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How to Write the Highest-Performing AdWords Ads, Ever

Writing AdWords ads can be extremely frustrating because you need to fit all your ad copy into such a tiny space.

“Only 25 characters for the headline?!”
“I can’t use the word ‘click’? But that’s what I want them to do!”
“I can’t fit all my benefits and features here…”

justin-timberlake
Seriously Google? Image source.

You have to get creative to stand out from the nine other advertisers you’re sharing real estate space with (or as few as four competitors if you’re on mobile).

So how do you do it?

I’m here to give you some proven tactics you can use to write AdWords ads that will bring you higher click-through rates, higher Quality Scores and higher conversion rates.

Ready to have some fun? Let’s go!

Mirror the visitor’s end goal

Because many of your competitors are using dynamic keyword insertion and bidding on similar keywords, you’ll notice that a lot of their ads say the same thing.

It’s easy to get lost in the mix and hurt your chances of getting that click — so how can you stand out?

Advertisers sometimes lose sight of what their customers are truly looking for. I call this “The End Goal”: what people ultimately want to accomplish with the help of your product or service.

Understanding this can be the secret to writing an ad that stands out from the sea of DKI keywords.

A hypothetical example

Let’s say you sell acne products and your visitors search for keywords like, “Help get rid of acne.”

Your headline shouldn’t ask prospects if they’re “Dealing with Acne?” — as the advertiser, you already know that they are.

adwords-copy-get-rid-of-acne

Instead, you should speak to their End Goal — what they’re looking to achieve — with a headline like this:

Kill Acne Once & For All

Don’t give up very precious headline space for something you and the visitor already know. Instead, give visitors that end solution they’re looking for.

A real-world example

What if you’re a car buyer who purchases cars from the general public?

Interested prospects might search for something like this:

adwords-copy-sell-your-car
WeBuyCars.com tells the visitor they’ll buy the car — which mirrors the prospect’s end goal.

To make it easy for people to convert and remove ambiguity, all these ads should focus on telling prospects what they want to hear: “We’ll Buy Your Car Today.”

Why? Because the goal of the searcher is to have someone buy their car. How they go about selling it isn’t as important as actually getting it sold.

With a headline like “Sell Your Car Today,” the searcher might wonder if they have to list their car themselves on an AutoTrader-like platform and field calls from a ton of tire-kickers who aren’t really serious about buying a car. Or even worse, will they get a call back from seven interested companies who will spam them until they die?

I’ve run this test, specifically for a car buyer, pitting “Need To Sell Your Car?” (control) versus “We’ll Buy Your Car Today” (variation).

This simple headline tweak resulted in a 30% increase in conversions.

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Use countdown timers to trigger loss aversion

Did you know that we’re more readily motivated by the idea of losing out than the idea of gaining something?

This commonly known psychological force is called loss aversion and it can be a powerful way of boosting your AdWords click-through and conversion rates.

Luckily, injecting a little FOMO into your ads isn’t very hard.

Google has recently come out with a simple countdown timer you can set within your text ads. All you have to do is add this little snippet inside your headline or description:

{=

Then this popup will appear:

google-countdown
This is what the countdown dashboard looks like.

After you set the end date, your ad will include a countdown in real time. Visitors seeing your ads will be motivated by their fear of loss, giving you the edge over your competitors who aren’t using this tactic.

A real-world example

Ad agency Merkle | IMPAQT did this for some of their clients pre-Black Friday to have their AdWords text ads countdown to when the actual sale started. Here’s what they found:

We used the countdown feature to countdown the days until Thanksgiving and holiday deals began. We discovered the click and impression assisted conversions for this ad copy performed at a significantly higher rate than other copy. We also saw higher conversions associated with this copy on Thanksgiving and for about a week after as a result.

They’re not the only ones to have seen success with this new feature — Clarks America saw a 32% increase in CTR and a 3% increase on conversion rates from using the countdown timers.

Keep your ads current

Now that we’re on the subject of time, have you ever felt that certain things are more relevant or exciting when they just happened?

The concept of being current and timely is pretty intuitive; what happened recently will get more eyeballs and interest than what happened three months ago.

The same is true with your AdWords ads.

