11 Successful AdWords Ads and Why They Crush the Competition

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You don’t get much space.

25 characters for the headline.
70 characters of ad text.
35 characters for the Display URL.

That’s it.

I’m talking of course about those little ads you see whenever you do a search on Google.

Some businesses are able to phenomenally successful AdWords ads while others have failed miserably.

Ultimately, success with AdWords comes down to your landing page/website. But the first step on that road to winning at AdWords is to get the clicks.

What does it take to write an AdWords ad that gets the clicks?

I’ll give you a list of common traits seen in successful ads at the end of this post. But before we get to that let’s put some top performing ads, in some highly competitive markets, under the microscope to see what we can learn.

(Note: To figure out which are the top performing ads, I used a “spy” tool that shows me data such as: how long the ads have been running, what their average ranking is, and the advertiser’s Impression Share (a measure of how often their ads appear in the rankings). Ideally we’d have access to the actual performance data from these advertisers but that’s clearly not going to happen. So, short of that, it’s a good bet that the ads which have been running for a long time, have high rankings, and a high impression share in highly competitive markets are performing very well.)

With that said, let’s take a look at these winning AdWords ads and see why they work…

Logo Design Guarantee

Logo Design

This is a great ad to start with because it includes so many factors you’ll see in top performing ads including…

  1. The use of numbers – You’ll see numbers a lot in successful AdWords ads. They make the ads stand out visually by breaking up blocks of words/letters. They also add some specificity to the ads, in this case the $49 price, the 100% money back guarantee and the fact that the logos are 100% custom made. This lets people know exactly what they’re getting and, especially when you include a price, can reduce clicks from those who aren’t a good fit for your business.
  2. The use of ASCII characters – This ad has a greater variety of ASCII characters – the percent sign (%), registered trademark (®), plus sign (+) and asterisks (*) – than I’ve ever seen in one ad. As with numbers, ASCII characters make the ads stand out from the competition and draw more eyeballs to it than a block of words/letters.
  3. A great offer – This ad makes a compelling offer…custom made logos, on sale for just $49 with a 100% money back guarantee. As I mentioned last month in regards to factors that make websites convert, a great offer can overcome a lot of other deficiencies in a landing page. The same is true for an ad.
  4. A call to action – Let people know what they’re supposed to do. In this case, Logo Design Guarantee makes it very clear that they want you to order online…NOW.
  5. A benefit – In this case, the benefit (aside from the low price offer) is implied in the use of the word USA a few times. They’re not-so-subtly hinting that your logo design is not going to be outsourced, it’s going to be done in the US. This will resonate with those in the US who are wary of having their logo work done overseas.

North American Spine

back pain treatment

  1. Note the use of ASCII characters here in their AccuraScope™ Procedure. Again, it makes the ad stand out visually and also adds a degree of credibility that they’re offering a procedure that’s been trademarked.
  2. The phone number in the ad is an implied call to action. They want you to call (which positions them quite differently from many other back pain treatment sites) if you’d feel more comfortable talking to someone as opposed to just gathering information off their website.
  3. They’re offering a benefit – to treat your back pain with a minimally invasive procedure. And if you want to discover more benefits about the procedure, click on the ad to read about them (which is a good incentive to get people to click).


back pain relief

  1. Note the use of numbers again – including the very specific “16 Hours” (not 10 or 15) which helps lend credibility to their claims.
  2. ASCII characters with the registered trademark and the dollar amount you can save when you click on the ad.
  3.  The benefit of getting relief from back pain for 16 hours.
  4. The offer to save $3 on your purchase.

POC Hiring

make money per month

  1. What I really like about this ad that makes it unique is it starts to tell a story. Starting a story in your ad that continues on your landing page creates intrigue and can give your ad’s clickthrough rate a big boost if it’s done well. The implied story here is about an “American Mom” who makes $7,847 a month from home.
  2. They use a question to set up the ad. They could have just gone with the statement “Make $7487 a month”. Instead they added the question mark on the end. The question mark adds an ASCII character to the mix which we’ve talked about already. But more than that, in the “make money from home market” using the question works particularly well because a lot of people are going to be very skeptical of the claim. Just using the statement “Make $7487 a month” will be met with the thought of  “yeah, right” by many who see it. However, adding the question mark softens it up a bit and almost plays into the skepticism by reframing the claim by asking if it’s really possible to make that much money in a month from home.
  3. We’ve talked about using number a lot already. What this ad does well is use a very specific number $7487. Bringing this level of specificity to the ad helps its credibility in a market where that’s extremely important to have.
  4. The ad offers the implied benefit that if the typical American Mom can make $7,847 from home, so can you!

foods you must not eat

  1. This ad uses a number, but in a different way from the other ads we’ve looked at so far. They use it in the context of offering “5 Foods you must not eat”. People love numbered lists like this so this will definitely get people’s attention and interest.
  2. This ad is offering the benefit of cutting down on “a bit of stomach fat every day” by just avoiding the 5 foods they’ll share with you when you get to their website. This works on a few levels. First, it sounds simple…cut down on stomach fat by avoiding 5 types of foods. People like simple solutions. It also creates intrigue. Don’t you want to know what these 5 foods are and go to the site to find out? I was curious and I’m not even looking to lose weight!

