August 17, 2010
PPC ads are like a first impression for your company or product. How you do want to come across – cheap, smart, desperate? A potential customer sees your ads first and if they are interested beyond the “hand-shake”, will click to find out more. Going along with this analogy, your landing page could then be called the first date – the customer has expressed some interest but wants to get to know you a little better before they commit to anything more. Help yourself get the first date by taking a look at your ads; you might be coming across the wrong way.
Start by doing an audit of your ads. If you have been running your campaign for more than a year, you are probably more than due for a little makeover. By audit, I don’t just mean writing a few new ads and pausing any that are underperforming. I mean a deep dive – look at not only your ads but also those from competitors and other companies in your industry. If you typed in a few of your high traffic keywords, do you have a good idea of the types of messages that would show up along side your ad? If not, it is time to take a step back and look at the big picture.
One of my clients has several divisions of products and PPC campaigns for each. The divisions are all interrelated but each unique in one way or another. I recently went through an exercise where I compared the ads from each of the divisions to look for similarities and differences to find new opportunities. It was interesting when comparing the stats that the division with the highest click through rate had approached their ads completely differently than all the others. In one case all the divisions had used a question in the headline, except one. That division had double the click through rate of the others, resulting in a better quality score and lower cost per click. When you look at things in a silo (by one campaign, ad group or even client) you can see that one ad is out performing the others but if they all have similar headlines (or use a similar “formula” for instance questions in the headlines) you don’t really know how much better it could be doing. It was an interesting exercise to go through which led me to realize it was time for an audit and makeover to see if I could do better.
After you conduct your audit of what others are doing, compare that to what is in your account. Identify some new areas to try – if all of your headlines are statements, then try a few questions. Do you regularly have sales but don’t have the offer in your ads? Test it out! Before you start writing, think about why someone would choose your brand over another. This shouldn’t be why you want them to buy your product, but think about it from the consumer’s perspective – why should they care? Ads should be benefit driven. Things like product quality, customer service, prices, selection, etc. can be a better sell to a consumer. Think about benefits that you can offer than no one else can, and work that into your ad.
So you know what others are up to, how alike or different your ads are and you have a list of benefits you can use in your ads. NOW you are ready to write! Here are some general tips to help you get started with your new approach.
1. If possible, highlight more than one benefit but don’t over do it. An ad that says “Great products! Best Selection! Free Shipping!” has plenty of benefits but it feels like an ad is a little over the top. There isn’t enough substance to go around it – try to strike a balance and get the consumer interested.
2. When writing a headline, think about it as a billboard. We all see thousands of ads a day – online, driving to work and watching TV. You know what has grabbed your attention, think about why that is and apply the logic to your text ads. Explain why you are better than the competition but keep it short, sweet and to the point. You get less than a second to make your first impression.
3. Include a call-to-action. Tell the user what exactly you want them to do. Is it download a free guide, learn more, see a specific product, etc. The user should understand from your ad what they are going to find on the landing page.
4. Make sure your landing page pays off the ad. If you talk about a specific product, in the ad, that product should be featured on the landing page. Use landing page best practices to help improve your landing pages and increase conversions.
5. Follow the rules so your ad is approved right away. Keep in mind character counts as well as basic rules like you can only use one exclamation point per ad. Stay away from things like “most”, “best”, or “biggest” as these claims aren’t allowed. After you load your ads, go back a short while later and check for disapproved ads just to be sure your ad groups are running.
6. Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) can work if used correctly. While DKI doesn’t always work, if done correctly you can see success. Use it only in very specific ads and with ad groups that are pretty narrow. It is worth testing in a few ad groups to see if it boosts your click-through rate.
A few other tips – in Google, update the ad serving preferences on the settings tab to “rotate” instead of “optimize.” This will allow you to conduct pure A/B test and run both ads evenly. If the setting is on “optimize” Google will automatically run the ad with the higher click-through rate more often as it is the better performer. Your second ad won’t ever have a chance of succeeding.
Also, test many different ads but not too many. Ad groups shouldn’t run more than 3-4 ads at a time unless you have extremely high traffic. The more ads you run, the longer it will take to get enough accurate data to make a solid conclusion on the success of the ad.
It is important to try different things – put a question in the headline, try using only benefits without a call to action, try an offer or discount in the ad, etc. There are many different combinations to test and see what works best. It is very easy to get stuck in a pattern and sometimes it takes a look from the outside to notice what everyone else has been seeing all long. Making a few small changes to your ads could be the difference between a first date and a door in your face.