Writing PPC Ad Copy That Delivers: 6 Best Practices

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Synopsis — There are many aspects to constructing a successful pay-per-click advertising campaign. Key parts include researching and choosing keywords, setting up your campaign correctly, deciding whether to try the content network, targeting geographic regions and time zones. But one aspect that marketers sometimes fail to place enough time and emphasis on is the constructing of their ad.

With only a limited number of lines and characters, and many rules about what can and cannot be said, format restrictions, and other parameters, the composition of the copy for PPC ads is a more complex matter than many realize. And within that complexity, there is a lot of room for variety and also maneuverability.

In “Writing PPC Ad Copy That Delivers: 6 Best Practices,” David Rodnitzky writes about the following parameters one should consider when putting together the content of your PPC ads:

1.  Test, test, test
2.  Victory is not determined by clickthrough rate alone
3.  Ad copy must not exist in a vacuum
4.  Make the most of bold and geotargeting
5.  Always have a strong call to action
6.  Use basic human emotions

Each item is accompanied by actual samples of PPC ads illustrating the practice to help the reader see the theory in action. And, BTW, what are those basic human emotions that can work in your favor with PPC? They are fear, greed, vanity, and exclusivity.

The complete article follows …


Writing PPC Ad Copy That Delivers: 6 Best Practices

Ad copy is the bridge between a search engine and your website. It’s the final deciding factor in a searcher’s decision to leave Google, Yahoo!, or MSN to visit your business. It’s also the moment your free placement on a search engine starts costing you money. In short, ad copy determines who clicks and how much you pay – pretty important, right? Despite this, many search marketers neglect ad copy, ignore the following best practices, and fail to give their copy the credit it deserves.

1.  Test, Test, Test

Search marketers often live in a totally different world than those they market to. Imagine a search marketer living in Silicon Valley, working at a tech start-up, and driving a new BMW trying to market a “bad credit mortgage” to an unemployed worker in rural Alabama. The bottom line? Never assume you can write effective ad copy just because you are otherwise successful or have been in SEM for a long time. You need to test your ad copy continually until you find copy that appeals to your audience.

The first step is reviewing existing ads from competitors. Don’t just copy their ads — If only because they have a longer history on the search engines and thus a Quality Score advantage over you — but look for common themes in the ads you see over and over again. Do they repeatedly mention a “free offer,” their local proximity, a guarantee, a specific price, quality service, or massive selection? The themes you see over and over likely will resonate well with your intended audience.

Next, use these themes to create at least three — and preferably six — unique ads for each ad group you build. Ensure the initial ads are very different from each other. Identify the differences with nicknames, such as “cute ad,” “price ad,” and so on. Choose the campaign setting to rotate ads evenly (giving them all an equal chance to show up), and let the ads fly.

As impressions and clicks build, you will soon notice differences in the performance of your ads. Use this information to reach conclusions about what does and does not work for you. Pause the non-performing ads and create entirely new ads to take their place. I call this the “ad text war” phase, where winning ads fight new challengers for supremacy. Do this several times, and you’ll begin to see the same ads repeatedly winning. After several “wars” where the same ads win again and again, you can stop testing. You have found your winners!

2.  Victory Is Not Determined By Clickthrough Rate Alone

Many search marketers think the definition of a good ad is one with a high clickthrough rate (CTR). After all, the AdWords model rewards marketers with high CTR by reducing the cost per click (CPC) of their keywords. However, unless your goal is to enrich Google, this is not the way to choose a winning ad. To illustrate this, consider these two ads for a $500 exercise bike:

Ad Copy #1 Ad Copy #2

Free Money Here
We will give you free money, just
for clicking on this ad. Free!

Exercise Bike Sale
Save 35% on All Exercise Bikes
In Stock. Free Shipping Over $200!
CTR: 45%; Conversion Rate: 0% CTR: 3%; Conversion Rate: 4%

This may be a silly example, but it shows that if all you care about is CTR, you may neglect the most important metric — conversion rate. I recommend optimizing ad text on both axes — CTR and conversion rate. This may increase the amount you need to bid, but it is worth it if you can improve your conversion rate.

3.  Ad Copy Must Not Exist In A Vacuum

Great ad copy in one ad group may be horrible ad copy in another. The most powerful copy in the world is pointless if you don’t send visitors to a landing page that speaks to both the keyword and the ad copy. For this reason, integrate all of your copy creation and testing into your overall paid search and online marketing strategy. Imagine your exercise bike ad group consists of the following keywords:

Exercise bike
Get in shape
Stamina X7000 Spinning Bike
Exercise Bike with Free Shipping

What possible ad copy can you create to be optimally effective for all these keywords, given the AdWords limit of 95 characters spread over three lines? It is impossible to construct an ad mentioning a specific brand, free shipping, and your overall bike selection in such a short space. To make matters worse, you may end up sending visitors to landing pages not meeting their expectations. If your ad mentions free shipping, but sends someone to a page of bikes not qualifying for free shipping, you may make searchers suspicious about your business — not a good way to close a sale online.

