PPC Search Copywriting Strategies, Part 2

In our continuing discussion on pay-per-click (PPC) search copywriting, we’ll move beyond the powerful yet simple use of keywords in the title and description into some more creative and nuanced strategies.

In traditional online advertising, even in offline advertising, most ad space is sold by the impression. Online, that means marketers with objectives beyond immediate branding must write compelling copy. However, marketers often won’t spend as much time on the copy or message as they should because they have a crutch: images. Images, animation, rich media, even audio can be used in non-search advertising. Marketers and agencies sometimes get so caught up in imagery they forget to consider how an ad could be improved with a compelling message.

In PPC search, all we have is text (with the exception of some second-tier engines that allow small icons or some keyword-triggered banner purchases). When it’s all you’ve got, text is even more powerful.

Compelling Copy and Offers

What do you have your competition doesn’t? Can you fit that unique, relevant, targeted benefit into 70 or 190 characters? If you want to drive sales or lead volume, a slightly more compelling offer may raise the CTR (define) on your ad while maintaining clickstream quality. Every click to a relevant landing page reduces the chance your competition will get the click and make the sale (or get the lead).

When thinking about what offers might be attractive or how best to describe what you have to satisfy the searcher, don’t think about what you like to see personally. You probably aren’t in your target audience profile. Instead, put yourself in the mindset of your best prospective customer. What gets them excited?

Some of my clients have had dramatic success changing their copy to be more enticing. However, not every tactic is best for every marketer. That’s why a testing regimen is critical. Don’t start changing things without understanding your baseline. Always compare any new creative against current ads. Compare the CTR and watch for changes in conversion (percent conversion for the clicks you pay for). That said, the following are just a sampling of ways you can make your ad copy more compelling:

  • If you sell on price, put the price in the title.

  • Put the price in the description; lead with it if it’s important.
  • Consider using a percentage off or a percentage savings message if you sell on price.
  • Add “free shipping,” but make sure your free shipping doesn’t have strings.
  • Use hot, power words that aren’t superlatives, such as: “great,” “save,” “savings,” “shop,” “huge,” “latest,” “excellent,” “selection,” “low,” “discount,” “cheap,” “choose,” “now,” “wholesale,” “special,” “on sale,” “compare,” “massive,” “experienced,” “specializing,” “deals,” “leading,” “VIP,” “outstanding,” “rebate,” “coupon,” “wonderful,” “search,” “stunning,” “fabulous” (this one works better on some demographics), “detailed,” “easy,” “guaranteed,” and “quality.”
  • Use brands in the copy if you carry them. If you’re a brand, use that. A ton of money was spent building the brand. Use the brand equity to improve the copy.

Let’s talk about the importance of relevance. In ads, keywords combined with powerful, compelling copy are a killer combination. However, if the landing page doesn’t follow through on the key points made in the ad, chances that visitors hit the dreaded “back” button rise. You’ll pay for a click but get very little, if any, value. If the ad promotes low pricing or free shipping, meet that expectation on the landing page. You may need to shift around copy or layout on the landing page to improve the stickiness of that page for the searcher.

Display URLs

If your URL is a well-known brand, you have an immediate advantage. This is one area where you see return on a branding investment. Searchers click on names they know and trust. The brand equity you built becomes powerful. It’s not just media spending that built the brand; brands are built through positive experiences customers have interacting with your store, catalog, staff, Web site, and products.

If you don’t yet have a powerful brand, consider a microsite, where the domain matches the target segment. You can use the microsite just for paid search. With domains costing under $10 a year from many registrars, there isn’t much of a hurdle in testing a unique URL that contains the keywords central to your business.

Seasonality and Search Advertising

If your business is seasonal, perhaps your creative should be, too. Should your message change during year-end holidays? Are there key messages you want to convey at different times of the year? By applying the guidelines we covered earlier to seasonal advertising and testing results, you’ll know when to swap out the creative message.

Dynamic Ad Creation

Consider using search engines’ dynamic ad creation tools, if they’re available. For example, Google has its Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI), which I discussed in the past.

I hope I’ve provided some food for thought about updating ad creative and using the power of copy to improve campaign results. Combine creativity with common sense and a scientific approach to testing. There are technologies out there that can make testing easier, including Web analytics platforms and campaign management technology solutions. The combination of tuned creative and a well-managed campaign will definitely improve your profitability in PPC search. Try to dedicate some time and resources to your ad copy.

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

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