or more

Shopping ads

Shopping ads are one of the more effective ways of marketing ecommerce products on Google. They are effective because Google matches shopping intent of the user with the ads that are seen. This makes getting conversions more probable.

Google shopping ads comprise of:

  • Product image.
  • Title.
  • Price
  • Business or store name.
  • Some extensions e.g., call out extensions.

Shopping ads do not use keywords and Google uses product data to match what the user is searching to determine whether to show the ads. To ensure success by using Google shopping, you must optimize the relevant keywords to the product titles and descriptions.

 Product data is gotten from a data feed that is submitted through the Merchant Centre Account. The data feed is either an excel sheet that has all the product information, or it is picked from the website through Shopify and WooCommerce apps. The feed translates all the product listings into a format that Google will understand.

Shopping showcase ads are enhanced version of shopping ads in that they provide, and expanded product line of the product being advertised. For example, a search for coffee tables wont just bring up one table, but the various options that you have on offer.

Showcase ads lets you list dozens of products related in an item category.

Shopping ads are designed for retail and ecommerce businesses. Especially those that would like to compete on price. They are created automatically and save a lot of time especially for businesses that have a lot of products for sale.

When combined with search ads, the ads take up a lot of real estate ensuring the success in terms of sales. This means having two ad formats on the search page.

The advantages of shopping ads are:

  • More conversions as Google matches buyer’s intent to the products being listed.
  • The ads are automatically created by Google from the data feed.
  • The ads are visual making it easier for customers to see what they are getting.
  • They appear above the organic search results and take up significant real estate.
  • In the case of showcase ads, many items can be listed on one search term.

The disadvantages include:

  • If the feeds are uploaded manually, they may take time and effort to optimize them.
  • Not all ecommerce business can use shopping ads.
  • Although Google is trying to provide its services to all countries, it is not available in a few countries.
  • Shopping ads appear next to the competition leading to negative results especially if the consumers are price conscious.
  • They require someone who has sufficient experience to manage them.

Google shopping ads are generally cost more than other types of ads. They also use the same auction style format in the search ads.

App Install Ads

App creators may want to create ads for them to encourage more people to download and install the apps. The apps are mainly advertised on search, Google Display, YouTube, Google Play and Discover.

Targeting app installs is through keywords, and audience targeting. Every app creator would benefit from these kinds of ads as they are targeted and increase the number of downloads. Ad creation is very straight forward leaning on the apps’ prior description.

The main advantages of using app install ads are they are more personal to the users, location-based targeting to ensure the right people are seeing the ads and lastly the apps are properly matched to each device.


There are 2 comments on this post
  1. Cherono
    February 24, 2023, 3:17 pm

    Very informative

  2. October 28, 2023, 3:46 pm

    […] only drawback of using Google ads is that it is overly complicated, and a lot of money can be wasted on the platform. For example, […]

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