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PPC Ad Writing Tips from the Experts

By Elisa Gabbert

What qualities make for a great PPC ad?

JS: First, great PPC ads match the intention of the searcher – they have outstanding relevancy to both their search terms and the prospective customer motivations that caused the prosp

ect to type those terms into Google in the first place. This one seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many ads get this wrong, or don’t get it completely right.

Second, great ads quickly convey a unique and engaging sales proposition for the searcher. In other words, those ads answer the “Why do business with us” question in a compelling and credible manner.

Third, great ads are specific and credible. They use numbers and facts instead of superlatives and hype-filled adjectives.

There’s obviously more to that, but those three attributes go a long way. Plus, we can’t give all our secrets away ; )

Ryan Healy: Every week I write a column called the “Win of the Week” on the BoostCTR blog, and one of the things I’ve noticed is that great PPC ads are always clear. There’s no confusion, no big words, no awkward phrases. Just plain, clear language.

Probably one of the easiest ways to boost CTR and conversions is to make your PPC ad as clear as you possibly can in the space you have.

What are the most common ad writing mistakes?

JS: Well, this doesn’t have to do so much with the ad itself, but probably the most common ad-writing mistake is allowing a mismatch between what’s promised in the ad, and what’s promoted on the landing page. Quite a few PPC ads say one thing, and then point the prospect to a page that doesn’t immediately reiterate the claims and promise from the ad. This is a sure way to get PPC traffic to bounce off your landing page. Of course, getting solid match-up between ad and landing page may require the advertiser to build additional landing pages, but it’s usually well worth the effort.

RH: A big mistake I see is focusing too much on features and not enough on benefits. In most cases, it’s better to omit features from your ad and list a primary benefit instead.

Another big mistake is not investigating what competitors are saying. You might have a good idea for your ad — but if all your competitors are already using your idea, then you might want to go a different direction. Unique ads get more clicks.

How many ads do you recommend testing at once? Do you ever stop testing for certain keywords/ad groups?

JS: We test one ad per ad group that the customer has asked us to optimize, and we do a straight A/B split test, which means we only test one PPC challenger against the original per test. Now, we might run 3-4 tests against the original if the first few challengers don’t produce a winner for the client, but it’s only one ad at a time.

Are you ever surprised by which ad “wins” a round of testing?

JS: A fair amount of the time the winner is foreseeable. Other times the winner may not be the ad you expected, but the results make sense in retrospect. But I think everyone involved in optimization testing of any kind — or at least anyone who is any good at it — has had the experience of having a dramatically different result in a test that was supposed to be a sure-fire win. It may be relatively infrequent, but it happens, and those are really golden learning opportunities.

Those surprise tests are where you can gain new insight into the customer. Perhaps an upset tells you that perhaps the buying motivation that you assumed on the part of the customer was a faulty assumption. Or that a supposed competitive advantage wasn’t nearly as important to the customer as to the business. Or a given trigger word has different connotations to you than to your prospect. And so on.

But most people don’t do the hard thinking that they ought to when they get a surprise result. See, what too many people do is just randomly throw stuff against the testing wall to see what sticks. And in those cases, either they’re never surprised because they never bothered to anticipate which variant would win or why, or they’re surprised but totally unable to squeeze any learning out of the surprising result because they didn’t start the test with a sound hypothesis. So while split testing may not be rocket science, it should follow a scientific method.

If you could only change one element of a PPC ad to boost CTR, what would it be? The title? The call to action? The number of times you use the keyword? The URL?

JS: Well, all of those elements are very important, and I’ve seen tests where any one of them have driven astounding increases in CTR. And in such a tight space as a PPC ad, everything really works together, so it’s tough to isolate this or that part and say: this one thing is the most important element. But that said, I think the title plus call to action are really a hugely powerful combination; you can get a lot done by changing those two things.

RH: It really depends on the ad I’m trying to beat. What I do first is look for the untapped opportunity. Sometimes I find it by looking at competitors’ ads. Sometimes I find it by looking at the landing page. But whenever there’s an untapped opportunity, you should take advantage of it — whether that means changing the title, body copy, URL, etc.

Aside from awesome ad writing, what elements are most important to an effective PPC campaign?

RH: Keywords, campaign structure, bidding strategy, landing page, conversion and follow-up process. That’ll keep you busy for a while. ;-)

How does the keyword research process differ for PPC versus SEO?

RH: It actually depends on your business model. Let’s assume for a moment that you’re actually in business to sell products or services…

When you’re investigating keywords for a PPC campaign, you’re usually looking for keywords where the searcher has a strong intent to buy. This is because you must demonstrate positive ROI in a relatively short time frame (1-2 months for most people).

With SEO, you might look for keywords with less competition where the searcher is not quite ready to buy yet, but is moving in that direction. That way, you can get the searcher onto your email list, nurture that relationship, and move him/her closer to a sale.

But let’s look at a different business model: selling ad space.

If you’re in the business of selling ad space, you might be more interested in getting as much traffic as possible to justify higher rates. In which case, you’d bid on high-volume search phrases with low CPC. And for SEO, you’d target high-volume search phrases with low competition.

So your business model really determines your strategy for PPC and SEO.

What are your favorite, must-have tools – for PPC, SEO and otherwise – that you use every day?

