A Lesson in Google AdWords from 4 Accounting Software Companies

by Adam Kreitman

Last updated on March 23rd, 2018

If you’re in the market for accounting software (I’m assuming you’re not using paper ledges and pencils anymore!), there are no shortage of companies that would like your business.

It’s a high-competition market, with Google’s Keyword Tool estimating cost-per-clicks at more than $8 for the keywords “accounting software.”

Keyword Tool

Below we dissect the AdWords ad and landing page combos of the four top competitors — who, by the way, own an impressive 66% (or higher) share of the market, according to the spy software we use — battling it out for this highly competitive keyword.

So here are the four “winners,” along with some lessons you can take away and apply to your own AdWords campaigns…


The Ad:

Keyword = Search Query. The ad uses the keyword “accounting software” and, because that’s the search query that triggered the ad, it appears in a bold font. This is often a good strategy because using the keyword in the ad makes the ad more relevant and the bold font helps it stand out more.

Better headline. Note the company name in the headline. Generally you should put that space to better use. In the case of market leader QuickBooks, however, they can probably get away with it. But I’d still be testing alternative headlines.

Wrong focus? Of all the features and benefits QuickBooks could focus on in the ad, I wouldn’t think that re-downloading is one of the more powerful ones people are interested in.

I could be wrong. But after looking at their landing page, I’m all the more convinced. Let’s take a look…

The Landing Page:

1-qb lp - 2

Suspicion confirmed! Re-downloading isn’t mentioned anywhere on the page.  In fact, I spent a few minutes looking at some other sales pages on the QuickBooks site and didn’t notice a mention of re-downloading anywhere. If it’s that big a deal, it should be easy to find and mentioned often.

Also, one of the most important strategies in AdWords is to back up the message in your ad on your landing page. This ad-landing page combo doesn’t do that.

QuickBooks has strong benefits to choose from…Free 30 Day Trial…a guarantee (it pays for itself within 60 days or your money back)…free support and upgrades, etc. Those seem like much stronger claims and I’d definitely want to test those benefits out in their ads to try to optimize the campaign.

Landing page split into two sections. QuickBooks Online (the service it seems Intuit most wants to promote) gets the prime real estate on the left, taking up 2/3 of the space. The software/existing user side of things goes on the right and gets 1/3 of the space.

I point this out because a lot of businesses have different products/services they want to promote that speak to different audiences. However, in AdWords, you can’t always tell from the search query exactly who the searcher is and what they’re looking for. In those situations, it’s worth testing a landing page layout similar to QuickBooks’ and letting visitors segment themselves based upon their specific needs.

Quick Tip

Continue the “scent” of your ad onto your landing pages. When your messaging is in synch in both places,  your chances of conversion goes way up.


The Ad:

Hit the emotions. The headline plays off the emotional side of accounting software by posing the question “Fear Accounting Software?”

Hitting the emotions can be very effective in ad copy (especially since your competitors’ ads are likely mind-numbingly boring!). And since a lot of FreshBooks’ messaging revolves around how simple and intuitive their software is to use, speaking to those who are fearful and/or intimidated by accounting software works well here.

Take advantage of the Display URL. Notice how their Display URL includes the words “Small-Business”? This makes it clear who the software is for and calls out to that audience. And it does it by taking advantage of a part of an AdWords ad most advertisers ignore.

In the Display URL, you don’t have to use the actual URL of the page your ad leads to. As long as the domain in the ad matches the domain of the landing page, you can do whatever you want with the 35 characters you have for your Display URL (including using a subdomain like “small-business.freshbooks.com”). Make the most of it!!

The Landing Page:


Clear call-to-action. There’s no question on the landing page what they want you to do…Try it Free for 30 days.

Be careful when you embed YouTube videos. The embedded YouTube video gives a nice overview of what FreshBooks does. However, notice from the screen capture (taken after I watched the video) that it’s displaying a number of related videos.

Four of them are related to FreshBooks. Two aren’t.

When generating the embed code for YouTube videos, you have the choice to show related videos or not. Don’t show them! You don’t want people to get distracted by other videos and leave your site.

Add more proof. One thing I’d test more on this landing page is adding some proof and credibility elements above the fold. FreshBooks is up against some big players in this market so it needs to strongly make the case why prospects should use it as opposed to its better known competitors.

I’d test adding some of its strongest proof elements at the top of the home page (over 5 million users; featured by The New York Times, CNN, Forbes, CPA Practice Advisor, etc.) at the top of the landing page.

(See what 14 experts had to say last year about the FreshBooks home page.)

Quick Tip:

In an AdWords ad most people focus on the 25-character Headline and the 35-character Description Line 1 and 2. But don’t forget about the 35 characters for the Display URL. It’s a great place to enhance your messaging that most advertisers don’t take full advantage of.


