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Ad Copy: The Best Friend You Haven’t Called Lately

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Ads are a basic building block of any paid search campaign and, more importantly, your first impression to any potential visitors. You have to stand out on the page, get their attention, be accurate, and get that click — all within the first second of the impression. Failure to do so can make or break your paid search campaign. Without clicks, you’re not building data and without data, not only will you fail to sell anything, you will be unable to garner better quality scores, lower CPCs, or even account history.

So pick up the phone and call your old friend ad copy if you haven’t in a while. It’s time you talked.

Ads Can Get Tired and Old

All too often I see tired, old ad copy where the manager obviously hasn’t reviewed the messaging, leaving it untouched for months — much the same way you only talk to certain friends once a year at the annual holiday party. But what if you miss the party one year and that was the year they changed their phone number and joined a cult? Then you really missed out! There is no such thing as “forever” ad copy.

Running the same ad over and over again not only leads to stagnation, it prevents you from testing. And you should be testing, even if it’s just a basic A/B test of one ad against another with the simple difference of an exclamation point in one. Always start with a solid or “fall back” ad, but make sure you’re testing against it, not relying on it solely.

Ads Live Long And Prosper In Groups

If you’re only running one ad in an ad group, shame on you. You’re potentially only catering to half of your audience. Consider the “great taste” vs. “less filling” debate. If Miller Lite had only run on the less filling platform, they could have lost all those who were really just in the market for great taste (and vice versa).

Currently, Google reports that about 15% of search queries are new every day. This means that your generic ad copy on “Blue Widgets” is quickly becoming outpaced by an ad for “Blue Widgets in Bethesda” or “Blue Widgets Online.” Not only that, but queries are getting longer. People are being more detailed when they type in their searches, often denoting buying intent, color choice, style or location, to name a few.

No one, singular, great, catch-all ad will get you all the possible clicks out there. There is no “silver bullet” of ad copy — otherwise, your clickthrough rate would be 100%! Think of ads as living in sets, then focus on optimizing the set. Matt Van Wagner of FindMeFaster has a philosophy resting on the principle that multiple strong ads in an ad group can bring better CTR, CPCs, and conversions by targeting more than one feature, benefit, or offering at a time. Divide and conquer, if you will.

Keep that “best” ad in your arsenal and add a few more that are either incredibly similar or entirely different (call it bipolar marketing), letting the ads run for a period of at least 100 clicks each before declaring losers or winners. Fine-tune from there and find two or three ads that can kickstart a new ad group, covering both the “less filling” and “great taste” crowds.

Freshen Your Perspective With Some Personas

Need ideas on how to write these fantastic ads? Well, people click on ads, ideally. So when you need to get your creative ad juices flowing, write up a short persona, just for PPC. Or if you’re ahead of me, re-evaluate your current personas. Narrow down your audience with a few demographic and behavioral details, add a short list of your product’s benefits and features, and you’ve painted yourself a nice little picture to work from.

This doesn’t need to be a giant project with focus groups or hours of research. Start really basic, especially if this is your first one. Personas are really easy to create and actually, a little bit fun too.

  • Choose 3-4 keywords (in the following example, “gluten free”)
  • List the product features
  • List the benefits of buying with you
  • Choose a good stock photo
  • Name your person (so you know who you’re talking to)
  • Use your analytics platform to determine geography, age, gender (where you can)
  • Be creative — after all, you’re writing someone’s life story

  MarstenPersona

 

Now that you know who you are writing for, it’s time to get creative. If you’re really stuck in a rut and can’t think of where to start, what to write or how to write it, think outside the box. Think BIG – it is always easier to reign in an over-the-top ad than dress up a bland one.

Also consider how people search for your products or services. Often times, I’ll ask myself “would I click on that? Would my mom click on that?” Step into your audience’s shoes and make sure your ad delivers on their expectations.

How Far Outside The Box Can You Go?

