AdWords, Google’s advertising platform, is the engine driving online sales for many small and mid-sized ecommerce operations. Sellers that want to get the most from text ads in AdWords should learn simple, direct copywriting and do a whole lot of split testing.
The AdWords platform has several ad formats and two networks — search and display. The simplest and most direct of these formats is a text ad running on the search network.
With the text ad, your business has a headline (or two), a URL, and a short description to communicate value and encourage a link. Effective AdWords’ text ads will convince someone to click on it.
So how do you or how does your company learn to write effective text ads? What does the learning process look like? How should you begin to become a better ad writer?
Copywriting is the act of writing text for, in this case, advertising or marketing. This act of arranging words so that a reader will take some desired action is often described as an art and a science.
“It’s an art because it requires creativity, a sense of beauty and style,” wrote Demian Farnworth in a Copyblogger post. “Writing effective copy is also a science because it exists in the world of tests, trial, and failure, improvement, breakthroughs, education, and predictability. Scientific advertising allows you to develop an idea, and then test that idea.”
While calling a thing both an art and science borders on cliché, it is still meaningful for writing effective text ad copy. In particular, thinking about how we learn art and science can help us to understand how to write compelling AdWords’ copy.
Art of Copywriting
With few exceptions, making art requires study, research, observation, and practice.
If you want to learn to write effective text ads, study the copywriting art. Reading this article is a good start, but it is only a start.
“Think you don’t need to learn copywriting?” asked conversion expert Peep Laja. “David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, addressed this in his book Ogilvy on Advertising. One of his copywriters told him that he [Olgivy] had not read any books about advertising.’”
“Ogilvy asked him, ‘Suppose your gallbladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where the gallbladder is or someone who relies on his own intuition?’”
“What distinguishes top experts from mediocre players is that the best know more. You can write better copy if you know more about it.”
Consider for a moment the anatomy of text ads in AdWords. There are three sections. The final section could be divided so that we have four items on our list. Learning the anatomy of the ad will help us learn how to write effective text.
- Headline. AdWords permits two headlines of 30 characters each. These headlines will be connected with a hyphen. Your second headline may not always appear.
- URL. You can show readers just your domain or as many as two additional path indicators to give potential customers an idea of what they will see if they click the ad.
- Description. You have a maximum of 80 characters to describe your product. AdWords may remove some words on mobile devices.
- Call to action. A subset of the description, a call to action is your store’s first opportunity to ask for the sale.
Let’s focus on the headline. Some AdWords copywriters recommend mirroring the user’s objective or speaking to their goal.
Johnathan Dane, the founder of KlientBoost, a pay-per-click advertising and copywriting agency, has offered a simple example for acne sufferers.
Imagine someone searches for “help get rid of acne” on Google. Which of these headlines do you think will get the best response?
- “Dealing with Acne?”
- “Kill Acne Once For All”
The first headline, “Dealing with Acne?,” restates what you already know about the user. If someone is searching for “help get rid of acne” he is probably dealing with acne. It might mirror the user’s question, but it doesn’t speak to his goal or objective.
The second headline, “Kill Acne Once For All,” speaks to the user’s objective or goal. It offers an answer.
What sort of headline could an online shoe store write for the keyword phrase “running shoe to prevent knee pain?” One ad running on Google at the time of writing responded with “Shoes Made for Women, By Women.” This makes little sense given the search term.
WordStream, a PPC platform, has suggested eight PPC ad writing best practices that include this idea of mirroring user intent. Think of these techniques like brush strokes for a painter or scales for a musician. Learning them will make you better at the art.
- Mirror the user’s objective
- Include numbers or statistics
- Appeal to a sense of entitlement
- Include emotional triggers
- Use keywords in URLs
- Use punctuation
- Preempt common objections
- Focus on the benefits to the user
Science of Copywriting
After you have studied the art of effective text ads and written a few ads of your own, it is time to focus on science — experimenting and testing.
For each campaign or even for each ad group, set specific improvement goals, such as improving the click-through rate.
Next, decide which part of the ad you want to test. Think of the ad’s anatomy, described earlier.
Will you test the headline, the display URL, the description, or the call to action in the description? In the larger context, you might also test the keywords associated with an ad, its landing page, the ad extensions employed, and even dayparts (the time of day to run the ad).
Once you have chosen what to test, such as the headline or the call to action, make small changes and compare those changes to the original. Test one change at a time, and improve performance.