Writing ad text: How to run an AdWords campaign

In this mini-series, I will be talking about running a Google AdWords campaign. I will cover quite a bit of detail about keyword research, writing ad text, creating landing pages, maintaining your campaign, and reporting and metrics.

Another crucial element of your Google AdWords campaign is the ad itself. You only have so many characters available to express yourself, set the searcher’s expectations on your offerings, and get the searcher enticed to click.

The strategy

In my post about AdWords keyword research, I instructed you to break your keywords into different groups. There are a couple reasons for doing this:

  1. If you can align your ads and landing pages to the different “themes” of keywords, then your message will resonate better with searchers.
  2. AdWords has a relevance-scoring system called Quality Score. If your keywords are well-aligned with your ads and landing pages, then Google will charge you less per click and rank your ad higher.

I felt the need to split the 2 seemingly similar reasons out because I think that we still need to consider the first point. Focusing just on Google’s Quality Score can sometimes lead you down the wrong path.

Now we can craft our ad texts with our keyword groups.

Writing the ad text

Writing an ad for Google is kind of like writing a Haiku. There isn’t a whole lot of space to get your message across. Here’s what you have to work with:

So what do you want to do with this limited space?

First, add in as many words from the “keyword theme” as possible. When people see their search words bolded on the page, there is a higher likelihood that their eye to be drawn to the ad. This is especially important for the headline.

Next, try to add some actionable text in the ad as well. If you’re offering a white paper, saying “Free White Paper.” If you are offering a sales promotion, say, “Save 33% Today!” If neither of those are the case, then put in your unique value proposition. You get the idea.

Tip: Stand out from the competition

If you’re in a competitive niche, beware of writing ads that look the same as everyone else’s. The eye is trained to focus on elements of the page that are different, so if your ad looks the same as all the others, it will likely be ignored.

Take this example from a search that I ran for email marketing:

What’s the difference between all of these ads? Why should I click on one versus another? There’s little here that would compel me to make my choice one way or the other.

Sometimes it’s great to use the target phrase as the headline. Just make sure that it’s not everyone else’s strategy!


Like I said, the best way to stand out is to be different. Although your ads are text-based, there are a few tools in your arsenal besides just using the searchers’ terms:

  • Numerals draw the eye. Display a special price, a performance metric (“80% faster”), a discount rate, or whatever you can think of. Put it in your headline and/or ad text. Use the numeral characters. Don’t spell the numeric words out!
  • Capitalize the first letter of each word. I’ve run multivariate tests using Capitalized Words versus non-capitalized words and got better click-through rates with the capitalized ads. Feel free to try running 2 different versions yourself to see which works better.
  • Use a friendly display URL. If your website’s domain name is perfectpcrepairs.com, spell it in the ad as PerfectPcRepairs.com. It’s readable and more memorable.
  • Use of special characters. Google doesn’t let you use too many special characters, but you can usually get away with adding in something like a chevron (») or double greater-than’s (>>). This is especially great if your product or service involves movement.

Test several ads

As I alluded to above, you should try out different ads and see what works best. What gets the most clicks? Which drives the most conversions? Based on your goals, pick the top performer. Then try tweaking it even more.

Then be sure to monitor performance and the competition after a while. Things are constantly changing in this landscape, so you need to be on your toes.

This is part of a mini-series

Read the rest of Mini-series: How to run an AdWords campaign.

7 Responses

  1. I work for a company with a decent AdWords budget, and it appears that Google has the system set to keep me from using certain combinations of special characters. It simply won’t let me.

    One combo that I’ve been successful with has been –> for an arrow.

    I recently tested >> and was unsuccessful. Looks like I lied in my post!

    On a side note, I wish I would have exploited this before it was banned. :)

  2. I Wouldn’t Advise Writing Ads In This Fashion : a text with every first letter capitalized = hard to read = I certainly won’t click there. I’m not the only one, so be careful what you choose.

  3. My point is that you should test both capitalized and non-capitalized. See which drives the best clickthrough and conversion rates. Use the data to make your decision, not your personal preference.

  4. Hi Chris
    Thanks for the really interesting articles.
    I just tried to add a chevrons “>>” to my cookie delivery ad for http://www.buycake.co.uk and it wouldn’t let me!
    Maybe they have tightened up the rules?

  5. Did you try the actual chevron character, »? Try pasting that sucker in there and seeing what happens…

  6. I got this page after searching for special characters for ad-words, if someone added them here I am sure people would value it.

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