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AdWords Lessons From a Fiercely Competitive Market

by Adam Kreitman

It’s actually pretty simple.

Ad copy and landing page.  That’s all a prospect will see of your AdWords campaign.

If you get the messaging on both right (and it jives with the keyword they typed into Google), there’s a good chance you’ll be successful with AdWords. If not, you’ll probably be helping Google’s bottom line more than your own.

One of the best ways to get ideas for great ads and landing pages is to see what advertisers in highly competitive markets are doing.

Today, we’ll check out what the big players for the competitive term “acne treatment” are doing in AdWords.


In a market where the product costs anywhere from $5 to $40 and Google’s keyword tool estimates click will cost you $4, there’s not much room for error.

Let’s see what we can learn.

X Out

X Out stands at the top of the pack in terms of Impression Share with their ad appearing about 85% of the time someone types in the term “acne treatment” in Google (according to my spy tool data).

And the company behind the product is Guthy-Renker, the direct marketing juggernaut. It’s worth paying especially close attention to what they’re doing here so we’ll dig into more details than many of the others.

The Ad

1 - xout ad

  • The headline of the ad specifically calls out teens. That’s something none of the other acne ads do. Speaking to a specific audience/segment of your market can be a highly effective strategy.
  • They also establish proof by referencing Proactiv. From infomercials to print advertising to online advertising, Proactiv is an extremely well-known brand in the world of acne treatment and gives immediate credibility to X Out.
  • The ad offers a unique benefit – 2 minutes to clear skin. Not only is it a clear benefit that appeals to their target market, but they use a number in the ad. You’ll see number used in many highly effective ads.
  • It also includes a call to action – Order Now! There’s no question about what they want you to do when you get to the landing page.

The Landing Page

1 - xout lp

  • First, the messaging on the landing page immediately reinforces the messaging of the ad. The 2 minute claim isn’t there, but Proactiv and Order Now are.
  • In a competitive market like this, offering a ton of proof is essential. We established that they’re doing that by referencing Proactiv. They’re also doing that by offering some Before and After photos at the bottom of the page.
  • There’s also links in the top navigation and by the photos offering yet more proof to those who want it.
  • The copy is short and highly targeted to teens, again reinforcing the ad copy.
  • The two Order Now buttons above the fold make the call to action crystal clear.
  • The short video is well done, offering another element of proof by featuring a number of teens (and a few moms too) talking about how easy X Out is to use and how it helped them clear up their acne.


The Ad

2 - olay ad

  • I usually stay away from using the company name in ad headlines but Olay is a well known brand so it makes sense to feature it prominently.
  • The word “acne” is mentioned 3 times in the ad and “treatment” twice. This reinforces the keyword the searcher used to find the ad. This also helps because when you use the keyword in your ads, they appear in a bold font which makes the ad pop a bit more.
  • They use the registered trademark symbol after their ad. Using symbols, like using numbers, is a great way to make an ad stand out from the competition.

The Landing Page


  • The thing that jumps out at me about this landing page is that it doesn’t mention the word “acne” anywhere. The searcher typed “acne treatment” into Google, the ad mentions “acne” 3 times but that’s not carried over the landing page at all. That’s something that should be changed.
  • There are a few competing calls to action on this page but none of them really stand out. I’d want the landing page to get much clearer about what action they want the searcher to take.

Exposed Skincare

The Ad

3 - exposedskin ad

  • This ad is interesting in that it isn’t promoting the virtues of a specific product. It’s trying to get people who are confused about which acne treatment to use to come to their site (you’ll notice this in some of the other ads below).
  • The ad also puts the focus on the searcher…”Discover the Best Treatment for You”. It implies that the site will guide you to a customized solution for your skin.
  • They’re also asking a question which can be a good way to get your ad noticed (especially if it’s a question your prospects are asking themselves).

The Landing Page


  • The landing pages continues on the theme of finding the best treatment for you. It has some comparison charts that show the scientific ingredients and natural extracts of the top 5 (according to them, anyway) acne treatments.
  • As you go through the charts it becomes clear that Exposed Skin believes that they offer the best acne treatment for people (surprised?).  And, at the bottom of the page in the “Highlighted” section, Exposed Skincare is rated the “Top Pick” with a special offer, a 5 star rating, etc.
  • Taking the comparison angle that ultimately leads people to your product is a very clever strategy…especially in a highly competitive market like this.


The Ad

4 - clinique ad

  • This ad is mainly letting Clinique’s well respected brand name pull most of the weight.
  • It also takes a ratings and reviews angle both in the ad copy and through the star ratings that their e-commerce site has received. Having an almost 5 star rating from over 18,000 reviews is a big credibility booster.

The Landing Page


  • Unlike the other big brand we looked at, Olay, the focus of Clinique’s landing page is squarely on acne (as it should be!).
  • This is more of a traditional e-commerce page where they clearly want you to buy their products. I like how they pull their Acne starter kit toward the top of the page to make it stand out from their other products.
  • Even though they want people to buy, they know not everyone is sold yet so they offer helpful content for those who want it by clicking on the red “Learn More About Acne” button. There’s also the “Keys to treating acne” link that provides additional information and credibility because the info is coming from a dermatologist.
  • I also like that they offer a Guarantee…a great way to remove risk and get people off the fence and pulling out their credit cards to buy.


The Ad

5 - murad ad

  • The ad offers some proof (“Dermatologist Developed Formula”) though you’d kinda expect that from an acne treatment.
  • It also includes strong offers of a Money Back Guarantee and Ships Free, but…

The Landing Page

5 - murad lp

  • None of the claims in the ad are backed up on the landing page!

Acne Treatments Online


8 - acnetreatmentsonline ad

  • Another advertiser using the comparison/review angle.
  • Good use of numbers including using “2013” so people perceive that they’re getting the most recent information available.
  • This ad was running in one of the top 3 spots so it displaying Sitelink extensions (the 3 links under the ad). Sitelink extensions are a great way to boost your Clickthrough rate and get people to the page on your site most relevant to what they’re interested in.

The Landing Page


  • The landing page doesn’t back up the claims of the ad. No Top 10 treatments. No “eliminate acne in 7 days”.
  • It does have a short quiz at the top that people can take to “Find the Perfect Acne Treatment” with a reported 96.8% success rate. I wonder if they’ve tested ads that tout the quiz. That’s something I’d be testing to see how it affects conversion rates.


The Ad

9 - pantheon ad

  • The first thing that stood out to me about this ad is “2012”. Especially when it’s running near the Acne Treatments Online ad above that references 2013, it makes the Pantothen ad seem out of date.
  • I like the credibility with the “Trusted By Millions” line.
  • It’s the only ad (from the top advertisers at least) that touts the 100% Natural angle in their ads. It’s a good lesson here…especially in a competitive market, you don’t want to go after everyone. Try appealing to a segment of the market that has a specific desire/problem. In this case, those who care about only using products with natural ingredients.

The Landing Page


  • The natural angle is nicely reinforced on the landing page, again, speaking to that very specific audience.
  • Clear call to actions with the Order Now buttons and the Toll Free number at the top.
  • Another advertiser using a guarantee (see a trend here?!)



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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on


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  1. Lee says:
    March 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Really insightful post. I have been thinking about Adwords for a while and was a bit weary about going for it in case it was a bit of a non starter but I suppose if you don’t try you don’t get so here goes. First campaign on the way

    Great post lee

    Great post lee

  2. Bob Sommers says:
    March 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    Another wonderful article. Your breaking down of the landing pages was spectacular. I was able to take one of your ideas and use if for your program. Thank you.

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