In order to get really creative, you have to lift your mental barriers. Start with a pen and paper, a whiteboard or, in this case, Google AdWords Editor. You don’t have to publish these new, potentially riskier ads, but don’t limit yourself during the creation process. You can always go back and tweak or delete anything that may stray from brand guidelines (or get you fired).

For example, does your product line have a bit of an attitude? Then make an ad that’s a little more aggressive, with the premise of “Don’t Wait. You’ll Be Sorry.”

score-with-us

drink-like-an-athlete

Is your audience a bit more clever?

you-had-me-at-hello

Are you the Real Thing™?

try-calorie-free-cake

Noisy?

drinking-glass-sets

 

Have you ever tried testing an ad with a price point in it against one without? Or crafted your headline as a keyword-inclusive question instead of a statement? How about using a URL as the headline in a branded campaign like the following?

MarstenPortentPPCAd

You get the idea. There are hundreds of different ways to put words on the page — experiment until the right combination converts.

Everything Is Interesting To Someone Somewhere

Do you think your product or service isn’t interesting enough for ideas like these? I can assure you that is not the case. Even if your work is pharmaceutical white paper downloads for taxidermists, there are plenty of best practices you could be trying and testing to better your CTRs and CPCs.

But always remember to consider your audience. For example, putting the URL in the headline works really well for crowds that are less tech-savvy. Adding a hashtag or Twitter handle works well for a social-media-savvy audience, especially if your end goal is get them to be more active on Twitter or join an event.

How To Tell When Your Ad Copy Succeeds

A few different methods exist for measuring success and they, of course, depend on your goals. From a branding standpoint, success means pure traffic to the site and impressions. For lead generation, it’s the right people filling out a form. For ecommerce, it’s sales. But when you’re doing ad copy tests like these and don’t have the budget or time to garner enough clicks or conversions for statistical significance, other metrics can help speed things along.

1.  CTR (Clickthrough Rate) — If your ads are under 1% CTR, then something is wrong. It’s time to re-examine, particularly if your impressions for that timeframe exceed 1,000. Ideally, you want to see CTR for any given ad hit the 3%-5% range to deem it a “keeper,” at least for now.

2.  Bounce Rate — If your CTR is good, but your bounce rate is high (over 80%), then it’s a matter of examining the keywords associated with your ad, as well as the landing page the ads are targeting. A high bounce rate with a high CTR is just a bad place to be — you’re paying for traffic that won’t convert.

3.  PPI (Profit Per Impression) — Maybe you don’t get a lot of clicks, but you are making some revenue. Take that revenue and divide it by impressions instead of clicks to see how much just showing the ad in question is worth to you. This measurement is particularly useful if you’re having a difficult time choosing between two ads whose clicks/CTR are almost even. PPI is great tie breaker.

4.  100 Clicks — An oldie, but a goodie, particularly if you don’t have conversion tracking or just want to drive traffic to your site as quickly and cheaply as possible. After 100 clicks, take a look at the CPC, the amount of clicks, and the overall cost and make your decision to keep or edit from there.

Conclusion

There’s a lot out there to try and you’re really doing yourself and your PPC a disservice by not experimenting with a few simple things like split testing one ad against another. I encourage you to get out there, get creative and get writing!

Image: BFF on the phone via Shutterstock

About the Author

Elizabeth Marsten is the Director of Search Marketing for Portent, Inc. in Seattle, WA. She is a co-author of Web Marketing for Dummies, from Wiley Publishing, 2009, 2012. Besides numerous speaking engagements on ad copy and paid search, she also has a series of ebooks on the subject as well, the most recent (Sep. 2012) being “Write Ad Copy that Inspires Greatness.”

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  1. So true! Too often, campaigns languish from stale copy. Not to mention not taking advantage of latest ad features like the mobile specific, or adding in location targeting. S It's important to always keep improving and testing. I've created recurring reminders to check in on ad copy to help me keep tabs on it and other optimization areas.