Anatomy Of A Good PPC Text Ad

In my opinion, the hardest thing about creating a successful PPC campaign is writing the text ads. Maybe some of you out there are outstanding copywriters, but I’m not one of them. I’m really more of a nuts-and-bolts kind of guy, more at home with stats and other quantitative variables than with abstract ideas like creative copy.

But I’m not the only one who struggles with writing a good text ad. Crummy PPC ads are only a Google search away – we’ve all seen them on the SERPs. But, there are a few basic concepts that should go into every text ad that will make even the poorest copywriter be able to write a quality text ad. Let’s break it down by each piece of the ad:

Headline – It’s big, it’s bold, it’s the first line. This is your best opportunity to have your ad get the user’s attention. Try to use keywords that your user is searching for, changing your headlines by ad group. If you sell coffee makers, put “coffee makers” in the headline. It also helps to have a brief value proposition somewhere in the headline. Do you offer a discount? Free shipping? Convenient location? Pitch it in the headline, if space allows.

Description Lines – The meat of the text ad. Sometimes it feels like writing haiku to get everything to fit on the lines, within the character limits. Like the headline, you should use keywords your user is searching for (these get bolded if they match the user’s query), and at least one value proposition. Don’t get too ambitious, though – you can easily put too much information into a text ad and have it turn into gibberish. It’s much better to have one strong, eloquently stated value proposition than to have five in abbreviated text-speak that your customers may not understand. Also, make sure that if you offer something in your ad description, you have a mention of it on the subsequent landing page. If you offer free shipping in your ad and users can’t find any mention of it on your site, they could feel ripped off. You might also get dinged by Google for lack of landing page relevance, and suffer a lower quality score on your keywords and ads.

Display URL – Remember, your display URL has to match the domain of your landing page. You can display “” and send them to “”, but you can’t display “” and send folks to “”. However, you can add fake subfolders to the domain in the Display URL with no penalty. This is a clever trick if you want to sneak in another mention of your target keyword or offer. Using the display URL “” might give you another chance to grab a future customer’s attention.

Destination URL – Here’s where you choose your landing page. Make sure it’s a page that’s relevant to the keywords in your ad group, and offers everything you said in the ad. Landing page optimization is worth a whole other blog post (or entire blog), so I won’t get into it here. Also, you can add special URL parameters to your destination URL to track additional factors in your Google Analytics or other web analytics package. That’s something for a more advanced audience, but if you’re up to the challenge it’s a great way to track your results so you can optimize your accounts more effectively.

One last thing – don’t forget to test new text ads! Have at least two ads per ad group, and test drastically different value propositions or keyword combinations to see which is better. Once you have enough data, pause the worst-performing one and repeat the process by adding in a new, radically different ad. If you do this right, your click-through rates and conversion rates will be on a consistent upswing until you reach your optimal performance for your category.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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