Think about how often you write and update text ads. Every time you start new campaigns, update products, and test your ads, you create habits that carry over into the next time you write an ad. Improve your habits, and that repetition becomes practice for writing effectively. It becomes second nature. Over time, you can only get better.
In this guide, we use our experience from seeing millions of ad examples to show you best practices for writing good text ads.
We'll cover two sections that both contribute to ad writing:
- What Makes a Good Ad? -- Points to keep in mind when you develop your approach
- How to Write Good Ads that Get Clicks -- Details about writing headlines and ad body
To make sure you're ingraining the best habits into your practice, start with these ad-writing guidelines.
What makes a good ad?
Your ad's job is to earn the click. There are many steps in the sales funnel, and it's important that we set this straight. It is not your ad's job to cover all of the steps of the sales process. It won't (necessarily) overcome obstacles or close the deal. Your Google Ad is directed at a narrow audience that showed interest by searching for a topic or question. Remember that, because your ad has a specific role.
Your ad connects that search to your landing page.
The ad sets up a meaningful promise that the landing page will answer.
In an ad, your guiding rule should be "the purpose of the ad is to get them to the landing page." I say this instead of "get them to click" because if you keep the landing page as the focus, it helps you to remember two things.
- The landing page needs to match the ad, and the ad should match the landing page.
- It is the landing page's job to convert.
A good ad gets you to the landing page. A good landing page converts visitors from the ad. That process is a lot smoother when the ad sets up a promise that the landing page delivers clearly.
Why does that matter?
The two elements need to both be strong, otherwise the experience falls apart.
If you have a compelling ad that makes a promise that a weak landing page doesn't support -- people will click but they won't convert.
Now you've wasted your money.
If you have a strong landing page with a broad, and unenticing ad -- no one will click to even see your landing page.
You've wasted the opportunity.
A good ad makes the reader see your solution as an answer for their pain point.
That applies even if their pain isn't a complaint. Sometimes they don't feel the pain until you've introduced it in your ad.
For example, sunglasses that get caught in your hair is obvious pain. But so is the fear of missing out. Uncertainty about whether you are investing your money well is pain. Boredom is pain.
No matter if your product or service alleviates financial, emotional, technical, or physical pain, it means nothing until you show it as a relevant and effective solution. Once you do that, you have taken the first and most important step in writing good ad copy. It ties in to all of the other ad writing best practices that we'll touch on.
In the next section, we'll talk about how you can figure out what their pain point is. It's important to adjust your messaging so that it touches on different angles of the same product or service.
That means that you'll have multiple ads with different messages.
For audiences that are price sensitive, you can address value or promo codes. If they want long lasting products, address quality and guarantees.
Relevance is the Magic Key
When you offer your product or service as a solution, direct them to a landing page that backs that up. The more relevant your landing page is to your ad, the more likely you are to convert that visitor.
That means that whatever you said in the ad should be easily found and expanded upon in your landing page. If your ad mentions "gluten free cookies shipped anywhere," make sure that the searcher gets the info for those specific cookies as soon as they click.
Just dropping them onto your general landing page for baked goods won't be a good experience. Don't make them go digging. Without a good experience, there isn't much reason for them to stick around on your site to make a purchase. They will leave, and you will have paid for the click with no shot at a conversion.
"This sounds like I need many different landing pages."
Actually, that's not a bad idea.
The landing page is where your visitor lands when they click your ad. If you have ads that highlight a low price starting point and different ads that highlight a premium one-on-one service, then you would ideally have separate landing pages that promote each idea.
Ad Groups help guide better, more relevant ads
Google Ads operate with ad groups for all of your ads, so use those as your guide for separate ad messages and separate landing pages.
For example, here are a small set of ad groups for invisalign.com that we found by using SpyFu's PPC Keywords tool and selecting the "Groups" view.
Invisalign is an alternative to traditional orthodontic braces. All of these groups are made up of invisalign.com's paid keywords that are related to braces.
Each subset like "cost," "vs," and "adults" includes a collection of long tail keywords that all share the same theme. If we drill into the insurance group, we see invisalign.com's paid keywords that all focus on braces + insurance.
The ad manager can create ads about insurance for braces and how Invisalign can work with them. Those ads might have similar copy and use dynamic keyword placement to add relevance. Then, the landing page would address costs for Invisalign and how those can be managed by insurance.
Since these are all one ad group, they would have their own ad and landing page that addresses the searcher's pain(concerns, questions) about braces and insurance.
That practice heightens your relevance, and all of that starts with the keyword.
- The keyword is the searcher's clue about what they need.
- The ad answers that need with a solution.
- The landing page connects them directly with that solution.
