How to Write Winning PPC Ads

How to Write Winning PPC Ads
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Brad Geddes

Last updated October 3, 2017


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Your ads are one of the most important aspects of your entire pay-per-click (PPC) account. However, due to time constraints related to the creation and testing of effective ads, they are often one of the most neglected aspects of your account. Along with ad extensions, ads are the only part of your PPC account that users actually see. For instance, users don’t see other elements of your account, such as your keywords or bids. As the main visible part of your account, your ads are the connection between a user conducting a search and visiting your website versus visiting your competitor’s website.

Creating effective PPC ads is a combination of several components all rolled into 155 characters or less: market research, creativity, best practices, and science. In this article, we will take a look at each of these aspects of ad creation. 

To creating great ads you must understand the market and how you fit into it - the first place to start is with market research. 

Market Research

The first step in market research is to examine your products, services, and company. Ask yourself a few questions and jot down the answers:

  • Why do customers choose you over the competition?
  • What are the primary benefits of your products and services?
  • Why do customers choose your products over the competition? 
  • Why do customers not choose you or are hesitant to purchase that product/service within the industry as a whole?

While evaluating the market, it is useful to think about the products and services independent of your company. By understanding your company, you can also examine items like brand loyalty, friendly customer service and so forth. These are items you can use in multiple ads across your account as they apply to your entire company. 

Next, we need to consider and write down what your users desire. Do they want:

  • Deep discounts
  • Low prices
  • Exclusive products
  • Time savings
  • Buying guide help
  • Risk minimization
  • Something adequate
  • The best

Now, take a look at your two lists: what users want versus your product information and identify the overlaps These overlaps are good ideas to explore, as they are both an accurate description of your company, products and services and what users desire.

In order to create your ad, we need to form these ideas into a coherent story.This can be difficult to accomplish succinctly, and so creativity is the next component we need to use. 

Creativity

Once you have done your market research and have your initial ideas, then we need to translate this information into ads. Before we start writing ads, we should consider the four main components of ads:

  1. Unique selling proposition (USP): What is unique about your product/service/company? 
  2. Features: What are the features (true facts) about your product/service?
  3. Benefits: What does the user gain from using your product/service?
  4. Call to action: What do you want the user to do (call you, buy a product, take a demo, download a whitepaper)?

Think about your products/services and your users, and see how you can come up with relevant USPs, features, benefits, and calls to action. Revisit the list of products/services that you had written down earlier. Next to each line make a note if it is a USP, feature or benefit. 

Next start by highlighting your product/service features that match with what your users want. These are going to be your starting ideas. If you notice that you are missing any specific type of idea or have neglected to address some user concerns, make an effort to add new ideas to the list.  Adding a few more ideas to your list will round it out so you have a few of each type of item. 

For example: If your users are risk averse and you are selling travel packages, you need to ask yourself what is causing this aversion? In the travel industry, people often fear wasting money by booking too early at a high price only to see prices fall later. To alleviate this fear, you can offer a price match, guaranteed low prices, and so forth.

Here’s an example from my PPC software company AdAlysis. Many PPC software companies require a percentage of spend payments or offer too many upsells. At AdAlysis, we alleviate this fear by offering no cost onboarding, no upsell fees and show a static price. We also offer a free trial. To highlight all our key offerings, we create an offer like this: 

  • Automated PPC recommendations such as “Get out of Excel and focus on actionable information” (benefit)
  • No hidden fees (feature)
  • Take a no-risk two-week free trial (call to action)

By addressing the fear (price), showing benefits (work with actionable information) and adding a call to action, we’ve addressed a user problem and given the user the next step to become a customer. 

We will have to shorten these ideas to fit within character limits. However, let’s first look at how we are going to use each set of ideas by examining best practices before we start trimming them down to fit into these limits.

Best Practices

To ensure that your ads match the user intent, you need to have an organized account. This means that your keywords within an ad group should be well-themed and all describe the same idea. As you create ads, you might find that not all the keywords in the ad group fit well with the ad. That is OK, just move those keywords to a new ad group. By writing an ad, examining the keywords and moving any keywords that don’t pair well with the ad to a new ad group, you will be both creating a highly organized account while also creating effective ads.

