5 AdWords Ad Copy Laws You Must Obey

Chelsea Baldwin
Chelsea Baldwin

Why did we come up with these AdWords ad copy tips?

Well, some (read: lots of) companies fail miserably with AdWords.

Much like the company I worked for was before I had to do an all-out audit for them.

These companies have poor quality scores, pay way more than they should per click because they don’t care about landing page relevance, and they’re not all that careful about the keywords they select to add to their managed ppc campaigns.


adwords ad copy laws

These companies are throwing wads like this out the door! – image source


(Hint: Haphazardly adding keywords to your list is basically lighting a thick wad of Benjamins on fire. A total waste of money.)

But today, we’re not talking about those back-end items.

We’re talking about the very tip top of your online customer funnel: the AdWords ad copy.

The backend stuff is obviously important (save the Benjamins!), but making a first, memorable impression is the single best thing you can do to save yourself online.


Because in our current online world, almost everything is either meh or okay. Almost nothing is truly WOW.

Having something that’s WOW during a standard, boring, online search is going to get you remembered.

Take this search for example:


good ad copy

So blah, right?

See how there’s nothing exciting and absolutely nothing jumps out at you for your attention?

Sure, the word “free” has a little bit of holding power… but if you’re running a serious business, how good could a free product be?

What if instead of writing “Complete Payroll Software” Insperity wrote “Smartest Payroll Software”?

Or what if they got really brave and tried something like “Sexy Payroll Software” or even “Gorgeous Payroll Software”?

Suddenly their ad would be a lot more attractive than the rest, wouldn’t it?

Even more than Intuit’s—a company that’s a total giant in the space.

It’d still be relevant to their landing page design experience.

And you’d remember them because you’d want to use the “gorgeous” payroll software more than you wanted to use the “complete” payroll software—am I right?


The Biggest Pity of Them All:
The Boring Research That Ensues Every Day in Cubicle America

The biggest pity of this unfortunate trend of uncreative, completely uninteresting ad text is the poor people sitting in their cubicles who’ve been told by their boss to research different services (just like yours) for their company to use.

How mind-numbing.

These people aren’t robots.

They like to enjoy their jobs just as much as you do.

But this research using Google? Oh.Dear.Lord. 

(And it’s not Google’s fault here, people.)

Fortunately, it doesn’t always have to be that way for them.

If you make some enticing tweaks to your AdWords ad copy, you can be the company that sticks out and suddenly makes this dreaded to-do list not boring, get yourself remembered, and increase your chances of gaining more customers.

You can make your site stand out as the non-boring, obvious choice.

Because in a world where only 20% of online readers even bother to read past your original headline—you’ve got to stand out to save yourself.

Ready to find out how?


Today we’re looking at some companies who are doing a good job of kicking ass and taking names with their AdWords copy to give you some inspiration for your own:


1) Solve a Problem in the Headline 

Lessons: Solve problems immediately & be exclusive.

My first instinct was to go for ads that addressed high-emotion issues—just to see what a good job advertisers were doing of addressing that emotion and helping people subside their fears via the information they offered up front.

So, I went financial.

Because whether we like it or not, money is an incredibly high-stress, high-emotion topic.

And not having it is hella scary.

Since bankruptcy not only ruins your credit for years, but also labels you as a common sense nit-wit among your family and friends who are “smarter” than that, it’s clearly something.


adwords ad copy tips

Which AdWords ad copy draws you to make that click?


I was happy to see the first two ads did a fairly good job. Why?

First, let’s look at what both ads have in common.

“Don’t File Bankruptcy” followed directly with text that says “See if you qualify for relief w/out a bankruptcy” speaks exactly to the relief an individual with the fear of having to file bankruptcy is looking for.

So does “Proven Plan. Don’t File”

They spark hope by giving a real, potential solution based on something they readily provide in order to get the searcher out of their sticky situation.


If your target customer is dealing with something scary, help them solve the problem immediately—even before they get to your site.

Don’t string them along and make them wait for it.

In short, mirror their end goal as quickly as you can.

They already know what they want, and so do you.

If there was a third ad in this mix that wasted their headline space asking “Thinking About Bankruptcy?”, they wouldn’t get any clicks.

They’re stating the obvious and not accomplishing anything.

The second ad takes things one step further by making it clear exactly who they have a solution for and who they don’t by using the word “Business” as the very first word in their ad copy.

By doing this, they won’t get clicks from individuals with consumer debt, but that’s fine, because that’s not what they want to waste their AdWords management budget on.

So by adding one word to their ad copy, they immediately give their ads a higher ROI for the budget they have to work with.


2) Be Specific & Beat Your Competitors 

Lesson: Specific details beat all.

Going down my rabbit hole of high-emotion personal issues, I started thinking about health.

Most ads for different types of doctors were pretty standard and not enticing enough to consider “best practices” for the purpose of this post.

But in one ad copy, I saw the phrase “STD testing.”

I don’t need to explain why having an STD would be so high-emotion.

