5 Reasons Your PPC Ads Bite

By , President at Hanapin Marketing


A big mistake most PPC newbs and vets make is that they don’t take their ad copy seriously. It’s sometimes an afterthought after building out an account or at worst it’s a copy and paste job from one campaign/ad group to the next.

Taking the proper time to understand your market, craft compelling ads and conduct meaningful tests not only gives you a performance lift but also it is one of the more fun aspects of PPC.

Here are 5 reasons your current ad copy bites:


1. Your PPC Ads are Too Relevant

It’s pay per click marketing, not pay per click keyword stuffing. Stop worrying so much about Quality Score and “relevancy” and focus on writing emotionally compelling ad copy that speaks to your target market’s needs and wants.

To focus more on writing compelling content versus relevant copy think through the following questions:


  • What’s the absolute worst-case scenario if your target doesn’t solve the problem that your product or service solves?
  • What is the most unorthodox feature your product/service has that solves a significant problem for your target?
  • What’s the biggest mistake a person makes when choosing a company/product that offers what you do?


2. You’ve Written Ads for the Wrong Audience

Recently I saw an ad with the phrase “protect your stuff” win an ad test. The reason it is surprising is how informal the ad was compared to the control ad, which in my opinion was better written. But when I stepped back to consider that the target market it made a lot of sense. The primary purchaser of this product was under 25 and thus the informal “stuff” spoke more to them.

The take away is to focus on the language your audience wants/uses/likes and not the language you prefer.


3. All Your Competitors Look Like You

Every time I want to feel better about the quality of my ad copy I just search for “Car Insurance.” Sure enough, it’s always a mood lifter as the copy is so bland and generic that it makes my copy read like it was written by Don Draper. I did this today and there were 11 ads on the page. 9 of these ads mentioned price and the other 2 mentioned trust. Not a lot of variety. Not to mention these marketers are just eroding each other’s margins by focusing on price instead of finding meaningful ways to create value.

See the questions in point one of this post to understand how to frame yourself differently than your competition. Additionally, simply search for your largest volume queries and write ads that are drastically different than what everyone else is saying.


4. You Test Ad Copy Just to Test Ad Copy

When I ask interviewees what their ad testing strategy and most often hear, “I am always A/B testing ad copy. Once an ad wins then I test a new headline or description line 1 or 2.” This makes me think that this person doesn’t have a strategy but rather views ad testing as a compulsory item on a to do list that needs to get checked off.

Ad testing should be approached with the mindset of a.) you are trying to learn something about your product, your consumer or your account and b.) you understand why you are going to test what you are. We do this with an ad testing matrix that focuses on features and benefits and then systemically, over several weeks, determines the best copy and thus the most compelling benefits of the clients product or services.


5. Poor Ad Group Structure

This is the most obvious but one of the most common reasons your copy sucks. Our team recently worked on an account with 1,800 keywords in one ad group that ranged from pet types to sporting goods. And this wasn’t some small mom and pop operation. It was actually one of the largest PPC marketers in the world.

We have found that ad groups with 5 or fewer keywords are the most successful. It’s a lot of work, a lot of boring work, to break out all your ad groups to that level but the results are typically well worth it.

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11 thoughts on “5 Reasons Your PPC Ads Bite

  1. Justin Sous

    First off, awesome picture.

    I agree with 4 out of the 5, and I think I’ve expressed my feelings about #4 to you before. I still believe you should always be testing ad copy even if a winning ad has been declared. I’m not saying to write an entirely different ad, but maybe something as small as changing the keyword at the end of the URL. If you have a winning ad with a high CTR, I agree that it’s not a great idea to start crafting totally different description lines and headlines. After all, if the ad is working well then why change it? However, I’ve seen different results with such small changes to ads where I’ve decided it’s always (such a definitive word right?) worth testing SOMETHING, whether big or small. Either way I know I’ll always learn something. Nice post as usual Jeff!

    1. Jeff AllenJeffreyAllen

      Thanks, Justin! For #4, I do think you should always be testing, I just think you should have a strategy and a reason why. I don’t believe we should test for the sake of testing but rather should test for the sake of learning something specific.

  2. Andy Kuiper - SEO Analyst

    These two statements are GOLD:
    “Stop worrying so much about Quality Score and “relevancy” and focus on writing emotionally compelling ad copy that speaks to your target market’s needs and wants.”

    “…break out all your ad groups”

    thanks Jeff 🙂

    1. Justin Sous

      It makes you think that “relevancy” should just be another way of looking at CTR. If CTR is high, then isn’t the customer finding your ad “relevant” to the query? I know “relevance” in terms of how it relates to QS isn’t really as simple as that, but still…

  3. Sharon Hogue

    Great article. just a comment from working in the insurance world….In terms of differentiating copy from your competitors,
    it’s harder than it looks to get too far off the beaten path as the
    CPC’s are just so high. All advertisers have literally the same goal- get the
    consumer to quote- so especially on the key terms like ‘car insurance’,
    the industry (and google) have sort of set those standards.

    1. Jeff AllenJeffreyAllen

      Thanks for the response. I get it, I’ve done PPC for insurance and know how crazy expensive it is. Also, you run in to a lot of regulatory issues. Just an easy target for me I guess!

  4. krammer p

    Its also where you put the ads. In general I have found Facebook ads to be really terrible. The cpcs are way to high and the conversions are awful. I don’t know how anyone gets it to work there. I think distribution is the key element of marketing. Instead of Facebook, try Outbrain, Google or Adblade. All three have serious scale and great conversions.

    1. Jeff AllenJeffreyAllen

      My example was for Search. I honestly haven’t found the right balance for Display although it does tend to be a little higher.


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