The Art and Science of Pay-Per-Click Text Ads

by aschmidt

Art_and_Science_of_Pay_Per_Click_AdsWhen it comes to online marketing, it’s hard to beat the effectiveness of pay-per-click (PPC) text ads. There is perhaps no more immediate way for your brand to gain visibility and the attention of a highly targeted audience than through PPC. Not only that, but pay-per-click advertising also offers you a much greater degree of control in terms of ad spend, and it provides unparalleled targeting and delivery options that enable you to present your marketing message to your target customer at the peak of their interest.

While pay-per-click offers these amazing benefits (and much more), achieving ROI takes more than just setting up an account, plugging in some data and writing a few text ads. In fact, PPC is just as much an art as it is a science, and without a solid working knowledge of its nuances, you could truly be throwing your money down the drain. Here’s how to keep that from happening. 

1. Be very specific with keyword selection.

A common practice among companies that have multi-million dollar PPC marketing budgets is to run text ads purely for brand exposure, which means they allocate a portion of their ad spend for very generic keyword terms. For example, large companies such as State Farm or Progressive will typically show up in paid search results for generic terms like “car insurance.”

Unless you have an eight-figure PPC budget at your disposal (and we’re not mad at you if you do), you may not want to take this route; otherwise, you could be wasting a lot of advertising dollars bidding on keywords that are far too generic, and don’t really represent the search query of an interested prospect.

Be very specific with the keywords you select, and make sure that those keywords reflect the search queries that a person who is searching for what you specifically have to offer would most likely use. Including negative keywords in your campaign is important in this regard, because they prevent your ad from being triggered when someone uses a word or phrase in their search query that’s not relevant to your campaign.

2. Your ad copy is king.

Of all the optimization mantras and techniques that exist in the world of PPC, none have a more direct impact on your target audience than what you do with your ad copy. In fact, your ad copy is the only aspect of your entire PPC campaign that your audience will ever see! For that reason alone, you should make sure that your ad copy is highly relevant and irresistibly click-worthy.

This starts with crafting an attention-getting title (or headline), and then continues with highly effective copy that presents your unique value proposition along with a clear call-to-action. You don’t have the time or budget to waste on generically introducing yourself to your customer (e.g., “Visit our site for great deals!”); you really have to connect with their needs, pain points and/or areas of buying interest.

This is actually where the character limits on PPC text ads will be beneficial; it forces you to be more concise with your message. For most languages, Google AdWords allows 25 characters for your headline, 70 total characters for your ad text (2 lines of 35 characters each), and 255 characters for your display URL, the first 35 of which are shown in the actual ad. You can save space by being judicial in your use of punctuation, using appropriate abbreviations when possible (e.g., “NYC” instead of “New York City”), avoiding repetitive text, and putting your most important information on your first line.

In addition, there is a well-known trick that PPC pros use to exceed the 25-character limit for headlines: Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). When you allow the DKI option for your text ads, AdWords will automatically insert the keywords from the user’s search query into your ad headline, even if it exceeds the 25-character limit.

3. Keep a very close eye on your campaign metrics.

One of the most popular PPC success metrics is your click through rate (CTR), because it gives you a good indication of the effectiveness of your ad copy. A high CTR means that you’ve done a pretty good job in targeting the right consumer with your ad text, while a dismal CTR means that something is amiss, and that somehow you have failed to connect with your intended audience.

Keep in mind that a high CTR does not always mean that the ad will convert well; in fact, many PPC advertisers use outlandish “clickbait” titles and/or make extravagant promises in their ad copy just to boost their CTR, but this ultimately has a counterproductive effect on conversion rates when the user clicks through and finds out that things weren’t what they appeared to be.

Another metric to keep a close eye on is your return on ad spend or return on investment (ROAS/ROI). This will ultimately tell you whether or not you’ve directed your resources toward productive efforts. If your campaign is consistently losing money or only breaking even, you’ll need to see how you can boost your quality score in order to lower your cost-per-click. There may be several factors that are contributing to the problem, so be sure to examine keyword selection, ad copy relevance, landing page quality, time of day your ads are running, target device types, etc.

Pay-per-click advertising is one of the best-performing methods of digital marketing, but it’s far from a cakewalk. It requires close monitoring, consistent optimization and a healthy dose of creativity. With the right focus and approach, you’ll create sustainable campaigns that will help you maintain a significant competitive advantage.

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