PPC Search Copywriting Strategies, Part 1

Search engine copywriting is an art. It may not seem possible to pack creativity and strategy into such short headlines and descriptions, but copy is a tool you need to win the search marketing wars.

Yes, it does feel like a war out there. You and your competition have nearly identical customer profiles. How will you differentiate yourself from the very instant prospects (or customers) make contact?

Your other marketing and media expenditures lay a foundation for your search campaign. When starting a search, prospects need your help, whether it’s your services or the products you sell. If prospects suddenly realize they have a problem and they remember your other advertising and type your company name into a search engine, then your other marketing worked. The only bug in the process is consumers didn’t use the browser address bar to find your company. Instead, they chose a search portal. So, search copy must be an extension of your marketing.

Regardless of whether the prospect’s search was for your brand or a keyword in your campaign, that instant when search results are displayed is when you cash in on the marketing and brand momentum you built. All the messaging, education, PR, and media you worked so hard to strategize and execute won’t matter if your organic listing or paid ad isn’t in the search results, or isn’t noticed and clicked on. If you’ve gone to the trouble of building a reputation and a strong brand, don’t screw up now.

Perhaps the preceding is a bit dramatic; perhaps not. However, there’s no denying your headline and description may be your last chance to capture a prospect’s attention before he becomes the competition’s paying customer.

It’s important to understand copywriting best practices vary by engine and sometimes by industry. Today, I’ll stick to best practices that most often hold true. First, some ad copy rules that hold true almost all the time.

Keywords in the Title

In most engines, if the keyword searched is in the ad’s title or description, the keyword is bolded. According to an Overture study conducted by AC Nielsen, “Users were nearly 50 percent more likely to click on listings in which the keyword was included in both the title and description.”

You may feel you have to give up too much space to use the keyword in the title, especially if the keyword is a lengthy phrase. If it’s a long phrase and you don’t have room or you want to include more in the title, at least distill the phrase’s essence and include it in the title. If you have room for the full search phrase, trade off a portion of that phrase to get across a marketing message. For example, if your search term is “olympus stylus 410 digital camera,” the title could include key search term elements that help the ad pop for searchers.

In Google:

Stylus 410 digital camera


Olympus Digital Camera

In Overture:

Buy an Olympus stylus 410 digital camera


Olympus stylus 410 digital camera review

Keywords in the Description

Compared to the title, description copy length seems almost spacious in both Overture and Google. If you used the search keywords in the title, you have the option of reusing them again. A description works well when it contains one or more of the following elements:

  • It reads like a sentence/

  • It has an embedded benefit statement.
  • It differentiates you or your offer.
  • It includes additional information.
  • It isn’t too “sales-y.”

Inverted Pyramids

In journalistic writing, one starts with the conclusion, then follows with the strongest statements supporting that conclusion. If an editor must cut, she can cut from the bottom without losing much impact. Similarly, a reader can come away with a solid idea of the story thesis from the first paragraph. Pay-per-click (PPC) search ads should also be top-loaded for immediate effect. Some venues that display PPC search results truncate listings. This means you may lose part of the title and description you just perfected.

In part two, I’ll continue with the importance of compelling copy, as well as how to address contextual copy, manage seasonality, generate dynamic ads, find the best display URL, and more. I’ll even discuss some don’ts that can trip you up. Stay tuned.

Meet Kevin at Search Engine Strategies in Chicago, IL, December 13-16.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

Related reading