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BMI: Tuesday Marketing Notes (Number 416—April 8th, 2014)



Writing Effective Keyword Search Ads for Google AdWords Programs

by Eric Gagnon

Last week, we described the process of organizing keywords into keyword stacks for Google AdWords programs. This week, we'll cover the tradecraft of writing keyword search text ads for your AdWords campaigns.

Of course, text ads in Google must be compelling enough to attract a Web searcher’s attention and interest, and to motivate them enough to click on the ad. Considering the fact that a Web searcher is usually more interested in the “found” (non-advertising) search results to the left of your ad, and the fact that your text ad is just one among many, that’s a tall order for three lines of text.

Fortunately, text ads and AdWords give you several major advantages as an advertiser. First, their small space forces you make a clear and concise presentation of your offer, focusing only on its most important benefit. Text ads discipline you to get right to the point of your product’s major benefit or, more often, your offer.

This text-only ad format is a great equalizer for advertisers large and small: Your text ad is the same as everyone else’s text ad, so there are no other distractions found in other advertising media, such as another advertiser running an expensive full page ad next to your fractional ad, which may occur in print advertising.

The other major advantage of text ads are the infinite ways they can be changed and tested: If your current ad isn’t pulling the desired response, you can write a new ad, and split-test both of them using the same keywords to gauge response on the newer ad.

Best of all, you can repeat this process continuously, improving your ads as you track and measure click-throughs and conversions, to actively improve the pulling power of your ads. What text ads may lack in size, flash, or depth, they give back with their ability to be changed, tested, and continuously improved. In these respects, the process of running text ads in Google keyword search marketing programs is very similar to running direct mail tests, only much faster, and much more iterative: When starting a new AdWords marketing program, text ads can be tweaked, replaced, and re-tested dozens of times, with the new results for each new ad revealed in hours, not weeks, as usually happens with direct mail tests.

Web searchers using Google to find B2B-related products or services like the ones you sell are looking for the information they need to help them solve their problems. They’re not looking for clever headlines or other gimmicks often used in consumer-oriented advertising. The most successful AdWords text ads are highly targeted to their audiences, and they provide a benefit and (most often) an offer that motivates these searchers to click the ad to learn more.

Google Text Ad Format

Google text ads consist of three elements:

Headline (maximum 25 characters);
Copy (two lines, each with a maximum of 35 characters);
• Web site URL (maximum 35 characters)

Headline: Just like a print ad or a mailing piece, the bold-faced headline is the most important element of an AdWords text ad, and it’s usually the first thing a Google searcher notices about your ad. To capture the user’s attention, the most successful headlines for text ads on Google often include the keywords searched for by the user, and this is especially true for product-related searches.

Copy: The body copy of a text ad features two lines of text, reading as a complete sentence, or two separate lines of text. A text ad’s copy contains the product’s key benefit, or the offer or promotion you’re presenting to the searcher.

Web site URL: The text ad’s URL is your company’s Web address, but the actual link a user clicks on your text ad can be any targeted URL link you specify, as long as the domain names match for both the displayed URL and the link.

Writing Google Text Ads

When writing Google text ads, you will usually be writing ads for specific keyword stacks. Since testing is one of the AdWords system’s best features, test at least two ads for each group of keywords, and measure them against one another when starting a new AdWords program. Any AdWords program can be made more effective by testing different ads, so don’t hesitate to write and test as many ads as you can develop.

For B2B marketing applications, Google text ads are used for one of two purposes:

1.) To drive searchers to a specific product page on your Web site;
2.) To drive searchers to a landing page(s) where they enter their contact
information to receive a free information premium

The type of product you sell, its price, and your selling process determine the kind of text ads you write for Google AdWords programs, and the types of pages you link users to on your company’s Web site. Companies in B2B who sell lower-priced products, such as electric motors, industrial supplies, parts, or materials usually run ads to drive users to their product (or online catalog) pages.

Companies selling higher-priced products with longer and more complex sales cycles use informational premiums to begin the sales dialogue with their prospects. You increase your chances for success with Google AdWords by linking Web searchers directly to the products they’re searching for on your site (if you’re selling lower-priced products), or giving searchers something of value in exchange for their contact information (if selling high-priced, complex products).

How to Begin: Write Copy for the Product, the Premium, or the Problem

When starting a new keyword search ad program, you’ll be testing many different text ads against each other on Google, and when you’re starting out you’ll never know which combination of keywords, text ads, landing pages, and premiums or offers will generate the best response. To dial in your best copy approaches, make the most of Google’s testing capabilities to test as many different text ad variations as possible. One useful approach to help you begin the process of writing text ads for Google AdWords marketing programs is to test and write one ad that focuses on promoting the major benefit or feature of your product, another ad focusing on your premium (or special offer), and a third ad focusing on the most common problem solved by your product.

