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In this helpful how-to, columnist Mona Elesseily explains her process for writing compelling, effective copy for PPC ads.
Despite what many think, writing ad copy isn’t easy. It takes time to come up with good ad copy!
As a result, many in the industry have developed and refined processes for generating high-performing ad copy. In this article, I’ll summarize the process that I follow and share some useful tips I’ve learned from others. Whether you’re starting from scratch or revisiting ads that are fatigued, this process can help you to create compelling, effective ads that boost conversions.
Step 1: Do Your Background Work
Before I start focusing on the ads themselves, I like to do some background work to help me focus and get in the right mindset. Here are some of the things I like to consider at this stage:
Know The Business/Client
It goes without saying that you should know your (or your client’s) business goals and values before getting started.
With clients, I send over a questionnaire with questions related to goals/values, then set up a call to review the answers. In the call, I’ll ask follow-up questions so I get a good understanding of who they are, what drives/motivates them, and where they want to go with their advertising.
Research Your Target Audience
Get to know target audience’s motivation, drives and pain points. What are the specific problems? How does your brand/product/service solve these problems?
Do Competitive Research
I like to ensure that I know what my competitors are up to. What do their PPC ads look like?
I use various tools to get this data, such as SEMRush, SpyFu, Ispionage, Ad Beat, and WhatRunsWhere. I look at what competitors are doing in all aspects of their marketing (SEO, paid, social, traditional PR, etc.) to get a comprehensive idea of their strategy. (Clients can be lacking in several areas of their marketing, so it’s not representative to focus on, say, only their PPC campaigns or only their social ads.)
This step often leads me into value proposition and unique selling proposition (USP) work with clients. It’s an extra step, but helping these stand out can really boost your conversions (i.e. sales, leads generated, email subscriptions, etc.). I make a matrix of key value propositions, and I figure out where my client/business wins.
Describe The Benefits Of Your Product/Service
Your prospects have to know why your product/service is good for them. They will not spend the time to figure this out for themselves — if you try to make them do this, they’ll instead choose to engage with a company that’s spent the time spelling out the benefits of doing business with them.
I cannot emphasize how important this work is. Listing out the benefits of your offering(s) will make it easier for you to put together your advertising, and will make it easier for folks to find value in your product and buy from you.
I like to use search query data to understand the audience’s voice, desire and intent. There are a lot of nuggets in there on how your product is (and is not) perceived if you take the time to sift through the queries.
Often, I like to think about the goal/purpose of the landing page, then work backwards from there — in other words, I don’t create any ads until images/design/copy on the landing page is in line with what we’re targeting.
Step 2: Ad Copy Brainstorming
Once I’ve done my background work, I start thinking about what I’m going to say in my ads.
The idea is to brainstorm, and the goal here is to not necessarily come up with perfectly crafted ad copy. This step is about getting ideas on paper, no matter how long they are. I’ll concentrate on making ideas concise at a later time. (I’ll cover that in step 3.)
I also spend time thinking about how I’m going to make ads stand out. The more work you’ve put into figuring out your company’s value (outlined in step 1), the easier it will be to do this.
We use a whole brainstorming team with different levels of exposure to the brand. This allows us to come at ad copy from different viewpoints, different strategies, different angles, different devices, etc.
Step 3: Crafting Ad Copy
In this final stage, I think of ways I can specifically fit info into the headline, description line 1, and description line 2. I think about the display URL I’m going to use as it’s a strong visual draw and the second place people focus on when they look at ad copy (first is the headline).
From the get-go, I always try different wording variations when crafting ads. There can be significant differences in wording, like “same day shipping” and “order ships today.” In my testing, I’m a huge fan of switching ad copy line 1 and ad copy line 2 — I’ve seen some huge results from this.
Think about your ad’s landing pages, but also think about phone calls, as they are hotter prospects/leads than other prospects/leads that come in via the web. Can you encourage a call to a business instead of directing folks to a landing page? Consider using call-only campaigns (for mobile only) if applicable.
Internally, we run “ad copy” contests. Our folks contribute an ad to a particular client account/campaign, and we see which ad wins. It’s an awesome way to generate ideas and improve performance in accounts.
Here are some additional pointers (from a presentation on ad copy by Marty Weintraub at SMX Advanced in June 2015):
- Use question words in headlines: who, what, when, where, why, how
- Point out negative consequences (“Don’t be embarrassed by zits!”)
- Use memorable phonetics. Examples:
- “Terrific Tires, Save 20%” (alliteration)
- “Low, low prices” (repetition)
Personally, I like choppier sounding ad copy better. I aim for a “staccato” structure. For example, instead of, “Get your parts and free shipping,” try, “Get your parts! Free shipping!”
Happy PPC writing!
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