JS: Well, for PPC, I think split testing is simply a must-have. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not uncommon to get surprise results, and one of the biggest elements of your ad’s quality score is your CTR. If you’re not optimizing for that, you’re volunteering for Google’s Stupid Tax, whereby they let lower performing advertisers pay more for their ads. Of course, I do work for BoostCTR, but don’t let that bias fool you. If you’re not split testing your PPC ads, you ought to be.

RH: For PPC, I use what’s usually referred to as an “AdWords Wrapper.” You type in one or more keywords; the AdWords Wrapper then provides you with a list that includes broad match, phrase match, and exact match formatting. Here’s a good example.

For SEO, I use a number of different tools. I use the Google Keyword Tool plus a number of paid tools for building backlinks to my website.

 

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Why Brand Trumps ROI: 3 Tips To Build Your Brand Online

by Matias Wigozki

ROI. ROI. ROI. It’s the mantra for most direct response marketers. But to remain competitive, marketers must look beyond direct ROI, and invest in programs that will enrich their overall brand. Let’s take a look at why.

Understanding The Shift

There are more brands competing in search than ever, but the playing field is hardly level. In fact, it has shifted. Today it favors well-recognized brands that have built brand equity. Those who haven’t invested in their brand are being left behind.

A recent study underscores this point. According to a recent Kenshoo report, “the number of clicks on search ads increased by 54% from 2009 to 2010, while the number of search ad impressions (the number of times these ads appeared) increased by only 1%.”

This finding demonstrates that while the overall number of searches remained flat, traffic increased drastically for those brands already running robust search programs.

The Importance Of Integration

Many marketers think they can leverage paid search to drive ROI without investing in brand. Unfortunately, this thinking is delusional. To win in this arena, you first must invest in creating a well-known brand that is top of mind with consumers. Doing so will build volume that you can then capture via search.

The significance of this dynamic is supported by an iProspect and Forrester Research study on the integration of search and display. It reveals that display advertising is effective at producing brand lift, particularly when it is used in combination with paid and natural search.

In fact, the study indicates that “almost as many Internet users respond to online display advertising by performing a search on a search engine (27%) as those who simply click on the ad itself (31%).”

This finding underscores the importance of investing in display advertising to boost brand as it will increase the number of branded searches. In turn, it will yield a higher direct ROI as these terms tend to be cheaper than non-branded terms.

Learning A Lesson

Clearly, investing in brand is key; however, it won’t drive ROI by itself. Connecting branding efforts with paid search is essential. A major home electronics manufacturer helps us see why.

The company was running an aggressive display campaign, evident by their ads being found on a large majority of consumer electronic review sites. This was an ideal branding initiative as it hit consumers when they were in the shopping mindset. It also communicated the brand’s unique value proposition. Fortunately, the effort produced a substantial increase in search query volume for the brand month-over-month and year-over-year.

However, the manufacturer did not run any paid search campaigns to capture the demand they had created, and only one retailer capitalized on the manufacturer’s newly-created brand interest. Consequently, the lack of connection between the branding effort and the search program hurt the conversion and click-through rates. Ultimately these disconnects resulted in lower online sales for the retailers carrying this brand and for the manufacturer itself.

Taking Action To Build Brand Search Volume

Below are three tips to help you build your brand online to create more volume and better connections:

1.  Leverage the content networks

Both Google and Bing/Yahoo! have comprehensive content programs that can be managed from paid search interfaces. If your brand doesn’t have display creative, utilize the best performing ad copy from your search campaigns and leverage it in the content networks.  If creative is available, test between text and other types to see which combination of copy produces the highest return.

By expanding to where your consumers are digesting content, you will inevitably build brand recall. This is particularly true for the retail industry. Another iProspect study indicates that online display ads produce a brand lift of 5% in regard to the likelihood of purchasing from a particular retailer. It is also worth noting that the same study found that the combination of paid search and display advertising produces a 15% lift in unaided brand recall.

2.  Leverage social media

Until recently, measuring the value of social media interactions has been difficult unless the vehicle being used was a direct sales tactic such as a coupon. According to research done by Syncapse and hotspex, the value of a Facebook fan is $71.84 more than a non-fan. This data alone supports the value of a Facebook campaign focused on acquiring fans; however, there are more benefits.

By generating social media buzz, you can drive consumers to search for your brands. Therefore, it’s imperative that a brand’s unique value proposition be communicated in a consumer-friendly manner in order to generate awareness and chatter. Without conversations, the value of Facebook and other social media mediums is limited, and without buzz, there are no incremental queries on the search engines. By generating incremental brand queries, sales will increase online, and thanks to Facebook fans, off-line as well.

3.  Leverage online videos

According to a study conducted by YuMe, more than 66% of respondents watched more online videos than they did 12 months ago, and 48% said they planned to increase viewership this year. Taking these statistics into account, it is easy to see why video should be considered for more than just funny clips. Today, videos are a means to gain mass media recognition.

Given that, brands need to leverage online video to grow their awareness, not just as a way to repost their TV spots. By creating branded content, marketers will be able to build deep relationships with their consumers and generate greater brand awareness. In turn, this will lead to higher branded search queries.

In today’s competitive search landscape, the best way to drive ROI is to first invest in building your brand, and the above tactics can help you do just that. Then, you’ll be in a great position to tap into paid search to capture the demand you’ve created.

 

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