If you are anything like me, you can’t last very long in this world without writing a list. I knew the habit was bad when one Christmas I received about half a dozen notepads as gifts! To-do lists, shopping lists, wish lists, you name it. But rather than kicking the habit, I’ve learned to embrace it. And with the summer season upon us, the most popular list is the packing checklist.

With that in mind, we have created a handy checklist of all the things you should be putting into your PPC ad copy. With a focus on improving your click-through-rate (CTR), make sure you pack your ads with these essentials.

Prior Preparation - Get Organised!

Never rush into writing ads without first stopping to consider the structure of your account. If you do, your quality score, ad rank and CPC will suffer.

Ask yourself: “Have I systematically grouped my products, landing pages and keywords into clearly defined categories?”

If you want to do a health check in this regard have a look at the keywords in your ad groups. You should have a small set of highly related keywords, each sharing one or two root words. Not the case? Backtrack and tighten up those ad groups!


Now that you’ve organised your keywords, it’s time to use them! It’s amazing how many accounts painstakingly gather their keyword data only to rely solely on dynamic keyword insertion (DKI) in their headlines. Certainly use DKI in one of your ad variants but bear in mind that any increase in CTR from DKI does not improve your quality score.

I know it’s overplayed to say use some keywords but remember that when a keyword in your ad matches your customer’s search query, search engines will highlight this word in bold – like a flag to your customers it says “I’m what you’re searching for, click here!”

Stand Out Headlines


The driving force of the ad; if your headline isn’t attention grabbing, your audience probably isn’t going to bother reading the smaller font description underneath. Now I know I’ve just told you to use keywords, I’m now going to tell you not to overuse them in your heading…bear with me!

Whilst it’s normally necessary to include at least one keyword in your heading to identify your product, you need to consider what’s going to make your ad unique on a page of search results.

What’s going to separate your ad for ‘Pet Shampoo’ from Joe Blogs’ ‘Pet Shampoo’ ad. Traditional avenues for making your ad stand out include: highlighting benefits (see below), using strong, attention grabbing words like ‘Professional’, ‘Award winning’, ‘Save’, ‘Free’ etc., using your brand name (if well-known) and using special symbols like trademarks.

Alternatively, you could test a more unconventional approach, using headlines that are completely different from the rest, appealing to a customer’s needs, emotions or even humour (as with Oasis ad).

Also, don’t forget that when you ad appears in the top position, Google will often combine your headline with your first description (providing the latter is finished with punctuation) so consider whether you can make a stronger statement in the heading by effectively writing across your heading and description one (see later).

Benefit Focused Targeting

As well as being attention grabbing, your ad also needs to be persuasive, highlighting why a customer should choose you over the competition. Your product will dictate which of the two approaches you will take.

Is it an original product you are trying to sell? It which case highlight why your product is better than other similar products on the market. Is it the slickest, fastest, most-reliable, easiest? Then highlight this in your ad.

Or are you trying to sell a branded product, the sort that customers can buy from other sites (like electrical goods for instance). In which case tell your audience why they should choose to buy this product from your company. Is there a special offer on your product at the minute? Do you offer free shipping, multi-buy deals or easy returns? Is it cheaper, do you offer better customer service or any guarantees? Put it in your ad.

CTAs - The Soft or Hard Line Approach?

Another overstated tool but studies still show a significantly increased CTR on ads with clear calls-to-action so it’s imperative you make space for one. The decision you now need to make is whether a soft or hard line approach works for you.

If you are looking for a customer to purchase a product from you, strong CTAs like ‘Buy Now!’ Or ‘Order Today!’ might do the trick. However, it’s possible this approach is putting off other potential customers and it may be necessary to try a softer approach.

Instead of simply ‘Order Today!’ why not try ‘Save __% When You Order Today!’, switching the emphasis to them saving money rather than parting with it. Or rather than focusing on the buying of the product why not focus on the acquisition i.e. ‘Discover Your __’, ‘Find A ___ You’ll Love’ or ‘Choose From __’.

