July 26, 2016
Making decisions for PPC initiatives can be stressful. Within the industry, we toss around “best” and “common” practices like confetti. We are purveyors of patterns. Collectors of congruency. Emperors of efficiency. However, we lack perfect vision into the future and have to rely on 20/20 hindsight. For example, we rethink a campaign structure after performance doesn’t skyrocket as we anticipated. Most commonly, for me, I look at ad copy I sent out into the PPC-sphere and think maybe there was a better way.
So while we can wish and hope and dream all day long for a PPC crystal ball, our time would be better spent understanding two simple concepts:
- Ads do not live in the vacuum of an excel sheet
- Common practices should be tested
Let’s explore these concepts in line with real-life examples.
Take a look at the top ad in the above example. The ad has checked off several boxes on the “best practices” list, including:
- Clear, descriptive headline
- Good use of character limit
- Sitelink extensions
- Structured snippets
They are in the #1 spot. Hooray! But as I look at the ad through the eyes of the searcher, and I see the competitor ads, the top ad is not the one I would click first. I would actually click the bottom two before the top. In the bottom ads, one has a strong value prop listed in Description Line 1, which allowed it to be pulled into the headline. The other is more descriptive as to what is included in wine club membership.
So while the top ad is a good, strong ad, seeing it out of excel and next to others illustrates possible weaknesses. Instead of wiping your ad clean and starting over, start testing. Move the “$20 off your first order” to Description Line 1 or put it in the Headline. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
When writing ad copy, it is easy to just focus on the headline and two description lines and move on (two headlines and the description for expanded text ads). But it is important to understand how those three lines of text interact with your sitelinks.
In the below example, the advertiser makes good use of a strong value prop. That same value prop appears again in the sitelinks.
Now, you can look at it two ways. If the value proposition is so important to your brand and your strategy that you feel it is worth highlighting twice, by all means, have it listed in the description and sitelinks. But if there is a something else setting you apart from the competition, could it be better served by using sitelinks to highlight those secondary and tertiary values?
When I write ad copy, I try to envision the ad with all extensions. Because we are not directly in control of when certain extensions are shown, keeping our core message within the 95 characters of an ad is a best practice. For this ad, I would test the content of the sitelinks.
Know Your Competition
We are going to take a short time-out for a moment to talk about competitive analysis. I’ve heard many clients say, “I saw my competitor doing this so I want to as well.” In a competitive landscape, mimicking your rivals isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Ads are, in fact, a glimpse at a marketing strategy. Unless you have access to their data, though, you don’t actually know if their strategy is proving lucrative.
So before implementing every little thing your top rivals are doing, take a moment to know your competitors within your shared space. Use auction insights to determine with whom you are sharing the search results page. Why is this step important? Because even if you know Company X to be a competitor in your vertical, you are actually showing ads with Company Y, and Company Y has a completely different approach to their marketing strategy. Mirroring the ad strategy of Company X may not have the expected results.
Look the two ads shown above. In the grand scheme of things, there isn’t much difference between the two. The biggest thing that stands out to me is the use of “huge” to describe their stock of products. If I am not familiar with the store brand, expanding my model train collection may come down to the flip of a coin.
If I am the author of the top ad, maybe my inventory isn’t huge. Maybe it is large, or vast, or ginormous. Maybe by swapping out that one word, I now stand out more than others sharing the page. Throw it into a test.
A Second Look
If you are anything like me, you can spend hours beating yourself up over the things overlooked in the first run of initiatives. The beauty of PPC is the ability to take your oversight and learn from it through on-going testing. When writing ad copy, remember to take it out of excel and put it in a hypothetical search results page. Ask yourself:
- Do the sitelinks make sense with the copy?
- Am I using all of the tools available?
- What are my competitors doing and saying?
- What am I missing?
Use the answers to those questions to build out tests in your campaigns, turning oversight into performance.