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AdWords Headline Writing Basics

December 16th, 2010 by

We see thousands of advertising headlines every day; billboards, signage, television, newspapers, Google and almost every website we visit, all inundate us with countless messages every day and with every page. Early on we learn to tune out the things that we don’t think is applicable to us or feel the need to deal with at the moment.  We learn to ignore mom while playing a video game or talking on the phone. We automatically start talking or leave the room when a commercial comes on television.  Online, we learn to navigate Google and our favorite sites without noticing anything that doesn’t immediately speak to us in that moment.

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An advertisement has at most a second or two to grab a viewer’s attention with most PPC text formats.  Think of all of the distractions there are in any one pageview.  On a Google search results page, stiff competition comes from the other six to ten text advertisements on the page; not to mention the search results themselves.  If you run ads on the search or content networks you could be competing with visual elements such as content images and banner ads as well.

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Clear and Concise

First, do be clear and concise.  You have only twenty-five characters with a Google text ad headline. Use them wisely. Don’t waste any headline space on words that don’t relate to your product, offer or the keywords bid on.

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In general texts ads contain their main point in the headline.  Each line below in decreasing order of importance emphasizes or expounds on the main point proposed in the headline.  If a potential customer doesn’t understand your ad, they most likely won’t be clicking to visit your site… it’s simply not relevant to them and forgotten.  What does this mean for the advertiser?  Lower clickthrough rate and higher cost per click.

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A good way to start testing ads to create for a new campaign is take your highest traffic keyword phrases and work them into the headlines of separate ads targeted to narrow groups of similar keywords.  In addition to the keywords state simply a unique value proposition in the headline to give your ad more context relevancy.  If your value proposition can add some urgency as well, you can

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Let’s say you are bidding on the keyword ‘weight loss’ and close variations.  A user types in ‘weight loss’ and searches.  They see the following headline for the top PPC ad:

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Simple Weight Loss

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It is deceptively simple, but can be very powerful if you can follow through on the statement.  The keyword ‘weight loss’ is bold because it appeared in the user’s search query.  There is little confusion about with should be on the other side of this link.  There can be a lot of different and personal definitions of such a generic word as simple, though.  What is simple to one is not always simple to someone else.  However, you’ve set everyone’s expectations that you have the simple answer, so be prepared to prove it on your landing page.

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A positive side effect of having a clear message and giving the viewer an accurate idea about what to expect after they clickthrough your advert is prescreening your visitors.  For example, if you are creating a new campaign to sell supplements and exercise videos to men.  Which of the following headlines will likely convert better?

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Simple Weight Loss

Simple Weight Loss For Men

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I’ll bet you dollars to donuts, all other things being equal, that the second, more specific ad will convert better once you get a visitor to the site.  Why?  For the simple fact that with the first one, there is over double the audience, men and women.  It would be just as likely for a man or a woman to clickthrough.  If a site caters to men only, a large portion of women clicking their ads are wasted ad spend costing real dollars.

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If a site caters to both men and women, specificity is still important.  Direct the male ad to a men’s specific landing page and similar for the women’s specific ads.  The final conversion rate will most likely be better for each.  Prescreening a visitor as such can be a powerful tool in increasing the overall profitability of your account.

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Audience

Do know your audience.  Making a purchase decision is a largely emotional experience.  Men and women have different emotional triggers as well as the differences inherit in different age groups, geographic locations and ethnicities.

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Let’s look at another overly simplified example involving our weight loss campaigns.  This time, he is selling exercise videos aimed at women.  A women looking for diet and exercise information most likely doesn’t feel good about some aspect of her body… otherwise she wouldn’t be searching. That is a negative emotion.  Turn the negative around and sell the positive vision.  Sell symptom relief not facts.  Sell the hope that fitting back into that ‘little black dress’ is attainable.  Hope is positive.  If you can link that hope with your product… SOLD!

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Women typically want benefits, men want features.  Women want to picture themselves with the product and how it benefits them.  Men have problems that need solving and each feature can solve one or more problems.  Everyone wants quick and everyone wants easy.  Whatever you do make it about them; the headline should be about the reader first, not about your product.

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Which of these headlines are emotional pleas and which are problem solving statements?

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  1. Tongue Tied at Parties?
  2. Stop Stuttering in a Week
  3. How to Flirt on Facebook Safely
  4. Get a Date Tonight on Facebook
  5. Wear That Little Black Dress Again
  6. Rock Hard Abs Without Crunches

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The odd-numbered ones attempt to elicit feelings in the reader.  Headlines one and three attempt to connect to the reader through the emotions of fear and anxiety.  If a reader identifies with either of the groups spoken to, the message rings even louder on an emotional level.  Headline five promises a happy ending and leads a reader to visualize themselves in that dress.  What could be better?

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The even-number headlines above, speak on a more direct problem — solution level.  They identify or infer a problem and tell the reader they have the solution.  Just as important, each headline promises the reader something specific about their solution; quick, immediate or easy.

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Problem: Stuttering

Solution: Use this product for one week and be cured

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Problem: No dates

Solution: Use this product and be cured tonight

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Problem: Flabby Abs

Solution: Use this product… and it’s easier than crunches.

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When employing a problem solving headline, especially on a common problem with many solutions available, it is important to give the reader a reason why your particular solution is any better than the next.  Common areas where products can try to set themselves apart from the pack are:

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  1. Price
  2. Ease of use
  3. Speed of results
  4. Convenience
  5. Best / Optimum / Paramount Solution

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There are certainly many others.  Depending on your market and competition, some will speak more directly to the intended consumer and provide the right amount of urgency to get more relevant and targeted clicks to your page.  This in turn will lead to more conversions in fewer paid clicks and lower overall cost per conversion, making you more money every day.

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Conclusions

These generalizations will never approach the accuracy of a controlled test of two different headlines head to head.  With some products and markets, gender and age metrics may not follow any decipherable pattern.  Knowing and understanding that there are differences, should allow you to look outside the box and find more profitable headlines and niches to exploit.

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A headline that draws a lot of traffic but doesn’t convert well, shouldn’t be discounted fully without further examination.  From the amount of traffic, you have found an obvious hook to pull people to your site.  That is half of the battle in any online sales funnel.  The problem now is converting more of those users.  If the headline is appropriately targeted, the traffic should be similar to your target demographic.  In many cases, it may be a product already in your catalog or closely related.  Ask yourself a few questions:

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⁃            What were those users really looking for?

⁃            Can we sell it to them profitably with PPC?

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Answer both of those and you’ve just created another profitable sales channel!

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About the Author

Damon Parker is a researcher and writer specializing in website optimization and the principal partner at Cartmetrix.  For help with website optimization and targeting your traffic or answers to any of these questions, visit cartmetrix.com.

1 http://cartmetrix.com/blog/2010/adwords-headline-writing-basics/

2 http://cartmetrix.com/blog/2010/targeting-for-your-traffic/

3 http://cartmetrix.com

Comments

comments

7 Responses to “AdWords Headline Writing Basics”

  1. TomDemers says:

    Hi Eliza,

    You can get updates to the blog here: http://www.boostctr.com/blog/feed and we’ll be making the feed more easily accessible as we continue to tweak the blog template.

    Thanks for the kind words and the interest in future posts!

    Tom

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  5. Thanks Damon, these are excellent ideas. Of course it really depends on your target market, and you have to try many combinations of headlines until you get some that work but I especially like the ones staring with How to…

  6. Hannah says:

    Great content in here. Thanks!