Search Engine Marketing

PPC Ad Text: Why Accurate is Better than Compelling

You don’t want to pay for irrelevant clicks

The fact that you are reading this now means you found this blog title provocative enough to click on. Maybe you want to see how I could justify a position that seems absurd on its face. Shouldn’t all ad text be as compelling as possible?

The answer is no, and in fact the title of this article would make a terrible PPC headline.

The key distinction between paid search and organic search is marginal cost. Every additional visitor to my blog comes at zero additional cost, so I can afford to be cute with my blog headlines if I think it will increase my clickthrough rate. I want as much traffic as possible.

The incentive to lure in visitors with sexy or even misleading headlines is so great that there’s even a name for it: clickbait. How many of us have fallen prey to those headlines promising to tell us why Hollywood won’t hire that celebrity anymore, only to find ourselves clicking “next” through a series one-sentence breadcrumbs only to discover that we do not, in fact, care?

When the marginal cost per additional eyeball is zero, by all means be as compelling as possible. But when you have to pay for each click, you want to be very selective about who is persuaded to click – and who is discouraged.

Good compelling ad text

Insofar that “compelling” means accurately stating your value proposition to your audience, letting them know the differentiators that make your product or service unique, that is the “good” kind of compelling for PPC.

If you qualify your traffic by telling them exactly what they should expect from the landing page, setting clear expectations, that is good compelling.

If you communicate a special offer and pair it with a clear call to action, creating a sense of urgency to act now, that is good compelling.

Your value proposition, your differentiators, your special offers, and your calls to action should all be clear, accurate, and compelling, while setting proper expectations. That much is true.

Bad compelling ad text

Ad text is the “bad” kind of compelling when it tries to draw the reader’s attention by being cute and clever, wasting precious space that could be better used qualifying the visitor.

Likewise, using suspense or provocation to lure in curious visitors will prove counterproductive when those visitors bounce the moment their curiosity is satisfied. We want our audience to be as informed as possible before they decide to click and cost us money.

Even worse would be to try to mislead the audience using lies or exaggeration. You can promise free magic ponies and revel in a high clickthrough rate, but your conversion rate will tank when visitors discover the magic ponies are really depressed donkeys whose only magic power is to make grown men weep with pity.

Look past the clickthrough rate

Many factors impact your clickthrough rate aside from your ad text, including ad position, competition, and search terms. Don’t get hung up on optimizing your ad text for CTR. Rather just write a few good versions that highlight different value props, and let Google optimize the ad rotation.

Don’t sell, qualify

Don’t try to sell with your ad text. Nobody ever bought anything on the basis of a Google ad.

Let your landing page do the selling, and use the ad text to qualify the visitor. If you’re selling luxury cars, make that clear in the ad so that nobody clicks if they are looking for a Kia.

The clear expectations you set with your ad text will ultimately pay off in the conversion rate of your landing page.

Less is not more

Sometimes all you need is a black page with a white swoosh and the words “Just do it.” But not with search engine marketing.

We are only allotted a small amount of real estate for our PPC ads, and we want to use as much of it as possible. Every line on the screen that you voluntarily give up is a gift to your competitors who will gladly fill that space.

Remember, we’re not trying to create an air of mystery to tantalize and seduce our audience. We’re trying to invite them to click our ad if and only if they are interested in exactly what we have to sell, otherwise stay away!

Free magic ponies, anyone?

PPC clicks are expensive, but sharing this blog post with everyone in your network is free! So why not share it with everyone you’ve ever met?

Share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – send it to your grandmother in an urgent email. They might even get a free magic pony. And if you do share it, guess what? I’ll let you in on a little secret…

By Kevin Frei

Kevin Frei is an entrepreneur, paid media specialist, and intermittent nomad from Arizona. Ethical Digital is his third startup after and an online traffic school company. An avid traveler and economics hobbyist, Kevin's goal is to revolutionize the way service companies are organized so that more people can achieve the dream of professional (and locational) independence.

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