We all know that the ad is the gateway to the conversion. But how much time and thought are you really giving your ad copy? The answer I’m hoping for is: As much as it needs. That doesn’t mean you need to spend days, hours, or even large chunks of your mental space creating ads for your clients. It does mean that you need to be mindful of how effectively you’re grabbing the click that is only 25+35+35 characters away.

Here are 11 points to zip through before tossing new ideas into a set of ads. Some are absolutely integral to effective ads, others are factors that can put you a notch ahead of your competitors.

User Intent and Attention

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMPoint in buying cycle – As you recall, your users are all searching for something. Information. Instructions. Contact with someone who can provide a particular service. Or something the use would like to obtain. Whatever it is, the starting point for any ad copy is knowing to whom you’re appealing.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMPromotional/time sensitive – Time if of the essence. Just as users have their own subconscious timeline for achieving their search goal, so do you have ways of guiding them towards an urgency to convert. Now. (For an overview of the economic principle that now is better than an hour from now or a week from now, here’s a quick briefing) . Whether it’s a “Sale through 6/30” or “Get ‘Em While They Last” or “Don’t Waste Any More Time” – if users interpret that they need to act immediately, it will start to change your click traffic.

Case Study: Enrollment deadline. As we counted down the last 2 weeks for open enrollment, we saw click-through-rate skyrocket. And the “Last weekend to” ad had a  CTR of 0.20% versus the general ad’s 0.14%. Over the course of the countdown, we saw conversion rate peak at the 5 day mark. While not every day can be a “last day to-” for your ads, communicating urgency is a surefire way to get a user’s attention. Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 9.42.59 AM


Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMConnection – This is a “big picture” strategy in ad copy testing. How do you get a user to connect with your ad? As with everything in PPC, we suggest you test what works for your particular audience. To better organize what exactly you are testing, build yourself a template. Include the language, themes, and intention behind your ads and then test them to see what has an effect.  One of the biggest takeaways in ad writing is that what I think is emotionally appealing may not work on the next person who sees the ad. Testing variations of your language choice will give you this insight:Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 7.08.00 AM

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMKeyword use – Oh, Quality Score, what to do with you? We all strive for the best QS possible. And a sure fire way of affecting that elusive number is to include keyword relevance in your ad copy. The dirty underbelly goes by the name “keyword stuffing”- the assumption that your ad for patent leather tap shoes will look something like is:Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.28.08 PM

While this approach may be effective in the immediate sense, a better option is to look at it like Google does: Will this ad answer the need of the user? Keeping the keyword in your ad text is a best practice, but using it carefully is an even best-er one:Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.30.33 PMScreen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMConversion of choice – Just as we want to target the intention of our user, we need to know our conversion options. Are you anticipating them buying something? Learning something? Signing up for something? Whatever it is, the message of your ad needs to circle back about to this specific need.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMFeatures & Benefits– We’ve talked about establishing the features of your product/service and then complementing that list with the benefit of your specific offering.  You offer advice to people interested in restoring vintage cars? And you provide one free on-site visit for free? (Hint: That’s your feature) Why do they need that? It gets your user the 1-on-1 insights that can’t be gathered through Vintage Car forums. (Hint: Benefit. Right there).

Going through this exercise may feel a bit tedious, but when it comes time to revisit your ad copy, you’ll be glad you spent some time constructing this list

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMBranding – Some clients will request that their brand be in the ad copy. Others are unsure of the effect their brand presence has on potential converters. How can we answer this age-old question? Test. It.

Case Study: A client, who suspected that incorporating his brand into the ad copy would improve CTR and perhaps CR, requested a test. We created 2 very similar ads, but replaced the generic vertical language with the name of his business. The results? Well, we saw a greater CTR but a lower conversion rate. Depending on the goal CPL for this client, either might be deemed a winner. Just goes to show that every assumption, no matter how reasonable, needs to be tested…

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Language choice

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMCall To Action–The identification of the Call To Action was sort of to PPC ad copy what the Zulu Nation was to the mid-70s early hip hop movement.  It gave us the first steps to ad greatness. If you’ve not familiarized yourself with the extremely important implications behind your CTA, please do not pass Go and do not collect $200. Just park it on PPCHero and get your read on!

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMIndustry Approach – I’m sure you all know the value in competitor research and how knowing what you’re up against will help you improve your strategy. Some industries push for a similar message and you may find staying within that stream to be effective. Or you may want to be the only one not saying what they’re saying.

Go Time

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMLanding pages– If ads are the gateway, landing pages are the helipad on which they land. While I could go on and on about CRO, I’ll leave that to our dear British Sam who is a bit of a master of the subject. Instead, I will simply reiterate the choice of landing page per ad. Some sites only have a single landing page. If that’s the case, basic CRO is your next step. If your site has many routes and pathways, and includes an opportunity to convert or link to a conversion form, it is time. Although this bridges into landing page tests, be sure to connect the dots between what your ad is saying and what they see as soon as they click. Oh, and that little detail about Quality Score? We certainly want to keep the landing page as relevant to the keyword and ad text as possible.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 2.51.47 PMRotation choice – What to do with your ads? Rotate forever? Rotate then optimize? Optimize for clicks or conversions? While this topic alone is enough content for another article entirely, it is worth a test in and of itself. Rotating evenly, especially for a short test cycle, such as 4 weeks, can give you straightforward results. Great, right?  But don’t dismiss the value in optimizing, even on a short term. When you spend 4 weeks A/B testing ads within an ad group- any auction one of the ads come up against may end without an impression. Due to factors such as the competitiveness of your bid in that exact moment, one ad may have limited opportunities to impress. This ends with an uneven spread of impressions, which skews the statistical significance of the test. What to do? (I’ll give you a secret, it starts with T and rhymes with “best!”)

So get out your pen and start checking these puppies off! Once you’ve got your solid foundation of answers to these questions, refreshing your ad copy can easily become a regular part of your month!