You can imagine all the worst-case scenario thoughts that would immediately race through your mind (because that’s what our minds do regardless of reality, those bastards) if there was even a small possibility that you might have one.

For this search, I went city-specific.

Like a lot of people usually do when they’re looking for a doctor to go to.

Because you can’t exactly have an online Skype consultation for these kinds of things.


better adwords ad copy

Which ad gives you the most information in the shortest amount of time?


I don’t want to focus on “Confidential” here, because it’s actually the law that the information you discuss with your doctor must be kept confidential.

But this is a good way to ease a worried mind.

What I want to focus on here is details.

The more specific your details are, the better.

In this search, I’d definitely go for the third option. Why?

Because from their AdWords ad copy alone, I know exactly what to expect.

I know that it’ll cost me $219 (probably not something I’d want to be tightfisted about above the $24 option).

That the testing will take a mere 15 minutes, that I’ll know my results in two days.

And that I won’t even have to go to a doctor’s office to get them—they’ll provide them for me online.

Details, my friends, are comforting.

Confidentiality is comforting too, but when we’re facing the unknown, details are the things that we love the most.


3) Making Something Complicated Simple 

Lesson: The easier, the better.

I don’t own a home, but in the back of my mind it’s something I’d like to work towards in the next few years.

But when I get a whim of inspiration and feel motivated about my financial future and decide to look up dream mountain homes and information on payments, boy, do I ever get lost in a sea of numbers and industry-jargon acronyms.

It’s enough to make me snap out of my daydream then and there.

And refinancing a home you already own seems to be even more of a tough thing to wrap your head around.

No lie, the very first sentence in the on-page organic results was “And although refinancing our home again proved to be a huge pain…”


simple adwords ad copy



Clearly, this is a highly complicated subject that individuals are desperate for either comprehensive help, or an easy way out.


simple adwords copy

Which one are you going for?

2.7% refinance rate?

Hell yea, sign me up.

Some people might be interested in a calculator, but nothing’s quite as tempting as a pre-advertised low rate that cuts through the clutter of government assistance, knowing your exact numbers to put in a calculator, and comparing different banks.

This ties back to being specific.

But using those specific details to give a number for someone to latch onto and remember.


4) Show Your Discount 

Lesson: Compete on price.

But again, be specific! (Make the intangible words tangible.)

Let’s get straight to the point with this one:


enticing adcopy

Using numbers in your headline usually ends up with a better conversion rates.


A flight is a direct money-for-product consumer transaction.

And it’s something that people love to save money on.

And they love to brag about it to fellow travelers.

(You can bet I’ve told the story of my round-trip to Rio de Janeiro for $65.43 many times over.)


Yes, it really was great. Thank you, thank you!


So, who’s doing the best here?

Bookingbuddy.com – with a wonderful honorable mention to Smartfares.com.

The problem with words like “sale” and “cheap” is that they’re good, but they’re very intangible.

Phrases like “80% off” and “70% off” turn those intangible phrases into something very, very real.

And because of that, you can bet they’re the ones doing more business from these “cheap flights” searches.

But there’s another lesson in JetBlue’s ad text, which could make them the leader, if they’d stop being so darn self-centered and insisting on putting their name in their headline.

They promise flights as low as $64, which is insanely cheap.

What if they changed their headline to “US Flights From $64”?

$64 is way more tangible than 80% off.


5) Stand Out From the Crowd

Lesson: Say something different.

You know what I use Google for?

To help me with things that I don’t know how to do myself.

And I’m not the only one.

I think it’s what most of us use Google for—especially if we go back to the example of that poor professional stuck in a cubicle researching something out for his boss.

And finding ways to get work done really well is a prime example.


different adcopy

Remember that game, “Which one is different than the others?”


Seven of these eight ads are nothing but more of the same… and some are a little frightening, to be honest.

I’d hate to see the quality of work you’d get back if you only paid an “expert” writer $9.95 or $2 per 100 words. Yikes.

But that aside, every single ad except for one is some combination of the words “freelance, copy, content, and writer.”

The only one that stands out doesn’t talk about “copywriting” at all directly, and bashes every single other add surrounding it.

“You Don’t Need An Agency”

That’s a bold statement.

And his supporting text about selling better makes me think his quality will be leaps and better than an “expert” writer that only costs $9.95.

The good thing is, a bold statement that helps you stand out is pretty easy to make.

Just take two minutes to do 2-3 Google searches to figure out what everyone else is saying (it’ll all be the same) and take a different—or opposing—approach.


Making Your Own Ad Copies Kick Ass

The good news is, you don’t need to use all five of these lessons in your ad copy to make your ads stand out and perform well.

Most ads are so bad that using one per ad will do very well, and if you do manage to figure out how to use two or more, you’ll be virtually unbeatable.

But you tell us.

After looking through these ads, what kind of ideas do you want to A/B test on your ad copies?

P.S. You just learned something new, didn’t you? If so, please share this with your buddies and pals!