PPC Chat Streamcap – Text Ad Writing for AdWords and adCenter

Hello fellow PPCChatters!

First let me say that this week’s chat had some great participation from many PPC professionals. If you are interested in connecting with participants, then check out this PPCChat Twitter list. Now on to the good stuff…

Our host Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) put together a great topic this week on “Text Ad Writing for AdWords and adCenter” and following is the transcribed Streamcap from the live chat.

Q1: What ad copy trick or technique do you feel is underutilized?

  • Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)- especially in Adcenter. You can do so many things with all the parameters. – Amy Hoffman (@Hoffman8)
    • Agreed. Even though I learned about all the params while studying for the exam I still haven’t used them. – Bethany Bey (@Bethany_Bey)
  • Modifying ad copy to best utilize the extended headlines in #AdWords. Also, DKI (if done properly) – Andy Groller (@AndyGroller) ++
    • I’m a HUGE fan of longer headlines, at least 1 ad in all my ad groups has this feature (often more). – Matt Umbro (@Matt_Umbro) +
  • Params in adCenter. Having a specific one for each keyword gives you a great amount of control. – Michelle Morgan (@michellemsem)
  • Putting keywords into your display URL. Great opportunity to get another KW mention, especially since you can capitalize the KW. – Matt Umbro +
    • Agree w/ keywords in display URL. Make sure proper capitalization in place for #adwords since domain is lower case. – Andy Groller
      • I think capitalizing the KW makes the ad stand out. – Matt Umbro +
  • I think that advertisers are still under utilizing the new ad format in AdWords (punctuating line one for extended headline). – John Lee (@John_A_Lee)
  • Display URL Keywords – especially testing different variations. – James Svoboda (@Realicity)
  • Creative copy relevant to the target market. Rarely done well in practice. – Jeremy J Brown (@JBGuru) +++
  • Extensions! They grab real estate & lift headline CTR. – Aaron Levy (@bigalittlea)
    • Agree with @bigalittlea on extensions, though that isn’t really ad copy per say. – John Lee
  • Symbols of credibility. Trademarks, copyrights, etc. – Steve Hill (@epiclysteve) +
    • ©, ® & â„¢ are great to use. – James Svoboda
  • If you can, make sure to setup 301 redirects for your display URLs when using KWs. You never know if someone will type the URL. – Matt Umbro
  • In addition to DKI…real pricing is under utilized by many products in ads…surfers respond to instant info. – Cleofe Betancourt (@AskPPC) +
    • But only if you’re cheaper! – Aaron Levy
  • Letting data dictate the message, no ad group has just 1 ad, often update the tests based upon the results. – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
  • Creating a customized feel. I try to use “You” and “Your” in ad copy. – Michelle Morgan +++
  • Another little ad copy nugget is the word “your” – making the copy personal has a nice effect on CTR/CVR. – John Lee
  • Also, I have been successful using exclamation points 95% of the time. – Chris Kostecki +

Q1 Summary: Writing creative copy that is personal and relevant to the target audience was a big theme in the answers to this question and personalizing the ads so that they speak directly to the reader with copy containing “You” and “Your” in often is overlooked.

Q2: How do you write ads (especially headlines) when the targeted keyword is over 25 characters?

  • Highlight a benefit or emotion in the headline, then use keyword in the description. – Ruth Burr (@ruthburr) ++
  • This is where quality keyword research comes into play. – John Lavin (@Johnnyjetfan)
  • Aim for the root term (if there is one). – John Lee ++++
    • I agree, good to get some bolding in headline. – Jeremy J Brown
  • Include core concept or biggest benefit, focus on actual keyword in body copy. – Andy Groller
  • I use a shorter variation of the term or use DKI to expose the longer headline loophole – Matt Umbro +
    • Speaking of “longer headline loophole”, those are getting longer. What’s longest ppl have seen? – Jeremy J Brown
      • 34 for DKI, then the ad also had description line #1 in the headline. – James Svoboda
    • Also speaking of DKI, it doesn’t work with low Quality Score keywords. Many people don’t realize that. – Jeremy J Brown
  • Try to talk to the searchers demographic (at least what we expect) in the headline, then talk about product in the ad text. – Michelle Morgan
  • If the key phrase is multiple words, sometimes you can cheat and get part in headline, part in body. – John Lee
  • Put the root of the query in the headline, sprinkle the rest throughout the body. gotta differentiate. Or, (and I’ve only had limited testing here) us the longer display trick to get them in line together – Aaron Levy
  • Use as much of as Ican, or use a value prop and try to incorporate the KW into the body. – Chris Kostecki
  • Test, test, test! Dynamic Insertion vs. similar kw vs. abbreviated kw (all using targeted term later in the copy). – Amy Hoffman
  • Break down the keyword into core words “real estate” that need to be together and that make up the adgroup theme. Also, DKI in the headline gives you more characters. – James Svoboda
  • If the targeted kwd is 25+ characters use it as the bulk of your copy w a brief call to action. Dont fight the longtail, baby . – Cleofe Betancourt
  • Sensible abbreviations and/or quality synonyms. – Andrew Hickey (@writehanded)

