The Most Common Mistake In PPC Text Ads

I’ve been working a lot lately on building out PPC accounts for BuildASign’s newest site, Printcopia. And of course, no PPC buildout would be complete without the creation of a hell of a lot of text ads. This got me thinking about the various best practices involved in ad creation. But I think I can boil down all of them to the most common mistake I see in text ads: whatever you do, don’t be boring.

Take for example this ad I found on the query “bicycle parts” (URL censored to protect somebody’s job):

Bicycle Parts AdWords Ad

Basically, this ad says “You may obtain bicycle parts from us.” Boring! Where’s my special offer? Do I get a discount? Free shipping? Do you sell the best-quality bicycle parts in all existence? Why should I give you my money instead of giving it to the other people who bothered to run some PPC ads?

If your ads are boring, no one is going to click on them. If no one clicks on your ads, no one is going to buy anything from you. If you’re looking at your account stats and you see some consistently low CTRs (usually below 2%), you may be suffering from Boring Ad Syndrome.

So here’s the cure for boring PPC ads. First, compile a list of the top 5 or so keywords that are the most important to you. Then, search those keywords on Google and Bing and take note of what the PPC ads in the results say. What are you competitors offering? Maybe they’re offering the same thing as you. Or maybe they’re offering a heftier discount, free shipping, or some compelling social proof (i.e. customer reviews) that you’re not. Ask yourself, “If I were a customer, which of these ads would I click on?” You may find a lot of other businesses are offering really cool things in their ads that you never even thought of.

So the correct step is to just copy those offers, right? Wrong. That’s the other side of boring. If every advertiser is offering the same thing, why choose one over another? To really succeed, you’re going to have to stand out. Think about something that your business can offer that none of those other advertisers can. Maybe you can boast rock-bottom prices. Or a product that is clearly the best around. Or maybe you can fulfill orders with a speed that leaves those other chumps in the dust. Whatever your unique value proposition is, make sure you talk about it in your ads. If you can show an ad that offers something that no one else can (or will), you will definitely get your customers’ attention.

But it doesn’t end there. There is no set-and-forget solution for text ads. It’s better to test several different unique offers, check back in a couple of weeks, and run a statistical significance test to see which ad performed the best. Once you’ve figured that out, find another compelling offer to put in a new ad, and test that one against the winner.

The competitive landscape in PPC is always changing. So you have to check up on what your rivals are doing pretty frequently to make sure you don’t miss out when they’re beating you on an offer. Remember to not be boring, and keep tabs on those interesting offers so that you can learn from them and incorporate those lessons into your own paid search advertising.

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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