Both subtle and direct CTA can work. Test to see which works for you!

Customer Emotions and the Buying Cycle

As with CTAs, considering the mood of your target audience is really important. Stop and have a think about what is motivating your audience to search for your product. Try and encapsulate this in the tone of your ad. Is your product for children? Then perhaps emphasize its safety or durability.

Also consider the buying cycle. When customers are viewing your ads, are they in the mood for spontaneous, buy-now type shopping? Think phrases like ‘Sale Ends This Week’, ‘For a limited time only’ or consider adding in countdown ads.

Look at your search query reports; are customers attaching words like rating and review to your product? Then write ads that appeal to the comparison/review mode of shopping.

To Brand or Not to Brand?

With so precious few characters it can be difficult to judge whether to put your brand name in the main wording of the text. The length of your name will obviously be a dictating factor. If you are a fairly new brand keep your brand to brand only campaigns at this time and don’t waste space in your other ads – it won’t mean much to your audience! Besides, remember your brand name will be in your display URL.

To gauge brand awareness of your product, see how impressions in your brand only campaign increase over time.

Feeling Squeezed - Character Limits, Extensions and Seeing the Big Picture

Ok I hear you. Lizzie, how am I supposed to fit all of that into 95 characters? The answer is by making full use of the space you get on the search engine results page – you’ll be surprised how much you can fit in!

Let’s start with those pesky character limits. Admit it, how many times do you remove that final punctuation from description 1 in order to fit in your carefully constructed wording? Stop it! Remember what I said above. With punctuation at the end of description 1 you are telling Google that they can swing your description 1 up into the headline. This can give your ad a much greater impact and considerably increase the CTR of your ad! Consider the impact of the following top position ads, using and not using punctuation in description 1:

Designer Handbags ads

With ad 2, the first description was incorporated into the headline making the headline and extra 35 characters longer. This meant it was able to strongly highlight both the product name (relevant to the customers search query) and offer (benefit).

Furthermore, scrimping on punctuation can also give your ad a funny look when you apply call extensions, since Google combines description 1 and 2 when your ad appears in one of the top positions making an unpunctuated ad look messy.

From now on, let’s start thinking of description 1 as 34 characters + 1 punctuation!

A few other space saving tips

  • Remove repeated messages

So many ads I see use effectively the same messaging in the headline as they do in one of their descriptions. This is wasting precious space that could be used to explain another benefit or for a CTA. It looks even worse if Google combines the headline and description 1!

  • Don’t waste space with things you can put elsewhere

Again, don’t waste space in your ad wording with things like telephone numbers, addresses and reviews as all can go in your ad extensions.

  • Make full use of ad extensions

Site links are like four additional ads for the price of one! Make sure that your ad is ready to look great in those top positions on the page. Keep your messaging in your main ad concise and to the point and expand further in sitelinks remembering to make full use of the description space they give you to maximise your presence on the results page.

Gucci with descriptions
Gucci without description Sitelink Descriptions Increase Ad Size & Impact in Ad 1

Similarly, don’t worry if you can’t get every single benefit into your ad text. Use call out extensions to tell customers about other benefits.

Final Checks - The Three Ts

Think Time – Often you only have a matter of seconds to convince people to click on your ad. Keep your message clear, concise and easy to read at a glance.

Think Truth – Don’t lie or over-exaggerate. Aside from the obvious immoral nature, why bother wasting a click if the product on your landing page doesn’t match your ad description!

Think Testing – Most people aren’t lucky enough to get advertising spot on the first time round. You’re going to need to test and then let the data tell you. Sadly that perfectly constructed ad that came from that epiphanic moment, that would win a prize for its literary prowess, might not be the best performing! For more advice on the testing side of ads view Consider Ad Copy As A Group Of Swappable Elements.

And that’s it, your ads should be flight ready! Happy check listing and Bonnes Vacances!