PPC 101: 3 Musts of Catchy Paid Search Ad Copy

You have been handed a new paid search account to manage. Congratulations! Freaking out? Don’t! No need to start pulling out your hair. In this post, we will cover a few 101-level PPC tips to get you writing ads that draw eyeballs and clicks. Note that these methods are applicable for new accounts and accounts with historical data alike.

Writing creative ad copy is an important skill for the small business managing their own paid advertising as well as a company who hires an agency to manage their account(s) for them. The skill of writing ad copy that gets clicks is one that is honed through repetition, testing and seeing what works with practice. But to give you a boost I’ve distilled the vital qualities into three key points that when kept in mind can help you obtain the results you want from your ad copy.

Photo by Marco Bellucci (CC BY 2.0).
Photo by xlibber (CC BY 2.0).

But First, Research

Going back to our scenario presented in the beginning, you have just been handed a new account to manage. Yet, before creating any content for your ad copy, you need to do your research first. Research includes:

  • Identifying the target audience
  • Identifying existing competitors
    • Are they running any paid advertising?
  • Keyword research to identify potential search volume and estimated cost relatable to your client’s product or service
  • Identifying the conversions
    • Conversions are anything from form submissions, e-commerce transactions, or any other goal identified by the client

Once you know the information mentioned above, you are ready to get started with ad creation!

3 Qualities of Effective Ad Copy

  1. Calls to Action
  2. Following Editorial Guidelines
  3. Presenting Features and Benefits

Calls to Action

  • Sign-Up for your Free Trial”
  • “Big Savings – Call Us Today!”
  • Subscribe for Weekly Auction Updates”

Straight-forward, right? Yet, it’s interesting to see a handful of advertisers forget this key feature of an ad. Without a calls to action, your potential consumer or lead might not click on your ad. Why? Well for starters, the viewer doesn’t know what will possibly follow after the click. Yikes! You just lost a possible customer, where it gets recorded as an impression for the related search query and not a click. Remember, too many impressions with very few clicks are one of the factors that will contribute to a low CTR. When creating your amazing ad copy, you have to remember to give the ad a purpose and put yourself as the viewer while asking yourself, “is the action or message clear”?

Not sure where to start or experiencing writers block? Don’t freak out! Remember in the beginning, you did the research, specifically keyword research. Find out what ads are showing for your search query and review the ads on the first handful of search pages. What are some “Call to Actions” you see being used? Another key point when evaluating other competing ads, would be to ask you yourself, “How can I stand out”? Stand out you must, like our friend Yoda might say. While you are reviewing the ads being displayed, keep in mind that being unique will work in your benefit. If all the ads being displayed look or read the same, wouldn’t you think a different verbiage would help the viewer find more interest and prefer the unique ad instead?

Following the Search Engines’ Editorial Guidelines

Yes, following the rules, especially editorial guidelines for Google AdWords or Bing Ads, will benefit you when creating compelling ads. Why? Because by following guidelines you will:

  1. Reduce the likelihood of your ads being disapproved for not following policy, and
  2. Contribute to writing a clear message to lead potential viewers to your converting landing page.

If you have done your research, you have a clear understanding of who your client wants to reach. Next, you need to know the limits of the ad format so you can craft an ad with the appropriate number of characters, use of punctuation and content verbiage as allowed on the platform.

Knowing the limits of the ad type, develop ad copy that reads with flow and is consistent with your other channels of communication.

Google AdWords Character Limits:

Ad Copy Areas Character Length
Headline 25
Description 1 35
Description 2 35
Display URL 35
Destination URL 2,048

Bing Ads Character Limits:

Ad Copy Areas Character Length
Ad Title 25
Ad Text 71
Display URL 35
Destination 1,024


Highlighting Features and Benefits

Let’s say that your new client is an online computer store that wants to advertise laptops in hopes of growing profits. How can you attract the right customer? This comes down to the message you send through the text of your ad. Let’s get more descriptive with our example.

In your preliminary research you identified the targeted audience, your ideal customer. This computer store client wants to target college students, and as it’s mid-summer, you want to sell as many laptops as possible to freshmen beginning their academic school year in August. So, what do you include in your message? Yes, features and benefits!

The features in your ad act as the information the student needs to know about the laptop. Possible features to focus on include how much memory it has, its size or dimensions, its weight, etc. The benefits in your ad highlight, why the feature, specifically the product, is worth the purchase. Here are some examples.

Product: X Laptop

Features Benefits
16 GB of Memory Math class just got easy. With 16 GB of memory compute and analyze calculations in no time. Time saver!
Built-in webcam X Laptop comes with a built-in webcam to help you stay in touch while studying out of state.
13-inch wide screen Don’t strain your eyes while studying. Enjoy a comfortable 13-inch screen and give your eyes a rest.
Weight: 1.53 pounds Textbooks are heavy enough, your laptop doesn’t have to – weighing only under 2 pounds! (OR) A laptop under 2 pounds will make running across campus for class a breeze.

Still not sure what features and benefits to use? See what others are doing, and then improve on those while being unique!

Like everything, especially in the area of creating effective ad copy, it takes time, practice and continuing education. Just how the internet continues to change every day, we as progressive marketers should also continue to keep updated and not forget the foundation of effective account management.


Diana Becerra is an SEM Analyst at Bruce Clay, Inc., a marketing enthusiast, and non-profit activist. She has a B.S. in Business Management with a concentration in marketing and is currently attending graduate school in focus of obtaining a Masters of Business Administration. Before joining Bruce Clay, Inc., Diana worked in many areas of marketing, including public relations, communications, community program development, software development and brand management. She loves marketing, sports and sprinkles. Connect with Diana on .

See Diana's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (3)
Filed under: PPC/Pay-Per-Click
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3 Replies to “PPC 101: 3 Musts of Catchy Paid Search Ad Copy”

This is a great PPC 101 tips post Diana, thanks for publishing.
I consider this very much Top-Of-Funnel PPC optimisation, where you are optimising for CTR (Click-through-rate).
I’m not sure if you are going to go in to more detail on how to optimise the rest of the funnel, but I thought I’d share with you my latest blog post published just this week titled “How to Optimise your SEM Funnel”. It’s from a presentation I delivered this week at Web Analytics Wednesday, Sydney. It’s a behind the scenes look at how I optimise my PPC programs across APAC for Salesforce.
Please check it out and the slides are available in the post – http://blogs.salesforce.com/au/2014/07/adwords-sem-funnel.html and let me know what you think.

PS. Please send my regards to Bruce next time you see him.

Hi, I try to use as many call to actions as possible like you mentioned. I also like to put numbers in my ads if possible because in a page filled with text a number may stand out. What do you think?

Diana Becerra

Great question Benjamin! The use of numbers is a great strategy depending on what exactly you are trying to advertise. For example, promotions and discounts need numbers to add to the value of the ad’s importance. If I were the customer and you were the e-commerce (retail) business, I would possibly act on impulse if I see an “ad” telling me that I can save money on my favorite product. Specifically, what if you were to add the remaining days of a sale? or maybe the words of “50% off everything”! As your potential customer, I would make sure to check out the savings immediately! If you would like, you can give me an example of what you are advertising and I can possibly offer some insight on that specific product or service. Thanks again for your question!


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