The answer to this quandary is to create neatly targeted sets of similar keywords in their own ad groups, with their own ad text, leading to their own landing pages. Once you’ve done that, you can create highly specific ad text certain to increase both CTR and conversion rate.

4.  Make The Most Of Bold And Geotargeting

Search engines love relevancy. Therefore, when your ad text contains words in the user’s search query, search engines reward you by bolding these words in the results. Not surprisingly, bold words are more attractive to users, resulting in more clicks. As well, relevant words usually also drive more conversions once the user clicks through. The following tactics will get you the most bolding possible:

  • Create targeted ad groups — For example, with an ad group that only contains “Stamina X7000 Spinning Bike,” you can create ad copy with virtually guaranteed bolding.

Stamina X7000 Spinning Bike
Get the Popular Stamina X7000
Florida’s Favorite Spinning Bike!
www.ExerciseBikeMan.com/StaminaX7000
Miami – Ft. Lauderdale – Palm Beach

  • Add keywords to the display URL — Use any words in your display URL and still meet Google’s standard (that you must send users to an actual page on your site) by setting up a custom 404 error page returning users taken to a URL consisting of your domain and any subdirectory page directly back to the homepage. In the example above, I added the product name to the display URL — even though the page doesn’t actually exist — so the keyword will be bolded.
  • Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) — With DKI, if a user searches for one of your keyword phrases, it automatically appears in bold in the title or description of your ad (assuming it meets space constraints). For example, if I bought the keyword “Stamina X7000” and created the headline “{KeyWord:Stamina X7000} Sale,” when a user searches for “Stamina X7000,” they will see my headline as “Stamina X7000 Sale!”

A word of caution — many advertisers use DKI to create ads, particularly in the title. Consequently, a page of search results often has every advertiser displaying the exact same title. The advantage of relevancy is therefore destroyed by the redundancy of ad copy. The solution? Remove the DKI and create a unique title that stands out from the competition.

Geotargeting is an additional advantageous tactic. In this case, I’ve geotargeted my campaign to the Miami area only, which gives me an extra line of text below the URL.

5.  Always Have A Strong Call To Action

ATTENTION: Subtlety never works in search marketing! Did I get your attention?

Aggressive ad copy almost always outperforms clever or subdued copy. The most important element of “ad copy aggression” is a clear call to action at the end of your copy, telling the user what you want them to do. Common examples in paid search are “Order Now!,” “Get Your Free Info Kit!,” or “Download Your Free Whitepaper Today!” You don’t always have to use an exclamation point, but you do need a message that screams “click me and buy something!” to your audience.

To illustrate the striking difference between ad copy with and without a call to action, consider these two virtually identical ads:

Without Call To Action
With Call To Action
Stamina X7000 Exercise Bike
Free Shipping on All Stamina
X7000 Exercise Bikes Now In Stock
Stamina X7000 Exercise Bike
Free Shipping on All Stamina
X7000 Exercise Bikes – Order Now!

While the first ad has a good promotion (free shipping), the second ad combines this promotion with a clear directive to the searcher. With this, the second ad will win every time.

6.  Use Basic Human Emotions

An old theater adage states there are only eight storylines in the world, and all movies are a derivation of one of these stories. The same can be said for ad text — once you know the four basic emotions, every ad you see ends up coming back to one of them. The four emotions are fear, greed, vanity, and exclusivity. Here’s how you could use these emotions to market the exercise bike.

Fear
Greed
Embarrassed, Out of Shape?
Get A New Exercise Bike
& Get In Shape. Order Now!
Save 80% Off Retail Price
Our Warehouse Is Too Full!
Exercise Bikes, 80% Off. Buy Now.
Vanity
Exclusivity
Look Like A Supermodel
Exercise Bikes –The Fast & Fun
Way to Look Amazing. Order Now!
World’s Best Exercise Bike
Rated #1 By All Magazines, Get
The X7000 Today!

Conclusion

Ad copy testing can be a lot of work, but it can turn an otherwise banal keyword into a superstar performer. Companies making a commitment to continual testing and optimization of their ad copy will gradually scratch out a significant advantage over their competition. It may take an investment of time, but it does result in huge dividends. Of course, it only makes sense to end this article with a call to action, so … What are you waiting for? Get the results you’ve always wanted. Start now!

About the Author

David Rodnitzky is CEO of PPC Associates, a leading SEM agency based in Silicon Valley. PPC Associates provides search, social, and display advertising management to growing, savvy companies. To learn more, visit ppcassociates.com, or contact David at [email protected]

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