Google AdWords and ASCII Art : 50% Increase in Click Thrus

SMS Text

When planning and implementing a Google AdWords campaign, copywriting is a key factor to establishing a high quality score, relevance and click thru. Not only is persuasive copy a way to stand out among the crowd and include searchers in the buying process while still on the search results page, but sometimes copy can be used to stand out from the crowd.

ASCII Art is a way to form pictures and images using simple keyboard symbols, like dashes or plus signs; which has been used since the days of the Vic 20 or Commodore Pet to show images on a screen.

PayDay One Ad

The folks at PayDay One emailed me today about some tests they’ve been running with Google Adwords and ASCII Art and that although Google is trying to filter some of this art from being included in their Adwords copy, some of the creatives are still getting through (before later being yanked). This is an excellent mix of ASCII Art and creative copy.

From their account of the process :

The ad is in no way misleading, but rather a more interesting way to try and attract the attention of a consumer that has already indicated that they have an emergency cash need based on their search query.

So I said the results were bitter sweet. The sweet portion is that we saw a 50% higher CTR on this ad versus our control. The bitter part – Google yanked our ad and said that we weren’t complying with AdWords guidelines (they specifically cited the use of capitalization).

50% higher click thru’s from ASCII Art? Amazing.

All from a mix of the Art and some creative copy :

(dash + dash + carrot + lowercase v + carrot + dash + carrot + lowercase v + backslash + space + dot + dot + dot) = –^v^-^–^v

Here are some of their ad creatives and the reason Google denied them :

We’ve seen examples of ASCII Art and Google in the past from CollectiveLondon and Sixt Rental Cars.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • alex

    Very interesting post. Obviously Google didn’t anticipate that a high school trend would find its way back into the light in a professional arena. I’ve seen some very good ASCII Art in sponsored listings. The problem with the finding of a 50% increase in CTR is that these types of ads typically are shut down within a day or so. This is likely a statistically insignificant amount of time to base a judgment of success on. And then there’s the real question; how did ASCII Art affect the conversion?

  • Dave

    I like it, but I’m suprised that Google allowed it.

  • * Miss UNIVERSE

    It also works well on listings on the organic SERPs.

    Some put them in the Title and Meta Tags.

    LOL: (Even putting an asterisk before your username )

  • Matt Cutts

    I asked someone about it and things like this are a violation of our ads policy. I would discourage people from trying stuff like this; I can certainly imagine someone getting banned from AdWords if they tried to abuse our policies.

  • * Miss UNIVERSE

    Sadly, life is getting to the point that any ounce of creativity someone displays – violates some element of some complex policy.

    People are expected be mindless and extinguish or repress any urge to use those Human innovation brain cells we all possess

  • Marty

    Hmmm, very cool indeed. Thanks for the groovy tip. We’re testing it out on an account as we speak! Thanks for sharing the creativity Loren

  • Justin Dean

    >>”The ad is in no way misleading, but rather a more interesting way to try and attract the attention of a consumer that has already indicated that they have an emergency cash need based on their search query.”

    The reason why Google does not allow ASCII art in their Adwords ads is because it distracts the user from the other paid ads within the sponsorship section. Thats not fair to the other advertisers. The user has indicated they are interested in what you offer, but they are also interested in your competitors – and if your competitors are paying just like you then why should you be allowed the advantage of distracting the user away from them? Creative and relevant ad copy that tells the user you offer exactly what they want is far more useful and a benefit to the user.

  • Hiro Nakamura

    Funny idea! I seem to be able to apply this fact elsewhere.

  • Sascha

    What happened with the conversion rates? Did they also increase?

  • blue star web design tipperary ireland

    ASCII art…ah..of a nearly lost artform! it is nice to see it re-appearing…retro is always nice!

  • Malte Landwehr

    I still don’t understand what kind of ASCII is allowed and what not.
    Is there any guideline what is tolerated by Google and what is not?

  • jeanv

    hi, i have tried that on my website and actually it works… i don’t know how long, but it works, have a look at my test (in frenc):