How to Write a Killer AdWords Ad by Treating It a Mini Landing Page

SMS Text

Suppose you launch a new campaign on AdWords and have used all ninja tricks to make sure clickthrough rate (CTR) is high. Once the campaign is made live, much to your disappointment, you discover that CTR is pathetically low. Story sounds familiar?

Click through rate is to text ad what conversion goal is to a landing page. The only difference is that, in an ad you have extremely limited space to convey your message while on a landing page, you can go on and on and on (though I don’t recommend it). However, note that by default, text ads follow structure of good landing pages. First, there is a headline.  Then there are two lines of text (the copy). Finally there is call to action (the URL).

Thanks to my A/B testing startup (Visual Website Optimizer), I have had the luck of helping thousands of our users implement A/B tests on their landing pages. Hence I have come to realize that there are few key elements which set apart highly converting landing pages from rest of the bunch. (I have also blogged about these landing page optimization tips.)

What makes a good text ad (or landing page)?

There are four key elements of a good landing page:

  • Headline that both catches the attention and talks about what the offer is about
  • Text copy and visuals that tells the visitor that this offer is relevant to him/her
  • Social proof that eliminates fear (of wasting time/money)
  • Call-to-action for the next step

Let’s see how these 4 elements map to the ad world.

Headline that is relevant and catches attention

Headline is the most important part of a text ad because a visitor fixes his eye-gaze on sponsored results only for a few milliseconds. In fact, as we all know it – users prefer organic results to sponsored results hence good headline must make the user pause his activity and at least read rest of the ad.

So, what makes a good headline? In my opinion, there are two essential components:

  • Relevance – headline should be relevant to what user is searching
  • Interest – headline should be catchy enough to make user care

Relevance is important because no matter how interesting your headline is, if it does not talk about what user is searching, why should he care? For example, if user is searching for website creation software and you have an interesting headline like Dance like a baby, most users are going to ignore it even if you mention in your ad text that your product is so easy that user is going to be very happy trying the software and hence will dance like a baby. The issue is that most users won’t care to read your explanation in ad text. They will simply ignore your interesting headlines because while searching, they are laser-focused on finding a solution relevant to their needs. (Many marketers get trapped in make it interesting mode and lose sight that they have become so creative that it doesn’t solve its intended purpose anymore)

Similarly, if a headline is relevant but if it fails to generate interest, the ad will be most likely skipped. For example, search for website creation software, you will find that most ads have generic and similar headlines: ‘Create a website’, ‘Website Builder’, ‘Free Site Builder’ etc. While all these headlines are relevant, as a user why should I prefer one to the other? Or, in fact, why should I click on them instead of organic search results?

A perfect headline is both relevant and interesting. Just to give an example, if I were to write headline for website creation software, I would use Site Builder for Grandma! (Of course, I will explain how easy is the tool in ad text but the purpose of headline is to catch attention of the user and make him care, which this headline probably does).

Ad text that is spot on and has social proof

Now, your headline has caught visitor attention and he is reading the text – what do you write in it? In my opinion, the job of ad text is to talk about the problem user wants to solve and to persuade him click to click on the ad. Persuasion is the key word here but it is a challenge to be persuasive in 70 characters or less.

This limit on the text length has paradoxical effect on advertisers who try to stuff all keywords possible. So, an ad for website creation software probably goes like this:

Free, easy to use, drag-drop
Supports flash, 200+ templates

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with the ad above. But the attention span of the visitor searching for something is limited, so you cannot really talk about ALL features of your product in an ad. I recommend talking about only one feature that is unique differentiation of your offering. It may be ease of use, low cost, high flexibility, huge userbase, etc. but key point is to talk about only one aspect in the ad.  In fact, you can run a campaign where multiple ads talk about multiple different aspects of your offering (one at a time, though) and you can see which one has highest CTR.

The second aspect of an ad text is social proof. Good landing pages convert better mostly because they clearly mention how many great customers they have, what kind of testimonials they have gotten and how widely their offering is used. While scanning ads, visitors want to make sure that if they are going to click on an ad and spend some time on the site, so offering on landing page should better be tried, tested and appreciate. (I am amazed to see how many ads out there just talk about features and not mention a single word about social proof. Just Google for website creation software and see for yourself).

So, if I were too write ad text for website creation software, I would write something like this:

Site Builder for Grandma!
Easiest website builder on earth
5000+ customers and counting

Don’t waste the URL part; incentivize the user

In landing pages, we have call to action buttons. In text ads, we have URLs. The URL part of a text ad is the most inflexible part of the ad so we usually end up not utilizing it appropriately. However, in my opinion, the URL part should be used in same manner as we use a call to action button.   A call to action button hits the final blow to nail user’s interest in the offering. On landing pages you will find call to action buttons saying Free Trial, Signup Now, Watch Video, etc. Why not do the same in URL part of a text ad? After all, you want user to take some action on the page your ad points to, so why not talk about that action in the ad itself.

See below how I would use the URL part for the website creation software ad.