Next, make sure that you include the most relevant information in the ad. This is what allows viewers to best understand the advertisement and also interact with it as consumers. These ad components include: 

Final URL: This is the destination page of your website where the user is directed from your ad. Ensure that this page is relevant to your ad and all the keywords in your ad group. If this page is not applicable to all the keywords in your ad group, then you will need to create a second ad group.

Headline 1: You will want to echo the keyword or use a phrase to show that your ad is pertinent to the search query. In order to maintain and organize your account well, this first headline must be relevant to all the keywords in the ad group.

Headline 2: The second headline is one of the most important lines in your ad. It is more visible than your description and has more freedom in terms of content than the first headline. This enables you to address users about more than just the keywords/search query/ad group. Your second headline can be:

  • USP
  • Feature
  • Benefit
  • CTA
  • Combination of any two of these components

Examine your strongest benefits and calls to action and try those in your second headline. 

Description: The description should talk about the features and benefits of your product and service. It can explain discounts, shipping types, company USPs, and it should generally end in a call to action. While you have a lot of freedom to describe your products and services in the description, this line will not be read as often as your first headline and second headline. Reserve this section for longer text that is still important, but not the highlight of your offer. 

Paths: This is the type of page the user will see, such as a product, geography, sales, trial and so forth. Use the path to explain the information the targeted audience will see once they click through to your website.

Next, it’s time to write the ad. First, pick the final URL, which is where the user will go after they click on the ad. Then, take a look at the lines you wrote down, especially the starred ones. There might be aspects of your ad that you haven’t covered yet — that’s ok. It’s very common for the headline 1 to mirror the ad group. 

After you have chosen or created a new line for your headline 1, you should think about your headline 2. For example, are you going to feature a CTA or a USP? Look through your list of lines and pick one to use for your headline 2, keeping in mind the qualities I described above. Also, remember that you may need to shorten it to fit within character limits. 

Next, what will your description be? Take one or two of your other ad lines and weave them together to create a description. I also recommend that you add a call to action at the end of the description lines. 

Finally, write down a path. This is a description of the type of page a user will see once they click on the ad.

Congratulations, you have created an ad in an ad group. While you were creating the ad and choosing lines, did you feel like you were ignoring some important lines that you wrote down? Don’t worry. Most people can’t use every line that they write down in every ad. It is common to find there is just not enough space.

This is where we turn to science to see which of our ideas resonates best with consumers.  We can create and test multiple ads to better reach the intended audience. 

Science

It’s always best to test your ads, as it ensures finding the best ideas to connect with users. It also reveals when old ideas aren’t working as well anymore and you need to adjust your strategy to keep up with changing market conditions. Testing your ads is a simple scientific process. 

Start by creating at least two ads in your ad group. However, if you want, it is also okay to have three to five ads. Here are a couple of templates for you to use:


Let your ads run for at least a week to make sure you have a minimum amount of impressions and conversions. Once you have at least a week’s worth of data, examine the differences in your primary metrics to see if you have achieved a statistically significant result. If you have, then pause your losing ad. Make note of what won and what lost, so you have ad testing notes going forward and a history of your tests.  After this first test, try another challenger ad. You can continually repeat this process to verify that you are always using the best, most relevant ads to reach your customers. This ongoing creativity to think about new ads combined with the statistical science will lead you down the path of finding great ads and pausing losing offers.

Conclusion

Creating effective ads and testing them against each other is an essential component of managing your paid search account. As demonstrated, PPC is a combination of creativity and science. This is more evident within ads than any other part of your account. In order to successfully reach your customers, you need to be innovative in writing compelling ads that resonate with users. 

While this can be a daunting task at times, by following best practices in the creation process, you will have a starting place to conduct your market research and run your initial ads. The process of testing ads and the analysis of the results are essential to ensure that your ideas are working. A winning PPC campaign requires the continued optimization of your ads and creative efforts.

Through this combination of creativity and science, you can be assured of creating effective ads that turn searchers into customers. 

About the Author

Brad Geddes is the author of "Advanced Google AdWords", and founder of Certified Knowledge, an online source where the Paid Search community comes together for PPC training, tools, and advice. Brad makes it his mission to share his expertise in Paid Search with online marketers so they can build successful online campaigns that generate business. He frequently writes columns for Search Engine Land, co-moderates the AdWords forum on Webmaster World, has spoken at more than 35 conferences, and has led more than 60 AdWords seminars.


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