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6 Tips to Supercharge Your PPC Copy

by Peter Boyle

Writing copy for your PPC ads is anything but easy.

You’ve limited space, restrictive word counts and Ad blocking to contend with. Not to mention all the competition you’ve got to differentiate yourself from.

There are no easy wins in the marketing world. Whilst PPC is arguably one of the more beneficial approaches to marketing and driving traffic, it’s also one of the most difficult to implement effectively.

There’s a lot of advice out there on PPC, the majority of which focuses on choosing the right keywords, targeting the right demographic and implementing the most strategic retargeting campaigns.

These are all great tips and can really help increase the effectiveness of your PPC campaign, but more often than not they overlook a key component needed in every digital marketing channel. The ability to create persuasive and compelling copy.

Every channel and approach has different rules for creating effective copy. A blog post or sales letter gives you hundreds or thousands of words to play with to convince your prospects. Press releases need to be more concise to attract attention. And PPC, well, it’s a hell of a lot more restrictive in terms of copy.

The character restrictions PPC suffers from often lead to rather uninspired PPC copy. The kind of ads that are easily ignored and overlooked, which is a real waste. A properly optimized PPC campaign get’s your ad in a prime position to be seen by your perfect target market. To settle for crappy copy is a complete waste of your time and budget.

However, if you spend as much time optimizing your copy as you do organizing your campaign, you can see some amazing benefits with your paid adverts. With that in mind, here’s a few tips to ensure that your PPC copy is the most persuasive it possibly can be.

1. Focus Only on Your Prospect’s End Goal

Brevity in any writing is a must. Whether you’re crafting a sales letter, blog post or social media update – you have to get right to the point. Attention spans are short and any copy that exceeds that attention span will be ignored.

Concise writing is the mark of purposeful, economical communication. The trick is to cut down on your content without sacrificing its quality or impact.

This is incredibly difficult when it comes to PPC ads. When developing any marketing material the length of your copy will depend entirely on how aware your prospects are of your brand and product. The less aware your prospects are, the longer the copy should be.

PPC awareness

This of course throws a spanner in the works of PPC. You have very few characters to play with and a large portion of those who view your ad will be pretty unaware of your brand.

So what’s an advertiser to do?

For a start you should cut the crap and focus on your prospect’s end goal. Follow these guidelines as a general rule:

  • Don’t use confusing industry jargon or business speak (unless you’ve tested them and they convert well)
  • Cut useless words
  • Utilize keywords effectively
  • Focus on your prospect’s end goal

Take these examples for hair loss treatment as an example.

PPC examples

The second and side bar ads have completely the wrong focus.

Let’s first look at the second ad which wastes its potential. Of course the person searching for hair loss treatment is worried about losing their hair. Questions can work well in headlines, but sometimes people just want solutions .

The side bar ad focuses on what I’m sure the advertiser believes is a great selling point, that their solution is unique. But let’s face it, the people who are looking for hair loss treatment couldn’t care less if their solution was unique or not. All they want is a product that works.

The top ad is the best example here. It speaks to the end goal that the prospect wants, the regrowth of a full head of hair. Personally I think it’s a little ham-fisted in its approach, but I’m willing to bet it’s more effective than the other two. Knowing how PPC ads are rated and placed, it’s positioning at the top is a good indicator of its efficacy.

Note: These are suggestions for starting a PPC campaign. If you’ve found through lots of testing that seemingly terrible headlines works – then keep using them! The name of the game is testing.

2. Your Headline is Still the Most Important Element

PPC ads generally comprise of three primary variables.

PPC Copy example

  1. Headline
  2. URL
  3. Description

All elements are of course important and a good PPC ad should have them building on each other to further establish relevance and desire. However, one of these things is not like the others.

Ask any copywriter for the most important piece of copy on a page and you’ll invariably get the same answer. The headline.

According to David Ogilvy five times as many people will read your headline as your body copy. This little nugget of wisdom is often touted by copywriters when writing sales letters, emails or even blog posts. But it’s just as important when it comes to your PPC ads.

This eye tracking study sheds some light on the importance of each element in PPC ads.

PPC eye tracking study results

The details of the study are quite interesting. For adverts on the left, the most important element is the headline by quite a margin. However, when on the right, headlines are only marginally beaten by description text.

PPC eye tracking study results

Whilst the description beats out the headline in ads on the right hand side the overall average still favors headlines as the most important element. Of course that doesn’t mean you should focus all your attention on the headline, but it definitely deserves a little more of your time.

3. Buck the Trend

The internet marketing space is incredibly crowded and there’s going to be a lot of competition for your PPC keywords.

Unfortunately the majority of PPC advertisers fail to look into their competition or the steps they’re taking with their advertising. This often leads to a rather underwhelming variety in terms of displayed ads. Take these ads for a search on “Black Friday Sales” as an example.

Boring PPC copy examples

There’s nothing in any of these adverts that differentiates them from the other. Nothing that jumps off the page and makes you really want to click it. They’re all so similar that they’ve become bland and uninspiring.

