Writing a Good Pay Per Click Advertisement - dummies

Writing a Good Pay Per Click Advertisement

By Jan Zimmerman

Most pay per click (PPC) ads include these elements: headline, two lines of text, a visible URL, and an unseen landing page URL. Every search engine sets the specific length of a line, but the same general principles apply across all engines.

Tips for writing ads are available on Google and Bing/Yahoo!, or you can find out how to write a good classified ad at a site such as Small Business Classified. The following illustration shows you the Google ad template.

[Credit: Courtesy of Google, Inc.]
Credit: Courtesy of Google, Inc.

Both Bing/Yahoo! and Google have additional rules governing word use, punctuation, qualifiers, proper nouns, trademarks, and other characteristics. Because both sites review your ads to make sure that they comply, read the rules for whichever one you use.


Just as with your website, your ad headline should grab attention quickly. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Avoid small words. They often only take up space.

  • Use words that draw attention. Examples are new, exclusive, special, now, and save.

  • Use search terms in the headline or in the text of the ad — or both. This strategy might mean writing a lot of different ads!

A small difference in wording might have a big effect on the success of your ad. Try several variations if you don’t see a good click-through rate. Run multiple ads on the same search terms, making it easy to test wording. (Only one of your ads at a time will appear for any one of your keywords.) Remember to test changes in only one line at a time!

This type of testing can be applied to offers and the wording of ads, landing pages, keywords, or any other single variable. Just remember to change only one element at a time! Google makes it possible to test landing pages by varying traffic to your original page and alternative versions to see how users respond.

Ask your programmer to check out the following sites to set up testing for ads or to test landing pages, respectively: Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics.

These short ads work much better when you deal with only one item or group of closely related items rather than with diverse products. Combining shirts and shoes might work in a print ad, for example, but doing this is difficult online because users can click to only one destination page.

Just as you did when writing text for your site, stick with active voice and second person: you, not we. Use a call to action in your offer. An imperative verb, such as enjoy, savor, relax, play, indulge, or earn gives people an immediate reason to click through.

Don’t waste precious characters telling people to click! When users search for something, they want to know What’s-in-it-for-me? on the other side of the action.

Landing pages

Generally, you display the same primary URL on all your ads for branding purposes. However, someone clicking an ad should immediately see a destination, or landing page, on your site that is directly related to the ad.

A good landing page fulfills the promise that’s implicit in your ad, and its content and appearance should be well structured to convert a browser to a buyer. Try to imagine yourself in your viewer’s place, looking with new eyes at your site.

Google explicitly includes the quality of a landing page, including download time, when deciding how to rank ads. For more information, see Google Landing Page Experience.

Here are some guidelines to consider for landing pages:

  • Have your search terms or synonyms appear in the text or meta tags of your landing page. This tactic improves landing page quality and thus indirectly improves the ranking of an ad.

  • If you’re selling a single product, the landing page should be the product detail page. If you advertise related sizes or items, go up a level to a subcategory or category page in your storefront to encompass your offer.

  • Specify the results of an onsite search as a landing page. To more closely match a landing page to a group of products you advertise, for example, preset a search for turquoise earrings.

  • Avoid directing people to pages with large photo files or rich media. Download time is a criterion for assessing landing page quality.

  • Help visitors land where they want to land! Don’t strand them on your home page, wondering where to find the product you advertised.