How to write the best PPC adverts

PPC Ad Copy WritingOn first sight many marketing and advertising professionals may think that writing good copy for Pay Per Click (PPC) ads is relatively easy as there are fairly strict text string length constraints that give you boundaries within which to work.

However, I have found that coming from a direct marketing background (which is also based on a direct response mechanism) to focusing on search engine ads that it is not straight forward.

I have learnt new things every day for the past 5 years so am now keen to share my key learnings with you.

The first thing is to remember that you are after qualified sales and/or leads that will convert into customers when they come to your site. You are not just after getting web traffic.  You therefore need to fully understand a number of different market related aspects:

Understand the business that you are writing PPC ads for

  • If you own the business (and if it is a very small business) then you should be fine here but otherwise you should spend a lot of time talking to the key people within the business and also reading up on the business to find out what the key drivers of the business are. Remember the 4 p’s – product, placement, price and promotion; how are these done best at this business?
  • Ensure that you understand the sales levels and demand for the different products and services that they sell.
  • A key person to speak to is the customer services manager or whoever it is that deals 1 to 1 with the customers. Find out what the majority of the enquiries, complaints, compliments are regarding.
  • Ensure that you come face to face with the products/services of the company to understand the level of quality that you are working with.
  • Try to understand if the customers are price led, looking for reliability, are of a particular demographic, come from particular geographic localities.
  • Research the competitors – what are they doing differently? How does your business differentiate themselves against the competition? What are the price discrepancies? What are the service level differences? What are your businesses strengths and weaknesses?

Keeping your PPC Ads Relevant

It is incredibly important to ensure that you closely align your ads with the keywords that they are working with in the ad group as well as the landing pages that the ads lead to. This aids relevance which in turn helps to increase click through rate (CTR) on your ads. There are benefits to your quality score of increasing the ads CTR which will mean that your cost per clicks (CPC’s) are reduced, in addition you will also be getting more business through the door.

First of all you need to understand how ads fit in the process of the searcher behaviour funnel. A searcher expects to see a site and an ad that is relevant to their search query. The more relevant the ad is, the better.

Once they click on your ad, you need to take them to a relevant landing page that contains rich and highly related content, the page text should include the searchers query and elements of the ad copy, especially any promises you made.

This sets the proper expectation for the searcher, and is more likely to result in an action/goal/conversion on your site.

Ensure that your ad group has a clear theme

If you keep the keywords in your ad group to a minimum and ensure that they are all closely aligned to each other as well as to the landing page that you are pointing them to then it will be easier for you to write relevant ad copy that meets the expectations of the searchers, then hopefully your site will answer all of their questions and needs. There is no hard and fast rule here but as a rule of thumb I would aim for no more than about 20 or 30 keywords per ad group, any more and the theme will start to become less clear.

I will now go into more specific detail on how to write a good PPC ad.

As most of us are focusing on the Google Adwords platform I will stick with their constraints. I will also focus this post on the core ads and not go into much detail on ad extensions here; they will make a good future post though…

A Google PPC Advert has 4 visible lines for you to get a click from:

Headline (25 Characters)
Description Line 1 (35 Characters)
Description Line 2 (35 Characters)
Display URL (35 Characters)

Writing a Great PPC Ad Headline

The Ad Headline of a PPC Ad is all about getting the attention of the searcher. You only have 25 characters to do this so make sure that you use each character carefully.

  • It is always a good idea to use your ad groups main theme or most important keyword in the headline so that the searcher sees an ad titled with exactly what they have just searched for.
  • You can use dynamic keyword insertion (DSI) in the headline for this but it can sometimes be tricky as you always need to ensure that every keyword that could be inserted (all keywords in the ad group) works well with the remainder of the ad.
  • Use questions that either make searchers think or are intended to make them see something slightly differently in order to grab their attention. You can also use a question that your research has led you to believe will be on the minds of many searchers and you can then use the rest of the ad to answer the question or to suggest a possible solution.
  • Think about the state of mind of the searcher and the product – If the ad group is designed for searchers that are close to purchase then you can use promotions and time led incentives such as ‘Today Only’ or ‘Now’. If they are in a fearful state over something then put them at ease. e.g

Missed Tax Deadline?
No Problem – We Can Help You Now!
Fast Tax Return Help at Low Cost

  • Use capital letters and bolding carefully. Get readers to notice the important words of your ad through highlighting them with capital letters. If every word of the ad is important then capitalise the lot.

