PPC Copywriting Tips You Can Use in Your SEO Copy

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It’s often the case that what works for PPC works for SEO, and vice versa – at least to a degree. You’ll certainly have to tweak your techniques when moving between organic and paid search efforts, but there’s no reason that gains and losses in one area can’t inform your decisions in the other – this goes for keyword research, landing page optimization, and, I’d argue, copywriting.

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PPC ad writers know that tiny tweaks can make a huge difference in your click-through rate (CTR). Why not apply some of the tried and true rules of PPC copywriting to your SEO copy? Anything that boosts CTR in a paid search ad could do the same when applied to the title and first few sentences of your article. PPC copy techniques can also improve your meta descriptions, increasing click-through from the organic search results.

Here are five tips borrowed from the world of PPC that can improve your SEO copywriting.

1. Experiment with Exclamation Points

It’s well-known among PPC copywriters that adding an exclamation point to your ad can increase CTR.

Why? Probably because it’s the textual equivalent of raising your voice, so you’re just more likely to snag someone’s attention. Try this out in your SEO titles. While an exclamation point is unlikely to improve your rankings, you might find that titling an article about terrible customer service “Comcast, What Is Your Problem?!” instead of the calmer “Comcast, You’re Starting to Annoy Me” gets more clicks from the SERP and social media citations like Twitter and Facebook.

2. Use Data and Evidence

Symbols and proof are also known to improve CTR in PPC. How can you use these in your SEO copy? Instead of making vague claims like “Negative keywords reduce your AdWords costs,” cite a statistic – for example, “Negative keywords can reduce wasteful AdWords spending by up to 30%.” Naturally, you want to use real data here, not just make up a number (like I just did). Unlike a PPC ad, an article written for SEO gives you room to cite or link to your source.

3. Try Virtual Dynamic Keyword Insertion

In PPC, you can use dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) to incorporate exact wording from the search query in your ad on a – you guessed it – dynamic basis. For example, Amazon might send searchers to a category page for shoes, with an ad whose title mirrors whatever type of shoes they are searching for. If the person types “open-toed shoes” into Google, the title of the ad will appear as “Open-Toed Shoes,” probably with some generic-ish copy like “Search a huge shoe selection. Flat rate shipping.” Since people tend to click on ads that seem to deliver exactly what they are looking for, DKI can improve CTR for more general ads.

You can’t do the same thing with the title of an SEO article, but you can emulate the technique by anticipating different variations on a search query that might lead someone to your article. Obviously, you should back this up with keyword research. If you know there’s search volume for a set of similar search queries (say, “emergency plumber,” “short-notice plumber,” and “same day plumber”), you can build three different pages with similar content, but each optimized for a different keyword. That way, you stand to rank for all the variations.

4. Test Like a PPC-er

PPC copywriters are testing maniacs. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy to A/B test full pages as it is to test PPC ads, but it’s not all that difficult and the results can pay off. You can use Google Website Optimizer to test two different versions of an article written for SEO. Think of the page as a landing page, even if it has nothing to do with PPC – you still want to engage your readers and lead them to a desired action. Elements to test might include title, length (word count), images (number of images, layout, and the actual content of the images), offer (including wording and type of offer), sidebar links, etc. In some cases you can extrapolate from the results to improve other SEO pages, without having to run individual tests.

5. Don’t Waste Space

In PPC, you really have to distill your message and avoid any redundancy. If you’ve never tried to write an AdWords ad, trust me, it’s hard to say what you want to say – and be clever and interesting to boot – within that tiny space. Luckily you don’t have to be that concise when it comes to SEO copywriting, but the lesson is still valuable. When writing for the web, you never want to beat around the bush, bury the lead, or say in ten words what you could say in five. Earlier today, I wrote something like “When it comes to PPC, what you get out of it depends on what you put in.” Then I realized I could say the same thing in a lot fewer words: “In PPC, you get out what you put in.” More words don’t make you sound smarter; they make you waste people’s time.