Site Builder for Grandma!
Easiest website builder on earth
5000+ customers and counting

Note that my focus in on Free Trial aspect, not the main domain name. Most likely users aren’t aware and don’t care what your product is called, so why put all focus on it?

Summary: a text ad is a mini landing page

A text ad can be seen as a landing page in itself. The job of landing page is to make visitor interested and then go to next step by clicking on a call to action button. A text ad is supposed to do precisely the same: catch attention of the visitor and persuade him to click to visit the landing page.  Having relevant & catchy headlines, persuasive text and embedding call to action in URL is the formula to having ads that have great click through rates!

Having said all this and claiming above is a formula for higher converting text ads, you should always A/B test your ads (if you have time, bandwidth and budget to the same). You never know how an ad will convert until you actually make it live! So why take chances with my advice? 🙂

Paras Chopra

Paras Chopra

Paras Chopra is CEO of Wingify. Their flagship product Visual Website Optimizer is a market-leading A/B testing software used by thousands of enterprises and SMBs worldwide. He also write the... Read Full Bio
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • resume writing service

    interesting post) thnks a lot

  • Zippy Cart

    Not using the homepage is a great tip. Thanks!

    • Kyle

      Most of your Traffic shouldn’t be heading to your homepage either way.  There’s not much there for the consumer, and the mork work they have to do to buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, etc… the less likely they are to do it.  Best case senario you should have several dedicated landing pages for each campaign, each slightly varying based on the ad copy and what the user was originally seraching for

  • Tim

    Google doesn’t allow superlatives within Ad Copy.  Therefore you cannot implement what has been recommended here.

    • Jeff C

      Google Adwords Does allow superlatives – one per ad

  • Social Media News

    Thanks for the suggestions 🙂

  • David Rothwell

    I like this approach a lot, particularly – focusing on a single feature.

    Keyword Quality Score and hence what you pay in click prices is 60% governed by CTR (Hal Varian), so your ad copy, formatting, points of difference, demographic appeal, click expectation, keyword relevance, and so on are all factors.

    Display url is *huge*

    And since Google gives you up to 50 ads in an ad group, there’s nothing to stop you having as many as you need, pretty much. In one campaign, I had 36 different active ads all delivering conversions to target CPA.

    Of course, you need to be tracking conversions and CPA’s otherwise over-optimising ad response may not be actually paying off in sales/leads and profitability.

  • PredictInsight

    Thanks for the post. Nicely explained.

  • Mahendra Sharma

    Paras, I appreciate your inputs in running Best PPC Campaign with good Text Ads. The good Text ad can bring visitors on Landing Page but what is the best way to convert prospects in to inquiries? 

  • web coders for hire

    Yes.. When visitors read this blog they will catch easily those points.. Very interesting to read this.. Such a great tips sharing with us..

  • Brian O’Connell

    I would like your input as to Google Quality Score system. I have noticed when I create a new campaign and upload only keywords with random ad copy like “test headline”, “test description line 1”, and no landing page url, that Google shows a decent quality score for the keywords. I then added relevant ad’s with keywords in the ad title, and the quality score actually went down.

    • Paras

      Brian, Google Quality Score is kind of tricky and I am still trying to decipher it. I am guessing (predicted and actual) CTR is a major factor in determining it. Google has sophisticated machine learning models which try to predict how is your ad is going to perform.

  • David Mahon

    Most of the comments on here are purposely vague spam, trying to get inbound links to the site. Might be time to go nofollow on these people! Great article by the way (ironically, also quite vague!).

  • Ryan Burt

    good point on superlatives.  but even more obvious, Google doesn’t allow exclamations in the headline.  Makes me think the author hasn’t written much search ad copy.

    • Paras

      Though interpretation of superlative is debatable but great point on exclamation mark. More than providing an exact advertisement, I was trying to suggest what sort of ad would work. Of course, when making it live, it would need to comply Google’s guidelines and their whims and fancies.

  • Press

    Good and Thanks 

  • Dallas

    Thanks for the post. 

  • Rileydiegoa

    I found your blog when I was looking for a
    different sort of information but I was very happy and glad to read through
    your blog. The information available here is great.

  • Rileydiegoa

    What a great post, I actually found it very
    thought provoking,  thanks

  • Rileydiegoa

    A fantastic read….very literate and informative.
    Many thanks

  • Rileydiegoa

    I found this informative and
    interesting blog I think it’s very useful and knowledgeable. Thanks.

  • Brionnevg

    This was extremely helpful, but the text is littered with typos.

  • Brionnevg

    This was extremely helpful, but the text is littered with typos.

  • web development bangalore

    Its a very nice post.And you have described every thing very clearly.Thanks for sharing some useful information.

  • Tom Southern

    If you use your Homepage as the first page that you send visitors to, you risk loosing 99% of them – because there’s too many options on a Homepage which confuses them, and no clear message telling them why they need to stay, so they leave and don’t return.

    Sending them to a landing page opt-in form, or to an advertisement like Paras suggests, is best because it gives visitors 2 options: click to opt-in, or leave – so, you increase clicks on your adverts, or email opt-in.