Dr. Simoni – Plastic Surgeon

LA plastic surgeon

  1. Another ad using numbers (see a trend here?!) in yet a different way than we’ve seen so far. This ad from a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles uses it to highlight his practice being in Beverly Hills by using the city’s famous 90210 zip code.
  2. Using the zip code with “Dr” also adds credibility by invoking the TV show of the same name “Dr 90210” which is sure to get the attention of those considering plastic surgery, especially in LA.

  Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery

Rodeo Drive plastic surgeon

  1. Here’s another ad from a Los Angeles area plastic surgeon. No numbers. No ASCII characters. No benefits. No call to action. This ad is purely using the various TV shows and publications they’ve been seen on as a proof/credibility element to stand out from the competition. As with the previous example, this approach will particularly resonate with this market of people looking for a plastic surgeon in the Los Angeles area.


accident injury

  1. This is another ad that features a question in the headline which, again, is great way to grab attention. I’ve seen questions work well in both the headline and the body of AdWords ads. Here it’s used to qualify people who are in their target audience…people who have been injured in an accident.
  2. It also gets attention by using numbers. And in this case a pretty big number that lets searchers know that they may be entitled to $10,000 or more if they were injured in an accident.
  3. Along with the potential benefit of getting $10K or more, the company offers the benefit of getting a free case evaluation.
  4. They use the word “Free.” This is a great way to get people to notice and click on your ad. Though you have to be careful using ‘free’ because it may attract the wrong kind of prospect. You may end up getting clicks from a lot of people looking for a handout but have no intention of giving you money.
  5. There’s a clear call to action that they want you to call them. and From You Flowers

flowers online

pro flowers

  1. These ads are the first ones we’ve looked at so far that use quotes, another effective element in AdWords ads. Using quotes like these works for a few reasons. First, the quotes, like the other ASCII characters we’ve seen, make the ads stand out visually. Second, the quotes add credibility to the companies. It’s not them talking about themselves and saying how great they are, it’s an outsider singing their praises.
  2. Speaking of outsiders, having the endorsement of the Wall Street Journal or CBS News adds a strong element of proof to this ad that the competition can’t match.


  1. We’ve seen in previous ads how they’ve used credibility from media sources to add the element of proof and credibility to their ads. This ad inserts proof and credibility (along with numbers!) by focusing on the fact that they’ve had 25,000+ “Happy Customers”.
  2. Elance also puts out a compelling offer in the ad to get “top design and development from $99”.
  3. They also slip in the call to action at the end to encourage you to start now.
  4. They use the Display URL to reinforce what they’re offering by adding “/Custom_Design” after their URL. A lot of people ignore the Display URL, but it can be a good place to expand the messaging in your ads. The rule is that the URL must match the same domain you’re directing the people who click on your ads to. However, after the URL, you can put anything after it you want (even if it doesn’t correspond to the subpage on your site you’re sending people to). You have 35 characters for your Display URL, like does here, make them count!

So there you have it. 11 AdWords ads that have been running successfully for a long time in highly competitive markets, along with the key elements that make them successful.

To recap, all these ads have at least 1 or more of the following (and usually a lot more).

  1. Use Numbers
  2. Use ASCII characters
  3. Focus on benefits
  4. Offer proof/credibility
  5. Use quotes
  6. Ask a question
  7. Make a strong offer
  8. Include a call to action

There are three other more general elements at work here that are important to note…

First, with the possible exception of the work from home ad, these ads are not overly hypey or sensationalistic. You have very limited space with which to work in an AdWords ad. There’s no room to be cute or gimmicky…you have to cut to the chase and make every character count to get the clicks.

Second, these ads do a good job of standing out from their competitors ads. It’s not uncommon to do a search and see a good percentage of the AdWords ads with the same headline or using basically the same dry, boring message. (In fact, one time I did a search for accountants in Chicago and 3 ads were identical except for the URL!)  When you’re coming up with ads, look at what the competition is doing and make sure your ads are unique.

Lastly, and most importantly, all these ads are successful because of extensive testing on the part of the businesses. Testing your ad copy and testing your landing pages is the single most important factor in developing a winning AdWords ad and campaign.

Because while the ads above are top performers, what works well for your business may be quite different. And the only way to figure out what ads will be successful for you is to test, test, test!

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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