The Ad:

Use Social Proof. The Netsuite ad is heavy on the social proof (which is not a bad route to go!), featuring the fact they’re trusted by 16,000+ organizations.

They’ve also done a good job of getting +1s for their site and can show that off as an extra line below their ads, demonstrating yet more social proof.

The “Social extensions” feature in AdWords is how you get this extra line to show up.

(Note/Hint: This is NOT how many people have +1’d your ad, it’s how many have +1’d your website.)

Be Careful With Dynamic Keyword Insertion. The keyword “Accounting Software” is featured three times in the ad — Display URL, first line of copy and headline.

In the headline, Netsuite is using Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI) to do this. DKI inserts the exact search term a searcher types into Google into your ad.

This can be an effective strategy…the idea being people will respond favorably to your ad when it contains the exact words they typed. But you have to be careful with DKI.

First, make sure many competitors aren’t using it because you don’t want your ad to be one of 3, 4, 5 or more with the exact same headline.

Also, think through what search queries your ad could appear for and how that might affect how your ad is displayed. eBay is notorious for messing this up (check out this great article by WordStream CEO Larry Kim for more on that). Here’s an example of the dangers of DKI from Larry’s article…

 The Landing Page:


Be consistent between your ad and landing page. The landing page does a good job of immediately backing up the ad’s claims of being the top Cloud accounting software and that it’s used by more than 16,000 organizations. Again, you want the message in your ad to be backed up on the landing page.

Be specific. It features a pretty strong list of bullets that highlight the benefits of NetSuite’s product and includes specific numbers like “Save up to 93% in IT costs” (specificity makes your claims more credible).

Clear call to action. There’s a good, clear call to action with two big red buttons on the page promoting a free product tour.

Never stop selling! When you click on the button, you go to this lead-gen page where you’re required to enter name, email address, phone, company name, etc. in order to get the tour.


First, notice how it’s not just a page with a form on it. The page reinforces benefits with a bulleted list at the top and features testimonials down the side.

Good lesson here…never stop selling!!! Just because searchers have clicked through to a page to get a product tour, download a whitepaper, contact you, etc., doesn’t mean your job is done. Reinforce WHY they should take that action as NetSuite does on this page.

Second, this form asks for A LOT of information which will greatly reduce the number of people who fill it out.

This is a situation where you have to balance how many people will actually take the time to fill out the form (likely the most serious, engaged prospects) and become customers vs. how many more quality leads/potential sales you may miss out on by putting up this kind of barrier.

Only testing can tell which strategy will result in more sales.

Quick Tip:

Even on your Contact page, never stop selling! Reinforce the action you want people to take on your site and the benefits they’ll get by taking it.


The Ad:

Stand out from the crowd. This ad takes a different approach than the others. It offers a Free Guide to help people discover what their accounting software options are.

Be relevant. The ad includes the phrase “New for 2013” which is smart because it makes the ad seem more timely and relevant. It also lets them put numbers in the ads (top performing ads often have numbers).

The Landing Page:


Fulfill the promise of your ad. This is pure Lead Generation. Not much in the way of links or navigation (other than some tiny links at the bottom).

Intacct clearly wants you to fill out that form and get the guide. So, appropriately, the landing page isn’t selling its software, it’s selling the guide. Since that ties into what the ad is about, that’s exactly the right approach to take. Though I do think the bullets could be improved by teasing more benefits contained in the guide and be more emotionally charged.

Appropriate testimonials? The testimonials on this page caught my attention on this page because they’re all about Intacct’s software solution.

With the intent of the page to get people to download the report, I would be using testimonials (if I use them at all) about how great/helpful the report is, not the software.

Also the ad and landing page copy insinuate this is an independent guide to help people figure out which accounting software is best for their business. I didn’t download the guide, but the testimonials make it pretty clear to me that the guide is going to be heavily biased toward Intacct’s software and isn’t providing the unbiased information I was hoping for based on the ad.

That’s probably hurting conversion rates here…at least among skeptical types like me! 😉

Quick Tip:

It’s great to have testimonials on your site. You can use them more effectively by making sure they’re relevant to the content on the page you put them on. Even better, place them strategically so they reinforce the claims made in your copy (ie. if the copy mentions costs savings, immediately follow that with testimonials from customers raving about how you saved them $3417 in 28 days).



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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. Nazito says:
    May 16, 2013 at 3:56 am

    Adam you are a bloody legend, your analysis and sugestions are really something. Yous just gave a free consultaion. Well done mate.

  2. Jody says:
    May 15, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Thorough article – I enjoyed reading the anaylsis of each step from the Google Adword to the CTA and the points to note along the way. Cheers for sharing! 🙂

  3. zhang says:
    May 15, 2013 at 4:39 am

    A very useful article about accounting software. Thanks for your posting.

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