Effective PPC Ad Copy 101, Part 1

One of the most important factors of a successful PPC campaign is writing successful ad copy. You can spend a good deal of time on other aspects of your campaign but skimp on the ad copy and you might not get the results you’re looking for. This two-part article will review several tips for crafting high performing ad copy and methods for testing its effectiveness.

Ads, Searcher Behavior, Quality Score

First, you need to understand how ads fit in the process of the searcher behavior funnel. A searcher expects to see a site (in the natural results) or an ad that is relevant to their search query. The more relevant the ad is, the better.

Once they click on your ad, you need to take them to a relevant landing page that contains rich content, including the searchers query and elements of the ad copy — especially any promises you made.

This sets the proper expectation for the searcher, and is more likely to result in an action, which translates to a higher CTR and higher conversions. These factors, along with relevant ad copy and relevant landing pages, will increase your quality score. The benefits of a higher quality score are better keyword ranking and lower CPC.

The challenge is to create ad groups with less keywords that are centered around a strong theme. This will help you write ads relevant to your keywords.

Many people create only one or two ad groups and put hundreds or thousands of keywords in them. This scenario makes it difficult to write effective ad copy that will represent all of those keywords. This will force you to write generic ad copy that won’t stand out, and will get lost among competing ads.

Tips for Headlines

This is where you can have the most impact. With a limited amount of space for your ads, you need to make each character count. You only have 25 characters for your headline and 35 characters for each of two lines of description.

  • Using Keywords in your Headlines: Manually placing your keywords into the headline is a good way to create relevance from the original search query. People are more likely to click on a headline that reflects more closely what they were searching for. So if a searcher typed in “Carbonville Mountain Bike” as a search query, then the headline for the ad would be “Carbonville Mountain Bike.” This is an easier task to set up if you have an ad group containing a smaller set of keywords and that are very similar to your headline.

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  • Dynamic Keyword Insertion (Warning: Advanced Topic): DKI is an advanced method that allows you to dynamically insert a keyword from your ad group into your ad copy, if triggered from a search query. To learn more about DKI, visit Google’s help page. You need to be very careful when using this method because it can get you into trouble if done incorrectly.
  • Ask the Question: Another way to set up your headline is to simply ask a question that gets the searcher thinking. You might be surprised if you ask a compelling question and then follow up in your description with some compelling answers. This can also help make your headline stick out especially if your competition is employing the keyword insertion method.

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The keyword insertion method will also work for your descriptions. You have a little more room here, with two lines with 35 characters each.

Notice the ads above where the word “Mountain Bikes” is bolded in the description? This is to draw the searchers attention to those keywords.

Now, if the headline is used to capture the attention of the searcher, the description’s job is to provide enough detail to turn your searcher into a visitor.

Put yourself in the shoes of the searcher and try to discern their intent. If you typed in one of the keywords in your ad group, what information might get you to click on the ad to learn more? Here are some ideas:

  • Call to action: Promotions and sales capture people’s attention. If you have a giveaway or a product that’s on sale, put that in your ad. If you use this method, be sure that you send them to a page that actually has the promotion or the sale (more on this topic in part two).
  • Qualifications and Guarantees: Another way to help your searchers feel a little more comfortable about clicking on your ad is to state any qualifications or guarantees you have. Are you a certified professional? Are you an award winner? Do you offer a money back guarantee? Answering these questions might be enough to get a click.
  • Qualify your Traffic: You’ll be wasting your money if you drive the wrong traffic to your site. If you’re a high end mountain bike dealer that caters only to the wealthy, then you don’t need words like “cheap” or “bargain” in your ads. Write your ads to help set the right expectation. Also, using negative keywords in your campaign will help with this.

Remember, your ultimate goal is to get searchers to your site for a conversion. Your job isn’t over after you have them on your site. You need to deliver on what you promised in your ads.

Part 2 will touch on this in more detail, review methods for measuring your top-performing ads, and outline what you can do to then tweak an ad to make it better. Feel free to share any case studies you have in the comments below.

Submissions are now open for the 2009 Search Engine Watch Awards. Enter your company or campaign before July 17, 2009. Winners will be announced at SES San Jose.

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