April 23, 2009
In many cases you may be running a strong, mature PPC campaign, exceeding your goals and driving strong results. The causes of this – strong keyword lists, effective ad creative, efficient bidding strategy, and a website that delivers on the promises made – are obvious and hopefully familiar.
While your ad text in this situation may appear to be optimal, there are countless strategies that you can try to drive up click-through and conversion. None of them will alter the key root of your messaging – in fact, most will just change how they look to the searcher – but all have the ability to drive incremental improvements to your campaign.
With that in mind, a few easy tests to consider on your current, high-performing campaigns:
1. Consider adjusting your capitalization structure.
Maybe you are capitalizing just the first word of a sentence or declaration, or maybe you are capitalizing every word. Though the tactic seems to be working, you may be giving potential customers to someone else on your keyword list. Consider pausing your lower-performing ads and running your highest-performing ad in an ad group against an alternative version with the same text and a different capitalization structure. (Quick tip: Try Excel’s Proper() function to capitalize the first letter of every word in a given text cell.)
2. The dreaded exclamation point.
I’ve never liked them, personally, but an exclamation point is shorthand for “this is important(!).” Of course, because they can come across as shouting as the searcher, your ads are limited to just one of the little, loud-mouthed characters. Adjust the location of the exclamation point, perhaps moving it to the end of the first line, on a different call to action within the ad, or out of your ad altogether.
3. Use other alternative punctuation.
PPC is all about appearances. A user conducts a search and, while they may see a few images or video links, the bulk of their SERP is full of text. Because of this, their eye will be drawn to text that stands out, that looks different, that is, yes, eye-catching. With this in mind, consider using punctuation to change the way your ad looks. I have had success with using hyphens in the middle of a line of text (“space, dash, space”), and with changing serial commas to periods. (“Space. Dash. Space.”) Come up with your own ideas as well.
4. Add a root directory.
A root directory, the thing that comes after the .com in your URL, can be a fantastic way to increase ad relevancy, to add another bolded element to your ads, and to artificially lengthen your message. Yet, they often go underused within ad text. Though they can look clunky, they can also draw attention to your ad, and they are worth testing.
5. Try an ampersand.
Too often in PPC, the ampersand is a fallback option, a way to make use of all seventy characters in an effort to maximize your message. However, the ampersand can be more than a space-saver – it can serve to set apart your text from the others on your SERP. Go through your ads, and replace the full word “and” with the ampersand character, and track results.
When it comes down to it, PPC is a game in which you have to be slavishly devoted to your numbers. It is the one advertising realm where everything can truly be tracked and, because of that, you cannot fall victim to your preconceptions of what “works.” You have to let the searcher make this clear to you.
Also, remember that what works with one campaign may not work for all of your clients or businesses. A B2B searcher is different than someone looking for consumer goods, and a discount shopper is different than a premium buyer. There are no best practices.
Take some high-traffic, high-performing ad groups, and tweak your top performer. Make one of the small adjustments above, initiate an A/B test with the top performer, let it run for a week, and check out the results. What might look silly on-screen to you may have maximum appeal to your customers and, if that is the case, follow the numbers.