We all make mistakes from time to time. It happens. We’re only human.
With ad copy writing, we’re given a number of open-ended text fields with no real guidance from the search engines as to what to put in there. Sure, there are some technical boundaries, like punctuation and symbol usage, but for the most part, it’s really one of the areas in a search account we’re given the most leeway. It’s easy to see how sometimes we can come up with some real duds.
I’m all for testing just about everything we can in ad copy. The SERPs are only getting more crowded and more confusing—I haven’t heard anyone tell me their number of competitors is going down. It’s more important than ever that we try to find new things to test to see what can drive results, and that means getting rid of underperforming copy.
Any time I see wildly underperforming ad variants, they have at least one common mistake in them. Here are the top five mistakes that you need avoid in your ad copy.
1. Keyword stuffing
This isn’t the year 2000, and you’re not doing SEO. If your ad copy looks like it, you can be in real trouble.
It’s considered best practice to include your keywords in your ad copy. But the common rule “everything in moderation” still holds true here.
Sure, it’s always a struggle to figure out how to completely sum up all you’re offering in a small amount of characters. No business person has ever wished to have less space in ad copy. But alas, we’re all given the same, tiny amount.
Don’t give into temptation and simply stuff a bunch of keywords or short phrases into an ad and pass it off as ad copy. It’s not. Searchers demand more and so should you. Would you click on the ad above? With those repeat phrases and buzzwords stuffed in? I know I wouldn’t.
Use actual phrases and sentences in your ad copy. Sure, you might not get all that you want into the variant, but that’s why they let us put multiple ads per ad group. Run them against each other and see what works best.
2. Not leveraging ad extensions
As I mentioned above, there’s only so much we can fit in our standard character limits. But that’s why the platforms give us additional options to help expand our coverage.
Sitelinks, callout Extensions, and structured snippets are a must-test for all accounts. I’ll show you how to use each effectively below, but long story short: They’re additional text that we control without any type of advanced integration.
Writing the ad text for sitelinks is nearly identical to writing for regular ad copy, but it shouldn’t repeat the ad.
Remember, these will show up alongside your ad copy, so make the messaging in your sitelinks a value add to what you typically put in your ad copy.
Callout extensions can help alleviate the keyword stuffing ad writer in all of us.
The creation process allows for short bursts of text that can assist in making our ad copy more narrowly focused.
I typically will test a number of different approaches with callouts, whether it’s product model names, product features, benefits of the product, etc.
Lastly, structured snippets are very similar to callout extensions, but they have a list “type” to choose from at the beginning.
This can help convey what you’re trying to showcase in the ad copy without sacrificing any of your own characters.
Now, the image above shows how structured snippets can be used, as well as how important it is to make sure your ad extensions are tied to a level of your account that makes sense. In this instance, Nike should likely have an entire campaign dedicated to cleats and a specific structured snippet to speak to them. This one is a little goofy, but you can still see what they will look like in the wild.
This is important, so I’ll say it again: You need to test these. Even though these help your ad take up more space, that doesn’t mean your as are going to perform better when the extensions are in place. Regularly review how your ad extensions are performing and don’t let one bring down the performance of your campaign.
3. Missing a call to action
Why on earth would anyone run advertising if they’re not going to ask the customers to do something?
You would be surprised how often I see these types of ads. The groundwork of a fantastic solution can be laid, but then there’s no next step, nothing to set the stage for the potential customer on what they can do for their next step.
A quick two-word phrase might not be the largest difference between someone being swayed by your ad copy. It might not even directly correlate to clicking on your ad. But adding a call to action has the biggest impact on the landing page itself and with your conversion rate.
Adding a call to action in your ad copy tells the user what you want them to do next. Remember, they started their query because they needed something. Each query has a different intent behind it.
When you’re able to deliver high-quality, appealing ad copy that solves their problem AND has a CTA that matches their intent? Now you’re off to the races.
Calls to action don’t need to be rocket science. Here’s a list of sixteen easy but effective ones that can be altered for nearly any business.
4. Never testing anything new
Like I said above, it’s not the year 2000. Text ads come in more shapes and sizes than they ever have before, and it’s changing every day.
We first started with Expanded Text Ads a few years ago. Now they’ve been further extended to include a potential third headline and second description.
It’s important to continue testing these new ad variants as they roll out if you’re advertising on those networks. They might not always work the best for you right off the bat (or ever), but it’s been the case in the past that the new formats quickly become the ONLY format.
Standard Text Ads, anyone?
If you’re not testing to find out what works best and what doesn’t work at all during this period when other ad formats can also show to help cover lower performance, then if and when those new formats become the only formats, you’ll be up a creek.
5. Forgetting your customer’s goals
If every ad was written for the advertiser’s benefit, all of them would say the same thing: “Help Me Make Money!”
That’s not what your customers want. Focus on what they want or need and how you can help fill that gap.
Pay attention to search queries and be sure you’re delivering on what they are searching for. Try to be as specific as they are but without making assumptions—just in case you’re wrong.
In the example above, most ads on this SERP are tailored pretty well and fit my search. But one ad made an assumption a bit too far: I personally don’t want black running shoes. So immediately, they’re out. Not because they might not have what I want somewhere on their site, but because there are many other options for me to choose from that don’t require me to go find what I want myself. They’re handed to me right here on the SERP.
Go start testing your ad copy!
Writing ad copy is likely the most balanced blend of art and science you’ll come across in PPC campaign management. You want to write creative, compelling copy, but you need to make sure you can test its effectiveness. So start drafting and testing—and be sure to avoid these mistakes above. Happy ad writing!
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