Getting Your Ads Right First Time! Case Study: $300 For An Ad?

By , Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing


When it comes to writing ads, even the best of us can be guilty of getting a little lazy. Considering how easy it is to swap ads in and out with AdWords Editor, it’s no wonder that we often just throw some ads up and think we’ll switch out the one that isn’t doing so well once we have some data.

However, what if you had an account where you had to pay for every new ad you wrote? What would you do differently? This exact issue occurred recently in one of my accounts. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will say that for legal reasons each set of ads had to be approved at a cost of $300 a time. This meant changing the angle of attack from our normal strategy of regularly testing multiple variables and switching them out as soon as we have enough data. We certainly had to be a little more purposeful about every test and be fairly confident everything we were doing had real value.

The good thing to come out of paying $300 for every ad approval is that it serves as a fairly strong incentive to write some darn good ads! The client wasn’t going to be happy if they thought I was wasting their money on decidedly average ad copy.  In order to write the best ads we can, we like to use a feature-benefit matrix to get all our ideas down in one easy place. Not only does this make writing ad copy quicker, but also makes it easier to compare all your potential ads in one go. Take a quick look at this blank matrix below:

Feature Benefit Matrix

Blank Feature-Benefit Matrix for ad testing

In the first column list the top 5 features of your product. Features are the factual statements about what makes your product good: 1000s of new models, free shipping, 30-day free trial etc. Once you’ve listed these try and think of 2-3 benefits for each – these are things that answer the customer’s question “why should I care?” As people with a sales background tell me: You don’t sell features, you sell benefits! Finally, add in some calls to action that you think will work on your particular audience. I’ve filled in one for the fictional wig retailer Jerry’s Wigs:

Filled in Feature-Benefit Matrix For Jerry's Wigs

If you need some help with your CTA column, PPC Hero Kayla Kurtz wrote a great post on writing compelling calls to action earlier this week.

Once you are happy with your list, go through and highlight the key messages you think will have the most impact. See if you can get the opinion of a few other people in your office too, especially if you are paying for each of these ads. Below I’ve highlighted what I consider to be the stronger features/benefits/CTAs for Jerry’s Wigs.

Highlighted Feature Benefit Ad matrix

I’ve highlighted what I consider to be the strongest messages

With this in place you have everything you need to write an ad that will touch on all the strongest selling points of your product. Here’s an example I’ve created based on the cells highlighted above. Obviously not everything will fit perfectly but the idea is to get as much as you can in your ad.

Example Ad For Jerry's Wigs

The great thing about using ad matrixes is that you can quickly email them back and forth with your client and get them to add rows/columns and to approve all the potential messaging you might want to go with.

So, back to the $300 question – how does this help me? Well, first it means you write the best possible ad first time round. It also gives you a great place to work from if that ad isn’t successful. You can begin eliminating some of the cells from your matrix each time you run a new ad. Eventually, you will have tested most of these features and benefits in just a small number of iterations, rather than over 50 slightly tweaked ads. Make sure to start with two ads that go with different combinations from your F/B matrix in order to get a feel early for which ones have the best overall cost per conversion.

As always, if any of you have come up with any other great ad writing tips, let me know in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Getting Your Ads Right First Time! Case Study: $300 For An Ad?

  1. Justin Sous

    Definitely an easy, logical way to go about it Sam. I assume that this client in particular was either part of a regulated industry, franchise, or had to pay a licensing fee of some sort (otherwise I’m stumped ha).

    I think your message here should actually be applied to all ad copywriting. Ads shouldn’t be written/posted unless you feel it’s a winning ad, or if you want to test some new “uncharted territory” with copy you haven’t used before. Putting some more thought behind the ads is probably something we should all be doing, regardless of the cost associated per ad. Also, at $300 per ad, going beyond the ad copy, it’s probably a good idea to try and determine how the ad would look in the top 3 positions when using punctuation in different spots. Using the same ad copy but changing around some punctuation can work wonders for an ad, as I’m sure you already know 🙂

    Thanks for the post, Sam

    1. Sam OwenSam Owen

      Thanks for reading! You’re right in your thinking too – we should apply best practices to all ad writing, not just when it costs $$$s. I thought the example from this client focussed the overall issue for me which is why I referenced them in the blog – however the post certainly still applies without mentioning them.

      Good point about fitting in punctuation to edit how your ads will look – I didn’t do it in this example because I felt the ad was stronger with the extra messaging in, but it is definitely something to consider.

      One thing I didn’t bring up was using benefit driven sitelinks too when your ability to create new ads is limited. if you can fit 4 benefits into your sitelinks you can really improve your CTRs and CRs.


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