To help navigate the digital marketing waters, we are publishing a six-part series during the month of December on the business benefits of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google Adwords and Google Analytics. Our goal is to give back this season by revealing some industry secrets that you can start implementing in your 2014 marketing strategy.

Now that you’ve dipped your toes into the Adwords pond and learned the basics of keyword selection and match types, it’s time to get into ad group and ad copy best practices. The first and most important aspect of a successful ad is strategic targeting. This goes back to what we talked about in the first blog of this series: every Adwords campaign must have a dedicated landing page and a specific intent. Not only do targeted ads help your target audience understand what you are offering, but the more relevant they are, the better quality score Google will assign to your campaigns.

Ad Structure

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An Adwords ad is made up of 4 main parts: the headline text, display url, and two description lines. The headline can have up to 25 characters, while the url and descriptions have a character limit of 35 each. The headline should clearly communicate what the advertisement is for and the display url should tell the user exactly where they will land if they click. For the descriptions, I think it’s best to reiterate the purpose of the ad followed by a strong call to action.

Ad Best Practices

Alright, we’ve got the ad structure down. How do we write an ad that converts? There five best practices to keep in mind whenever you are creating or optimizing ad groups in Adwords:

Make It Simple and Enticing – You don’t have much real estate to play with here, so you have to get your point across in the most succinct and clear fashion. Use every aspect of the ad structure, including the display url, to your advantage.

Include Prices and Promotions – Make your advertisements competitive. If you have any enticing promotions, prices or discounts, make it known! Your ad will be displayed alongside about 5 or 6 of your competitors so include any extra tidbit that will make a visitor more likely to click on your ad.

Use Strong Calls to Action – The call to action is the most important element of the ad. Don’t miss your opportunity to tell visitors what you want them to do! What are the conversion goals you have established for your campaigns? Use these goals to inform your calls to action. If your goal is purchases, then tell them to “buy now!” Just looking for a phone call or contact information? “Call now to get started!”

Include Keywords in the Ad Text – Any keywords in your ad copy will be bolded if they match the query a user types into Google. Using keywords in your ad copy not only makes your ads more relevant to the user, but the bolded words also help your ad stand out against your competitors.

Experiment and Repeat – Split testing is your best friend when it comes to Adwords. Write at least two ad variations in each ad group. Every week to two weeks, check to see which add is performing better by comparing their CTR and number of clicks. Then make minor changes to the poorly performing ad and repeat! This process allows you to continually improve your ads and address changes in your marketplace, customers, keywords, etc.

Split Test Example

Here’s an example of a split test I did for a client during one of our digital marketing training workshops:

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You can see here that one of the first changes I made to this ad was adding one of their core keywords to the ad headline and into the ad description text. In this case the query that triggered these ads was “financial education”, so there are three places in ad version B that are then bolded on the SERP. I also changed the url to a more targeted landing page. Most people would not know what nefe.org is unless they were already familiar with the company, but financialworkshopkits.org is much clearer about the content of the landing page. Finally, I added the word ‘free’ into ad version B, since everybody loves free stuff!

After running ad version B for a couple weeks, it was performing much better than the original version of the ad. But that’s not the end of the experiment; remember, Adwords success is about continuous experimentation! Let’s take a look at split test #2:

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Because I felt as though the headline text in this ad is strong, I left it the same. It’s important to make only incremental changes to ads during split test – you don’t want to have too many variables or you won’t know what is working or not. You can see here that I decided to make a stronger call to action, telling users that by clicking the ad they will be rewarded with free downloads and more! For a third split test, it could be a good idea to leave the ad text the same in both ads and only change the headline.

Stay tuned for the next blog in the Adwords basics series: measurement!