Q2 Summary: The recommended practice for writing ads targeting long keywords is to focus on the core/root terms contained within the main keyphrase. If you are targeting an ad group containing mainly versions related to “New York City Real Estate For Sale” (34 characters), you might take the approach to craft an ads with “NYC Real Estate For Sale” or “New York City Real Estate” in the headline and then back up that up with a additional keywords in the description and display URL.

Q3: Conceding that landing pages aren’t always perfect, how do you write text ad CTAs when the LP conversion isn’t clearly defined?

  • Try to get the CTA in the ad to set proper expectation. Hopefully they won’t have to hunt that way. – John Lee ++
  • Be clear, concise. Is it “buy”? Is it “download”? Is it “sign up”? Say it and be clear. – John Lee
  • Good question. “Learn more”, “Find out” types of CTAs work but seem weak. – Lisa Sanner (@LisaSanner)
  • Set the expectation in the ad copy of what ppl are supposed to do (contact us, etc.) – Melissa Mackey (@Mel66) +
  • If possible, use your call to action to direct people. – Amy Hoffman
  • Setting the proper expectation for Landing Pages (LPs) is a huge point of emphasis for me. – Michelle Morgan
    • Copy is cheap to change, LP’s aren’t! – Aaron Levy +
    • Agreed! Too often LPs are neglected. They must continue the expectation set in the ad. – Matt Umbro
      • Agree. Sometimes client doesn’t have the budget to create LPs or can’t agree (lots of diff stakeholders) to choose one. – Lisa Sanner
  • Be explicit. Tell people the action you want them to take. – Jeremy J Brown ++
  • Make it as clear as possible. Whether or not it’s clear on the landing page, you should make it straight forward. – Luke Alley (@lukealley)
  • Develop the lp first, then make sure the CTA/copy align. “Contact Us” is fine for most, but if its a white paper/demo be clear. – Aaron Levy +
  • Ads have to bridge the search & set expectations, so I have seen the best success w using what I have on the LP regardless. – Chris Kostecki
  • Tough situation, but sometimes you have to make the CTA more general, “learn more” “see how.” Not ideal, but sometimes necessary. – Matt Umbro
    • You’re right. Sometimes you just have to play the cards you’re dealt (e.g. crappy LPs). – John Lee +
  • Incorporate your campaign objectives into your CTA when it’s not overly clear on the LP. (ie: shop now) – Jessica Cameron Ruud (@Camruud)
  • Be smart about it! If a $1k LP investment will generate more value than $1k in ad spend w/ junk LPs, make the recco! – Aaron Levy
  • Its not hard to add some text or update a H1 tag most of the time though, worst case, add an image with value props. – Chris Kostecki +
    • It isn’t hard if you can update the code, but some PPC managers rely on clients to do it, which can be tough. – Matt Umbro
  • It is alo cheap to add a simple “Contact Us” link. – James Svoboda
  • True LPs aren’t cheap to change but … may pay for itself if it would increase conversion rates and sales. – Amy Hoffman
  • Manage a searcher’s expectations. – Steve Hill

Q3 Summary: This is a tough one to accomplish for the situations when you have little to no control over over the landing page. The recommended approach is to set reasonable expectations within the ad copy that will not mislead and confuse the searcher once they reach the LP.

Q4: When and how do you make the determination that an ad is either succeeding or failing?

