The Most Important Element of PPC Ad Copy

One of my favorite tasks is writing PPC ad copy. I love the challenge of squeezing as much goodness as I can into 90 characters. I guess it’s in my blood after all these years of writing short, concise ad copy.

Recently, I was asked, “What’s the most important element of PPC ad copy? Is it the headline, the first description line, or what?” Of course, my kneejerk response was “It depends,” which is really the answer to just about any question related to PPC.

Still, the question got me thinking. Is there one element of PPC ad copy that’s more important than others in most cases?

If I had to give only one answer, I’d say the headline. After all, it’s the only part of a PPC ad that’s underlined, and if you include keywords in your headline, they’ll be bolded:

headline

But as I look at the ads in that screen shot, I start to think that other elements might be equally important.

Sitelinks

Surprisingly, the first ad on the page above isn’t using sitelinks, but the other two are. The Amazon sitelinks are great – they’re all relevant to the category (Kitchen & Dining, Small Appliances, Kitchen Tools & Gadgets) and season (Off to College). Target falls down a bit by focusing entirely on college back to school. The Magic Bullet is a product I’d be interested in, but I’m long past the college dorm move-in days.

Still, the use of sitelinks takes up more screen real estate, so that’s an important element.

Reviews

See how the review extension makes the Amazon ad stand out? Those nice red 4.5 stars are visually appealing to say the least. If you qualify for review extensions, they’re definitely important.

Call Extensions

2 of the 3 ads above include phone numbers. One of them is relatively local – although Jackson, MI is at least 30 minutes away from me, and there’s a Target within 10 miles. Still, the phone number can be another important element of a PPC ad, in addition to a great way to boost conversions.

Location Extensions

That Target ad also includes a location extension. While these make ads stand out on the page, I hesitate to say they’re the most important element because most advertisers cannot track in-store sales back to a PPC ad. And in the case of this ad, even if I decided to buy at Target, I wouldn’t drive half an hour to that Target – I’d go to the Target closer to me. Either way, location extensions do help ads to stand out.

All of these elements are great, but you have to be in a premium position to take advantage of most of them. What about when your ad ends up in the right rail, like some of the ads below?

right rail

When ads appear in the right rail, you have fewer options. And of course you don’t have control over whether your ad shows up on the top or the right. So you need to make your ad copy work no matter where on the page it happens to appear.

This is where basic ad copywriting comes into play. A good headline, ideally with the keyword included, is going to be critical. Including the keyword in the body of the ad is also important. But are other elements just as important?

Call to Action

A lot of advertisers forget to include a strong call to action at the end of the ad copy. That’s usually a mistake. It’s a good idea to tell searchers what you want them to do when they get to the landing page – and ideally it’ll be to convert: buy something, download a report, etc. So I’d have to say that the call to action is nearly as important, or maybe even more important, than the headline.

Copywriting Tips and Tricks

There are a few tricks that I’ve learned that work no matter where in the ad they appear. One is the word “free.” “Free” is the magic word when it comes to PPC. People absolutely love it, and ads with the word “free” are almost always going to get better results than ads without.

Another element is just a single character: the exclamation point. You’ll notice that ads across verticals, even in B2B verticals like the above example that tend to avoid marketing hype, use exclamations. There’s a good reason for that – it works.

I’ve run tests where the ads were identical except that one had an exclamation and one didn’t. The ad with an exclamation way outperformed the ad without.

So What’s The Answer?

You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? The most important element of PPC ad copy is the element that drives the best results, of course!

What’s your take? Is the headline the end-all? The call to action? Something I didn’t list? Share in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Wow! Great post, tough question :).

    I’d say it’s the makeitstandout factor. A good keyword / ad text relationship helps the ad stand out no matter where it appears. Extensions of any kind, according to what’s searched can help you get high marks for the makeitstandout factor. If you’re advertising an online shop, the orange marks of trust are great. So are the pictures which accompany a product listing ads. For mobile ads, call extensions are also great, especially for businesses who close a lot of deals or get a lot of leads on the phone. Sitelinks and expanded sitelinks to “expand” on the initial ad message and to get more SERP real estate.

    But really, anything that can avoid having your ad blend in with the others and turn it from “one of the 1-11 served on a page” into “the one that at least deserved a glance if not a click” is very important. Which element is that, well, of course, it depends … :).

    • Melissa Mackey says:

      I agree – the makeitstandout factor is crucial, and everything you mention is important! Thanks for your comment!

  2. I sometimes see a map, linked to a business when I do a search on google. When does this show up? And what is important to put in this ad?

  3. Nice post. But, unlike in the past, I wasn’t able to read it properly on the email newsletter – which is getting truncated horizontally. Neither does it bring up the horizontal scroll bar.

  4. I’m a huge fan of sitelinks! Like you said, it’s an easy way to occupy more link real estate which definitely helps in click through rates.

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