If you can think of other ways that PPC copywriting best practices can inform your SEO copywriting, let me know in the comments!

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the Content Development Manager at WordStream Inc., a provider of AdWords solutions and other tools for PPC and SEO. She manages the... Read Full Bio
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  • Nate White

    In my opinion I would tweak your approach to #3 because, to me, it sounds like you’re creating bamboo pages for the Google Panda to gobble up. Instead of 3 similar-but-different articles, I would go with one article that incorporates all 3 of those phrases, such as “Plumbing Emergency? Get a Short-Notice Plumber for Same Day Service!” Unless you can create a piece of truly unique content for each of those phrases I’d tread lightly.

    And you mentioned using symbols but didn’t talk about it, it’s one of my favorites. I like the way a hyphen really sets words apart in a title: “PPC to SEO Tips – 5 Copywriting Techniques You Can Use Today”

    Good stuff! :o)

  • Elisa

    Hi Nate! Thanks for your comment. Personally, I don’t think you’re going to get burned by Panda unless you’re spinning these out on the order of dozens of pages. But “tread lightly” is usually good advice — test and see what works for you.

    • Nate White

      Very true. I think when I read this on Friday I was hopped up on Halloween candy and thought you meant to write an article about an emergency plumber then find—>replace “emergency” with “short-notice,” lather, rinse, repeat. I should have stopped trying to work around 3 that day…

      • Elisa

        Ha ha, no shame in that! (The Halloween candy I mean, not the article spinning.)

    • gesher

      I agree with what Nate said – the suggestion in #3 is kind of risky. What you’re basically saying is to create additional pages that a specific user may appreciate, but that users in general are going to find annoying.

      Google is clever enough to understand what thin content is. While it’s not clear how much thin content on a domain will trigger the Panda algorithm, it is clear that thin content continues working until it’s affected by a Panda release, after which it the whole domain is tanked. In other words, there won’t necessarily be a warning that a particular page isn’t unique enough, or that a domain contains too many not-unique-enough pages, so there’s no way that testing is going to identify the lurking problem.

      • Elisa

        Gesher, I agree it’s risky if it’s your whole content strategy. As a minimal part of a larger strategy that includes plenty of rich, unique content, I really don’t think it’s that risky. But as always, YMMV.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    In regards to point #4, you have to remember that SEO is much more long term than PPC. Just because you aren’t seeing the results you want right away, that doesn’t mean your copy missed the mark. It’s easy to get impatient and cut the legs out from underneath an SEO campaign too soon.

    • Elisa

      You can of course run your tests for as long as you feel comfortable with.

  • Gerri

    They say you learn something new everyday. My lesson for the day is the use of Website Optimiser for A/B testing. Thanks for the tips.

  • gozada

    I love the 3. Try Virtual Dynamic Keyword Insertion I have made this mistake a few times, But it is like living and learning right ? lol thanks for all the info Elisa

  • Tasman Hayes


    I’d hadn’t heard that an exclamation point and other symbols can increase CTR. Very cool!


  • Joanna Wiebe

    The thing about editing copy down from 17 words to 9 words is that the resulting 9 words should have as much or more meaning than the original 17. We don’t just want to eliminate words in general. No editor pulls out words; they pull out meaningless statements that cause readers’ eyes to glaze over.

    The goal of editing for the sake of brevity is to eliminate everything that isn’t helpful, leaving behind only earthquake-worthy copy. Not to take out words.

    Never sacrifice the use of crisp, noticeable words just for the sake of shortening.

    The edited version of your statement reads, “In PPC, you get out what you put in.” It’s short… but it’s not exactly a memorable statement. If it’s a headline, its lack of helpfulness will probably increase bounce to say nothing of hurting engagement and conversion.

    *If your copy is boring or lacks immediate meaning, intrigue, usefulness or impact, cut ALL the words.* Not just 7 of them. All of them. And then start from scratch with some power-packed ninja-style words that blast off the page. If you don’t, you’re literally giving up conversions – no question about it.

    Thanks for the post, though! I enjoyed it!!!