  • Im not spending my budget 🙂 Can only promote what they have,if its s–t, then thats what im promoting. – Chris Kostecki
  • When the traffic is there, make sure it is a statistically valid test (use a statistics calculator). – John Lee
  • Statistical significance first, but if the ads run for a while go with what’s working in the account as a whole. – Aaron Levy
  • I use the statistical relevance spreadsheet shared at SMX West this year. – Pamela Lund (@Pamela_Lund)
  • Depends on goals of campaign/client – high traffic, high conversions, conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. – Andy Groller
  • When there is enough data or gut instinct. Sometimes have to make call before data all there. – Jeremy J Brown
  • ONLY when it is statistically significant! – Amy Hoffman
  • Have comfortable sample size w/ impressions, then look at CTR, Conv. Rate for noticeable improvement. – Steve Hill
  • If low volume, sometimes use campaign-wide theme performance analysis to make a determination (say that 5 times fast) – John Lee +
  • An ad is succeeding once CTR or CVR (depending on goals) is better than the challenger to a statistically significant degree. – Point It (@point_it)
  • Low CTR is a good indicator, provided you are using kwds with good volume. – Cleofe Betancourt
  • If possible, Starting at between 200-300 impressions and 20-30 clicks for each ad for adgroups with 2+ ads. – James Svoboda
  • Quick and dirty answer is an ad succeeds when it sees revenue, but other metrics are necessary (CTR, conversion rate, CPA) – Matt Umbro
  • When I have a large enough sample size that gives me a stat. significant answer, then look @ CTR, conversions,CPL, etc. – Jessica Cates (@Jessica_Cates) +
  • When it beats my previous winning ad in the relevant statistics. – Michelle Morgan +
  • How do you take hundreds of ad tests and run all those? Seems like it would take a lot of time…Making sure they are “statistically sig.” that is.. – Luke Alley
    • Once you know the imp/click/conv general needs for an ad group you don’t have to run it every time. – Pamela Lund
    • Good question. It is typically a cyclical approach. But frequently it becomes a hybrid w/ campaign wide analysis. – John Lee
  • Revenue / Conversion and CVR for Ecommerce campaign objectives. – Jessica Cameron Ruud +
  • Good CTR and bad CVR equals a bad ad,improper expectations. – Chris Kostecki
  • Ideal – Statistical sig diff w/ 95+ confidence interval in priority metric. Reality is sometimes different. – Lisa Sanner
  • When other ads out-perform them! – John Lavin
  • All these comments about stats are great (I love data!), but sometimes you have to make a call with less data. – Jeremy J Brown
    • Sad but true. – James Svoboda
    • Especially with smaller budget campaigns. – Matt Umbro
    • True story, all variables do not remain equal. – Steve Hill
  • I also make sure the ads have been running against each other for at least 2 weeks. – Michelle Morgan
  • When you find two or more similarly performing ads (winners) keep them all in the mix for rotating messages. – Lisa Sanner +
  • Important point about testing: turn off Optimize for Clicks. Much better to actively A/B test and switch to rotate. – Jeremy J Brown +++++
  • Instances with less traffic/data make it all the more important that you know your account and your audience. – Amy Hoffman
  • I often will take winning ads in one adgroup and make variations of that for other adgroups(assuming it’s in the same industry). – Luke Alley

Q4 Summary: Statistical Significance. Say it with me now. Statistical Significance.

Making judgement calls PPC ads, whenever possible, should be rooted in their performance as compared to each other and have enough supporting data to back up the decision on winning or loosing. Whenever possible.

Tip – If you are not receiving enough impressions or clicks for an ad group containing several different ads, pause a few of them so that the remaining 2 or 3 active ads can accumulate more data quicker for you to determine if any are winning or loosing.

Q5: Which AdWords ad rotation do you utilize? Do the optimization options actually provide better results than standard rotation?