If all three of those connect well, your relevance will snowball into benefits for you:
A relevant ad will get more clicks. Google rewards higher-clicked ads by running them more often. It also raises your Quality Score, which Google later uses to determine how much you pay for each click.
(Do you see where this is going?)
A relevant landing page will convert more often than a general landing page. That makes your landing page more valuable than other pages.
Combine those relevant clicks, higher Quality Score and high-performing landing pages, and you will pay less money for ads that convert at a higher rate. This higher ROAS is not only better for your bottom line, but it allows you to continue to reinvest more marketing dollars in an effective ad channel that's working for you. This is a big win.
One great part about advertising on Google is that the search helps tell you what the pain is so that you can aim for better relevance. That's where search intent plays a big part is writing good ads that lead to conversions.
A good ad writer learns how to determine search intent.
The nice thing about Google search ads that are different from other online ads is that you have a clue about what the reader wants to find at that very moment. This makes them a more qualified lead compared to interest-based advertising. And since you decide which searches will trigger your ad, you can write your message with precision.
If you know what the person behind the keyboard is trying to accomplish, you can adjust your ad messaging so it fits their search. Fortunately, their keyword choice is probably loaded with clues. Small differences in phrasing can tell you about the user's search intent.
Consider these similar searches and how they could trigger different ads:
Search: travel mug
Action: You would present your strongest travel mug options. Probably not a high-converting ad.
Search: insulated travel mug
Action: This is more than just announcing in your ad that you have an insulated travel mug. The search intent hints at a pain point. Their hot drink goes cold too fast. Work in data-backed details like "drinks stay hot 8+ hours" or review-driven content like "piping hot through my commute."
It would be tempting to run the same ad for two such similar keywords, but as we mentioned in the previous section: a more specifically targeted ad and landing page combination are more likely to convert, and at a lower ad cost.
Search intent describes the stage that the searcher is in. In early stages, they are researching and looking for information. They're narrowing down products and services. These searches tend to be shorter in length like "LVP flooring" or "ice chests."
That doesn't mean that long tail searches are always buying-signal keywords, but they do give you more details about what the user is trying to find. Because of that, you can advertise on long-tail keywords with a more targeted message. With that kind of relevance, your Quality Score is likely to go up, and your CPC could potentially go down.
- Informational: Looking for answers (When was America founded?)
- Navigational: Looking to go somewhere on the web (Ally Bank customer service)
- Commercial Investigation: Looking to learn more before buying (wireless mouse reviews)
- Transactional: Looking to buy (download Star Wars font)
That's a general description of how some clues in the keywords can help you determine search intent. We recommend digging into the details of search intent so you can learn how to detect the signals and write good ad copy for all types of situations.
A good ad earns the click.
White sand beaches with gorgeous vistas. That's a nice idea, isn't it? But what do you do with it: Is it a promised vacation? The scent of a new candle? It's missing something.
- Escape to white sand beaches with gorgeous vistas. Book an unforgettable vacation.
- Breathe in white sand beaches with gorgeous vistas. Carve out a small bit of paradise at home with our new candles. Choose 3-wick or single-wick, starting at $10.
But still all of those, no doubt, are really nice ideas. What turns a nice idea into a good ad is a strong call to action.
A strong call to action is specific instruction that tells the reader the exact next step they should take when they click:
- Sign up now
- Buy yours today
- Get it before supplies run out
- Start your free trial
You might notice in many of these examples that the structure is action + time. This folds in a layer of urgency. It's subtle, but you're working with the reader's conscious and unconscious reasoning. Plant the seed that they need to act and act soon.
How to Write Good Ads that Get Clicks
We just recapped why relevance is so important in ads, and that applies to the parts of the ads, too: headlines, descriptions, etc. Every element should be relevant to your ad’s message and target audience. Now, we're going to look at how to put your messages together. In other words, we covered what's important in an ad; now we're going to look at how to write ads that work.
In general, you can use the rules for good ad writing and apply it to display ads and Facebook ads. In this section, we will focus on best practices for writing Google Ads.
One more thing: Google Ads allows for a fair amount of creativity in ad descriptions, but there are still some character limits to be aware of.
Headline: 30 characters
Description: 90 characters
Write headlines that will grab attention and encourage people to click through on your ad.
You have only about 30 characters to do this, so use clear, concise language, and make the visitor read the next line. Use one of these tips:
- Use the keyword so that your headline directly ties to the search. OR
- Use compelling phrases that connect to your description.
Here are examples of the second suggestion: phrases that connect to your description. This ad is for the keyword "airport shuttle." It effectively answers the need of airport transportation without saying "shuttle" in the ad.
