Killer PPC Ads: The Final Word

Last week’s column, “Killer PPC Ads: The Fundamentals,” sparked quite a lot of reader feedback. Most of it was complimentary — it’s clear that you all understand the importance of effective ads.

However, one reader took issue with my contention that an ad’s main objective is to “get the click.” In retrospect, the language I used could be interpreted to mean that the main focus of the entire PPC campaign is to drive clicks and visitors to the site.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The objective of the entire PPC campaign is to convince the site visitor to take action once they arrive on the site.

My point was perhaps stated in misleading absolute terms. I said: “Your ad’s objective is this, and only this: Get the click.”

I should have said: it’s unlikely a potential site visitor will be convinced to take the converting action based solely on the wording of the PPC ad. It’s the job of the keyword set, ad, and landing page — all working together in tight coordination — to persuade the site visitor to take action. I’ll describe this relationship in detail in future installments that will teach best practices in landing page design and conversion optimization.

Another reader made an excellent point: an example ad’s “correctness” or likelihood to get the click is best judged when it’s presented along with examples of the ad group’s keyword list. Here’s an ad I featured in the previous installment of this column:

Refinance Your Mortgage
Apply now – lower rates and a
fatter wallet every month!

That ad will be more effective if the keyword list includes terms like:

  • refinance mortgage
  • mortgage refinancing
  • low mortgage rates

The ad will be much less effective if the keyword list includes terms that are less-tightly related to the ad copy:

  • home loans
  • loan from bank
  • rates on house loans

Every article I’ve read regarding ad testing has shown the ads being compared, and their associated CTRs and conversion rates, but they neglected to include example keywords. An ad’s effectiveness is so tightly related to the keywords used to trigger the ad that it’s impossible to judge the relative effectiveness of two different ads without taking into consideration the ad group’s keyword set.

So in this installment and future ones that deal with ad effectiveness, I’ll list keywords from the ideal ad group.

Let’s recap the best practices for ad copywriting:

1. Ad Group Keywords

The ad group’s root keywords should appear at least once in the ad, preferably in the headline. This helps ensure the person viewing the ad makes draws the all-important conclusion, “This ad exactly matches the intent of my search.” Also, keywords included in ads appear in boldface, so they’re more eye-catching.

One additional tip: many advertisers don’t realize that keywords (and other persuasive words) can be included in the display URL, which isn’t required to reference an actual page or directory on the site. For example, both of these are legal ads:

Get Government Grants
See if You Can Get up to $15,000.
Take Our 5-Minute Test!

Get Government Grants
See if You Can Get up to $15,000.
Take Our 5-Minute Test!

2. Talk to the Reader

Whenever possible, speak directly to the reader by using words like “you” and “your.”

3. Tell the Reader What You Want Them to do

Use imperative verbs like:

  • Get
  • Shop
  • See
  • Find
  • Buy

4. Make it Clear You’re Selling

If your site sells something, make it clear that the ad leads to an eCommerce site — by including price information, for example. This helps ensure you don’t waste money on clicks from people who are only looking for information or examples. A site that sells photos of sports figures, for example, can minimize the number of expensive clicks from people who just want to see or print such photos by including a phrase like “Prices low as $59!”

5. Capitalize Every Word

Often an ad with words in title case (where the first letter of each word is capitalized) performs better than a version of the same ad with lower-case letters. Here’s an example using the ad above:

Refinance Your Mortgage
Apply Now – Lower Rates and a
Fatter Wallet Every Month!

Notice that the individual words in the display URL are capitalized, too. Doing so often boosts CTRs.

6. Use Appropriate Punctuation to Emphasize Action

Exclamation points can significantly increase CTRs. And don’t omit punctuation marks, because your ads might appear incorrectly under some circumstances. For example, this ad appears OK when it appears on the side of a search results page:

Get Government Grants
See if you can get up to $15,000
Take our 5-minute test!

However, the lack of punctuation at the end of the first line will make the ad look odd when it appears at the top of the results page:

Get Government Grants
See if you can get up to $15,000 Take our 5-minute test!

It may seem like a minor problem, but I’ll bet you a bagel that the properly-punctuated version of the ad gets a higher CTR.

Next week, I’ll detail best practices for testing and optimizing ad copy. As always, send me your comments and questions!

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