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Advertising Copy:
58-Point Guide To Text Ad Anatomy

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Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new links and content.
Original Publication Date: January 5, 2018

Why do we make such a big deal over advertising copy?

In a world of online shopping, automated processes, and digital cart checkouts, there’s very little room for an organization to pitch a product to its audience. So many optimizations, keywords added and excluded, campaigns and ad groups created are never seen by the public.

To put it plainly, all of an advertiser’s work and efforts come down to those five seconds of fame — when a user actually sees that ad and the advertising copy.

Business Dictionary defines ad copy as the text of an advertising message that aims to catch and hold the interest of prospective buyers and persuading them to make a purchase — all within a few short seconds.
 

 Wow. What a mouthful Business Dictionary.

Wow. What a mouthful Business Dictionary. – image source

 
Because ad copy only has moments to accomplish these goals, it’s important to deliver the most relevant and eye-catching string of words possible.

In this post, we’ll dissect the anatomy of a text ad and explain the importance of every piece. We’ll also go through a process for writing an ad and, at the end of it all, how to continuously improve your ads over time.
 

Breakdown of an Ad

January 31, 2017, was a fateful day for online advertisers. Google implemented a rule that advertisers would no longer have the ability to create or modify standard text ads. With this change, they also introduced expanded text ads.

Bing followed suit in May 2017, making standard text ads a thing of the past.

What this meant for most advertisers was that, in all honesty, Google gave us more room to play with.

The key differences between standard text ads and expanded text ads are an additional headline, the two 35-character description lines became one 80-character line, an additional path field was added and, last but not least, the ads are now mobile-optimized.

Now that the history lesson is out of the way, let’s go ahead and dive into the composition of an expanded text ad.

There are six main components to an expanded text ad: Headline 1, Headline 2, Description, Path, Final URL & Ad Extensions.
 

This Christmas tree store is putting their ad extensions to good use.

This Christmas tree store is putting their ad extensions to good use.

 

Here’s an example of the same company’s ad on Bing. As you can see, not much difference.

Here’s an example of the same company’s ad on Bing. As you can see, not much difference.

 

Headline 1

This is the most important piece to your ad, and where 80% of your pressure lies.
 

Headline 1 is the first bit of text that is read in an ad.

Headline 1 is the first thing read in an ad.

 
According to advertising legend David Ogilvy:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

What does this mean? It means don’t mess it up.

And how do you do that?

Here are a few best practices when dealing with the headline:

  1. Make It as Relevant to the Search Query as Possible. At KlientBoost, our bread and butter are Single-Keyword-Ad-Groups (or SKAGs). If you follow the SKAGs format, it is safe to say the most relevant Headline 1 will include the search term/keywords you’re targeting.
  2. Capture Their Interest. Whether or not you’re following the SKAG format, you need to throw in something that will capture their interest immediately. A simple “#1” or “Best” can often do the trick.
     

    This advertising copy saw a conversion increase of 34%.

    This advertising copy saw a conversion increase of 34%.

  3.  

  4. Always Test Variations. It’s always best to run 2-3 ad variations per ad group at the same time. A good place to begin testing is with Headline 1, since this is the biggest piece to the puzzle. Again, try to keep the keyword in your headline to for maximum relevance, but you can play around with variations or switch out adjectives.

 

Headline 2

Headline 2 is runner up for most important segment. While it’s not the first thing people see, it remains on the first line.
 

In Headline 2, your keyword needs to be something eye catching. Either a call-to-action or a USP.

In Headline 2, your keyword needs to be something eye catching. Either a call-to-action or a USP.

 
This is a great place for you to bring your A-Game in terms of selling. Offer your call to action, promotion, special feature, countdown, etc.
 

Description

While the description offers you more space to include features and benefits, it often gets overlooked over by the consumer. This section is perfect for including additional product information that sets you apart followed by a CTA. (Try to jam the CTA in anywhere you can.)
 

Often overlooked, the description is a good home for reiteration of your call to action.

Often overlooked, the description is a good home for reiteration of your call to action.

 
Be careful. While an 80-character limit may sound like a lot of space, you’ll find that it’s tough to condense your thoughts to fit.
 

When your thoughtfully crafted description line is exactly 80 characters the first time.

When your thoughtfully crafted description line is exactly 80 characters the first time. – image source

 

Path

Each ad allows two additional paths which are simply “add ons” to your display URL. These do not affect your Final URL in any way and are a good spot to include your keywords (and possibly your CTA).
 

The paths will not affect your Final URL. This is a good place to use your keywords for added relevance.

The paths will not affect your Final URL. This is a good place to use your keywords for added relevance.

 

Final URL

Your Final URL is your landing page. This is the page the user will land on after clicking on your ad. If your URL is long and ugly, don’t worry, the user will only be able to see the root domain along with your paths.
 

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are exactly what they sound like — extensions to your ad.

While what they are is self-explanatory, wrangling ad extensions can be a pain. They come in many shapes and sizes, but the good news is that they’re a great way to make your ads look bigger and better.
 

Ad extension will not be shown in the same manner every time.

