This is the 5th post in our ‘Ad Text Optimization With the Pros’ interview series. Be sure to check out the other featured interviews for even more Ad Text insight!
Bethany Bey is an Account Executive at Hanapin Marketing, an Indiana-based Internet and search engine marketing firm that develops results-driven websites and search marketing campaigns.
The subject of statistical significance in ad testing is a really interesting one for me because I perceive PPC ad copywriting to be a great example of traditional marketing meeting a more Web and data centric means of reaching customers. In other words: it’s ad copy, it’s ad creative, but tests and refinements tend to be data driven.
So my question is this: if I give you two PPC account managers who are going to focus on nothing but ad text: one is very creative and great at creating copy that resonates with searchers, but very weak on data analysis. The other is a data wonk and religious tester but not much of a copywriter. If we leave them both to their own devices and come back in 12 months, whose ad text would you bet on to be more effective?
I’d have to say the creative ad writer would be more effective. I think the data wonk would be able to improve performance of their ads more over the 12-month period but I don’t think performance would get to the level of the creative writer. Neither skill set though is enough on its own.
What advice would you have for the first persona to help them create a process for optimization that would be manageable for them given their weakness in data analysis?
Only focus on testing one element at a time. If you write two completely different ads it will be impossible to pinpoint exactly why one ad performed better than another. First write two ads with the same exact text and display URLs, targeting the same keyword, and just change the headline. Once a best performing headline is determined use that for both ads, but change up the ad text.
What advice would you have for the second persona given that they aren’t a strong copywriter (besides signing up for Boost and letting us do the writing for them)?
I would recommend looking at the company’s website for whom they are writing the ad copy. The company will know what words/phrases best speak to their target marketing and will incorporate them throughout the website. Pick the phrases that stand out. Also look at the company’s other marketing efforts. Listen to radio ads or watch commercials. What do they say in those ads that you can add into your PPC ad copy?
All right now I think it would be really helpful for our audience to learn more about your process for optimizing ads for multiple clients. First off: how often are you jumping into the account and tweaking ad text, setting up new ad tests, etc. (this could either be on a per-client basis or generally “I write every day, week, etc.”)?
My process for optimizing ads is relatively the same for all clients, the major difference is how often I test new ads. For higher traffic clients I usually write ads about once every 2 weeks to give it time to accrue data. For lower traffic clients it can be up to 1 month before I write new ads. It is important to make sure you are giving your ads enough time to run to truly see if one outperforms the other.
When you do dig in and start to optimize ads, how do you decide where to go first? Is it a function of other diagnoses (ie you see that a group’s CTR has dropped and start to drill down) or do you have a process for identifying which ads need help (ie do you look for ads that have high volume and low CTR?)
I try to maintain a regular schedule for reviewing ads so I don’t let an underperforming ad run too long. For most clients I run an ad report once every two weeks. I download an ad report into excel and sort by campaign and ad group. Then I compare the CTR and conversion rates of each ad in an ad group and assess whether it’s the landing page making the difference in performance or the ad copy. The underperforming ad is paused and I write a new ad using the elements that are working from the best performing ad.
Once you decide where to work on optimizing ads, how do you decide what to test? Do you have a standard formula or is it entirely variable based on the Ad Group, keywords, landing page, etc.?
I try to keep myself on a schedule so I can make sure I’m testing all the areas of ad optimization. When I’m creating an account or taking over a PPC account managed by someone else I’ll start with testing different headlines. Then I’ll work down to the ad text and then the display URL. After I have determined the best ad for the group, I’ll pair it with different landing pages to find the best combination. Once I’ve gone through the whole process I’ll start over again and see if I can optimize the ad even further.
In choosing ads to optimize and thinking about what to change, how do you decide to “qualify” more in an ad? Is there a statistical threshold? (By qualify I just mean re-write the ad to better weed out irrelevant traffic that may be clicking but not converting.) If you do make this decision, is it something you’re faced with frequently?
I’ll take a look at the search query report of a particular ad group and see if the search terms match my ads or if the users are looking for something completely different. Being able to see exactly what people are typing into the search engines helps to better target ads to the users. If I’m getting a lot of clicks from irrelevant search queries then my ads aren’t sending the right message.
Being agency-side you’re working on multiple campaigns: are you making use of ad text templates either within a campaign or cross-campaigns? If so, can you share your basic approach to creating an ad text template (we don’t need specific templates obviously but maybe just your approach to creating a template)? Also do you have any best practices around implementation (ie don’t use templates on your highest volume groups, use templates liberally as you launch a campaign but then go back and test, etc.)?
I don’t typically use ad templates. I find it best to really focus on the ad group and keywords and write ads targeted toward them. You’ll generate better results if you focus on writing the best ad for a particular ad group instead of following a set template. I do always try follow general best practices, such as including a keyword in the headline, and stating a benefit and call to action in the ad text.
How much of a priority is ad text optimization for you? If you could quantify it as a percentage of your optimization efforts roughly what do you think that would look like (5% of your time? 10%?) and how does that compare to activities like managing bids, testing different landing pages, etc.?
I manage bids and other tasks like that more frequently, but when I do an ad review I will spend more time on that task. I believe ads are the most important thing to driving performance of an account. Yes account structure and quality score is important, but all the consumers see is your ad. If the ad is good they’ll click. If it’s bad they won’t, no matter how high your quality score.
How does your process for ads on the Content Network (particularly display ads) differ from that of the search network, if at all?
Ad headlines and copy on the display network need to be more persuasive than on the search network. People aren’t actively search for your products so you have to provide a good reason for them to click. I usually use more general keywords as well to target the wider display audience.
Can you think of one ad text tweak that was just way more successful than you thought it would be?
Adding the expiration date of a sale to the end of the ad copy. Ads with and without the expiration date got relatively the same amount of clicks, but the conversion rate for ads with the expiration date were 4 times as high. I think including the expiration date brings a sense of urgency to the ad and targets people who are looking to buy now.
Can you give us an ad text “secret” that you find works for you? Maybe it’s not an actual secret, but something that’s not a commonly discussed best-practice that you find consistently improves results?
My secret weapon is just keeping myself organized. I always have tests running in my ad groups and I run ad reviews regularly to evaluate performance. I also record the winning headlines/ad text in an excel file so I know what I’ve tested in the past and what has proven effective.