Have you tried testing copy that states how many customers you serviced last month or this year?

I put this to the test for a tax accounting firm. Here were the two ads we pitted against each other:

adwords-local-tax-prep
The control ad (top) and the variation (bottom)

The result? The more timely, current ad saw a whopping 217% increase in CTR and 23% improvement in conversion rates.

And I’m willing to bet that the specificity of the number also added some conversion power…

Get super specific

Numbers are easy to digest and understand, and studies show that incorporating them into your copy can make it appear more accurate and credible.

Here’s a great example from MECLABS in which Amy Hebdon created a new numbers-driven ad to compete against her control ad:

adwords-marketing-strategies
The control ad (top) and the variation (bottom)

Which one do you think performed the best?

The control ad did.

Just kidding, the new ad did! It actually received an 88% higher click-through rate at a confidence level of 99%.

Why did this happen? The specificity of the new ad could have made it just a tad more credible than the control ad.

How could we make the ad perform even better?

By getting even more specific.

It’s been shown that specific numbers like 1,542 can improve performance over round numbers like 1,500+. If you’re including a number, write out the exact number!

The more specific you are, the more believable you become.

And the more believable you become, the bigger your chances are of becoming the next David Blaine, or just really good at giving people a pleasant experience.

david-blaine

Make things personal

When it comes to writing ads, do you sometimes fall into the trap of being a little egocentric? Do you use words like “we,” “us,” “me,” “myself” and “I”?

Words like that fail to focus on the customer’s needs and can hurt your chances of getting a click – not to mention they’ve been shown to hurt conversions on landing pages, too.

When it comes to writing copy that resonates, I couldn’t agree more with this nugget from John Kuraoka:

The second-best word is “you.” The best word is the customer’s name.

Since we’re still in the stone age of advertising and can’t add the visitor’s first name to our AdWords ads automatically, we’ll have to settle for second best.

So how do you craft AdWords ads that use the power of “you” to enhance ad performance? Take these ads for example:

adwords-copy-personal-you

Which one stands out and gets you most excited to click?

One could argue both Shopify and Volusion do a great job, but we all know that AmeriCommerce struggles.

“Awarded ‘Best eCommerce Solution’”? Ptssshh. Enough about yourself. What can you do for me?!

Find opportunities where you can include the word “you” in your headline or first description line. And as always, lead with benefits.

Make your ads hyper-local

A lot of advertisers target more than just one city when creating their AdWords campaigns. Many even advertise nationally.

Even if you offer services world-wide, you want to be welcoming to your potential customers and show them that help is right around the corner.

You may already have an 800 number that you use for all your AdWords call extensions and landing pages, or maybe even a pool of 800 numbers. But did you know that having phone numbers with geographic proximity to the visitor can double your conversion rates?

Yeah, believe it or not, your 800 numbers could be working against you.

adwords-copy-local-numbers

So how can you put this to the test in your AdWords ads?

By creating geographic-specific AdWords campaigns and have your ad copy and call extensions specific to that geographic area as well.

The goal here is to let your prospective customers know that you’re right around the corner, with a helping hand.

a3dGDg8_460sa_v1

If you’re still using the regular Google call forwarding in your AdWords call extensions, stop it immediately. Go to a call tracking provider like CallRail or Call Tracking Metrics and start buying all their local phone numbers.

Seriously.

Test your heart out

With so many of your competitors worrying about 1,000 things other than writing better ads, you now have the ammunition to make your AdWords ads the most glorious ads in the world (read: the best-performing ones).

That is, if you start testing today.

So go!

And if you’ve got any other ideas for writing killer AdWords ads, let me know in the comments!

google-countdown

About Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane is the founder of KlientBoost, a California-based PPC agency that's on a mission to grow companies. He's been interviewed by Google and has a German Shorthaired Pointer named Tanner. Connect with him on Twitter.
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  • Great Tips Johnathan Dane.
    Write a content for Google ads always frustrate me. Its always a challenge to write best content with in 25 character. I hope your these tips will help me.

    • I hear your struggle Varun!

      It’s not always easy. But you have no excuses now ;)

  • Great post, Johnathan. “Timely” too (wink).