Text Ad Examples: Product, Premium, and Problem

For example, a company selling wireless data collection systems for warehousing and distribution operations for the keyword phrase “wireless data collection” would test these copy approaches by writing three different ads and testing them side-by-side.

Product ad: Here is an example of a basic, product-oriented ad with a product description, a feature, and a benefit:

Wireless Data Collection
Turnkey, Multi-Site Data Collection
for Warehousing and Distribution

Premium ad: Alternatively, since this company is selling a complex, high-priced product, it would also want to test an informational premium—in this case, a free white paper of interest to IT professionals upgrading their inventory and warehousing data collection systems:

Wireless Data Collection
Free White Paper Details Industry’s
Top IT Inventory Control Benchmarks

Of course, “Free” is the most compelling word to use in any ad, and text ads in Google are no exception. When writing text ads promoting your white paper, eBook, report, or other information premium, increase your click-through rates by telling your potential prospects you have a free item waiting for them if they click on your ad.

Problem ad: Make your text ads stand out from the rest by highlighting a common problem that’s shared by prospects in your market, and offering your product as the solution to their problem:

Free White Paper
Avoid these common IT mistakes on
wireless data collection upgrades

There are infinite variations for each of these kids of ads for this “product/premium/problem” approach to Google text ad copywriting, and this method is a useful starting point for writing Google text ads. Below is an useful idea-starter for writing copy for Google text ads, based on this "product/premium/problem" approach:

More Google Text Ad Copywriting, Targeting, and Execution Tips

Here are some additional copywriting and execution techniques to use when writing and brainstorming new Google text ads:

“Free” is a powerful marketing word: Increase the pulling power of any Google text ad by including something for free—white paper, free demo, free estimate, evaluation, or free trial offer. Other popular copywriting standbys like “new,” “bold,” “instant” can also be increase response when used in text ads;

Include searched keywords in your text ad copy: Using copy that includes the keywords entered by the user improves the position of your ad in the AdWords system, and increases the visibility of your ad in Google search results displayed to the user. Response improves further when the searched keywords appear in the headline of your text ad, so make every effort to write headlines matching your topic keywords, and organize your ads with your keyword stacks, by keyword;

Ask a question to engage the searcher: Got Milk? If your product or service can be reduced to a question that sparks a prospect’s interest, questions can make eye-catching headlines. Or, ask your potential prospect if they have a problem related to one solved by your product. Questions showing empathy with Web searchers in your market stand apart from the many look-alike text ads seen on Google;

Use text ads tied to keywords to target specific prospects and sub-markets: Extend your reach in Google and improve your responses by running keywords and text ads for specialized segments of your market. A company offering engineering services for plant construction can increase its reach by adding keywords defining sub-segments of its services, with text ads to match these keywords: “plant site selection,” “plant power generation,” etc. Search volume for these highly specialized keywords is likely to be much lower than the broader keywords used, but there will also be fewer other advertisers at this level, and sometimes your ad may be the only one displayed for these keywords, which puts you in the enviable position of having these keywords all to yourself as a Google advertiser;

Use “Peel and Stick” to create new ad groups from top-pulling keywords: Use the Peel and Stick technique, originated by Google AdWords pioneer Perry Marshall, to “peel” a higher-performing keyword out of your keyword list in your ad group, and “stick” it into a new ad group of its own, with a new ad that also contains this keyword. This is a powerful technique for increasing click-throughs and discovering new keyword and text ad variations (by the way, no B2B marketer should be without a copy of Perry's excellent book, Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords);

Use a URL as a selling tool: The displayed URL can, in itself, be a powerful marketing tool when used in Google text ads. For example, a company advertising on the keywords “conveyor belts,” and who also happens to own the Internet domain “” will have its ad displayed in a higher position by Google on pages displaying these matching search results. Google also highlights these matching keywords in Web addresses of text ads for matching keywords on results pages, increasing the visibility of these text ads. While scanning text ads on Google, Web searchers also take notice of URLs, and may respond more positively to URLs containing the keywords they entered, compared to URLs for ads that don’t seem to relate to the keywords or product searched. If your company holds (or can obtain) descriptive URLs like these, you should use them in your text ads;

Don’t just dump searchers onto your company’s home page: Web users who search for B2B-related products on Google are looking for the product, service, or solution they’re searching for, so your ad’s link must be the shortest path to what the searcher wants. Dumping a Google searcher who’s interested in a specific product into your company’s home page, and forcing them to hunt around from there is a sure way to cause your AdWords program to fail, and it’s a common first-time mistake for many B2B advertisers on Google. If you are selling products, link your potential prospects directly to the related interior product page on your site.

Comments? Questions? Send them to me at:

Eric Gagnon (, a director with the Business Marketing Institute, is author of The Marketing Manager’s Handbook and The CRM Field Marketing Handbook.

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