[originally posted on Adotas by David Greenbaum]


How many ads do you see in a day? The answer is up for grabs, with estimates ranging from 200 to 5,000. If you’ve ever seen the Million Dollar Homepage, where 1 million advertisers have their ads on a single page, you know how hard it is to stand out in the sea of online ads, even with an exciting logo.

 

Every second, on average, Facebook posts 700 user updates, and Google runs 34,000 searches, according to company statistics. Search engine marketers (SEMs), who deal with both text-only and display ads, need to be able to grab attention with mere words.

 

Google and Facebook “Like” Advertisers

 

The good news is that the chips aren’t completely stacked against advertisers. Recent changes in both Facebook and Google empower advertisers to reach audiences in new ways. The real challenge lies in creating ad copy that fully takes advantage of these changes.

 

Facebook is enabling its large advertisers to participate in a program where any companies that a user’s friend likes will show up in the user’s newsfeed. For example, if John’s friend Bert likes the company Widgets-R-Us, John will also see Widgets-R-Us updates in his newsfeed, despite not having liked the company himself. Facebook’s model is reaffirming the fact that brands are increasingly becoming publishers, with users “liking” a company’s Facebook page based, in part, on an affinity with its messaging.

 

Google’s new privacy policy, launched March 1, integrates all Google properties, from Google+ to Gmail to YouTube. With a more complete data set about each of its user’s browsing habits and online interests, Google can target ads with arrow-like precision. For advertisers, that makes it more likely that ads will reach the right audience — and makes it even more imperative to capture that precious, short-lived human attention.

 

Copywriting: The Slow Animal in the Ad Pack

 

According to Campaign magazine’s Dave Trott, “4 percent of advertising is remembered positively. 7 percent is remembered negatively. 89 percent isn’t noticed or remembered.” In only a short space, SEM advertisers need to be part of that seven percent. Google’s AdWords ads, for example, only allow 95 characters total, which generally amounts to fewer than 20 words. Those 20 words better make an impact, or they’ll be ignored or forgotten.

Advertisers spent $30 billion last year on SEM. It’s safe to say that advertisers are losing at least some of that money ineffectively pursuing their copywriting goals. Many small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) take a do-it-yourself approach to writing their ad campaigns, lacking the copywriting expertise to make sentences pop in the online jungle. And bigger SEM players, for example, agencies with hundreds of thousands of SKUs, waste their time in the weeds trying to write and optimize their bulk campaigns manually, usually via an exhaustive spreadsheet.

 

Machine, Meet Human

 

There are probably hundreds of tools out there to help advertisers optimize keywords and the bidding process. But when it comes to copywriting, machines aren’t advanced enough to compel much of a reaction in human readers. If you’ve ever read any newspaper reports written by Narrative Science, an automated app that turns raw data into legible newspaper articles, you’ll know why. Computers are very good at crunching numbers, but they spit out bland sentences that don’t inspire emotions, such as the need to explore a product or service in more depth.

 

Humans copywriters excel precisely in this area. People will always do a better job than machines in the creative sphere, at least in our lifetime. They know what it takes to make other humans interested in something.

 

Analytics and Copywriters: The Dream Couple

 

When humans are managed as a team, they produce much bigger results than a single person working alone. And when computer programs are used for the right purposes, they can calculate and organize relevant information faster than humans. In the world of SEM, if you marry thorough analytics with the refined skills of professional human copywriters, you stand a much better chance of having your online ads pop.

 

Specifically, this means looking at performance statistics to prioritize which ad groups need copywriting help — for example, with poor performers or ad groups that aren’t getting the placement you want. For big advertisers, this means split testing, or analyzing performance automatically, rather than from that massive Excel spreadsheet.

 

After pinpointing which ad groups need writing help, sic a professional copywriter or 10 on them. For SMBs with a limited budget, crowdsourcing can offer expert-level results without the financial burden of hiring individuals. Enterprises with millions of ads can also benefit from this approach by having a large number of copywriters quickly optimize equally large ad campaigns. When the process is finished, SEMs can run optimized ads and watch the conversions trickle in.

 

Join the SEM Elite

 

With machines pointing out which ads need to be more attractive to online users, and human copywriters pouring their creative expertise into those ads, advertisers can find that sweet spot where ads are both placed well and actually compel users to purchase products and services. Instead of sinking alongside the majority of advertisers, your ads will make you part of the elite, well-performing minority.