Ads are obviously important. They’re the tip of the paid search iceberg: you need the campaign structure, keywords, bidding strategies and so on to keep everything afloat, but the ads (along with extensions) are the part that people actually see.

But if you’re writing text ads you have limited space, and a host of editorial restrictions. Even when you have a good idea for your messaging, ads can be challenging to write. Fortunately there are a few tools to help!

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will suffice

We’ve all written the perfect piece of prose that’s just one character too long. Sometimes you can correct that with just a word substitution.

If you just want a shorter word Thsrs will give you shorter synonyms. Of course thesauruses aren’t precise – always substitute words with care!

Also try WordHippo – it doesn’t care about the length of words, but as well as synonyms you can find different forms of the word, antonyms and rhymes. Even if you don’t find a precise substitution you may see something that lets you go down a slightly different track – like using a different tense, or a noun instead of a verb.

Excel for Checking

A spreadsheet is a good way to write ads – it’s easy to check character length.

The basic way to check length is with the len() function. Then use conditional formatting to highlight in red anything that’s over the limits.

As I explained in one of my Excel tips posts, you can modify this to take into account dynamic keyword insertion. Using just len() will tell you “{KeyWord:Things and Stuff for Sale}” is 35 characters, but 10 of those characters are {KeyWord:} and don’t count towards the limit. So you can use a different formula to remove those non-counting characters:


You can’t automatically test for everything, but there are a few more checks you can make. AdWords won’t let you use an exclamation mark in the headline, and won’t let you have more than one exclamation mark in the description lines. You can count the number of exclamation marks by comparing the length of the headline with the length when !s are removed:


So you can check if the headline is wrong with


And you can check if the description lines are wrong with


(Note that Bing Ads allows you to have one exclamation mark in the headline and one exclamation or question mark per sentence in the main text. So if you’re writing for Bing you can ignore this test.)

Also, correct spelling is crucial – mistakes can look unprofessional, and could get your ad disapproved! On Windows, you can press F7 to do a spell check.

Excel for Writing in Bulk

Using Excel is also handy if you want to make a bunch of ads with the same structure but with a few words replaced. You can add columns for the varying info and use formulae to generate the ad text from them. See the sample spreadsheet!

In this example you can quickly see the third ad is wrong – description line 1 is too long because ‘thingamajiggers’ is a long word. You can copy and paste as values to manually edit it down to size.

You don’t have to use this to just make cookie-cutter ads – you could use the generated ads as a starting point and then tweak them into more tailored ads. You could also use something like this to see what your DKI ad text looks like, by copying in your keyword list.

Phenomenal Selling Powers, itty bitty writing space

I’ve not really talked about what to put into your ads – that’s because there’s already a tonne of articles on that! If you’re looking for tips on how to write ads, see this massive list from 3Q Digital.

And if you have any other tools for writing ads, please share them in the comments!

Image credit: ‘Pen is mightier than the sword…’ by V.v