    I loved the section on the “end goal.” Identification is powerful — “I know your pain” — but the more crowded the marketplace the more the need to move beyond identification to alleviation becomes — “I have a solution to your pain.”

    And, as you pointed out … AdWords is crowded.

    Also, that section on the timer was great. You really made it actionable and provided stellar examples and data.

    Of course, maybe I should thank Amanda D. a bit for that as well. She always takes me to task on those fronts. ;-)

    Do you have any AdWords heroes. I’m in love with Perry Marshall, but who isn’t?

    • Haha thanks Aaron!

      Yea Perry Marshall is the MJ in my opinion. Brad Geddes is also solid, as well as Larry Kim :)

      • In my new book “Clicks, Customers, Cashflow, the AdWords Bible for eCommerce” (foreword by Marshall) I describe how I created 272 absolutely unique ads – from a single landing page (basecamp.com)

        In it also explain why and how advertisers still get ad delivery all wrong.

        Learn more on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P714WTC

        (Brad will tell you he also likes my stuff, and Larry usually avoids me when we bump into each other at conferences!)

  • sali

    hi – great article. I was wondering, reading this article and your article on ‘doing adwords the wrong way’, if having to many similar keyword phrase is counter productive. if the ads all the same excelpt for a keyword. eg. if I have +rubbish +removals in a adgroup and then had a adgroup for “rubbish removals Melbourne” and had Melbourne in the ad – wouldn’t these compete?
    your advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Thanks Sali :)

      Those ad groups would compete, unless you ad the ad group level negative keyword of ‘melbourne’ to the ‘rubbish removals’ ad group.

      And thanks for cleaning up the streets of Melbourne. That place is filthy! ;)

      • sali

        Thanks Johnathan,
        in your opinion, would it be better to use +rubbish removals, rather than +rubbish +removals.

        I a little confused as to how the searches work best with the modifier. I don’t want searches for furniture removalists if some is typing furntiure removal and wants to move house!

        Would this work better too where I am targeting a lot of locations. eg melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide

        • The “+” tells Google that the keyword must be part of the searchers query before your ads can show.

          I would therefore recommend you keeping the “+” in front of both the words of that keyword.

          And like you said, you don’t want to pay for clicks like: furniture, junk, dead body removal, etc.

          To make your life easier, you’d want to allow your search term report to tell you which ad groups to create. If you start off with the ad group “rubbish removal”, then see what longer tail search terms those keywords generate.

          If there’s enough impressions behind the search term “rubbish removal adelaide” then make that a new ad group and add the negative broad match keyword ‘adelaide’ into the ad group of ‘rubbish removal’.

          Hope that helps :)

  • Krishna

    Superb Tips. Keep writing…

  • Love the article especially the part about the countdown timers, just brilliant!

  • TJ

    Good article.

    You mentioned to stop using the Google forwarding no, is this because they use national geographic numbers?

    I’m in UK so the no shown is 0330

    • Hey TJ,

      It’s been shown that local phone numbers tend to convert at higher rates. Since you’re not able to select that with a Google forwarding number, I suggest you don’t allow them to put a tracking number on top of your local number.

      Instead, try purchasing a hand full of local numbers and see if that improves your phone conversion rate.

      • Hey Johnathan,

        Great article, really interesting. I especially liked the countdown timers part as I didn’t know about that.

        The bit about using local phone numbers is interesting as most, if not all of our clients use the Google forwarding numbers or their own tracked numbers currently.

        Both CallRaile and Call Tracking Metrics look good and have Google Analytics & Google AdWords integration. Are there any services that are UK based for this that you can recommend?

        • Heya Jason!

          You know, unfortunately I don’t have any experience with UK based call tracking companies.

          The good thing is that you luckily don’t have to do too much human to human talking (eww). You just need to make sure they have a solid API and dynamic keyword call tracking :)

  • Thank you very much for sharing! I’ve learnt a lot from it!

  • Dane,

    That’s a great post. Step by step guide has made easy to understand.

  • Thanks for sharing! I will try some of these tips in my next campaign.

  • NK

    Great article! I had been wanting to include my ad group’s keyword in the headline to help improve relevance, but it sounds as if that isn’t necessarily needed?