  • Rotate all the way. – John Lee
  • Rotate ads evenly – best option for A/B testing. – Andy Groller ++
  • I don’t trust Google to do what’s best for my clients. I choose rotate evenly and manage the ad opt myself. – Pamela Lund ++
  • Rotate Evenly. – James Svoboda
  • Rotate, though we’ve had some interesting discussions @SEERInteractive exploring pros & cons for both. – Aaron Levy
  • Rotate evenly. I’ll make decisions about my ads in search. We give google enough money as it is. – Michelle Morgan +
  • I stick to rotate – optimize settings are one sided and don’t look at the whole picture. – Jessica Cameron Ruud
  • Rotate More Evenly. – Chad Summerhill (@ChadSummerhill)
  • Always rotate evenly, letting google optimize is like running 1 camp on search & content – rookie mistake. – Chris Kostecki +
  • Conversions optimizer has worked well for me in content though. – Michelle Morgan
    • I’ve seen this on one client too. But only one… – Pamela Lund
    • Conversion Optimizer is a beast all to itself… (a nice, happy beast, but still a beast). – John Lee ++
  • Rotate, every time. Too many holes in the ‘Optimize’ functunalities. – Amy Hoffman
  • Google doesn’t optimize for conversion/click quality, just raw numbers… – Aaron Levy
  • Has anyone seen good results from the “optimize” settings? – Matt Umbro
    • No – John Lee +
    • Google’s a business – looking to make $ like the rest of us. Using optimize is like handing over your checkbook. – Amy Hoffman ++++
    • Occasionally see success for e-commerce clients, but nothing notable that’d make me switch. – Aaron Levy
    • Have seen some success when I took over accounts, but always got better #s when I managed against even rotation. – Chris Kostecki
  • Rotate. Only choose optimize for clicks if not actively managing account (Google rewards high CTRs). – Jeremy J Brown
  • Rotate unless you’re launching some huge cross channel ad campaign, that requires extra emphasis, but that’s the client’s call. – Steve Hill
  • I tend to stick with rotate. the optimizers always seem to spike my metrics w/o any results. – Jessica Cates
  • Always rotate – Google doesn’t understand what I’m testing as well as I do. – Ruth Burr +
  • Just like turning off the display network, the rotation option is one you always have to update before running campaigns. – Matt Umbro
    • Ad rotation and delivery are a part of every new client kick-off project. – John Lee
      • Unfortunately these campaign settings are often overlooked. – Matt Umbro
  • Optimize can work at the very beginning if you have a few ads testing, all are converting. It can help with initial QSs. – Lisa Sanner
  • Optimizers are often indicative of a lazy account manager. – Cleofe Betancourt
    • Dont let the system do your work for you! – John Lavin +
  • Optimize and then get down to two good ctr, converting, then rotate evenly. – Lisa Sanner +
  • Testing Optimize for adgroups with mixed headlines DKI vs Non-DKI. Only Sometimes! – James Svoboda

Q5 Summary: Rotate, Rotate, Rotate. Most PPC-ers feel that the ad platforms “Optimize” features do not do as good of enough job of matching good ads and showing them as us marketers can do.

Tip – In Google AdWords you will have to manually change this setting when you first launch a campaign. To do that you will go to the Settings tab, then listed under Advanced settings will be the Ad delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping option that contains Ad rotation. Change this setting to Rotate: Show ads more evenly.

Q6: Do you write ads differently for Google and Bing? If so, what are the reasons for differentiating the copy?

  • Unfortunately, my Google ads go into Microsoft as-is. Tweak the URLs for tracking and go with god. Slap my wrist, please. – John Lee
  • Extended Headlines is a strategic consideration for AdWords. – James Svoboda +
  • If new ad groups, probably same in both. Otherwise, data/stats drive ad tests. – Andy Groller ++
  • If ads from Google don’t perform in Bing – then yes. But I test the Google ads first. – Jessica Cameron Ruud ++
  • There’s also more use for DKI in MSN, which I can’t get enough of. Easily list exact price of each item, etc. – Amy Hoffman
  • Bing users tend to be more consumerish, less sophisticated. Worth testing different ad copy in high-volume ad groups. – Jeremy J Brown +
  • Have you used adCenter Desktop lately? It is hella easier to write those puppies in AdWords Editor! – John Lee +++
  • I don’t use exclamation points in Bing nearly as much. Not a benefit like in Google. – Michelle Morgan
  • Used to test first in Google but found that the same things don’t work in both. Guess it makes sense, different people use Bing. – Amy Hoffman
  • I agree that Google and Bing have slightly different demos, but I have not found it to be so different that dif ads are needed. Different ads at the onset of launch. Ads need to be changed in long run w/ testing. – John Lee

Q6 Summary: Google AdWords has the feature where you’re ad headline can be longer when they add the description line #1 to it when your ad is in one of the top 3 positions if the end of description line #1 ends in a punctuation (period/exclamation point). If you are aiming to be in the top 3,then make sure you have ads within that ad group that will give you thie exdended headline.

