I was Googling recently, and this came up as a paid listing:

Bad Google Ads - they shouldn't look like this

Don’t write Google ads like this

I was so perturbed by it that I took a screenshot and felt compelled to write a blog post about it. Because Google Ads (also called pay-per-click, or PPC) can end up costing you loads of money, and I don’t want you to waste that valuable budget with copy like this.

(N.B. I’m not just talking about actual Ads spend, because you only pay when someone clicks and I’d be shocked if this advert got many people to click. You’re also spending time and money on writing the ads and managing the campaign.)

Google Ads Copy Lesson 1: Think About What the Searcher is Looking For

This ad appeared when I was doing keyword research for a marketing agency and I was looking at variations of the term ‘marketing agency’.

Imagine you’re a company in search of a marketing agency. You’re based in Birmingham, and you’d like someone local. So you type ‘marketing agency Birmingham’ into Google to get the ball rolling.

Would you click on a result that said ‘Orchestrate Omni-Channel Customer Journeys in Real-Time’?

Not likely.

Because you’re looking for a marketing agency in Birmingham.

And that ad isn’t directly related to what you’re looking for.

So put yourself in the searcher’s shoes, and make sure your Google Ads copy aligns to what that person is looking for. When it doubt, show it to a partner, parent or friend who doesn’t work for your company. If they don’t see the connection immediately you should rethink your approach.

Google Ads Copy Lesson 2: Make Your Copy Easy to Read

I go on about this a lot because it is so important for any business writing you do. Please do communicate complex ideas. But don’t make the reader work to figure out what you’re saying.

Here’s the copy again (since you’ve scrolled down quite a bit now). Let’s dissect it.

Bad Google Ads

We can figure out what the offer is. These guys will help you give your customers the best online and offline experience. But you really have to think to parse that out.

There are lots of syllables here. The phrase may work as a chapter title in an ebook or a subhead in a blog post (if the subject relates to managing channels, customer journeys or real-time analytics). But in that situation you’ve already captured attention and given context.

Consider your own behaviour when you look at search results. You spend a couple seconds tops looking at each result. You may even ignore the paid listings and go straight to the organic ones. Which means Google Ads copy has to grab attention and hold it. You can’t rely on the reader stopping to work out what you’re on about.

You don’t need a 3-syllable word like ‘orchestrate’, especially in situations like Google Ads where you have to fit within character limits. What about ‘create’, ‘set up’ or even ‘get’?

Google Ads Copy Lesson 3: Speak the Reader’s Language

There’s lots of jargon in this ad.

My search query had nothing to do with retail, where ‘omnichannel’ is a recognised industry term. It had nothing to do with analytics, where ‘real time’ is a recognised industry term.

I’m looking for a marketing agency in Birmingham using a very basic search query, which means you can’t assume I know anything about marketing. If I don’t know anything about marketing, I may not know what a channel is let alone a customer journey. And why should I care about real time?

If the language doesn’t feel comfortable to your readers, they’ll dismiss your company as not being the right fit based on 140 characters (if you’re using the new extended Google Ads).

Google Ads Copy Lesson 4: The Money’s in the Call to Action

In copy terms, the call to action is the bit where you tell the reader what to do next. It’s very important you’re clear on (1) what to do, (2) what readers get when they take that action and (3) why readers should want what they get. In simple terms, you need to cover the action, the offer and the benefit. This applies to all marketing material, not just Google Ads.

Let’s take these 3 points in order.

1. Tell readers what to do next

Never, ever assume the reader knows what to do next. Even if you’ve spent an entire email extolling your product’s virtues, don’t forget to say ‘Order Now’.

The same principle applies in Google Ads. You and I both know that the action is for the reader to click the link to get to your web page (and please let it be a specific landing page and not your homepage! But that’s a topic for a future blog post). The reader is looking for relevant links to click. But you still need to give an action – it has an important psychological effect.

And use the command form of a verb (e.g. ‘learn’, ‘order’, ‘get’, ‘find out’, ‘discover’, ‘buy’).

This ad goes part way – it says ‘Learn More!’ at the end of the second line. A perfectly good call to action for Google Ads. But the actual link says ‘Our Agency Partners’. Not a good call to action because there’s no action. And your eye is drawn to that blue ‘Our Agency Partners’ link, which means the killer close isn’t telling the reader what to do next.

2. Tell readers what they get when they take action

Based on the ‘Our Agency Partners’ copy in the link, we expect to get a list of agencies when we click the link (and that’s probably why they’re bidding on marketing agency-related keywords).

But it’s not completely clear. We may be learning more about orchestrating omni-channel customer journeys, because that’s the promise in the previous line.

Pretend you’re the searcher. If you’re not sure what information you’ll get, would you click? Or would you choose one that’s clearer, and therefore less likely to be a dud?

3. Tell readers why they should want what they get

Now this isn’t just in the call to action itself – it’s part of the build-up to the call to action (in other words, the benefit needs to come through in your whole copy).

Here, the benefit they’re offering is the real-time orchestrating. But why should you and I want that?

It’s not clear from the copy.

Maybe the real-time orchestrating leads to more sales, more customer loyalty or better sales and marketing processes (or all of the above). But you and I don’t quite know, because the copy doesn’t tell us. Go back to Lessons 1 & 2. Think about what problem the reader is looking to solve, and then say clearly that you solve it.

These 3 Lessons are Key to Google Ads Success

These are the fundamentals, so make sure you cover them.

Then it’s down to testing – test your headline, test the call to action link copy, test the benefits you emphasise. Listen to what the search behaviour tells you, and you’ll end up with campaigns that deliver.

(By the way, if you want more writing tips, sign up for my free mini writing course. You get 10 short emails with practical tips to make your writing more effective. Click here to enroll, or just scroll down a bit and send the form at the bottom of the page.)