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Drive the right people to your website

Learning to write good pay-per-click (PPC) ads is much like learning a foreign language. First you need to study the fundamental rules. Then you need to practice. And to get really fluent, you need to test your copy in the real world, to see how the people you want to communicate with respond.

Fundamental Rules of PPC Ad Copy

Google AdWords specifies a character limit for each line of any ad that appears in the sponsored ad section of its search engine result pages (SERPs):

  • Headline – 25 characters or fewer
  • Description Lines – 35 characters or fewer per line
  • Display URL - 35 characters or fewer
  • Landing Page URL – 1,024 characters or fewer

Remember that character count always includes spaces and punctuation marks.

You cannot use cheap tricks to make your ad more attractive, such as adding unnecessary punctuation, using CamelCase to save characters in ad copy or CAPITALIZING EVERYTHING. Any of these could cause the AdWords folks to turn down your ad.

Practice Your PPC Ad Copy Skills

Practice makes perfect. Even an online marketer who’s been writing ad copy for years won’t be able to create the perfect ad on the first try.

It can be tough to work within the character limits at first, especially if your product or service is complex. Tip: Find synonyms for words that are eating up your character limits. A thesaurus is your best friend.

You can also try using a tool to help you learn to write within AdWords character limits.

A poorly written text ad may be descriptive and accurate, but it won’t cause anyone to click:


This ad correctly states that AboutUs.org is “a guide to websites.” However, the call to action in the second description line is weak. It doesn’t tell anyone why they might want to find and edit the wiki page for their website.

The headline should also be stronger. Simply stating the website name and its primary function doesn’t grab anyone’s attention. The display URL – the green part of the ad – prominently displays your brand name. Don’t use the headline to reiterate your brand.

Unlike the ad copy, the display URL can be CamelCased for clarity.

The rewrite of this ad features a strong message and clear benefit statement, encouraging people to click in the headline and in each description line:


All the problems discussed above are alleviated in this ad. The headline is strong and attention-grabbing, telling people what benefit they’ll get from this advertiser. The ad clearly states what the visitor can expect to find after clicking on the ad – a free tool and a chance to learn something. The offer of a free tool on the website is a clear call to action. Finally, CamelCasing the display URL supports the AboutUs brand. It's important to have your brand name look the same in PPC ads as it does in your print materials and on your website.

Points to Consider for Writing Effective PPC Ad Copy

To write truly effective ad copy, you’ll need to consider several factors:

  • Target audience. Are you marketing to engineers or to stay-at-home fathers? The lingo in your ad copy should resonate with your audience.
  • The offer. You can attract clicks with a compelling offer – for example, “Free virus check for your PC.”
  • Relevancy. There should be a clear match between your ad copy and keywords you’re bidding on for ad placement. If you’re bidding on the search term “web speed test,” do your best to incorporate that keyword into your ad copy.
  • Landing page. Make sure people who click on the ad for "web speed test" land on the page that has that offer. Don’t send people to your home page unless there’s a good reason for them to land there. Remember, you have the power to send interested visitors to any page on your website!
  • Call to action (CTA). CTA terms such as “learn how,” “get help now,” and “free evaluation” give readers the notion of urgency and the expectation of receiving exactly what they're looking for.
  • Competition. If your price is lower than what your competitors offer, highlight that in your ad. Everyone likes discovering a bargain.

Testing your PPC Ad Copy

You can’t know in advance which ad copy messages are the most effective, and which people they’ll attract. If you have something to offer – for example, a whitepaper, a free evaluation or a free trial – promote it in an ad, and see how many nibbles you get by looking at the click-through rate. This will show you which ads are most effective at any given time, helping you weed out the weak ads and keep the profitable ads working.

Learn how to design a cost-effective Google AdWords campaign. Read the AboutUs article, Google AdWords Guide for Beginners.

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