Writing AdWords Ad Copy: Principles, Not Rules

Not rules, principles McKee says. A rule says you must do it this way. A principle says this works and has through all remembered time.-Donald Kaufman, Adaptation

Whenever you search for something in Google, you probably notice the highlighted ads that populate the very top of the page, as well as the right side. These are ads that companies pay Google to display there whenever a searcher enters in a certain keyword - it’s called AdWords, and it's a bit of a specialty for us.

One of the fundamentals of an AdWords strategy is obviously, the ad. After all, it is the ad that a potential customer sees, and it is the ad copy that convinces said person to click through to your website. So, what would make someone do this? What makes for an eye-catching, enticing ad?

It turns out there aren’t hard and fast rules that answer those questions. But, just as screenwriting guru Robert McKee would say about screenplays, there are principles. Let's start with three:

1. Be Different

This sounds straightforward enough: be different from the competition. But this is not being different just for the sake of being different. After all, Google will only display your ad if it is relevant to the user’s query, so it won’t pay to write about [purple monkeys] when someone is searching for [Corvettes].

What this principle means is you need to take a little creative license to craft your ad against those of your competitors. Of course this will mean taking the time to perform a few test searches to see what kind of stuff the other guys are writing. If the competitor ads are specific, be general. If their ads are general, be specific. If you have a unique offer like a discount or “Free Shipping” that sets you apart, put it in the ad. These are the things that make the difference between an ordinary ad and a clickable one.

2. Let The Users Decide

The most important, and foolproof, principle is to let your users tell you which ads are best. That is, write 2-3 ads for each ad group and tell Google to rotate the ads evenly (in your Campaign Settings). After all of the ads have accumulated enough impressions, you will be able to tell which ads have the highest CTR (click-through rate).

This is the data-driven approach that we place a lot faith in here at Delegator. You can sit around and argue about which headline grabs the most attention, or which wording of a phrase is preferable, but until you actually see how they perform, you’re only dealing in hypotheticals. At the end of the day, when we are measuring our own results with AdWords, or the results of a client, we fall back on the stats. [NB: when comparing CTR data of ads, we use a simple statistical significance calculation]

3. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

No, you won’t need shampoo for this last guideline. You will, however, need some creativity and some patience. The process of writing and rewriting ads is a sometimes tedious, yet always necessary exercise in AdWords. Tedious because it comes down to a science after a certain point, and necessary because it keeps you ahead of your competition.

If you aren’t trimming the underperforming ads and replacing them with new, well-written ones, you are falling behind the competition. For a good AdWords manager, every couple of weeks should involve an analysis of the performance of the ads in a given account (Principle #2). After the analysis, you should trim the ads that aren’t working and write new ones in their place. This is what keeps your ads relevant, your quality scores up, and your costs down.

These principles should be a nice start, but stay tuned for more tips on ad writing and other AdWords areas. If you have any questions about this or any of our AdWords services, just drop us a line.