Bing/adCenter provides more DKI matching options for using in text ads. These additional keyword insertion options can add a unique dimension to writing your adCenter ads.

Q7: How do ad extensions impact the way you write text ads?

  • Gives me more leniency on ad copy. Ad extensions can be some product highlights/benefits. – Michelle Morgan
  • Sitelinks give you more breathing room in traditional ads. Write more benefits, etc. in the Sitelinks. – John Lee
  • Phone extension can change the CTA to “Call Now,” Sitelinks allow my copy to be more generic/UVP focused. – Aaron Levy ++
  • In Ecommerce campaigns I might have to adjust ad copy based on which sitelinks I’m using as to not use same link twice. – Matt Umbro
  • Sitelinks are a great place for a second CTA. – Melissa Mackey
  • Extra space = stronger message. – Cleofe Betancourt
  • Further qualifies the search(er). – Chris Kostecki
  • Depending on the type of extension (product, location, etc) it should support your call to action. – Amy Hoffman
  • Product listings and extensions are great, but they don’t really affect my ad writing. – John Lee ++
    • Agree, tho saw a huge lift w/ PLA taglines. – Chris Kostecki
    • Little control over PLA’s! – Aaron Levy
  • Less reliant for keywords in copy if in Sitelinks and Geo-Terms for Local Extensions. – James Svoboda
    • But you don’t get bolding for keywords in Sitelinks. – Jeremy J Brown
    • Yes, but related terms help (think home + house). – James Svoboda
  • Sitelinks matter a lot. Don’t want to be redundant, offer choices. Might need to break ad groups into diff campaigns. – Lisa Sanner
  • Extra characters (well, for Sitelinks)! That’s the 2nd best feature in addition to taking up more space on page. – Jeremy J Brown
    • Sitelinks are the greatest invention since sliced bread. – Matt Umbro
  • Prod. listings and sitelinks don’t change ads, since they may or may not appear with the ad. Not always in the top 3 spots. – Luke Alley
    • For brand terms and other high-CTR terms you may always be in the top spots. There they have bigger impact with copy. Also, I’ve seen Sitelinks get 10% of the clicks for branded campaigns. – Jeremy J Brown
      • Very true. In that case they do affect ad copyrighting. – Luke Alley
  • I use sitelinks for different demographics as well. No real ad copy effect, but allows for better LPO. – Michelle Morgan
  • Has anyone seen positive results from Location extensions? – John Lee
    • Yes. A decent amount actually. – Michelle Morgan
    • I have had sitelinks throw targeted camps off course, good for general less qualified, but distract from qualified targets. – Chris Kostecki

Q7 Summary: Writing text ads for campaigns that have Ad Extensions enabled can provide you with some flexibility within the copy. And since space in ad lines are limited to 25/35/35 characters, this flexibility can be a relief. You should take into account the type of ad extension and how it works with your ad copy. You might be able to leave out certain words or replace them with alternatives depending on the extension.

PPC Tip of the Week

This week’s Clever and Insightful tip came to us from Amy Hoffman (@Hoffman8) of Hanapin Marketing and blogger at PPC Hero:

Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)- especially in Adcenter. You can do so many things with all the parameters.

Amy tells us that Dynamic Keyword Insertion is often underutilized in PPC ad copy writing and also reminds us that DKI does in fact exist for adCenter;) Microsoft even has a few additional options that you might not know about. If you want to brush up on DKI for Bing/adCenter, I suggest reading Amy’s post titled “Are Your Ads Dynamic?“.

Additional Resources

  • PPC Text Ad Testing for Statistical Significance – Chad Summerhill (@ChadSummerhill)
  • Automating The Ad Test Visualization Tool – Chris Kostecki (@chriskos)
  • More PPCChats

    Don’t forget to stay tuned for the next #PPCchat on Tuesday at 12 noon Eastern, 9 am Pacific and 5pm in the UK. Same Chat Time, same Chat Channel.

    This Week’s Chat Participants

    About the Author

    This is a guest post by James Svoboda, managing partner at WebRanking in Portland, OR, Sphinn Editor, infrequent ppc blog author, SEM content hound, Tweeter @Realicity, and Co-Founder of MnSEM – the Minnesota Search Engine Marketing Association.

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