Content Advertising Explained – Part 3

Last week, we looked at several tactics for writing great content ads. Remember, content ads need to work harder than search ads to distract the reader’s attention from the “main attraction,” the Web site content that attracted them in the first place.

Furthermore, people reading content ads aren’t actively seeking information about your products or services, so they’re much closer to the beginning of the sales cycle than they are to making an imminent buying decision — or taking other decisive action.

Let’s start by comparing bad and good search ads; and then looking at an example of a good content ad.

Bad Ads vs. Good Ads

Here’s an example of a bad search ad:

Outdoor Furniture
Tables, chairs, lounges.
Wood and plastic.

This search ad is typical of many you’ll see in the search listings. Simple lists of what’s being sold. No competitive advantages. No benefits. No calls to action. No clicks.

Here’s a better search ad:

Outdoor Furniture
Durable Patio Beauty. See
Low Prices on Top Brands!

This search ad employs some of the search ad best practices. Capital letters in the body copy and the display URL; benefits (the word “durable”); a call to action; and an extra word in the display URL that corresponds to the search term.

Now let’s look at an even better content ad:

Dazzle the Neighbors
But Don’t Tell Them about Our Low
Deck Furniture Prices. Buy Now!

This content ad demonstrates some of the stand-out best practices I described last week — like an eye-catching headline that appeals to base emotions.

Best Ad Copywriting Practices Revisited

Remember, in content advertising, your ads can and should:

Scream. Remember, you’re competing with Web page content. Your ads need to leap loudly off the screen. Grab attention with emotionally-charged words like this:

Pure Chocolate Lust
Disgustingly rich chocolates.
Mouthfuls of decadence!

Bribe. Since the ad reader is at the beginning of, or before, the sales cycle, it’s often a good idea to offer them something for free — a sample, a no-obligation trial — to get them to your site and taking an action. Here’s an example:

Free CRM Software
Keep Customers Happier.
Download Free Trial Today!

Stand Apart. Since your ads need to distinguish themselves from the page content and from the other ads on the page, it often helps to catch the eye and dare to compare yourself to your competitors — like this:

The Only Real Citrate
See the 10 Reasons Our
Citrates Rate Higher!

Get Imperative. Imperative words and phrases like “Stop!” and “Look!” make site visitors, well, stop and look. They attract the eye the way the shouted words would attract the ear:

Don’t Take Vacation
Wait! Avoid a Bad Trip.
Buy Travel Insurance.

Be Malthusian. Appealing to reader’s basic emotions is a tactic that’s been used in print, television, and radio ads for years — because doing so evokes strong images that attract attention, even amidst distractions. For example, we’ve had a lot of success with scare tactics like this:

Is Your Dog Dying?
You’ll never know unless
you ask these 5 vet questions.


Now that you see how much latitude advertisers have with content ad copy, here’s one more piece of advice: just as in search, smart advertisers continually test their ad copy. The easiest way to do this is to run A/B split testing — two ads served in rotation (being sure to switch campaign settings from “optimize” to “rotate” to make sure they run in true rotation).

Since content lacks the tight restraints of search ads — for example, it doesn’t matter if keywords aren’t included in ad text (see why next week) — advertisers can, and should, test significantly different ad versions. At the beginning of a content campaign it makes even more sense to test many ad variations and closely monitor results.

Another reason to test ads: there may be an “ad fatigue” effect that takes place over time — CTRs (define) may drop as frequent site visitors become less reactive because they’re seeing the same ad repeated. One possible solution might be to switch periodically between two top-performing ads.

Next week: how the content site-matching algorithms work and how to control them by optimizing content ad groups. The facts are surprisingly different than many advertisers believe – and will dramatically improve the results you get from your content campaigns.

Join us for SES Chicago from December 3-6 and training classes on December 7.

Related reading

google ads conversion rates by industry