Top 20 Ad Copy Tests for Improved PPC Performance

By , Senior Digital Advisor at Hanapin Marketing


The team at PPC Hero has received quite a few requests for more posts on how to improve performance on ad copy and what kind of blog hosts would we be if we didn’t listen? Question: rhetorical. Answering anyway: we’d be the worst kind!

Initially I thought this list could be rather 101-level and not very interesting or useful, but then I thought to myself, “Self, have you implemented the entire list? Nope…get to writing!” The following list of ad copy changes you can try, test and implement is in no particular order, but every one is viable and beneficial to the right market or vertical. So here they are…twenty ways you can improve your PPC ad copy!

Resting on your laurels

  1. Counter the competition – Search for your top keywords in the search engine and check out the competition’s ad copy. Are they focusing on price and yours is better? Get your price in there! What if their price is better? Talk about your customer service. No matter what, don’t lose sight of what the competition is up to or you could be missing out on sales or leads.
  2. Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) – It’s somewhat easier to fully write your ad copy and not have to worry about dynamic content. However, if you implement DKI correctly and have a stellar ad group structure, you’re getting a leg up by allowing your ad to make some decisions about what keyword to show to the searcher based on their query.
  3. Customer testimonials – Has a customer or client recently provided positive feedback for your service or product? If you can keep it short and sweet enough and your customer base will listen, use some character space for a customer testimonial to drive home how fantastic you are at what you do.
  4. Swap out call to action – Most ad copy has some version of a call to action included, but when was the last time you tested around just that element? Perhaps instead of telling your searchers to ‘Choose’ your brand, you can encourage them to ‘Learn More.’
  5. What makes your brand stand apart from the rest? – You more than likely have some benefit listed in your ad copy, but is it the one that tells consumers why you’re special?  If not, try finding out or testing the latter.
  6. Speaking of CTA’s and benefits… – Flip-flop them! Are you leading with the benefit and closing with your call to action? Switch the order and see if your customers react better one way or another.
  7. A little more about that benefit piece… – Match the benefit in your ad copy to what stage in the buying cycle your customer is in based on the keywords in your ad group and their query. If your keywords are geared around ‘planning,’ tell the searcher you have a checklist for their research. If your keywords are purchase-based (i.e. ‘buy tax software’), it might be time to start expressing price benefits to your brand.
  8. Keyword inclusion – Are you definitely using your ad group keywords in your ad copy? No seriously, go check. I can’t count the number of times I’ve audited a PPC account and found out they have no mention of a keyword from their ad group in the ad copy because someone got too focused on benefits, calls to action or branding.
  9. Avoid industry lingo – You could assume your customer base is familiar with abbreviations or industry phrases, but what if they aren’t? Maybe this is a bad example, but I use the word ‘totes’ instead of totally. Why? Mostly because it annoys those around me a bit, but it’s part of my lingo. However, if I put ‘totes’ in an ad copy about the Kayla brand (this example is getting out of hand), the searcher could think of large bins for storing things and completely miss the point of my copy. See what I mean?
  10. Use the punctuation you’re allowed – There are plenty of punctuation restrictions in the Google and Bing ad format guidelines, but you do get one exclamation point and can use registered/copyright marks…use them!
  11. Capitalize that copy! – It’s fairly commonplace these days, but if you aren’t capitalizing every word in your ad copy, your ad can look less prominent or important compared to those around it.
  12. Extend your display URLs – Google lets you modify your display URL with a “/” after the domain, where you have another opportunity to increase relevancy to your searcher that you have what they’re looking for. The extension could be a product or category that further explains what information the searcher will be sent to upon clicking. Like this:
  13. Match ad headline to landing page headline – More in the land of increasing relevancy! If your ad headline reads the same as or similarly to the main headline of your landing page, it could help the searcher feel like they’re in the right place and keep them from clicking away.
  14. Branded vs. non-branded headlines – Is your brand well known? If it isn’t, it may not be the best foot to lead with in your headline. Instead, focus on a keyword matching to searcher queries.
  15. Offer in the ad = offer on the landing page – This one could actually get your ad disapproved, so be careful. If you’re offering a percentage off or particular price within your ad copy, that offer needs to be present on the landing page, as well. Technically Google allows a click or two before you have to directly show the offer on the site, but better to be safe than sorry and not risk losing the sale!
  16. Explain offer urgency – Does your offer expire soon? Tell your customers that! This encourages a sale sooner rather than later.
  17. Get specific/avoid generalities – Even if you’re writing copy for a broader ad group, make a short list of what you have to offer. For example, rather than tell your customer you sell ‘clothes’ in your ad copy, tell them you sell adult and children’s clothes, even if the ad group is for general clothing searches.
  18. So you aren’t using sitelinks because…?Sitelink ad extensions can, again, increase searcher comfort that they’re heading to a site that has what they want. They can also show more options for things you offer and quite frankly, gets you more ad space in the search engine results.
  19. Actually, all the ad extensions now that I think about it Product, location, social…they are each individually useful and can improve performance on your ads by supplying more information to potential customers.
  20. You can’t test with one ad copy – Make sure you have at least two ad copies in each ad group active at all times, as this is crucial to testing and continually increasing performance as you see which message gets the most action.

Which of these ideas have you tried with great success? Not as exciting, but just as educational…what have you tried that failed? Share your ideas and experiences with us in the comments section below!

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12 thoughts on “Top 20 Ad Copy Tests for Improved PPC Performance

  1. Joseph Robison

    “…what kind of blog hosts would we be if we didn’t listen? Question: rhetorical. Answering anyway: we’d be the worst kind!”

    That’s the most hilarious intro to a PPC or SEO blog post I’ve seen in months. Great list too.

    I’ve definitely found that users respond best to numbers somewhere in the ads. They want hard numbers to compare against their other ad choices. As much as possible I’ll include a $ off amount or % off amount in the headline, once again in the body, and then sneak in another perk they get by clicking on the link. Haven’t tried dynamic keyword insertion yet but I will.

  2. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

    Hey Karsten! Thanks for the comment. I actually talked about extending the display URLs in #12 but didn’t run through the subdomain idea so GREAT point! Thanks again for your comment! 🙂

  3. Josiah Colt

    Great article:) I would also add to number 12. You can change the subdomain extension so it reads something like.. This can be like another mini CTA. Follow me @_kingjosiah_

    1. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

      Hey Josiah!

      Thanks for your comment! Karsten and I (two comments down) just discussed this the other day, actually and I did completely leave out the subdomain option when it comes to testing display URL optimization, so good call!

      Thanks again for the comment and for reading!

  4. Kayla KurtzKayla Kurtz

    Hey, Ben! Thanks for your question and additional tips! I agree with testing punctuation on line one, as it entices searchers to keep reading past the headline. And of course putting the date of offer expiration is a great idea, as well!

    As far as your display URL question, you actually can eliminate the www. portion. Check out the attached screenshot…Go Sox, even if the season is over 😉

    Thanks again for your ideas and keep coming back to share!

  5. doomangel

    usefull indeed, i have a tech blog and i am considering running some ads to get people to know it. Do you think i should do something like that?


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