I've always loved writing for Google Ads. I love writing and I love structure. In terms of writing, you could say I love small, compact structures. So, for me, writing copy under character limits feels like boarding Steel Force at Dorney Park.
I believe you need three things to write great ads for Google Ads campaigns:
An understanding of ad structure and character limits
A set of best practices to use as guidelines
The ability to understand what works and what doesn’t work
Ultimately, no matter how you feel about your copy, your audience will tell you whether your ads are good or not, and if you know what to revise and how to revise it, it’s easy to get more clicks and more conversions.
What follows is my personal collection of best practices and advice for writing compelling copy for Google Ads.
Searcher Intent Influences Your Content
So, let’s back up to understand why searchers are coming to your ad in the first place: They want something. These wants influence the content of your ad.
Searchers (or your prospective customers) have a need or a problem, and your ad (or your business) answers their search by offering a solution.
This is where writing for Google Ads starts.
Great Landing Page Copy Leads To Great Ad Copy
When I write ads, I want to hook searchers. I want them to click my ad, but I also have to pull them onto and through the landing page to aid a conversion. Yes, other factors create an excellent landing page experience, but it all starts with language.
So, writing for Google Ads actually starts with the copy on my landing page. I suggest writing landing page copy before writing Google Ads copy.
A searcher’s experience needs to be smooth. That’s how you, as an advertiser, get cheaper costs and better results. This is why it’s so important to craft copy that sets the right expectation.
If I create a false sense of expectation in my ad, users will quickly leave my landing page. Landing page copy influences the copy in my ads, because I want my ad copy to lead seamlessly into my landing page copy. By elevating the most compelling landing page copy into my ad copy, I take an important step toward delivering on searchers’ expectations.
Understanding Ad Format & Character Count
The most basic ad in Google Ads is the text ad for Search campaigns. It has an available 270 characters for you to fill with a compelling message. This message can fit across three 30-character headlines and two 90-character descriptions, as seen below:
However, not all of the headlines or descriptions will always show (thanks, Google!). On both desktop and mobile devices, instead of showing all three headlines and two descriptions, Google may sometimes show two headlines and one description, or they may show two headlines and two descriptions:
So, it’s important to write your ads with this context in mind.
Tips For Clickable Headlines & Supporting Descriptions
Each headline in a text ad should be short and snappy. I write 30-character headlines using the following tips:
Lead with keyword
Match users’ objective
Provide incentive (price, promotion, exclusive)
Target emotional triggers
Include call to action
Consult and steal from competitors
I always try to hold the first two tips in my mind at once: “lead with keyword” and “match users’ objective.” You might include a keyword in your headline, but that does not always mean your ad will satisfy the intent of the searcher when he/she uses that keyword, and this is always your #1 goal as a copywriter and an advertiser: satisfy your user. You don’t want every user who searches your target keyword to click your ad. You only want the right users.
The two 90-character descriptions offer space to further appeal to searchers. This is where I:
Emphasize value and benefits
Mention problems prospective customers have
Position products/services as solutions to those problems
When you’re coming up with descriptions, you want to showcase your most compelling information. You may have data informing your direction, data that says exactly what your target audience values. You want to include that information here. You also want the central search intent and the central intent of your landing page to be reflected in this copy.
Ideally, as you write these headlines and descriptions, and play with phrases under the defined character count, you’ll have snippets of copy that do not make the cut. You might consider using these snippets in your ad extensions.
Reinforcing Your Message With Ad Extensions
The main benefit of deploying ad extensions alongside your ads is to improve clicks and conversions. You want to use extensions to show valuable information that searchers may need in order to make a buying decision. This also means your extensions should be closely related to the content of your ads.
There are a variety of available extensions.
Here are the most common extensions I use with my clients and when I use them:
Sitelinks: Allow you to direct searchers to other relevant pages on your website. This may mean linking to products, services, or sales pages. Or it may mean linking to content offer downloads. Depending on your preference and usage, sitelinks help you share additional information about your offering or suggest an alternate conversion path:
Callout: Great for extending your key message. These are usually quick bits of information that you left out of your description, or they may be a mix of benefits/features:
Call: If phone calls are valuable to you as a form of conversion, adding your phone number to your ad is a great way to give searchers an alternate way to contact you:
Location: If you’re a local business and you want to give your ad a local feel, or you want searchers to visit your storefront, you may choose to include your business location in this extension (seen in the example above).
Structured Snippets: Provide additional data points about your business. Popular snippets include Amenities, Brands, Courses, Models, Neighborhoods, Service catalog, Styles, and Types. Whether you sell services or products, you should use at least one of these snippet segments to relay relevant information about your offering:
Promotion: When you’re running a sales promotion, you promote it through your headlines, but you may also choose to show a special code and promotion date to searchers. This extension is great for seasonal and holiday campaigns.
Price: When cost is an important factor of the buying process, price extensions give you the ability to display your products with prices (seen in the example above).
Continue The Cyclic Copywriting Process
Another reason I love writing for Google Ads is that the ad copy is never finished. After the copy is written and released, you start to compile data on your ads, and you use that data to revise them and improve their performance.
How do you know what ad copy is working and what’s not working? Your best copy will yield clicks and conversions. If you have an ad with high spend, high clicks, and low to no conversions, there’s something in the copy that could be attracting the wrong users or setting the wrong expectations.
Clicks and click-through rate tell you how appealing your ads are to a majority of searchers. You optimize for healthy click-throughs until your campaigns start delivering conversions. Then, conversions and conversion rate become the leading indicators for successful ads.
Once your ads start delivering a favorable quantity and quality of conversions, you can use your marketing intuition, and the best practices above, to create challengers to your winning ads and see if your variant ads are able to deliver more of the same kinds of conversions.