    Also, do you group singular and plural keywords into one ad group or give them separate ad groups?

    Thanks.

    • Yea, sometimes it’s not needed.

      Using your keywords in the headlines is a great practice that will help your quality scores, CTR, and CPC (like I wrote about here: http://unbounce.com/ppc/doing-adwords-wrong-make-it-right/), but doesn’t necessarily give you a dramatic jump in conversion rates like using a headline that speaks to the “End Goal”.

      I start grouping singular and plural keywords in one ad group, but eventually split them out of each one has enough impressions.

      You’ll want to avoid doing that if your ad becomes more of a comparison/team ad like “New York Divorce Lawyers” – when you’re just one lawyer.

  • http://tinyurl.com/Google-Hotels-WP
    Interesting white paper that details how businesses are wasting millions but not optimizing AdWords ad copy

  • Some very good tips there, especially the stuff about timers which I’d never come across before. It’s worth noting that there is another powerful optimisation that people may be missing out on, probably because it never occurs to them to make the investment: generic, descriptive domain names.

    By this, I mean domain names that exactly match the product or service being bid on.

    We did some testing a while back and found up to a 42% uplift in CTR by using a targeted descriptive domain name vs a branded alternative (the ad copy and keywords being bid on didn’t change – the only thing that did was the web address in the ad) The case study can be downloaded from:
    http://www.memorabledomains.co.uk/ppc-generic-domains.html

    Of course, “decent” domains are likely long since registered by now. But despite that, it can still be extremely cost-effective to invest on buying a relevant domain in the aftermarket if your PPC campaign itself is of a decent size, with a reasonable budget. A few thousand dollars spent on a domain could potentially shave many times that off in Adsense costs.

  • Great articles some brilliant advice!

  • Ola

    Johnathan Dane, this is really good! I like it.

  • Hi Johnathan,

    I just spoke briefly with you on KlientBoost chat while checking out the site. I wanted to say thanks again for a great article. I shared it with some of team members who also found it helpful. Will definitely check back for future posts!

    • Great chatting with you Tony. And thanks for dropping by to drop a line! :)

  • Wow! Amazing article! Easy to follow and understand. I am definitely going to go back and look at some ads to see what I can tweak. I have a whole new perspective moving forward. Etc.

    • That’s exactly what I was hoping for! Great to hear Ed.
      Please let me know if you have any questions.

  • Thank you Mo! Appreciate it :)

  • Ashish Singh

    Thank You very much Jonathan! Such a great article. Will be keeping a close on eye on your future articles, a lot more to learn.

  • Love, love, love the tip on the count down timers! Can’t wait to test it from my clients!

  • Great tips. And actionable. Thanks!

  • great, actionable advice. I also love countdown timers and find they work great! But as you say, you have to test everything for yourself

  • OK, i’m testing 24 hour sales using the countdown timer, sending clicks to a clearence page on WhatSexToy.com. I’ll try to keep you posted what happens.

  • Emiley Bailey

    I never noticed the small things that made the big difference when dealing with ads. your unique way of writing inspired me and even I wish to write some innovative contents for Ad Words.

    • Thanks for the kind words Emiley :) Excited to read what you come up with!

  • Ramsey

    Recently took on a new PPC role and have been researching a lot (probably an understatement) lately. Aside from your great advice, I mainly follow this blog (really I just click your name to populate your posts) so I can laugh! Your GIF’s are unmatched and the way you imbed your humour throughout your posts makes it that much more enjoyable to read! Thank you for your help.

    • Johnathan Dane

      You seriously just put a smile on my face :D

      Thanks for the awesome feedback. I’ll try my best to keep the humor coming :)

  • Such a excellent content. Will be maintaining a close on eye on your upcoming posts, a lot more to understand.

  • Great post, Johnathan.

  • Another great article John – thanks!
    So in your article regarding SKAGS, you recommended we make the headline and text of the ad include the search terms, this way they get bolded(except for the headline), and improve your QS/CTR/CPC. With this method, are you suggesting some sort of hybrid? Still creating SKAGs, but maybe instead of focusing so much on including the search term keywords in your headline, focus on a headline that caters to the searchers needs, and try to incorporate a keyword or two from the search term in the rest of your ad?

