You need to write PPC ad copy that converts.
Otherwise you are wasting your money.
Here’s how to do that.
Unfortunately, many digital marketers opt for a “spray and pray” approach when it comes to creating ad copy. They pick a few keywords, quickly assemble a headline, and run the ad.
Avoid following their example. Instead, put some due diligence into ad copy that will boost your bottom line.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy – It All Starts With Personas
Here’s a pro-tip right out of the gate: don’t speak to the masses, speak to individuals.
Why? Because personalized marketing gets better results.
Consider these eye-opening stats compiled by R.D.Donnelley:
- 78% of all Internet users in the U.S. say that personally relevant content from brands increases their likelihood to make a purchase
- 88% of marketers in the U.S. have reported noticeable improvements in personalized messaging
- Personalized calls to action (CTAs) have a 42% higher conversion rate than generic CTAs
- Personalization can lower acquisition costs by as much as 50%
Once you understand that it’s important to create ad copy that speaks to individuals, the question becomes: who are the individuals that you should speak to?
To answer that question, you’ll have to create personas.
What are personas? They’re fictitious representations of actual people in your target market. They’re usually described in a paragraph, sometimes with bullet points.
For example, let’s say you’re selling a diet pill that helps people lose 10 pounds a month. Here’s an example of a persona that represents a segment of your market:
“Joe is a middle-aged married man. He works a white-collar job, owns his own home, and lives in a suburban neighborhood. Between his responsibilities in the office and his commitment to his family, Joe finds very little time to work out. Still, he knows that he’s overweight and needs to lose about 30 pounds.”
Now, armed with that information, you can create ad copy that speaks to Joe. That’s much better than generic marketing text aimed at “people who want a diet pill.”
When creating personas, be sure to answer the following kinds of questions about people in your target market:
- What keeps them awake at night?
- What’s irritating them right now?
- What’s the crisis that they’re facing?
- What’s frustrating them?
- What do they want?
- What causes them pain?
- What are their values?
- Who are they angry with?
- What are they afraid of?
- What are their pain points?
When you answer those questions, you’ll find that you’re in a better position to produce personalized ad copy.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy, Take The Knock-Knock Test
Copywriter Ben Settle likes to tell copywriters to practice what he calls “the knock-knock test.” He says the idea was created by an ad agency long ago (but he doesn’t remember which one).
The idea is to imagine that you’re selling a product or service in a neighborhood by going door-to-door. There’s no Internet or any other benefits of modern technology that you can use in your marketing.
Assume that everybody in the neighborhood has the same problem and needs your product or service to solve it. So you visit each house in the area and knock on the front door.
As soon as the door opens, what can you say in one sentence that will:
- Make it impossible for people to slam the door in your face
- Get them to invite you inside
Now, imagine doing that for your product or service. Once you’ve come up with a sentence that satisfies both of the points above, you’re on your way to creating compelling ad copy.
PPC Ad Copy: The Constraints
Before we get into headline ideas that land sales, it’s important to go over the constraints of PPC ad copy.
For starters, you have a character limit in headline and description text.
You might come up with an outstanding headline that you’re sure will land you some clicks. Unfortunately, that headline might be just a little bit too long for a PPC platform like Google AdWords.
With Google AdWords, you’re only allowed 30 characters in each of the two headlines and 80 characters in the description.
Let’s take a look at an example. Here’s the headline from the classic Rolls Royce ad by David Ogilvy: “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.”
Effective? Yep. Rolls Royce sales increased after the company ran that ad.
Unfortunately, though, you aren’t going to get that copy in an AdWords ad. You’ll get cut off in Headline 1 before you even get done with the word “loudest.”
You can, however, run those Ogilvy-like headlines on your landing pages. That’s because you’re not constrained with character limits.
So here’s another pro-tip: Produce short, compelling ad copy in your PPC ad. Then, use longer headlines on your landing page.
Just make sure the headline on the landing page is consistent with the promise in the ad copy.
There’s another constraint: PPC ads are generally keyword-driven.
That means you can come up with some amazing, compelling ad copy. But if it doesn’t include the right keywords, you’ll limit the reach of that ad.
So the trick is to create keyword-rich ad copy that works within the character limits and appeals to a specific persona.
It’s a tall order. That’s why you have to do your homework.
Next, let’s look at some ad copy strategies that will give you a high conversion rate.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy Strategy 1: Appeal to Authority
An appeal to authority might be a logical fallacy in debate circles, but it’s effective in advertising.
It works like this: you cite a study or expert in your ad copy to support a statistic or statement you make.
For example, let’s stick with the diet pill business from above. You might want to run a headline that shuts down the idea of old-fashioned dieting based on scientific research.
The keyword you’re targeting is “diet program.” You want to convince people that they should abandon their idea of joining a diet program and instead buy your pill.
Here’s what your headline might look like: “17 Leading Nutritionists Say That Diet Programs Don’t Work.”
That’s a pretty good headline except that it ignores the character count constraints of AdWords. Let’s rework it a bit.
Headline 1: Diet Programs Don’t Work
Headline 2: Read the Eye-Opening Report
Description: 17 leading nutritionists explain why diet programs fail.
Here’s how that headline will appear when people see it in the search results: “Diet Programs Don’t Work | Read the Eye-Opening Report.”
Just below that, people will see the description: “17 leading nutritionists explain why diet programs fail.”
Then, on your landing page, you could lead with: “17 Leading Nutritionists Say That Diet Programs Don’t Work.”