Ad extension will not be shown in the same manner every time.

 
It’s a good idea to use as many as you can.

Let’s go ahead and dive a little deeper into seven common options you can include with ad extensions.
 

1. Sitelinks

Sitelinks are additional links displayed below the ad itself. They present different opportunities for users to convert.
 

Sitelinks may be formatted differently than above depending on Average Position.

Depending on Average Position, Sitelinks may be formatted differently than above.

 
If you have similar products, “About Us” sections, or contact pages, Sitelinks are great.
 

2. Callouts

Callouts are additional text lines that allow an advertiser to highlight specific offerings and qualities that set them apart.
 

Again, these are not clickable and should be used to list qualities of your product/service.

Again, these are not clickable and should be used to list qualities of your product/service.

 

3. Structured Snippets

These text fields can include brands, models, styles, courses, or other options that go along with your product/service.
 

The tricky part about callouts are determining if your product is able to use one of the categories Google provides.

The tricky part about callouts are determining if your product is able to use one of the categories Google provides.

 

This personal trainer finds a way to add a more generic structured snippet to their ad.

This personal trainer finds a way to add a more generic structured snippet to their ad.

 

4. Call Extensions

A call extension puts a phone number in your ad so users can call your business directly from the Google SERP.
 

Be wary of the quality of leads that call in as they’re often times very top of the funnel.

Be wary of the quality of leads that call in, as they’re often times very top of the funnel.

 

5. Location Extensions

For brick and mortar businesses, location extensions are extremely useful. These extensions allow Google to show your nearest store location to your ad viewers using Google My Business.
 

If you use a location extension, it would be wise to find a way to track offline conversions--so that you know what sales are attributed to PPC.

If you use a location extension, it would be wise to find a way to track offline conversions–so that you know what sales are attributed to PPC.

 

6. Price Extensions

Price extensions will display certain product/service prices on your ad. These are especially pretty if you’re promoting a price that’s lower than your competitors.
 

If you’re a luxury brand or only focus on high end products, I would maybe stay away from these extensions unless you’re using them as a pre-qualification method.

If you’re a luxury brand or only focus on high end products, I would maybe stay away from these extensions unless you’re using them as a pre-qualification method.

 

7. Review Extensions

Review extensions are great — if you can get them approved by Google. You can choose to have a paraphrased or exact quote from a consumer review displayed as a part of your ad as long as the review is derived from a reputable source.
 

Review extensions add credibility to your product and should be taken advantage of if you have a warchest of reviews.

Review extensions add credibility to your product and should be taken advantage of if you have a warchest of reviews.

 
Not all review extensions get approved, so be sure that you follow Google’s guidelines on adding review extensions.
 

Phases to Writing an Ad

Alright, now that your brain is overwhelmed with all things advertising copy, let’s put a cherry on top and actually write the ads.

But before you begin to write out your ad copy, you need to do a bit of research and understand a few things about yourself.
 

Take this time to learn more about  yourself. - GIF source

Take this time to learn more about yourself. – image source

 
While self-reflection is a great and empowering experience, now is not the time. Now is the time to firmly decide what it is you want to get out of your ad.

What will be your call to action? Who will you be targeting? And what is the best string of words that will get said audience to complete your targeted action?

There are three phases to writing an ad, so let’s see what that process looks like.
 

1) Before You Write – Research Phase

What are you trying to sell? You cannot create any promotional ad text without knowing your end goal.
 

Know Your Goals

This may seem obvious, but you also can’t have too many dream outcomes. You must declare one goal and use that as your call to action.

After you decide what your single call to action will be, you can decide who you want to target for that CTA.
 

Know Your Audience

Ensuring that you have full knowledge of the type of audience your product works best for is key to writing great ad copy.

Where are these users in the funnel? Will you be running multiple CTAs to capture these different users? Are you targeting B2B or B2C?

For more information on audience temperature and targeting, read our post on the subject.

Once you’ve defined your targeting game plan, it’s time to move onto the next step.
 

Know Your Landing Page

The final step of the first phase is to make certain that your landing page is as beautiful as your dream. What do I mean by this?

Your landing page needs to match your call to action and be as relevant to what you’re promoting as possible. If you need some help in this department, our very own kick-ass designer, Beavis Hari, put together a guide on some landing page tips and tricks.

Once your landing page is built and ready to go, don’t forget to make it mobile-friendly. Because no one wants to see this:
 

One word. Ew.

One word. Ew.

 
We’ve all been on horrible mobile websites before. If there’s one thing that will cause my Millenial thumbs to swipe left immediately, it’s bad mobile landing pages.

Now that you have some pre-writing best tips, you can begin to actually put your thoughts into words.
 

2) While You Write – Best Practices

With online shopping and digital research increasing year-over-year, businesses are hit with the harsh realization that person-to-person selling is slowly disappearing.

Now, I’m not here to say that sales will no longer exist. (The last thing I am looking for is a swarm of angry sales teams coming after me on LinkedIn. Don’t worry, your job is still important.) What I’m getting at is that business will need to restructure their selling process to keep up with the times so they aren’t left behind.