    • Thanks Josh :) And thanks for reading multiple!

      Those two strategies definitely contradict each other huh? And you’re right, you can mix them both up.

      Even though SKAGs are a great way to lift performance, they limit you in creativity. So using an end-goal type of headline is perfectly ok. It may dip your quality scores but it’s conversion rates that matter.

      So let that dictate how you test :)

      • Thanks for the quick reply – looking forward to soaking up some more adwords wisdom :)

  • Really awesome article.

    At the moment we are using countdown timers for Ads for some clients and we are having awesome results!

    Thanks for all the insights!

  • Great article Jonathan. I stumbled on to it while looking for a reference to countdown timers to source in an internal email but found another thing that caught my eye. When you said:

    “If you’re still using the regular Google call forwarding in your AdWords call extensions, stop it immediately.”

    Aside from the ability to show local numbers, do you feel there are other benefits to using an outside system that make it a **must**?

  • Hi jonathan, as a digital marketing expert , I use to work on all the things. But writing the Googe Ads are always challenge. If we have the offers for our campaigns , we use to change the ads . Some times it will work , some times it wont. Here I got lot more examples and ways to write more high performing Ads. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Thanks for the helpful stuff Jonathan. here’s my scenario, Myself running ad-words accounts with 250+ keywords targeting across united states. I wanted to target hyper-locally as you mentioned in the post. I’m trying to create a campaign exclusively for local targeting, but I’m concerned about the duplication of keywords from my national campaign. Any thoughts?

    • You’ll just want to make sure you exclude the local campaign geographic targeting from your national campaign.

  • I love the pro tip of adding a countdown timer in Ad copy. Hotel + travel sites should use that in conjunction with their geo ads…
    Thanks Jonathan.

  • Hi, I don’t usually comment on blog posts, but this one is great! Some brilliant, to-the-point, straightforward tips, most of which were implemented right away. Will let you know the results. Also, did not know Adwords had a count down timer….! I’m not sure if this is used much by others, as Ive never noticed it in any other ads before? Scott

  • Very good article! Thank you! We absolutely agree with everything as we have tested it many times and it just works, especially the tip “be specific”. Great copy and consistent message from end to end is the key to a successful PPC Campaign.

  • Great Article Jonathan. You have mentioned each and every aspect of a high performing adwords ads very clearly. It is one of the guide which can be helpful to all from beginner to expert adwords manager.

  • I m really tired in writing google ads, tried different but CTR is very low, now I have idea with this article. Thank you Jon! I own travel agent in Nepal with domain tourinnepal.com and we sale adventure trips such as trekking, climbing, cultural tours etc, could you give few example of title and description for google ads which can get high CTR. Your help on this issue is highly appreciated !

    Surya
    From Nepal

  • well written , adwords ads titles well explained

  • Some great info here, thanks for this article it has given me some good ideas. Regards, Chris.

  • good This application will not require any data package deal and therefore no need to have to get worried about the data package deal or poor connection problems nice.

  • Fantastic info, I use it in our next campaign and competitors will stand no chance. YO! Thanks

  • This was great since it was so helpful especially the part of using specific numbers in ads. I just wrote an ad with numbers. I can’t wait to see how it works.

  • Great So I’m not going to waste your times let’s head over to main procedure.Download and Install iOS Emulator iPadian on your Mac OS PC. good.

  • I’ve just recently joined the PPC family. Amazing article with only valuable information.

  • awesome If the friends and family will be posing for the traditional photographer, approach to the part for a distinct perspective, or move in on smaller sized groupings nice.

  • The first ingredient is customer demand. If your customers are not searching for your product or service in Google, then obviously, AdWords search advertising is not going to work for you. So, before you get too excited about creating your first campaign, you need to verify there is in fact search volume for what you’re going to offer.

    The tool to use is the Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool. The keyword tool acts much like a thesaurus. You enter in phrases you think your prospects are searching, and Google tells you other similar, relevant phrases. Google also will tell you how often people search these phrases, how competitive the keywords are in AdWords, and how much it’ll cost to advertise on each keyword. All of this information will help you determine which keywords you want to use in your first campaign .