By Rowland Bennett

Standing out from the crowd with your ad on those busy search results pages – what's an account manager to do? Ad extensions are a great way to draw some extra clicks, but what about the quality of your ad copy itself? Not getting the clickthrough rates you crave? Are there ways you are under-utilizing your ad copy? Read on for tips on how to make the most out of those characters!

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Ad copy breakdown

Recall that a text ad in Google AdWords must contain the following components:

  • A headline – The main line of your ad; 25 characters max.
  • Two description lines – Use these to elaborate on what you're selling; 35 characters max each.
  • A destination URL – The address of the page a customer will be taken to when they click on your ad; 1024 characters max.
  • A display URL – The URL your customers will see. This must be the same domain as your destination URL; 35 characters max.

Not a lot of space to get an entire advertisement across! Here are some points that you can bear in mind when writing your ads:

Be direct!

Sounds simple, but is your ad copy relevant enough? Have you included keywords that a potential customer will be looking for? If your ad is selling 'red shoes', is this made clear in the ad headline, or does the customer have to read all the way to description line 2 before seeing this term?

Don't forget that ad text that matches keywords a customer has entered will appear in bold. It's well worth ensuring your ad contains plenty of relevant terms to draw your customers' attention.

Don't neglect your display URL either – avail of this chance to include more of your keywords that will potentially appear in bold. Words after the domain name can be separated with hyphens for clarity. Feel free to omit the 'www.' if you're running short on characters.

Also, state your unique selling points! What is it that makes you different from your competitors? Do you offer discounted delivery? Special deals for new subscribers? Have you won any awards? Don't leave your customer to do the guesswork!

Utilise all your assets

You only have a few precious lines to reel in your customers, so it's vital you utilise every last facility available to you.

Are you making full use of your character limits? Aim to use at least 20 characters in your headline and 30 characters minimum in each of your description lines. Increased space presence on the page will draw your customers' eyes to your ad. Play around with the various elements of your ad to maximise the number you can include in your ad copy. Two or three characters over? Rack those brain cells to think of a more concise way to write what you want. Use 'buy' instead of 'purchase'; '4' instead of 'four'. Every single word in your ad copy should be serving a purpose; if it's not, leave it out!

One feature a lot of advertisers forget to utilize is promoted first line: if your ad appears in the banner, Google will display description line 1 as part of the headline – but only if it ends in a full stop, question mark or exclamation mark! The greater a presence your ad has on the page, the better for drawing the customers' eyes to it.

And, speaking of punctuation, don't be sloppy with this! If used inappropriately, it can – make; your ad a. nightmare to! read. But, in the hands of a skilled copyist such as yourself, it will give your text energy, flow and balance. Contrast longer phrases with short, punchy two- or three-word 'factoids'. Use a full stop for a mental break. A dash gives a more fluid effect.

While decorative punctuation may be a no-no, be sure to make full use of what is available to you. Could a question mark engage your customers? Space-permitting, don't forget to include ™ and ® symbols to give your ad that official touch.

Set the tone

Great, so you've decided on the product/service information and unique selling points that should go into your ad. Now it's time to think about your tone! Who is your target customer? What kind of ad copy will they respond to? Suppose you are selling luxury designer clothing. Which is a more appropriate call to action for your target audience – 'Shop The Look!' or 'Browse our luxury collection'?

What about your use of letter case? Capitalizing Each Word Can Make Your Text Stand Out, but if your brand is of a more refined nature, sentence case may be more appropriate. Would your customers appreciate some wit and humour? Remember your space is limited though, so if you're going to go for this approach, make sure not to waste it!

Looking Forward

Combine all these elements and you're sure to come up with a set of ads that will excite and engage your customers. Practice, practice, practice! And then practice some more. As in any case, ad testing is key to ensure you're using the ads that perform best for your market. Check out Imogen's post for tips on how to best test your ads.

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