What Shaun White Taught Me About PPC

If there is one thing we can learn from Shaun White, one of the most prolific halfpipe snowboarders in history, it’s that trick evolution is inevitable. The tricks that Shaun executed to win a gold medal at the 2010 Olympic games in Vancouver will most certainly not be enough to win gold again in Sochi for the 2014 games; he must come up with something new. The same principle can be applied when managing and optimizing your PPC ads.

Although many fundamental concepts will always remain, PPC ad optimization techniques and marketing strategies that were implemented last month or even last week may no longer be applicable. As PPC account managers, we have to be ever mindful of the dynamic nature of the PPC ecosystem as well as our competition to ensure that our ads remain competitive and relevant.

How you approach each element of a PPC ad is where you can make or break your campaigns. Let’s take a quick look at each of these elements and discuss a few tips and tricks that will help boost your performance.

Elements of a PPC Ad


Ad Headline: Let’s be honest, not every PPC account is going to have the same goals or messaging but it’s up to us to ensure that the intended message is conveyed in such a way to engage the user and entice them to take action or continue reading. The headline is that first eye contact, it’s an important moment and one that should not be overlooked. In some cases, simply matching search terms in ad headlines is enough but in others, you’ll have to get a little more creative. When writing ad headlines, the most important thing to remember is to appeal to your audience. If you were the business owner and this user was walking by the front door, what would you say in 25 characters to ensure they walk in the door?

Tommy ‘s Tip: Use title case in your headlines and throughout your ad copy. Stand out as much as possible. There is nothing worse than being one of 5 ads with the similar or same headline.

Ad Descriptions: This is where you really want to try and make an impact. The ad description needs to drive the message home and make that connection with the user, guiding them to click. I generally see ad descriptions take one of two general formats:

  • List format – These ad descriptions can be quite simple, keyword heavy and will include short snippets of relevant information. With this format, there is room for  more potential features and selling points in the ad copy.
  • Conversational Format – These ad descriptions will often include longer statements or questions formed around user pain points or unique selling points. With this format, there is a greater potential for a connection with users.

Both of these ad formats definitely have use cases and can potentially work for your audience, even in combination. Focus on writing the descriptions to match your audience’s pain points while still presenting your unique selling proposition – what sets you apart from the others.

Tommy ‘s Tip: Use sentence ending punctuation at the end of each ad description line. Your ads will then possibly show with extended headlines. It’s a simple practice that can provide great results.

Call to Action: Another vital component of the ad copy is the Call to Action (CTA).  Although this is technically not an element of an ad, due to the importance of including CTAs I felt it deserved its own mention here. If you’re not promoting a big deal/discount or exact pricing (a couple of instances where a direct CTA isn’t absolutely needed), you must have a CTA in your ad description or headline. Tell the user what they need to do:  Start Shopping! Order Today! Buy Something! Get a Quote!

Tommy ‘s Tip: I generally save an exclamation point for all CTAs, it adds a little boost to the message. Also, test CTAs right in your ad headlines. Sometimes users don’t read past a headline or two.

Display URL: In my opinion, one of the more under-utilized elements of text ads for creative messaging is the Display URL. This is only a display, the URL doesn’t have to exist. As long as the domain is accurate, you can get as creative as you want.

Tommy ‘s Tip: This is a great place to use keywords, product categories, product names, brand names and additional CTAs. ex: www.example.com/buy-now/

Destination URL: First and foremost, please direct the user to the proper place on your site. You want to provide the best experience possible for your users. Give them what they want. If you have more landing pages then you can use or test, it could be time to look at a little account restructuring. You can sometimes create one or more ad groups per landing page.

Tommy ‘s Tip:  If you’re manually tagging URLs, adopt a uniform naming strategy to ensure clean and accurate reporting.

Ad Extensions: It should be clear to most people at this point that ad extensions are now a signal used in ad rank calculations. I can’t possibly express how important it is to stay on top of your extensions. Some may interpret this information as a sign that all ad extensions need to be enabled. That is not the case, it’s only ever necessary to use the ad extensions that make sense for your campaigns – there are useful extensions for any and every business model.

Tommy ‘s Tip: Regularly check on the approval status of ad extensions and be sure to segment your data by click type in order to see actual performance data for a particular extension.

Mobile Ads: Create specific ads for mobile devices and include mobile preferred versions of each element discussed above. The user experience on mobile is not the same as a desktop, don’t treat them the same. Incorporate a mobile strategy that is in line with the campaign goals. It’s okay to be a little more specific on mobile with your CTAs and ad extensions. Offer folks the ability to call immediately with click to call, book a reservation or get directions. Mobile users are often looking for an immediate solution.

Tommy ‘s Tip: Bid appropriately for mobile initiatives as there are essentially two effective ad slots.

Additional Tips: There are 101 ways to go about creating ads and probably as many tips that you could examine. Here are a few more overall suggestions to consider:

  • Don’t ever stop testing. Always use multiple variations of ads in each ad group and be sure to enable constant, even rotation of your ads.
  • Use spelling and grammar check. We’re all prone to errors occasionally but a spelling or grammatical error could really hurt your campaigns.
  • Include a human touch: In these days of large scale automation and dynamic ad creation I’m going out of my way to make my ads more human.

If you review the ad block above closely, I think you’ll be able to see that some of the advertisers took the time to evaluate each element of their ads and ensure that they’re being implemented with great care. Unfortunately, some of the others are lacking attention to detail and appear to be thrown together without a care in the world. It becomes painfully clear when you see poorly executed ads out in the wild next to great ones. Creating great ads is technically not very difficult but you must pay close attention and with a little creativity, your ads will be worthy of a gold medal.

Here at PML, our PPC account managers are ad creation specialists. If your PPC ads need a performance boost or a refresh, contact us today!


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