Understanding best practices for things like AdWords headline writing, leveraging symbols in PPC ad text, and getting the most out of the tools in the AdWords interface like the ad preview tool are critical for achieving paid search marketing success, but you also have to understand what tools are and aren’t at your disposal in writing great ad copy: ie you need to know the rules.

In this post we’ll highlight some of the more important rules and guidelines that are enforced by the leading paid search marketing platforms, and we’ll talk a bit about how you can get the most out of your ad copy despite some of these restrictions.

Google AdWords Ad Text Guidelines

Google’s ad text guidelines are outlined in their support center, and while it’s a bit dry there is a ton of great information within their tutorial (their video content tends to be a bit more easily digestible, incidentally). In that help document you’ll find:

  • Grammar and Text Guidelines – The main gist here is that you can use things like abbreviations and slang, as long as the sentence remains legible.
  • No Gimmicky Text – Basically the idea here is that you don’t want to have blatantly gimmicky text, such as repeating the same exact description text twice.
  • Trademarks and Competition – The highlights here are that you can bid on a trademarked term as a keyword, you can’t use the term in ad text, and you can’t use superlatives like better and best without some proof to back up the claims on your landing page.

AdWords Text Ad Length & AdWords Text Ad Limits

One of the most oft-asked questions by new advertisers is on the subject of ad text length. Here is the breakdown on character limit for AdWords advertisers:

  • Ad titles are limited to 25 characters.
  • The two description lines are limited to 35 characters each.
  • The display URL in your ad can show up to 35 characters. You can enter a URL longer than 35 characters, but it will appear shortened when your ad is displayed.
  • The third line must fit completely within the character limit. It also cannot lead into the display URL with phrases such as “See this site:” or “Learn more at.”
  • Languages using double-byte characters (such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, and Arabic) have the following character limits: 12 characters in the title, 17 characters for each line of ad text, and 35 characters for the display URL (only single-byte characters are allowed in the display URL field).
  • Certain Eastern European and Asian countries support longer text ads limited to 30 characters in the title and 76 characters in the ad text. Longer text ads in double-byte character languages are limited to 15 characters in the title and 19 characters in each line of ad text.
  • If you run out of characters, the display URL field cannot be used as another line of ad text.

AdWords also offers guidelines around the specific text ad extensions, including:

You can also find guidelines around the other ad types offered by Google under their ad format and technical guidelines help documentation.

adCenter Ad Text Guidelines

The adCenter team has put together a list of editorial guidelines of their own (and they were even nice enough to break some of the text and include a few pictures). The section on ad content and style is home to many of the highlights in the adCenter editorial guidelines, and since there’s a lot of overlap we’ll focus on the items in the adCenter ad text guidelines that are different from Google’s.

adCenter Ad Text Length & adCenter Ad Text Limits

  • Minimum word count. A combined total of at least 6 words is required in your title and descriptive text.
  • Character limitations. If your ad title, ad text, or destination URL exceeds certain character limitations, you will receive an error message. Character limits are calculated with dynamic text included in the calculdation. The limitations:
  • Ad title: 25 characters, including spaces.
  • Ad text: 70 characters, including spaces.
  • Display URL: 35 characters. (The display URL (the Internet address that customers see in an ad following the ad text) is the last line of your ad.)
  • Destination URL: 1,024 characters. (The destination URL (the Internet address of the webpage a customer is taken to after clicking an ad link, or display URL) is not displayed in your ad, but it is used for your landing page.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the differences between adCenter and AdWords. If you’re interested in learning more about how the two platforms differ, Brad Geddes had an outstanding post complete with a very handy table outlining key differences.

Why Understand Ad Text Guidelines?

Ultimately ad text guidelines constitute “the basics” in paid search marketing and knowing these guidelines certainly doesn’t equip you to write great ads or create great ad testing processes, but it’s essential to understand the rules and limitations of these platforms so that you can fully grasp the weapons at your disposal.