This is a guest contribution from Brad Shorr.
If you do a Google search for “how to write better paid search ads” you’ll get over 75 million results. This alone tells you there’s no definitive formula for writing them. Nevertheless, following a few basic principles will help you develop a writing system that leads to higher conversion rates over time.
Infographic courtesy of: Deepfootprints.
1. Relevance (Headlines)The more relevant your ad is to the search query, the more likely users will convert. This is just common sense; if you’re searching for apples you’re unlikely to click on an ad for oranges. The starting point for writing relevant ads is incorporating ad groups that break down the general mass of prospective customers into tightly defined segments. For an “apples” campaign, ad groups could be structured as follows:
- Specific types: Red apples, green apples, sour apples, etc.
- Specific applications: Apples for cooking, apples for eating, apples for making wine, etc.
- Specific market segments: Apples for consumers, apples for wholesale grocers, etc.
- Specific locations: Apples for Chicago, apples for the Midwest, apples for America, etc.
Not sure which segments would bear conversion fruit (pun and following puns intended) for your product or service? Keyword research will reveal which segments have juicy search volume. Be sure to incorporate as many keywords as possible in the ad text, preferably in the headline. The headline “Wholesale Apples” is far more likely to attract a wholesaler’s attention than “Apples.”
2. Value Proposition/Offer (Description Line 1)An ad doesn’t necessarily need an offer to be effective. For example, an auto parts store may get more mileage out of the value proposition “immediate shipment” than an offer of “$10 off.” Furthermore, there are some instances when an offer could actually reduce conversions: a high-end jewelry store could turn off customers by saying “Big Savings!”
To identify a promising value proposition or offer, ask, “Why would a potential customer in the given ad group take action?” A few common patterns to consider:
- For commodities, saving money, selection and fast delivery are appealing.
- For high-end products and services, quality, exclusivity and satisfaction guarantees have appeal.
- For products or services new to the market or complex in nature, satisfaction guarantees and trial orders have appeal.
- An obvious benefit — more leisure time, greater productivity, big tax refund, etc. — has appeal because it is likely to be relevant.
- A differentiating benefit — free service, lifetime guarantee, maintenance-free, etc. — has appeal because it makes people think you may have more to offer.
Good internal communication is key! Consult your sales team and review past marketing campaigns to identify effective value propositions and offers. If your paid search team works in a vacuum, campaign results are likely to suck.
3. Motivator (Description Line 2)There’s often a fine line between value propositions and motivators. For example, “Satisfaction guaranteed” or “Free trial” could be either. Generally speaking, a literal call to action such as “Get Started Now!” are unnecessary; if your ad conveys value, people will click on it and get started. Though more subtle types of motivation can be highly effective.
For small companies or ones not widely known, a credibility statement gives people the confidence to click. Examples of effective credibility messages:
- Established 1959
- 50 years of service
- BBB Accredited Business
- Award winning
- Over 10,000 customers
- As seen on CNBC
- An Inc. 500 company
Other, stronger types of motivation are also effective. Examples:
- Supplies limited
- Sale ends May 31
- First 100 customers
- No long-term contract
- Free analysis
- 14-day trial
- Quote in 1 minute
These examples convey urgency, safety and/or specificity — all of which are important to overcoming skepticism or indifference.
Keep TestingUsing the formula of a highly relevant headline/strong value proposition or offer/strong motivator provides a baseline for creating ad text. From there, ad composition becomes an exercise in filling in the blanks, which lends itself to systematic testing and continual improvement.
Chances are close to 100 percent that you will not be able to predict which headline, value proposition/offer and motivator are going to yield the best conversion rate. However, you will be able to arrive at a top 5 list for each of these three elements —enough to keep you busy split testing for a year.
While staying flexible and being open to new ideas is always good for paid search campaigns, never ending creative conversations are draining and not conducive to sustained improvement. By identifying your best ad text options at the beginning of the campaign, you will be able to focus on execution rather than wondering from month to month what neat idea could magically boost conversions. The real magic to paid search is understanding your products and customers — and transferring that insight to the ad copywriters.
Brad Shorr is the B2B marketing director of Straight North, an Internet marketing agency that offers PPC Management Services to companies of all sizes. You can read his work on Forbes, Moz and Carol Roth.