The best ads are those that stand out yet are still related to the search term typed. If you can also tap into the emotional driving force behind the search, you’re on to a winner.

Perry Marshall developed a cracking little method for creating high converting, emotional ad copy called the Swiss Army Knife method. Here’s an example of the method in action when producing copy for divorce lawyer advertisements. On the left, a Google search for divorce lawyers, on the right an ad that’s used the Swiss Army Knife approach.

Good PPC copy example

Which one do you think is more likely to grab the attention of a woman scorned?

4. A Little Urgency Goes a Long Way

As a CRO you should be no stranger to urgency elements. Countdown timers, limited stock and anything related to a deadline are common practice for increasing conversions.

These same urgency foundations can also be used in your PPC ads. Of course you can’t utilize them in exactly the same way. In fact, effectively implementing countdowns in your ads is a pretty tricky thing to manage. The simple approach is to include certain words that give the impression of required urgency.

Changing headlines to include phrases like “buy now”, or “sign up today” can greatly increase the effect of your PPC ads.

Marcus Taylor has an interesting little story about how the inclusion of the word ‘now’ helped him to win a PPC conversion challenge. It’s an approach he’s also replicated in many other tests since.

Urgency in PPC

Rarely are online purchases an urgent need. However, adding a little urgency to your headlines can tip the scales in your balance and force prospects to take immediate action.

5. Choose the Right Format

Ever notice how there’s uniformity to landing pages, sales letters and even to blog posts? There always seems to be a template which has proven time and again to be the best performer.

As soon as a winning formula or template is discovered it’s covered on every marketing site and is the subject of dozens of case studies. The result is a popularization of that approach which you’ll then find on sites in every conceivable industry.

It’s prevalent in every manner of marketing and PPC is no different. There are various different ad formats that you can use, but choosing the right format could be the difference between an average and exceptional campaign.

I’m averse to saying that one PPC format is undoubtedly better than the others. After all, the good CROs know that test results are rarely replicable. However, there is data out there which indicates that shopping ads are the most effective at driving conversions . I’m inclined to believe this as they rely heavily on images which we all know help drive conversions.

Unsurprisingly I’m a copywriter who will forever extol the virtues and need for amazing copy. However, I can’t deny the importance of its presentation. Your PPC ads need to catch the eye of your prospects and it appears that taking the shopping ad format is the best for it.

6. Keep it all Relevant

I’m going to deviate from the trail a little here.

PPC CTR is only effective if the rest of your funnel works. There’s no point in having some kick ass PPC ads if your prospects are dissuaded from converting at every subsequent stage.

Now of course there’s tons of advice right here on Crazy Egg about optimizing your landing pages, email sequences and any other part of your funnel but there’s one crucial step directly related to your PPC ads and the URL they link to.

That crucial step is relevancy.

Creating a kickass PPC ad only to have it link to a completely unrelated landing page is one of the worst mistakes you can make. It destroys the cohesive customer journey and causes unnecessary friction.

It’s like advertising lingerie outside of a male grooming shop. A good ad will turn heads and drive a few passers by into the store to see what the advertisement is offering. People who will be incredibly disappointed upon crossing the threshold to your store.

They’re not going to stick around and say, ‘well, I wanted some lingerie, but now I think about it a new straight razor seems like a good idea’. The ad doesn’t match up with the offer, which is pretty much the most basic step in creating a high converting funnel.

You can sit and optimize your PPC copy all day long. But even the most compelling copy isn’t going to turn those how click on your ad into paying customers if the following stages of your funnel don’t represent the initial attraction.

PPC Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth The Effort

There’s a reason PPC is one of the most talked about marketing methods online. When it’s done well, it really works.

There’s a lot to implementing a successful campaign though. Whilst this little list is a good start on producing some kick ass PPC ads, it’s by no means exhaustive and it doesn’t examine some of the other important steps to a successful PPC campaign.

You’re also going to need to look into a retargeting campaign, how to target the right people along with a slew of other considerations. And of course you’re going to need to leave the advice behind at some point and improve your campaign based on your own results.

4 Comments

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Peter Boyle

Pete Boyle is a conversion focused copywriter and marketing consultant. He helps brands increase their revenue through compelling copy and smart email campaigns. Click here to connect with Pete or download one of his free marketing guides.

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  1. Anonymous says:
    February 3, 2016 at 12:50 am

    Very Informative article. However, Few of the organizations are willing to squander huge amount of money on Google adwords, but barely spend any budget which is required decide on right key words and to filter out ineffective keywords and phrases from their advertising campaigns whether on Web optimization or Paid Advertising channels such as Adwords.

  2. Tristan says:
    January 5, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Do you have any tips on geo-targeted ppc campaigns?

  3. Terry says:
    December 8, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    “PPC ads generally compromise…” Compromise, really? I’m not sure if you’re a reliable source any more.

    • December 9, 2015 at 1:58 pm

      Seems as though you picked up on a typo there Terry.

      Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I’ve corrected it in the article now.

      Cheers!

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