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A guide to PPC ad formats

PPC ads can come in multiple formats and are continually developing. The type of ad you display will depend on what you’re hoping to achieve as a business. Understanding the different routes you can take towards meeting those goals is the first key step to improving your PPC performance.

As a digital marketing agency – we are often asked about the various PPC ad formats available for our clients. We’ve decided to share an overview of the major formats that you can access across Google Ads.

Text Ads 

Text ads traditionally include two headlines and one description. However, responsive text ads can now contain up to three headlines and have the option to write two 90 character descriptions.

With responsive text ads, you can also upload a combination of headlines and description lines. When you’ve uploaded your selection, Google will shuffle them depending on how well it expects them to perform. Each variable must make sense in any order.

  • What should a headline include? – Your headline is probably the first thing user’s will notice, so it is recommended to include words used in their search. If you use three headlines, they will each be up to 30 characters long and separated by a vertical ‘I’ shape. Depending on the device (desktop, mobile, tablet), they may appear differently.
  • Description line – Your description line is where you should highlight the most important details about your brand, product or service. It’s also the ideal place to include a CTA (call-to-action) to encourage users to complete your desired action. For example, if you are selling handbags, your CTA might be something like; “Shop our new collection handbags now.”
  • Ad extensions – Here, you can include relevant information such as location, contact number and any other additional links to your site. Your ad extensions are a way of increasing your likelihood of conversions. If you’re unsure you can read our blog about different ad extensions.

App Download Ads

If you’re launching a new app or want to drive some extra traffic – app download ads or app engagement ads will likely benefit you. It’s a way of promoting your app to the right users and displaying your ad to a wide audience on both tablet and mobile.

Ads typically include up to four individual lines of text that can be up to 25 characters long. You also have the option to add more eye-catching features such as images and video snippets. To be advertised through Google Ads, your app must be live in Google Play. App Store ads will require using Apple Search Ads.

The ad itself can appear in a variety of places, such as search engine results pages (SERP), within the Play Store or on mobile web. Much like responsive ads, your app download ads can be shuffled by Google depending on best-performance outcomes. 

Local Services Ads

Local ads are either located at the top of a results page or right underneath relevant text ads – making it easy for potential local customers to find you. These ads are mainly focused on smaller local businesses – but have the potential to expand in the future. Services who might benefit from local ads include:

  • Plumbers
  • Locksmiths
  • Electricians

Local ads will only be reached by people who are searching for the service you provide – meaning they often result in a conversion. Your ad should include a clear point of contact, opening hours and a direct link to your site – you also have the option of including directions for users.

Call-Only Ads

Call-only ads are precisely that – they are designed primarily to encourage people to call your business number. These can only be used on mobile devices (because they will direct users straight to a call) and will charge at a cost-per-click, based on the bid that you set up. You’ll only pay when a user clicks on your ad headline or attempts to make a call.

Shopping Ads 

Google and Bing shopping ads are a great way to promote your products at scale. Your shopping ads can take various formats on the SERP; ranging from a straight bar of 3 to 5 products at the top to 6-9 images appearing beside results.

Within your ad, you can include information such as a title, image, price and your shop or brand name. They are a quick and effective way of gathering any up to date and relevant information alongside an engaging photo of your product. 

Lightbox Ads

Lightbox ads are interactive ads allowing you to do things like swipe through an online product catalogue and take part in an interactive video. The ads begin as standard banner sizes, but if a user shows an interest by hovering their cursor for roughly 3 seconds, the ad interaction will begin. You’ll only pay when somebody engages with your ad by hovering or following the interaction.  


With over 1 billion users, it comes as no surprise that YouTube advertising has become increasingly popular. There is also a variety of options when it comes to your PPC ads on this platform. To keep things simple, we’ve summarised the main options:

  • TrueView In-Stream Ads – These are video ads which can play before, during or after a YouTube video. Users can skip after 5 seconds – and you only pay if somebody continues to watch for over 30 seconds. 
  • Bumper Ads – Bumper ads are a newer, unskippable format of in-stream ads which aim to share a quick yet effective message. They’re only 6 seconds long, meaning the cost is lower, but engagement rates tend to be high. If you have a clear message and don’t want to spend your budget on a long-term advertisement – then bumper ads might be for you. 
  • TrueView for Shopping – TrueView for Shopping or otherwise known as shoppable videos, is a combination of Google Shopping ads and In-Stream ads. These are useful if you are hoping to drive more direct conversion from your videos. They’re powered by your shopping feeds and can be automated, remarketed or customised to promote a product featured in the video.
  • TrueView Discovery Ads –  Discovery Ads are essentially a video-driven version of responsive display ads and are ideal for generating more views and brand awareness. They will include a 25 character headline, two 35 character description lines and an auto-generated thumbnail. The thumbnail will be one of four choices and can be customised. The ad will either appear in YouTube search results, next to a clip listed under ‘recommended videos’, or on YouTube’s mobile homepage. 

Dynamic Remarketing Ads

The same feed as Google Shopping manages the images on Dynamic Remarketing Ads – so they can display images, prices, product name and other relevant information. These ads are marketed towards people who have previously shown an interest in your brand, product or service. 

If you’ve considered a new pair of jeans online – you’ve probably noticed them popping up again in your browser soon afterwards. Your remarketing ads can be displayed in Google and its partner sites. This type of ad format a great way of reminding people to make a purchase or use your service – therefore increasing conversions.

Get in Touch                    

We have touched upon some of the major PPC ad formats that can benefit a variety of businesses – so, hopefully, it has helped you have a better understanding of your options.

If you any questions about PPC or want to find out more about what we offer at our London agency, get in touch

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