The Art Of Paid Search Promotional Copy

By Carrie Albright | @Albright_C | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

Most businesses have a love/hate relationship with promotions. Often a promotion implies that you as the seller are offering some good or service at a more convenient rate for the buyer, even if it causes you a dip in profit. Whether it’s a discount on the cost of your product, perhaps a free trial, or simply a package deal on your usual offer, promos mean 2 things:


  1. Someone is saving –> Customer/client
  2. Someone wants to sell more of their services/products –> You the advertiser


Although promotions don’t always mean more volume of products being moved – think End of Season sale in which there is a smaller variety of products – it does imply an assumed boost in interest. It is also generally expected that a promotion reduces the barrier to conversion a consumer might otherwise face.


Knowing you are on the cusp of an influx of traffic, what are the recommended practices for ensuring the best engagement, you ask? Perfectly timed! I was just writing a blog post about this!


The three areas to focus on when planning your promotions* are as follows:


1) Campaign structure: Promo campaign or simply promo ads
2) Ad testing: Yes, even in promos, Always Be Copy testing
3) Getting creative with creative: Do more than shouting out your discounts. Use Google’s fun text ad features to grab consumers’ attention.
*Henceforth, let us assume that promotion can refer to a coupon, a discount, or any other reduced “cost” to the consumer.


Campaign Structure


The decision of how to structure a promotional ad set very much hinges on how much you rely on promotions. Those who run promotions unrelated to any specific content may benefit from creating an entirely new “promotional” campaign, in which the targeting (be it Search or Display) is more general and the copy solely revolves around the promotion itself.


Example 1: My business offers travel tours to 40 different destinations. I typically target travel terms + destination keywords in my campaigns. We’re about to launch a new tour to an entirely different destination but want to really drive interest and bookings for this trip. These campaigns would be created solely for promotional periods. Once the promo wraps, we pause the campaigns.


Another approach is to simply fold your promotional ad copy into your existing campaigns. Consider it just a new round of ads to be rotated through, only to be paused once the promotion has concluded. The content within these campaigns should already be focusing on exactly that audience who would be interested in the promotional offer.


Example 2: My other business sells fitness accessories. I have campaigns entirely devoted to earbuds. When we launch a promotion strictly offering Buy 1 Get 1 Half Off for these headphones, we needn’t reinvent the wheel by creating an entirely new campaign. Instead, we just show those users who’ve already expressed interest in earbuds our promotional copy while it lasts.


*If you’re thinking to yourself “This sounds like a lot of work, how will I manage all these ads going on and off?” please refer to the eloquent ramblings of Secret Jake Fairclough who reviews the automated rules and scripts associated with running promotional ads.


Ad Copy


If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – You should always be testing your ad copy. Promotions are no different. Yes, you want to resonate with your users in the clearest and most concise way. But no, you don’t have to abandon the opportunity to find out what exactly works best.


Examples of ad tests could fill an entire set of encyclopedias, but initial ad tests commonly revolve around the following:


  • Using dates of promotion
  • Promo details in the headline vs. description lines
  • Providing promo code in ad copy
  • Calling out specific cost savings
  • Trust-building language like “No Risk” or “Guaranteed” (Don’t screw this up)

As an agency, we have the luxury of seeing miles of data run past us each day and promos are no different.


Example Client 1: One client is an online and brick & mortar retailer. They offer promotions each and every week. Some are general discounts, others require coupon codes, and still others revolve around only specific products. Over the years we’ve run many ad copy tests as these promotional ads came and went.


Test results:




This was a simple test of where we switched the placement of our description lines. These ads are reflective of the all-device ads, as we keep mobile in its own corner. What we found was that not only did we have a slightly higher ad engagement when we put the sale end date before the savings amount, but we also had a fantastic conversion rate. Whether this spoke to the urgency of the sale or attracting initial attention for something less discount-heavy, we certainly used this takeaway in tests that followed.


Example Client 2: Another client has less frequent sales, such that we turn to promotion-only campaigns. The copy in these campaigns includes the same general details, but with twists on the USPs we commonly include.


Test results:




Although we assumed that reminding users of their cost savings would improve engagement, the ads that had a balance of our benefits as well as the pricing actually had higher CTR. Interestingly as well, the conversion rate was more efficient for those who came through ad copy that focused on pricing and general calls to action. Yet again, the best performance overall came from ads that included a heavy emphasis on our USPs while mentioning the price. From these ads, we are informed on what to include for future promotional ads.


Fancy Ad-Writing


Now that you’ve begun planning just how you’ll approach your sale or promotion, but before you’ve run off to start creating your copy, allow me to leave you with a few fun tools.


Google has outdone itself in the past year when it comes to ad features. The creation of ad customizers has allowed us to add the finest of details to our ads at the touch of a button. Matt Umbro has written extensively on the topic, as it can be a source of convenience and competitive edge in your PPC approach. What’s required of you is a business data feed that includes the following details, and ad copy that is built around these parameters.


For promotions, some of your best opportunities revolve around:


  • Countdown until the sale begins or concludes, or simply the promotion date range
  • Adapting the $$ savings ($5, $10, $15, etc) per ad group based on the products within them
  • Referencing the number of products impacted by the promotion, such as “Save on over 27 styles of earbuds for runners”
  • Including details of the promotion and the discounted products specs


We have also seen great advances with the use of extended text ads. Although there is a wee bit of uncertainty in the control of these ads and the % of time for which they are served, your best bet is to create 1 traditional promotional ad and then 1 expanded text ad with promotional language. Doing so will take advantage of the new formats but without failing to account for those auctions in which the traditional ads will show


*Pro Tip: For those who are able, sending your promotional ads to a page with a unique URL such as provides a perfect opportunity to target (or potentially exclude) those users who come through promotion-heavy content. An added layer is to create a custom combination of those who have only entered through these pages, implying that their interest pivots on the option of a discount.


Go Forth And Prosper


Although promotions don’t guarantee greater revenue to advertisers, they serve to engage target audiences and reduce barriers to conversion. How you approach and manage your sales can be a big indicator of how successful they will ultimately be.