This is a good place to remind you that the two headlines in AdWords are now separated by a pipe (“|”) character and not a dash character (“-”), as they once were. That’s a shame because that means you really can’t “connect” the two headlines quite as easily as you could in the past.
That aside, appeals to authority in headlines will get you some clicks. Think about how you can use them in your ad copy.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy Strategy 2: An Offer They Can’t Refuse
This one is so basic that many marketers forget about it: make people an offer they can’t refuse.
How do you that? Advertiser a guarantee. Tell people you’re giving them something for free. Use the words “no risk” or “no obligation” in your headline.
Let’s look at another example with the diet pill business. Here’s a headline you might go with if you’re running an ad optimized for “diet pills.”
Headline 1: Free Diet Pills
Headline 2: A Week’s Supply!
Description: Try a free sample of our diet pills at no obligation!
That all fits within the constraints of AdWords. Also, note that the keyword (“diet pills”) is used twice. That should help with the Quality Score.
The idea with that ad strategy is to allow people to prove to themselves that your diet pills work. If they see that they lose 2-3 pounds over the course of a week, they’ll buy your pills.
They might even become lifetime customers.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy Strategy 3: The Contrast
A nice way to grab people’s attention and get a click is to throw them an advertising curveball. Write a headline that seems like an inherent contradiction.
Here’s an example: “Lose weight while eating more!”
That’s definitely going to be an eye-opener for people who lack the willpower to avoid desserts but still want to lose weight. If that kind of individual resembles one of your personas, then you have a marketing message.
And guess what? That headline is less than 30 characters. That means you can elaborate on it in Headline 2 and the description.
That would be a great headline for an ad optimized for the “lose weight” keyword.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy Strategy 4: The Tabloid Headline
Sometimes you can learn about marketing in the craziest places. One of those places is tabloid rags.
Whether or not everybody likes it, those newspapers sell. That’s because they run stories with headlines that are quirky, crazy, and interesting.
You can do that in ad copy as well.
Take, for example, John Carlton’s famous “one-legged golfer” ad: “Amazing Secret Discovered by One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards to Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices… And Can Slash up to 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!”
Of course, that ad won’t fit within the character count constraints of AdWords. Let’s leave that aside for a moment.
Just take out the word “One-Legged” from the headline above and re-read it. Does it sound even remotely interesting?
The addition of a single adjective made the headline 100 times more compelling. Think about how you can do that with your copy.
Now, as far as adapting that headline to AdWords, maybe we could go with something like:
Headline 1: Add 49 Yards to Your Drives
Headline 2: Secrets of a One-Legged Golfer
Description: Eliminate Strokes, Hooks, and Slices overnight!
The first headline makes a quantifiable promise. It’s best to use an odd number in quantifiable promises so that’s why you should change the number from 50 to 49.
The second headline sets the hook with the tabloid element. The description makes more promises.
On the landing page, you could use the full headline.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy Strategy 5: The Curiosity Gap
Long before viral websites were running headlines with a curiosity gap, advertisers were using them in print copy.
For example, legendary copywriter Mel Martin came up with these headlines:
- What Never to Eat on an Airplane
- Bills It’s Okay to Pay Late
See what he did there? He generated enough curiosity that people will want to read the rest of the ad. You can do that in your PPC ad copy as well.
Another great copywriter, Scott Haines (whose client list includes the current president of the United States), once said that curiosity is the #1 reason why people buy.
Think about how you can work the curiosity angle to your ad copy. You’ll get more clicks. You’ll likely get more sales.
How to Write PPC Ad Copy Strategy 6: The Straight Benefit
Who says you have to be creative to write an effective ad? Sometimes, all you have to do is brag.
One way to get clicks is to go with the straight benefit approach. In other words, just tell people what your product or service can do for them.
For example, if you’re selling diet pills online, you might go with something like this:
Headline 1: Lose 9 Pounds a Month!
Headline 2: Diet Pills That Trim the Fat
Description: Try our diet pills free for a week at no obligation.
The first headline describes a definite benefit. Again, you’d use an odd number because it’s more compelling.
Headline 2 explains how people lose weight while continuing with a description of the benefits. The description borrows from a strategy mentioned above (“Make an offer they can’t refuse”).
PPC Ad Copy Strategy 7: The Question
You can land sales by asking the right question.
Maybe you remember one famous ad campaign that asked a simple, two-word question: “got milk?”
Of course, if you remember it, then it was effective.
Or how about this one: “Can you hear me now?” That was a Verizon cell phone ad. It was designed to convince people that Verizon had the best cell phone coverage.
Then there’s headline by copywriter Brian Keith Voiles: “Which of These Health Problems Do You Want to Beat?”
And, of course, who can forget: “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll pop?”
Think about what questions you can ask your personas that will inspire them to click on your ad. You can combine this strategy with the curiosity gap strategy mentioned above to create some irresistible copy.
As an example consider this headline that works well with AdWords: “Why do diet programs fail?”
That fits within the 30-character limit, asks the right question, and is optimized for “diet programs.”
Wrapping It Up PPC Ad Copy
Now that you have some ideas about how to write PPC ad copy that converts, it’s time to get busy. Create some personas and then draft ad copy that appeals to each of them. Make sure it’s optimized for keywords and fits within the constraints of AdWords character counts.
Finally, test your ads to make sure they’re performing. Redirect resources to enormously successful ads and cut loose those ads that aren’t getting many clicks.