Yes! You clicked through to read this article. Remember this moment when we come to talk about paid search ad headlines.
Google makes billions of dollars every year from tiny ads.
There’s got to be something to it, right? Pay per click (or PPC for short) advertising is a huge market and an effective method of advertising. A great PPC ad can get your business out there, the challenge is making sure you win your fair share of clicks. After-all 1,000 impressions sounds like a lot but if your click through rate is 2.5% that only translates to 25 visits to your site.
Think of paid search ads like a tiny sales pitch, you need to grab people’s attention, hook them in and get them to click through to get more information. Your website then does the hard job of “converting” them into customers or leads for you to follow up on.
A bad ad will fail quickly, regardless of how many people see it (impressions).
A good ad will perform better even if it’s not getting as many impressions as a bad ad.
Make sense? What do you mean no… Well Google wants to deliver the best experience for users, they have to do this to continue making money, if ads aren’t relevant to users then they don’t click them (and Google don’t make money). So, having well written ad copy works well for everybody.
With this in mind, it’s crucial that you know the structure of AdWords ads, how to write a good PPC ad, and the special features you can add to AdWords ads to improve your visibility. Also, there was a major update to how Adwords shows their ads back in February 2016, so you’ll need to be aware of these changes.
AdWords Ad Structure
Google AdWords ads now appear in two spots on a search results page.
Up to four ads will appear in the top listing of a results page. At the bottom of the page, three ads will appear.
Ads used to appear in the sidebar but that has been removed in favour of new Google features like knowledge cards. It is possible that ads will appear on the side again inside of Google-specific features, but right now this is not the case.
The basic AdWords structure is made up of four parts:
- Display URL
- First description line
- Second description line
Each part has a particular role to play to make the ad successful.
In addition to these basic parts, you should be aware of ad extensions, these little bits of magic give your ads more features and polish, a better chance to stand out from the crowd and help your customers find what they’re looking for quickly- either by offering deep links into specific pieces of content on your website or by giving them the choice of calling a phone number for more information.
Ad extensions are optional components of an ad, however if you don’t specify ad extensions then Google may automatically display ad extensions it thinks are relevant next to your ads – more on that here.
Clicks on ad extensions are tracked so you can monitor performance.
Always think about what your customers are searching for. Good ad copy should take one or two keywords per Ad Group and play them back to customers in the adcopy.
Take a look at this search for “charity” on Google Australia:
Notice that the word charity is bolded in all the ads. That’s because it matches the search query. This draws the eye closer to ads. This bolding can appear in any spot in the ad, though it is most common in the description and in the display URL. So if you’re targeting keywords in a particular ad group, consider inserting one or more keywords (naturally!) into your copy.
Don’t keyword stuff though, that will just look silly and quite possibly lead potential customers to ignore your ad because it looks spammy – remember those good ole Amazon and eBay ads that displayed on literally ANY search term you could think of “Baby – Buy It Cheap On eBay” – yes this used to happen (and probably still does for some random search terms)!?
The major role of the headline is to grab the attention of the viewer long enough to read the rest of the ad.
The maximum length for the headline is 25 characters for most languages, so you have to say quite a lot in a very small space.
Ideally, your headline should contain the keyword that you’re trying to associate with the ad. Obviously, with only 25 characters you’re not going to target long-tail keywords through your headline alone so don’t worry if you can’t fit your whole key phrase into the headline.
Your headline must also clearly explain what your business is offering, and ideally should match the same language as the offer on your landing page. Google loves to see congruence between what an ad states and the landing page.
The display URL is the visible portion of the landing page URL in the ad. At minimum, this should show the full domain of your website. It has a 35-character limit, so most domains should fit in this space. It is absolutely crucial that the domain listed in the display URL matches the domain of your landing page. If not, Google will stop your ads until you fix it.
The display URL should show your main site URL, but it can also help increase your ads visibility if you include a focus keyword from your Ad Group. For example, a Digital Ninjas ad promoting SEM services could use digitalninjas.com/SEM as the display URL.
The description lines flesh out the promise in the headline and entice the user to click on the ad. Each description line is 35 characters long. In the old side-bar text ads, these two lines would be shown one on top of each other. Now they are often displayed side-by-side (as in the example earlier). Or sometimes with the first line displayed next to the headline (assuming you’ve got correct punctuation at the end of the description line 1).
These lines must explain the offer in no uncertain terms. They are almost like additional headlines. You will need to bring your copywriting skills to bear on this task, especially for the first description line.
Description lines are a great place to drop in phrases that attract your customers (special offers etc.), or put in a line that reinforces the original claim. It’s also a good idea to push people into action by adding a call to action somewhere in your description lines such as “buy online today” or “sign up now” to push the reader to take action.
It is important to know that on mobile only the first description line will show up. This can also happen when particular ad extensions are used. This makes the first description line the most important.
Ad extensions have really changed the nature of AdWords advertising. These are additional snippets of code attached to your ads that give it additional features. Some of these features include:
- Additional site links (site link extensions)
- The ability to people to call you from your ad
- Linking to a map location
- Adding offers
- App download links
- among many others.
As you can see call outs are literally about “calling out” key product features/benefits. Whereas site link extensions enable prospective customers to dive directly into the content they’re looking for.
How an ad is processed
The ideal AdWords experience for a user goes like this:
- The user does a search and sees a headline related to the search and their current needs. The headline clearly explains a relevant offer.
- The eye skips down to the description lines to get a better understanding of the offer and to generate interest. Ad extensions offer additional information or other CTAs.
- The display URL tells the reader who is responsible for the ad. This lets the reader put a name to the offer.
- The user clicks on the part of the ad that intrigues them the most and gets to your landing page.
AdWords ads are a classic example of AIDA thinking. Attention is grabbed via the headline. Interest is raised by the other portions of the ad. The nature of the ad and any other ad extensions gives the reader the desire required to move ahead and visit the site. One of these leads the user to act, and bam! The user has clicked the ad and become a step closer to being a new supporter or customer for your organisation.
No matter how fancy of an AdWords ad you create, all of them have to follow this same cycle. If you can remember AIDA when you’re building your ads, know which part of the ad is responsible for each portion, and use ad extensions wisely to help people navigate to the information they need, you can make them respond to your ad and generate more business and improve your AdWords results.
Good ads based on sound customer insight get rewarded.