Pay-per-click adverts look simple but the best examples use every trick in the book in order to stand out. Business writer Rachel Miller explains how a simple title, copy and link can become a powerful advertising tool
Pay-per-click ads are also known as sponsored links. They appear next to search results on Google and Yahoo — on the right hand side of the search results page and sometimes also at the top.
Pay-per-click adverts have three main components: a heading, a short piece of copy and a link. Despite their apparent simplicity, each of these elements must work hard to ensure the advert stands out from the rest.
1. Use keywords to show relevance
There are two good reasons to include your keywords in your ad — firstly, it makes your ad look relevant. So if someone has searched for oak flooring, they’ll look for the ad that has that phrase in the title rather than a general flooring company. Secondly, if the words used in the search are in your ad copy, then they will appear in bold, making your ad stand out.
2. Write a compelling heading
Most people look at the heading first so it has to be good. Headings are usually descriptive phrases that highlight your product or service, such as "Edinburgh Double Glazing". However, the heading can also convey benefits, such as "30% Off Sofa-Beds" or "Award-Winning Italian Restaurant".
If you’re looking to build your brand or have a well-known company, it could be worth putting your company name in the heading — "Laptops at John Lewis", for example. However, it’s usually best to avoid using your company name in the heading. Firstly, your company name already appears in the URL at the bottom of the ad and secondly, most searches are for products and services, such as “plumbers in Leeds”, rather than specific company names.
3. Have a clear call to action
A call to action encourages people to click on your ad. Compelling words and phrases include: "Buy now", "Sign up today", "Order" or "Get a Quote". This gives people a clear idea of what they can achieve when they click on the link that will take them to the landing page on your website. Your call to action should be compelling and specific — "50% Off All Children’s Shoes"; "Buy Valentine’s Flowers"; "Cheap Cameras & Camcorders".
4. Include key information
It’s worth including some key offer details in your ad. By including prices in your ad text, for example, you know that anyone that clicks through is interested in your product at that price. As a result, more clicks (which you are paying for) become customers.
5. Stand out by being different
It’s vital to differentiate yourself from your competitors. Highlight your unique selling points — the products, prices or services that make your business different and better. Analyse your competitors’ ads to ensure that you stand out from the crowd.
6. Exploit the power of capital letters
Using capitals on the initial letters of every word can make your advert stand out. “On Sale Now”, for example, is more noticeable then “on sale now”. This applies to the link as well as the text. By capitalising the first letter of each word in your link, your web address instantly becomes easier to read. For instance, is much clearer than www.flowersonthehighstreet.com.
7. Link to a relevant landing page
Many online advertisers spend a lot of time developing a great pay-per-click campaign, only to neglect their own website. Pay-per-click advertising is about taking potential customers through key steps — the search, browsing the results, clicking on the link, taking action on the company’s website — and each one is equally important.
Your website landing page — the destination for anyone that clicks on your ad — must be relevant to the ad and must encourage visitors to take the next step. That could be making an enquiry, signing up to a service or putting in an order. One click should take prospects to the right place, so don’t link to your home page.
8. Test your ad copy
It’s hard to predict how effective different advertising messages will be. So it’s worth testing different titles or calls to action. If you are advertising on Google AdWords, for instance, you can run three or four different ads in one ad group and AdWords will rotate your ads, analyse your 'click through rate' (CTR) and highlight the best performing ad.