Ad Copy: The Forgotten Ingredient of PPC Success

By , Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing

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I find it amazing as pay per click professionals we spend so much time talking about account structure, keywords, and bidding, yet ad copy is treated as an afterthought. After all doesn’t Google Adwords and Bing Ads contain the word ‘Ad’ in their product title? In the end, the only thing a potential prospect or buyer sees is the ad. If your ads are lacking a compelling message, either no one will click, or the dreaded ‘tire kickers’ will click your ads but not take action. If the ‘clickers’ don’t convert to leads or sales, you’re just making a big fat donation to the search engines. Neither of these scenarios will help reach yours or your client’s business goals.

On the contrary, creating a strong headline, benefit statement, and a compelling call to action dramatically increases the chances of converting. Below are the principles I follow when writing ad copy.

 Principal #1: Get Emotional

Ad writing is part science, part creativity. People are swayed by facts but react emotionally. Whether we’re buying a TV or filling out a web form, we’ll use the facts as a way to convince ourselves to not take action. However, emotion based ad copy gets people to react on a more primitive, gut level. Every human being reacts to some combination of these emotions: fear, greed, vanity, and exclusivity.

For a more in depth understanding of how to get people to respond to your ads on this level, I suggest reading ‘scientific advertising’ by Claude Hopkins. In this free .pdf, Claude Hopkins outlines the science of direct response advertising. The principle Hopkins laid out 100 years ago still apply today and will apply tomorrow. The only difference is we’re shrinking down the message from a multi page sales letter into an ad that has a 25-character headline and a 70-character body. However, human emotions have been with us since the beginning of time, so if you can tap into them in your ad copy, the probability of converting prospects into leads or buyers increases exponentially.

 

Principle #2: Headlines Matter

Let’ face it, most people skim headlines instead of reading ads all the way through.  Creating a strong headline is paramount to a successful ad. I am currently running an ad test in one of my accounts that has the same exact benefit and call to action combination. The only difference is the headline Ad a is an emotionally driven headline and the other one contains a generic dki headline. The results are astonishing. The test ad, which has the more emotional, action driven headline has 50% less CTR but a 50% increase in conversion rate. This result of this test tells me that headlines matter. People are reading and reacting to them. If your going to get one part of your ad right, make sure it’s the headline. Web users have a very short attention span so make your headline count. A great headline can be the difference between a winning and losing ad.

 

Principle #3: Make Life Better

Does your benefit statement answer the following question: Am I explaining how my product or service makes life better for someone? If the answer is yes, you have a powerful benefit statement. If not, try again and come up with one that answers the question. There are numerous ways to phrase a benefit statement. For example, creating fear that not using your product or service will make life harder, or your prospect will be happier because they’re using your product or service. Either example taps into basic human emotions.

 

Principle #4 Tell Them What To Do

Ever heard the saying ‘ask for the sale’? It’s important that people know what to do once they click an ad and arrive on the landing page. I’ve learned from experience that a vague or no call to action leads to lower click thru and conversion rates. Make sure to tell your prospects exactly what they should do!

 

I have found success applying these basic direct response principles. I hope you will have success with them too!

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  • Keith K

    I really enjoyed the article. I also believe that you have to explain to a user a benefit for the product or service you are offering in the ad copy and the actual landing page. I also had two questions for the author or any SEM professional reading this article.

    1. What kind of experience has anyone had with including a promo code in the ad copy?

    2. Has anyone had any good or bad experience with asking a question in the ad copy? Example – “Looking For A Affordable Pool?”

    • http://www.thedigitalcookie.com The Digital Cookie

      Keith,

      Regarding promo codes in ad copy I’d say shy away from it unless you can automatically populate the promo code in your checkout when they click through. Most likely people will not remember the promo code that was in the ad so then they’ll have to rerun a search to see if they can get the code to pop again. Instead I’d put whatever offer the promo code activated in your ad copy and just send them to a page that provides that offer without any sort of codes.

      As for questions in the ads – I’ve done it before. Sometimes they do better sometimes they don’t. Definitely worth testing though! Take your current “top ad” and run it in even rotation with your question copy and see which one is getting the higher CTR after a couple days/weeks. A good SEM manager should be testing new ad copy almost all the time.