Ad copy is one of the most important elements of a successful PPC campaign: successfully crafting and optimizing ad text will often make or break a paid search campaign.

But creating and testing PPC ad copy is difficult. You have to take several factors into account:

  • Not a lot of room to message " The search engines only afford you 25 characters in each headline and 35 characters in each of two description lines:

Writing PPC ad copy

  • Text has to be relevant to keyword groups " Because AdWords has you creating ad copy to speak to an entire Ad Group, you need to organize your keywords and group them strategically, then you need to write ad copy for all of the keywords contained in that group.
  • You have to track the performance of various ads " You never know what ad is going to be the most effective; there are various different types of ads you can write, and often times the ad you least suspect will win, does.
  • You have to respond to the right data in the right way " Youre presented with a decent amount of different information in creating ad text: click-through rates, conversion rates, costs, cost-per click, etc. Its very difficult to know what to respond to, and how to do it.

There are a number of ways to craft effective ad copy for paid search, and various means of setting up testing and tracking on the back end. One of the most important pieces to this puzzle, though, is creating a strong foundation.

Creating The Ad Copy: Four Types of Ads You Can Create for Any Vertical

Before you start to test ads and make adjustments, you have to have your first round of ad text crafted. Creating this first round of copy can be tricky. I like to start with a test element in mind. There are a lot of things you can test, but generally I find the headline gets you the most bang for your buck, so its probably a good place to start.

The most important part of any sort of creative is rolling your own and making sure that your techniques are the best for your specific offering, but here are four types of ads you can run in any vertical:

1. The Keyword Focused Headline

While cramming keywords in your ad copy doesnt affect your Quality Score nearly as much as your click-through rate (great video on Quality Score factors here), there are instances where using the query the searcher searched on will be compelling and will help boost your click-through rate:

Keyword Focused PPC Headlines

Boston Web Design reveals a very specific layer of intent; this searcher may only be interested in dealing with a local design company, so just calling that out in your ad copy may be good enough for a click and a conversion.

2. Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI)

This is along the same lines, but can be a tricky one. Basically youre inserting the keyword that triggers a search in your ad text. Make sure you understand how to set up DKI and the various ramifications associated with utilizing it. Its easy to create awkward or even legally messy ads if dynamic keyword insertion is implemented improperly.

3. Like Getting Clicks? Ad Copy Q and A

One time-honored best practice in writing copy for everything from Emails to search adverts is that questions generate clicks. Theres a nice element of suspense; search is, after all, a sort of elaborate question and answer session. Why not ask the searcher something compelling? As with any marketing copy, getting at the searchers intent is key. Do they need design help? Do they want to build a better brand? Do they want to look more credible? Figure it out, then ask them!

Ad Text Questions

The question in the middle might well attract those looking to upgrade to professional grade site designs, which might be just the type of customer we want to attract.

Wild Card Copy " Qualify and Speak to Pain Points

This forth variety can actually take many shapes and sizes. The general idea is to deviate from keyword cramming, questions, and DKI to try something new. While the Boston Web design searcher wanted something specific, maybe a search for best Web design is after something different (each modifier for a keyword reveals a different layer of intent).

Here are a few ideas for alternative ad text types:

  • Speak to a pain point " Think of a common pain point for customers in your industry. Maybe you hear a lot that Web designers are impractical or that there is a need for SEO friendly Web design and development. If you solve that problem, let people know with your ad text.
  • Gamble up " Since you are running and testing at least four ads, you can try something that doesnt seem like it would work but will provide you with some text ad differentiation. Be challenging or irreverent or totally off-beat and challenging, like: Your Website Needs Work (remember, of course, that your sites URL and subsequently your brand will be tied to the ad).
  • Qualify your traffic " Not all clicks are good clicks. If you are a high-end design shop you dont want to attract a lot of traffic from people looking for low-end design solutions; even though the improved click-through rate would boost your Quality Score, the irrelevant traffic would depress your bottom line. So you might go with something like: Premium Web Design Services as your headline.

The main idea is to take an idea or three and throw them into the testing mix. If youre monitoring your test closely, no single ad text variation will be able to cost anywhere near as much as the test itself helps you in the long run.

Beyond Writing the Copy

Its important to remember that there is a lot to consider after youve created your ad text. Set it and forget it is never a sound strategy in search marketing, and ad copy creation is no exception. Considerations such as:

  • Other elements you might start to test (benefit statements, calls to action, display URLs...the list goes on)
  • Is your sample size significant? (There are tools that can help you determine what constitutes significant)
  • Are you considering the right performance indicators (clicks, conversions, other metrics)?
  • Should you let Google run your ad test, or opt to serve ads evenly and orchestrate the test yourself?
  • How do you pick a winner?

Are just a few of the questions youll encounter as you attempt to optimize your PPC ad copy. The good news is that creating a few strong ad variations to test is a great start!

