(Ad)vanced SEM: The Ad

Make your SEM campaign shine

Welcome to the first installment of (Ad)vanced SEM! In this series of blog posts, I will begin an in-depth look into specific factors that can make your SEM campaign shine. Try my previous posts if you are wondering what SEM is or why you need SEM for your small business.

In this post we will focus on the capstone of your campaign. The shining fulcrum that can make or break your entire campaign: your ad itself.

Here are 8 tips to follow when developing your branding language and hooks.

1. Know What You’re Working With

Each Search Engine has different guidelines for character count and formatting of ads. It is important to memorize each one’s guidelines before getting started, so that you don’t end up on a wild goose chase for debugging.

Google’s ads (you can see an example here) are set up like a haiku: 25-35-35. And by that I mean character count (yes that includes spaces!). That doesn’t seem like much, does it? You have to fit your whole ad message into 95 characters. But first, how do you make it stand out?

2. Being Bolded Is Key

Google will put any words or phrases in your ad that match the keyword search into boldface typesetting. This means single words within the searched phrase, subphrases of the keyword search, or the whole keyword phrase itself.

It is really important to make use of this feature. There are very few things you can do within the main block of ad text to make yourself stand out from the pack. All of the ad bodies (more on the glittery extras later) look more or less the same. So the more times you can have words or phrases bolded in your ads, the more your ads will pop!

Now don’t go making an ad of just words from the keyword you’re bidding on. Google will notice and call you silly; rejecting your ad. Be smart about it, finding grammatical ways to fit them in.

3. Dynamic Keyword Insertion

Say you want to make sure a word or two gets bolded in every ad you have, but you have a TON of keywords. Making a different ad for every keyword sounds ridiculously tedious and hard to manage, right? Well, you have two solutions.

  1. Organize your keywords into like-themed ad groups, work elements from the theme into the ad text, and hope that that covers enough of the keywords in that ad group.
  2. Use Dynamic Keyword Insertion

In reality, you want to use a blend of the two. The blending ratio depends on the time you have to spend writing ads. DKI takes away some of your creative control, but offers great flexibility if you don’t have the time to write 500 different ad texts.

Now onto your ad content.

4. The Headline

The first 25 characters comprise your headline. These are the first characters your consumers will read and they are bigger than the rest. It is critical that you try to work in a bolded keyword phrase here. 25 characters is not much to work with, I know. If you have to, make the whole thing a keyword phrase.

There is one exception. If you feel that your brand name is recognizable in the field being searched, make it your headline. After all, you’ve worked hard to make sure it pops!

5. Description Line 1

This is the first set of 35 characters, and it is where you will present your case for being clicked on. What services or goods do you offer? Do you have any awards or accolades that would show you off? Perhaps you offer “Free Quote―Top Auto Ins Companies” (33 characters).

If you have a value proposition such as a sale or a remarkably low fee for services, highlight it now!

End this line with a period. Do not let it spill over into the next line. There is nothing stopping you from using the next 35 characters to continue the thought, but you will shoot yourself in the foot. Take my advice. Find a way to end the line in a complete thought and with a period.

If your ad makes it to the top 2 or 3 (depending on Google’s mood it seems), the ad format changes slightly. If you have ended your first line with a period, it will get pulled up next to your headline! Now this DL1 gets a bigger font and juicy placement in the ad! So, end DL1 with a period.

6. Description Line 2

This is your call-to-action. Plain and simple. I want you to tell me to “Call Now For A Free Quote!” (27 characters) or something similar. Be forceful. “Now” is better than “Today”. Make the sentence imperative. You are only allotted one exclamation point in your whole ad, and it should bookend it here. Leave the consumer with a sense of urgency. Tell them what you need them to do. Sign Up? Email? Shop? Browse?

An odd result that I found during my ad testing was that surrounding important words with () performs well. It performs better than an asterisk and is less likely to get flagged by Google for excessive use of symbols. For instance, modify the above with “Call Now For A (Free) Quote!” (29 characters). It draws attention to the word “free”, which is a word any consumer would eat up. You can only do it once per ad, so choose wisely.

7. Display URL

This is simple. Use the homepage of your site and ditch the www. For instance, “DontPanicMgmt.com”. This “URL” is not clickable, it merely gives the consumer a heads up as to where they are clicking. Google will compare your Display URL with your actual Destination URL to make sure you are giving them an accurate heads up.

Be sure to capitalize words in the Display URL. It will display exactly how you type it, even though regular, functional URLs ignore capitalization. Take advantage! You have another 35 characters for this.

8. Capitalize Everything

You may have noticed in my ad examples that I capitalized every word. This is not some odd OCD tendency of mine; it is good practice. Google does not forbid this tactic, and it is just one more way for your ad to take up more space on Google’s white canvas. It makes your ad pop.

Google DOES forbid capitalizing every letter, however. So don’t go overboard, champ. Be reasonable in your loophole exploitation.

For a general resource on ad creation and guidelines, visit the Adwords Help page.

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