Lucky for us, Google allows our advertisers to pay for sales pitches. At the end of the day, that’s all an ad is — your sales proposition. However, instead of a 30-second elevator pitch, advertisers have about 3-5 seconds.

So let’s get to writing, eh?
 

What You Should Include

Alright, this is an important one. Things you want to include in your ad copy:
 

Key Product Features

What makes your product special? Now, what makes your product more special than all of your competitors? That’s what you need to include in your text.
 

Overcome Objections

If you’re selling a product and offer lower prices, finance options, free shipping, etc., include this in your text. If you can overcome the objections before they happen, your audience will have no excuse to not buy your product/service.
 

Engaging & Clear CTA

As I stated earlier, your CTA is your one and only chance to bring in your audience. You have five seconds that you don’t want to waste with fluff words. Get to the point.
 

What You Cannot Include

Google has a nice list of what you can and cannot include in your ad copy and, unfortunately, that list is growing.

To date, some of the most common issues are with Trademarks, Adult/Inappropriate/Offensive Content and Editorial Errors. (The tough ones here are overused capitalization and punctuation.)

Google wants its ads to be consistent and professional, and really, who can blame them?
 

Let’s keep it classy.

Let’s keep it classy. – image source

 

3) After You Write – Ad Optimizing

Congratulations! You’ve done it, you’ve written your first set of ads. Hooray, time to turn off your computer and watch the cash roll in without ever having to do anything again.

Ha! Nope.

This ad copy is your new baby, and trust me, it’s needy. Your new ads require work, nurturing, long nights, early mornings, college funds, your life goals & dreams.

Kidding, but there’s still tons of work to do and success to be found. We just need to turn over some more stones.
 

A/B Testing

If you’re running PPC ads, you should be testing and re-testing new advertising copy.

Testing will help you find the perfect combination of Headline 1 + Headline 2 + Description that will really capture your audience. I suggest starting with two ads per ad group and begin testing Headlines, since they are the most impactful pieces of your advertising copy.

Let a test run for at least two weeks, or until enough data has accumulated. You don’t want to test too often, as you won’t build up enough data to analyze.
 

Holiday/Promotional Advertising Copy

Another fun test to run is offering a “Holiday” promotion in your ad copy.

You may say, “Ally, we run Cyber Monday and December promotions every year. This is not news to us.” In which case, I may say, “Silly reader, you’re forgetting MLK Day, National Donut Day & Texas Independence Day.” (Go Horns, Hook ‘Em!)

People are more incentivized by holiday promotions than something they could get any time of the year.

By trying something like, “Holiday Sale, Enjoy An Extra 10% Off” rather than “10% Off Your Order,” you could increase your conversion rates by 23%.

Need help finding a holiday to use in your ad copy? No problem, I’ve got you covered 👉 Daily Holiday Calendar.
 

Ad Customizers

Ad Customizers are a great way to add some spice to your advertising copy.

There are currently three options you have when it comes to including customizers to your ads: Countdown, Keyword Insertion and IF Functions.
 

Customizer #1: Countdown

A countdown function will allow you to set a specific date of your sale or promotion. The ad copy will update every day until the day of the event. This is a great way to create urgency and excitement.
 

Here’s an example of what the formatting would look like in real life.

Here’s an example of what the formatting would look like in real life.

 

Customizer #2: Keyword Insertion

If you’re not using the SKAG structure for your ad groups, this is another great way to add relevancy to your ad copy. By using the keyword insertion function, Google will automatically input the targeted keyword into your ad.

However, for total and complete ad relevance, you can’t get more relevant than SKAGs 😉
 

Customizer #3: IF Functions

IF functions are much more fun in Google Ads than they are in Excel. In Google Ads, IF functions allow you to display a specific message depending on the device or audience group a consumer is using/in.

For example, if you’re choosing to show a more attractive ad to people who are using their mobile device, you might try something like: {=IF(device=mobile,Order Straight From Your Phone): Order Yours Today!}.

The same applies to audiences you’ve built out within Google Ads.

Let’s say there’s a set of users who are further down the funnel but may need a little extra boost. You could use the IF function like so: {=IF(audience IN (Shopping Cart Abandoners),Today Only, Receive 30% Off): Start Shopping Today!}.

By utilizing Ad Customizers, you can get ahead of the curve by offering specific promotions, create urgency in users, and display the most relevant ads.
 

Wrap Up on Advertising Copy

And that’s a wrap! You’ve done it. You have learned (almost) all you need to know to write the perfect advertisement. All that’s left is for you to get to writing.

Don’t forget, ads are the most important piece of your entire campaign. Without great advertising copy, all of your efforts are for nothing.

So, before you begin optimizing your landing page for all of the visitors you expect to get, take a look at your ad copy, set a timer for three seconds, and see what you take away from it. If you don’t even get to your CTA in that time, you may need to rethink your copy.

Have questions or want to share some awesome results of advertising copy tests you’ve ran? Please share them below 🙂

Klientboost Blog Author Ally McDeavitt

Ally McDeavitt

Director of Performance

Over 419 businesses got a proposal from us in October, 2020

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