This headline gets a lot of attention for its quippy nature. It appears on the search for a competitor's name, and readers often comment on its attention-grabbing phrasing.
This next one is All Benefits. The search "Invisalign pricing" hints at my pricing pain point, and it delivers with an answer + benefit of a new smile in a short amount of time.
Google allows you to write up to 3 headline variations, so get creative and test. Keep in mind that each variation needs to match and support the descriptions you have set up for these particular ads.
Google's responsive search ads take a little focus to set up at first, but they can give you valuable insights into how certain messages connect with your audience.
Now if the headline has done its job, the reader is checking out your description. The purpose of the description (ad body/ad copy) is to get the reader to click.
To do that, use these tips to write ad copy that supports your headline while enticing the reader to get to your landing page.
- Use active voice and strong verbs to grab attention and convey a sense of urgency.
- Be clear and concise. Use simple language that can be understood by everyone.
- Focus on the benefits of your product or service, rather than features.
- Use numbers, percentages, and other statistics to add credibility and interest.
- Include a strong call to action (CTA).
Here are some longer explanations of those tips.
Active voice means skipping passive verbs like "have" and replacing it with "get." Small word choices speak to your reader's subconscious and get them to realize they're in control of the action.
This ad from Angi loads in active verbs like request, compare, read, and view.
Be clear and concise: Say "use" instead of "utilize." Watch for long sentences that aren't easy to digest.
Benefits are stronger and more persuasive than features. It's hard to separate the two in your own mind when the product is your area of expertise. Coffee companies recognize that certain packaging helps retain flavor, but customers won't immediately get it. The advertiser wants to say that all of their beans ship in a lined and sealed bag, because they automatically see the benefit. Instead, it's more important to connect the dots for the customer. "Rich, long-lasting flavor and freshness" is the benefit.
The exception to this rule is when that feature has been missing from a known product like "washing-machine-safe shoes" and luggage with shoe compartments.
Avoid Tired, Overused Adjectives
This next line might seem counter-intuitive, but try to write headlines without phrases like "best" and "leading." They are so overused that readers don't think much of them. The "leading company" line is almost an empty description that implies they had nothing stronger to say about themselves or their service.
Unless you include data to back it up, avoid "best" for the same reason. It has lost much of its value with readers being pummeled with messages. Instead, pour unique benefits into the headline as if you're answering why this is the best.
Instead of "Get the best air fryer" try "Cook in less time and with more space."
Then, in the description, try specific reasons why your product is the best at something.
- Outlasts the closest competitor by 33%...
- Withstands years of use and still looks brand new…
- "...Top-tier 98% customer satisfaction rating"
Bonus Tip: Test, test, test
Don’t be afraid to test different headlines to see what works best for your business. Try out a few different headlines and see which ones get the most clicks and conversions. Roll your winners back into the lineup and adjust the ones that didn't get much engagement.
Create Urgency the Right Way
While studying millions of ads, we were able to sort them into two categories: dropped ads that performed lower than average, and high-performing, trusted ads that convert. If we focus mostly on the second group (the winners) then we can find the common elements of strong ads. Some of the surprising lessons tied right into creating urgency.
First, let's review what it means to create urgency. Ad writers create urgency by making the reader feel that they need to act now or miss out on something big. (And that "something" could be the solution to the pain point they showed in their search.)
To create urgency, the writer can limit supplies, offer a low price for a short time, or simply use language that builds excitement to act.
With all those options to create urgency, some are more persuasive than others. The ads that convert taught us these tips:
- Time is more powerful than scarcity
- Avoid exclamation points (usually)
Tip #1: Readers react more to time running out than they do to supplies running out.
Both scenarios should make readers act soon. They can miss out because of their own procrastination, or it might be out of their hands if other shoppers beat them to the deal. However, ads tell us that time is more powerful.
Limited time offer > Limited Supply
Tip #2: Be careful with using exclamation points. Depending on the situation, they might hurt your click rate.
No matter how exciting your special offer is, tacking an exclamation point onto it is a conversion killer. Even when your message is strong, it loses its luster when you tack on an exclamation point.
Free shipping > Free shipping!
Any punctuation lovers can take heart; we found a distinct rule of thumb:
- When you have an exciting offer, leave the exclamation point out.
- When you have a sense of urgency, leave it in.
Supplies won't last! > Supplies won't last
Remember that a good ad is a jumping point. It makes the reader move from their search to your landing page, and it sets the tone for what your landing page will deliver. If you can nail that combination with the tips we laid out, then you can create good ad copy variations to test.
That's the starting point that you return to multiple times, because good ads turn into great ads when you incorporate what you learned by testing.