Writing effective PPC Ad Descriptions

The headline is all about grabbing the searchers attention. Once you have it, the rest of the ad is all about providing enough detail to get a qualified click and it some cases may also be for putting off unrelated searchers. Therefore the key is to be specific about your offering.

  • Use your research to put yourself in the shoes of the searcher. What are their concerns and needs? What will attract them to your site? It may be price, if so then you can advertise the price in the ad – if you do so just ensure that your price is good within your market. If you have a product that is unique to your business then price may not be a good thing to use in an ad especially if you need to educate the potential customer as to your strengths before many of the customers purchase from you.
  • Have a strong call to action – here is where promotions/sales/offers are useful – if you have something going on then ensure that it is in your ad.
  • If there is no promotion then look at your unique selling points, qualifiers and guarantees – which of them are most appealing/needed by the searcher? Next day delivery, Award Winners, Approved supplier etc are all useful in developing trust in the searcher that you are a good business to buy from.
  • Keep your ad focused on your target market – Do not go after traffic that does not closely meet your customer profile – if you focus on high end customers then do not use words such as ‘cheap’ or ‘discount’ and if your strength is reliability and long life span then focus on this as it will help greatly with the conversion once users get to your site.
  • Do not use the description for a branding exercise – you have the display URL for your brand, leave the description for convincing reasons why to use you. if you have a strong brand then this will support the rest of the ad but do not miss the opportunity to tell searchers something new or different about you that they didn’t previously know.

Using the display URL of PPC Ads to best effect

  • The Display URL is often overlooked as part of the ad, you often just see home page domains there for product specific ads which is just simply a wasted opportunity.
  • You have to at least use the same domain as the domain in the ad/keyword destination URL so the shorter your domain name the more freedom you have.
  • I often try to repeat the core keyword of the ad group in the display URL as though it is a sub folder of the site – it may or may not actually be.
  • If you do have a promotion on then repeat it in the display URL.
  • The main idea with the display URL is to try and show that this product/service is central to your business.

I hope that these pointers have been helpful for you, if you have anything that you would like to add to improve this post then I would be grateful so please leave as a comment or email me.

If you would like to use my PPC consultant services then I would be happy to review your ad copy, suggest new copy or even fully manage it for you – just get in touch from my homepage.

I will follow up with other posts soon regarding ad extensions.

6 thoughts on “How to write the best PPC adverts

  1. IMO, there is no such thing as an ‘ad that works’ meaning ‘gets clicked on’ vs ‘an ad that does not work’ when it comes to writing micro-copy intended for PPC ads like google adwords. I have clicked on adwords ads that looked mundane and clearly didnt make an effort to ‘use professional polish’ in their copy. To me, what you sell matters more than how you choose to write it. Just because someone wrote a long sales letter filled with keywords using ‘tried and tested’ copywriting phrases proven to work, will not make me buy your product that I otherwise consider a waste of money. You need to have better product first, the ad copy etc. its all just formal grab, supplementary, disposable, separate and distinct from what you sell, imaginary, matters less, and easily overlooked etc. etc. (for want of more adjectives)

  2. Hi Mohan
    Thanks for your comment – I completely agree with you that the product itself is the best sales tool that a business can have(where the product is good). However, having spent a number of years in the field of PPC search marketing I can safely say that the quality and relevance of the ad does matter in terms of gaining web traffic and conversions regardless of the quality of the product.

  3. Thanks for your post. Appreciate the thought you put into it. I’ve been debating whether or not to add the keyword as part of the destination URL. I’ve noticed others that do. Guess it’s time to run a test and see if I can increase my click rate with the change. Thanks again.


  4. Great info, I completely overlooked the display URL and thought that had to be a shortened version of the actual destination URL.

    Any suggestions for a product that doesn’t really have much scope for being unique? I just can’t really find a lot of ways to make a name badge company more exciting than the competitors.

    I do like the relevance to putting a customer at ease. Just thinking with magnetic fastenings I could say something like: Spare Your Clothing From Pin Holes etc.

    Loads to think about now. Cheers,


  5. Hi James
    When you have products that are not unique in themselves then you need to focus on what is unique about your business and your specific offering. e.g. delivery times, discounts, your customer ratings etc. You have lots of customer reviews on your homepage so allude to these e.g.
    “See what our customers say about us”
    Also – looking at your customer comments you can see what the liked about your service to get some ideas – good print quality, fast delivery (seems to be most common comment).

  6. Hello!

    Very useful information.

    As for the capital letters, I agree with you – one must use it very carefully. Even if one posts the changes into account, it can be disapproved eventually.

    I would recommend (from my own experience) using more different punctuation and prices. Price draws attention!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.