There is nothing more frustrating than a poorly performing PPC campaign when your CTR just won’t increase no matter what you do. But it can happen to us all. In fact, this is one of the most common situations our clients find themselves in when they come to us. They will complain that they’ve tried everything and are out of ideas, and they will list off all the steps they have taken. While CTR can be affected by a number of factors including a low-Quality Score, there is one that many companies get wrong: The copy. Many ads I see are just are not up to scratch and the copy is failing to do the one job it has: Attract clicks from the right people. Fortunately, it’s a problem that can be solved—or at least improved dramatically—within minutes.
3 Simple Steps: Headline, Description Line 1, & Description Line 2
Copywriters love formulas. They have formulas for everything from headlines to CTAs to entire sales letters. They also have formulas for PPC ads. Some of the best I’ve come across are the Wordstream templates, and you can see a long list of them here (288, to be precise). But just looking at templates and using them as a fill-in-the-blanks exercise is not enough. More important is knowing what the following three elements of each ad should be doing (forgetting about the display URL and any extensions for now):
- Description Line 1
- Description Line 2
Later on, I’m going to share a few general do’s and don’ts but for now, let’s look at what each of these three elements should do.
In any form of sales copy, the headline needs to attract attention. The age-old sales-copy formula AIDA, where the “A” stands for “Attention,” is still as relevant today as it has always been. So the one thing you have to think about when constructing your headline is attracting eyeballs. And this is where many advertisers get it wrong.
They try to be creative and different. They try to generate curiosity. But while all of these can be effective, they count for nothing if the headline is not relevant.
Remember that with PPC ads, people are searching for something very specific. For example, “men’s sunglasses.” If you try to attract them with a headline like “Look Cool This Summer,” this isn’t relevant for them.
To be relevant, you’d be better off starting with “Men’s Sunglasses” or a close variation of it. This headline clearly reflects what the person is searching for, and this is going to attract the attention of the right people. It provides the answer they are looking for. If you look at this screenshot for the search “men’s sunglasses,” you’ll see that the second ad has nothing to do with sunglasses, instead focusing on “online shopping.” In contrast, the third ad mirrors the search term, standing out more (although the “women fashion jewelry” in Description Line 1 is confusing).
There is one caveat: What if every other advertiser is using the same keyword headline? This will prevent your ad from standing out. In this case, getting a bit more creative—while still remaining relevant—is going to be more important.
IN SUMMARY: Get attention by making your headline relevant to the searcher.
Description Line 1
If the headline is all about attracting attention, Description Line 1 is all about generating interest. (Again, this follows the AIDA formula.) There is no need to be clever here. Instead, stick to being clear and useful. Provide features and facts, and place a strong focus on clarity. Forget about making claims about your company—no one cares at this stage. While that may help to convince people on your website through showing your experience and therefore, authority, it should not be the focus of your ad. “50% off all shoes” or “Wide choice of brands” generate a lot more interest than “We’ve been in business for 22 years.” You want to quickly and clearly tell the searcher exactly what is being offered, as well as how he or she can benefit from it directly.
In the screenshot below for the search “office furniture California,” the first ad gets this right by providing clear and specific benefits in Description Line 1. Compare this to the third ad, which does not present any kind of benefit.
IN SUMMARY: Focus on the essentials and generate interest by clearly communicating a benefit.
Description Line 2
The second description line is the CTA (Call to Action), which is aimed at getting the click. Asking for specific action tends to lead to better results than not asking, even though you’d think clicking on the ad was obvious. The reason why is because when you ask for the click, you are stating the value that the searcher gets. Think of it this way: Searchers are asking what they will get if they click, and you are telling them. But you want to be specific. While “Click Right Here” is not specific enough, “Try for free today” is better. Urgency can also work well here. “Offer ends soon” or something along those lines utilizes the power of scarcity—but just be careful not to hype it up too much.
In the screenshot below for “used cars Ohio”, the first ad gets this right, while the third ad fails to ask a CTA or provide a benefit.
IN SUMMARY: Ask for action, and highlight a benefit the searcher will get by performing that action.
Some General Pointers for Writing Your Ads
By going over each section of your ads, you can make some serious improvements to your CTR—and it really doesn’t have to take long. Just ask yourself:
- Does the headline get attention through being relevant?
- Does Description Line 1 generate interest through highlighting what is being offered and how the searcher can benefit?
- Does Description Line 2 ask for action by clarifying what the searcher will get when they click?
In addition, here’s a quick checklist of things to keep in mind when writing your ads:
- Avoid clichés—they are so easy to use but so ineffective.
- Focus on the emotions—buying decisions are based on emotions, so make an emotional appeal based on fears, hopes, desires, etc.
- Reassure searchers—people are skeptical, so reassure them with a free demo or guarantee.
- Don’t over-promise—it may get more clicks, but people will leave when they realize you do not live up to your promise.
- Be clear, honest, and relevant—don’t try and trick people.
- Keep it simple—don’t say too much, and stick to one message in the ad.
- Don’t focus on you—no one cares about you. They care about their problem and the solution that you provide.
Rewrite Your Ads, Boost Your CTR
I’m not going to pretend that writing ads is easy, and this guide only covers the basics. But what I will say is that if you follow the advice here, you’re almost certain to improve your ads and see a higher CTR. Now is the time to go over your existing ads and check each line to make sure every word is working its hardest. Give yourself just a few minutes on each ad, and you could see a rapid improvement in your CTR.
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