If you are a veteran search engine marketer, designing ad copy tests might be one of the last things on your mind. After all, you are responsible for defining strategies to test last year’s KPI’s, pushing your team to innovate and maintaining a competitive edge. But this is precisely why you can benefit from reevaluating your team’s approach to ad copy testing. As someone who has been in the industry for a while, you may have inadvertently adopted erroneous beliefs about SEM ad creative that are leading to missed competitive opportunities and stunted performance.

To help you break this curse, we are launching a new blog series — Myth Buster for SEM Ads — where we debunk commonly believed myths about SEM ad creative. In this installment, we examine the myth that SEM ads shouldn’t be creative or emotionally charged because it might hurt performance.

(Spoiler alert: SEM ads can be creative and drive performance lifts simultaneously).


The Myth

SEM is based only on data, spreadsheets, and increasingly complex bidding algorithms. You might hear search engine marketers talk about leaving the emotional stuff to the branding folks because emotional creativity doesn’t perform well in SEM ads.

If this reflects your viewpoint, read on. You may be missing out on a vast opportunity, and unnecessarily exposing your brand to competition.


The Reality

SEM is about data and algorithms. It’s also about artfully appealing to emotions through concise ad creative at critical decision making points along the purchase process.

The creative license in SEM ads is limited to a 95-character scope (plus a display URL). Unlike in branded advertising channels, we can’t insert imagery of an attractive woman, her hair blowing in the wind as she drives into the sunset with her new fiancé, who has just proposed with the perfect ring he bought from a brand she loves.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t appeal to the emotions while still adhering to the strict requirements of the trade. Include the keyword in the ad, use a strong call-to-action, and sometimes, include the brand name in the headline.

With these constraints, it’s easy to understand why many SEM ads are not compelling,  do not differentiate, and out-of-sync with customers’ emotional contexts. But if you’re looking for a a competitive edge and a lift in performance, sterilized, textually relevant ad creative is no longer sufficient to deliver above-average CTRs and conversion rates. Keyword stuffing isn’t enough. Advertisers also need to develop SEM ad creative that is both textually and emotionally relevant.


The Opportunity: What Your Competitors Aren’t Doing

Let’s say a customer has decided to propose marriage and takes to a search engine to research the perfect engagement ring. Here is a sample of SEM ads this customer is likely to encounter:

SERP for engagement rings

These ads focus on financing and FedExing, which is emotionally underwhelming and out of alignment with the customer’s present excitement over searching for a dazzling ring.

Even in the most emotionally charged contexts like engagement ring selection, your competition doesn’t seem to get it. This is an opportunity for you to move the KPI needle: Test ad copy that is both emotionally and textually relevant.


Where To Go From Here

OK, so maybe you manage an SEM campaign that is selling an everyday product like laundry detergent instead of engagement rings. Does that mean that appropriate emotion in SEM ad creative can’t tip the scale to improve your conversion-to-impression rate? Not necessarily. Start by understanding why people perform searches. As Google has recently been framing it, performing searches—especially on mobile—signifies micro-moments in someone’s life:

“Want-to-know moments. Want-to-go moments. Want-to-do moments. Want-to-buy moments. They’re all micro-moments, and they’re the new battleground for brands.”

think with Google

All of these types of moments are emotionally influenced.

Even in 95 characters, a search marketer can write emotionally resonant ad creative that differentiates a brand from the competition. From the data we’ve seen at Boost, doing so drives above average performance.

Whether getting ready to make a major life decision such as proposing marriage, or making a mundane choice like selecting an allergen-free laundry soap, customers experience a degree of emotion when performing searches.


Don’t believe us? Test it out for yourself. But first, talk to Boost. We’ve done it many times, with repeated success.


 About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale.

The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.