Tom Demers is the Senior Marketing Manager at WordStream Inc. WordStream offers keyword management solutions for SEO and PPC. Tom is a frequent contributor to the WordStream Keyword Management Blog.

Tom Demers

I'm the co-founder and managing partner at Measured SEM - we're a small search marketing shop that offers a variety of different PPC and SEO services, such as SEO audits

Measured SEM Blog

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22 Responses to “How to Write PPC Ad Copy: Four Ad Templates that Cause Clicks and Conversions”

  1. I will follow your advice. Right now I am setting up a campaign for a local contractor. It is hard to test because the number of clicks is not big enough. Or maybe I need to pick more words that people use when looking for contractor

  2. This is great and useful information. I have a resume writing company that I tried using ppc for last year and the results were terrible and I have not advertised with ppc since. I may give it another go using these tips and see what happens. From reading your post, I know I was not doing it as effectively as I could have.

  3. Tom Demers says:

    Hi Tycoon,

    Yeah as a PPC software vendor we hear a lot of stories like that. My suggestion is usually to start small. Create a single campaign with a few small, tight ad groups that are specific and really relevant to what you do/offer. Come up with an amount of money you're comfortable spending (spending because few people see great returns right out of the gate) and assign a reasonable time frame to see results (if you want to dedicate a thousand dollars, don't set your daily budget to 100 a day and hope for the best), and track your campaign very closely. PPC is a great channel but it's not simple and it's VERY iterative.

    Anyway glad you liked the post, thanks for the comment!

  4. Tom Demers says:

    @Custom Bowling Balls:

    Yeah it's important to note that ad copy is just one piece; keyword selection, organization, and bids can also have large implications for your results. Be careful not to widen your net too far for the sake of a bigger sample size for ad testing; try to scale your impression count incrementally, add some relevant terms, and monitor closely. This is a good tool for verifying sample size if you're not sure if yours is big enough: and there are others like it.

    Good luck!


  5. Al says:

    Good article! I know its mentioned at the end of the article, but I would strongly encourage folks to NOT let Google optimize the ad rotation. You need even amounts of traffic (impressions) to properly evaluate ad copy. Besides, Google currently optimizes on CTR and you may be more interested in conversion rate.

    Thanks for the article.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    @Al yeah they tend to "pick a winner" too quickly. There's an interesting article here with a novel take on ad optimization.



  8. […] How to Write PPC Ad Copy: Four Ad Templates which Cause Clicks as well as … […]

  9. Cool Gifts says:

    This is great. I like how you have defined the 3 different ways of inserting the keyword. I was recently helping a buddy with this. I think we may need to reconsider a few things now that I have read this. I can't wait to test the new results with the previous versions.

  10. Tom Demers says:

    Glad you liked it! Yeah split testing and stat checking can be pretty addictive :). Good luck!

  11. Jeremy says:

    Good ppc tips Tom. One mistake many people make is using categories that are too broad. So they would use the same ad copy for all traffic related to one product. Sometimes you have to identify when there are clearly different customers for different keywords. For example, sometimes people want to buy something used instead of new. If you write ad copy that is very specific to the keywords there is a greater chance for a click thru.

  12. Tom Demers says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    Absolutely; one of the biggest things that impacts the effectiveness of your copy is your campaign and group structure. Every term you tack on to a keyword or query reveals another layer of intent, so you'll definitely get a boost by creating more and more granular segmentations. Thanks,


  13. […] Effectively writing a PPC copy The success of a PPC campaign is heavily dependent on the Ad copy that goes with it, due to this much attention is given to the writing part itself. Here are several factors that you need to remember if you are writing a PPC ad copy: there is not a lot of room for your message, the text chosen should be very relevant, performance tracking is important and the right response to data presented to you is needed. Furthermore, there are 4 types of ads that you can create and these are: Keyword Focused Headline, Dynamic Keyword Insertion, Ad Copy Q and A, and the Wild copy. […]

  14. […] How to Write PPC Ad Copy: Tom Demers has a nice easy to follow templates for writing google adwords ad campaign. […]

  15. Good PPC tips. Too many people suck at writing copy , or even point their PPC toward the homepage, regardless of the theme! Yes, this still goes on!

  16. […] the searcher. We have some good concepts here, but if we didn’t we could leverage some standard ad copy formats that are often successful. By running these alternative ad concepts, we can get real life feedback […]

  17. […] Ad Text Questions Image by Search Engine People Blog How to Write PPC Ad Copy – Four Ad Templates That Drive Clicks and Conversions […]

  18. […] the searcher. We have some good concepts here, but if we didn’t we could leverage some standard ad copy formats that are often successful. By running these alternative ad concepts, we can get real life feedback […]

  19. Most people write the PPC-ads like this:
    Line 1: Catchy headline.
    Line 2: The product's features.
    Line 3: Call to action.
    Try experimenting though.

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  22. PPC is almost a craft! Writing has never been so important then ever, from text in your website to match your ppc ads now! well we should pay more attention its true if we want a better 'dollar' for our 'penny' spent in marketing