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Optimizing Search Engine Copy to Create Relevance

Optimizing Search Engine Copy to Create Relevance

Search ad copy is both a science and an art.  When done correctly, it provides a positive user experience & relevance to the searcher as well as the technical components that our friends at Google like. This sweet combination creates high quality ads that garner better positioning at a cheaper cost-per-click (CPC), and that’s a key part of maximizing your campaign’s return-on-investment (ROI). It only takes a few Google searches to see that not everyone takes ad copy as seriously as they should. Many campaigns only have one or two ads for an entire campaign and do little to speak directly to the keyword being searched. If you stop to think about it, your text ad is little more than a door in a hallway full of doors.  If not marked correctly, you can be sure nobody is going to walk through it.

The following are some tips and tricks to make sure you have the most popular door in your particular hallway.

  • Model Your Ad As Closely To The Search As Possible

If I’m searching for “purple roller blades”, the first ad that is going to catch my eye is the one with a headline of “Purple Roller Blades”, not “Bob’s Roller Emporium.” Searches in most cases don’t read, they scan, so be prepared to match their needs as closely as possible. You might consider the use of dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) to help optimize this process, but keep an eye on the DKI ad conversion rates which tend to be lower than a standard ad. Unless you want to get some people angry, be sure to avoid DKI ads in a conquest campaign as well.

  • Highlight What Makes You Different

If the headline is about creating relevance, description line 1 should be about a benefit of your product / service that differentiates you from your competition. For example, if you’re a retail electricity provider in Houston, you might want to stay away from any ad text that talks about “lowest price” or “great service” because you will blend into the background with the rest.

  • Enable Longer Headlines With Punctuation

Google changed the placement of the first description line for some ads that appear above in search results.  For some ads where each line appears to be a distinct sentence and ends in the proper punctuation, description line 1 will be moved to the headline and separated by a hyphen. As a result, some top placement ads will have longer headlines as demonstrated below from the adwords blog:


 However, if you do not have discernable punctuation at the end of line one, your ad can look like the two red ads below, in which their url takes up prime selling real estate.


  • Use Ad Extensions

Ad extensions such as location extensions (yellow), call extensions (green), review extensions (orange) sitelinks with descriptions (red) and callout extensions work to increase more relevancy and take real estate from competitors.  Sitelinks are particularly good at discerning the motivation behind a more generic search.  For example, in the ad below, a brand search for a local Houston jeweler uses site links to provide relevancy that is not indicated within the search phrase.


  • Write Separate Ads For Mobile

Mobile ads are often truncated and the issue is only getting worse with the introduction of mobile site links.  Get to the point and include a call to action (CTA) that screams “press that click to call button!’  Some of the best ads I’ve seen make it clear you’re on mobile and that you’re site is mobile optimized, which can increase the user experience and lead to better performance

  • Test & Test Some More

When starting a campaign, you should select different text ad themes to test against each other. Once it is clear which overall theme resonates most with searchers, focus on variations of that theme. For instance, an ad for a car dealership may test themes such as price, service and location. If it is determined that price is the overall winner, the next test would involve car cost ($24,999), financing (0.0% financing) or payment ($199 a month). Once the winner is defined, variation of that offer are created.  It’s essential that you test, but it is more essential that you test with a plan.  Charting out the themes and creating schedule based on a statistically significant number are key to having a reliable methodology.  While some consider the option of setting your ad rotation to optimize automatically, you may prefer a manual method where the number of impressions, clicks and conversions is determined and monitored by you. It may take a little more time, but having maximum control over the test outcome should be more than enough motivation for you to make time.

Jon Bowers
Jon has seen it all. He is a digital team lead at Forthea and has been part of the online marketing community since its emergence in the 1990s, but don’t worry, he’s vowed to never use phrases like think outside the box, ninja, rock star, or visionary entrepreneur.


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