The severe space limitations of search-based PPC ads means the ad writer have to make a lot of either/or choices. One can’t fit it all, so you often have to choose:

  • Focus on Feature or on Benefit?
  • Extra keyword usage or deal sweetener
  • Unsubstantiated claim/adjective or added info-bit
  • Focus on readable prose or streamline with abbreviations and classified ad-speak
  • Use percentages or fractions — 67% or two thirds or 2/3rds?
  • The emotional but longer word, or the shorter but less evocative synonym?


You get the picture. There’s a lot to choose from. And while they ARE best practices you can use as a rule of thumb, it helps to think critically about the choices, because the best thing you can do is to test variants and find out the real answer, rather than assuming an application of a rule of thumb or best practice equals magic that guarantees performance. Although best practices USUALLY pan out, they’re rules of thumb, not guaranteed 100% laws of the universe, and their results depend greatly upon how intelligently and boldly you apply them.


For example, take a look at this recent win:


Pay per click best practices
OK. So in some ways you can look at this ad and pick out a few best practices that the winning ad made use of. It uses the “Official Site” language in the headline. The first line of copy focuses on a benefit rather than a feature, and the Call to Action includes a benefit and a time pressure element.


At the same time, though, the losing ad that’s the installed price, and it also has a benefit in the second line of copy. It also makes use of the registered mark. So it’s not like the losing ad is without best practices either.


So what’s the point? The point is that looking at your options gives you options to test. If you were the ad writer looking at the previous best-performing ad and saw a phrase like “Protect Your Home” you could consciously think: “that’s a statement of benefit — a best practice — but it’s limply worded and it makes it seem like the alarm will help you protect your home, rather than the alarm doing the job. Let’s stick with the benefit idea, but use a stronger, more vivid phrasing, like ‘Stops Crime Before It Happens'”


When you’re testing, you can boldly but methodically think like this — you can more aggressively and intelligently apply best practices and tweak word choice and phrasing. Then you can see what works and improve on things from there.


But if you’re just writing ads and looking at metrics, this kind of thinking rarely happens. And you end up with mediocre ads — even if the ads “use best practice” elements in them.


And that’s a tip from the Boosters: when in doubt, test.