The Truth About PPC Writing: Getting Results With PPC Ads

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By Don Sturgill

Want to know how to boost your PPC ad click-through rate (CTR) immediately? Do you think better PPC writing could help boost the success of your pay-per-click campaigns and deliver a more favorable return on investment?

Let’s cut to the chase.

Here’s the recipe: Stop writing PPC titles and start writing PPC headlines.

What is the difference between a title and a headline?

TITLE: Consists of the seriously descriptive words at the top of every essay paper you have ever written and every text book you have begrudgingly sort-of read. A title is like a road sign … it provides accurate information.

HEADLINE: These are the words that STOP. Reach. Implore you to read them. Headlines resonate with those they are meant to attract. They draw attention.You absolutely must know the answer. You must. Headlines are like road signs, but with a twist …

Perfect PPC sign
A sign at Dull, Scotland. via Peter Mercator. Creative Commons.

Why should you care about headlines in PPC writing?

Good question. The truth is: Not everyone thinks the words you use make a difference … and that can carry over from college to the cube farm.

For instance: A student may believe it is enough just to get through the assignment. 5000 words of blather … why should the five-word title matter all that much?

The truth is: Switching from titles to headlines can provide a better grade for the same work. The instructor grading the paper will be predisposed to like your paper better when the headline (not a typical title) grabs his or her attention. It’s like cold water in the face. Teachers often read seemingly endless pile of boring papers. When you take time to compose a headline, yours stands out. (I know: there is a particular type of writing academia loves, and it is typically required for research papers. Most academic writing could gag a maggot.)

Successful writers have already learned the lesson: You love the title you gave that new book. You sent it off to the publisher, and the ding-danged editor changed your title. Then the book became a million-seller. You are happy.

FOR EXAMPLE: In 1991, the Marcy Brothers recorded a song. You have, perhaps, never heard of the Marcy Brothers. In 1992, Billy Ray Cyrus took the very same song, MADE IT A HEADLINE, and pushed it to certified Platinum. You may have heard of Billy Ray or his daughter, Miley Cyrus, had it not been for Achy Breaky Heart. Rather, you would know about as much about the Cyrus clan as you do the Marcy Brothers (who decided on Don’t Tell My Heart as their title and  used “Achy breaking heart” in the lyrics.

Billy Ray Cyrus photo
Billy Ray Cyrus. Marine Corps Photo. Public Domain. Image taken by Lance Cpl. Cory A. Tepfenhart.

Go ahead, listen to the two renditions. What’s the million-selling difference?

You got it: just a few changed words put one out to pasture and the other through the ceiling.

Successful marketers and PPC writers realize the headline can make or break great copy. Even weak copy will get attention from an excellent headline, but excellent copy may never see the light of a reader’s eyes if the headline is weak.

Typical advice concerning how to write “killer headlines” (PPC writing included)

Run a Google search. Run a Bing search. Ask your neighbor. The gurus agree and begrudgingly share the “secret sauce for headlines.”

There are various renditions, but all will include advice like this (with the list extended to 10 or 12) …

  1. Ask a question – Readers are instantly drawn to questions.
  2. Make a shocking statement – My mother wears what? !!!
  3. Point out a danger – The world will end tomorrow. Only a few tickets left.
  4. Give them the ol’ “how to” special – Everyone wants to know how to do something.
  5. Take a lesson from David Letterman – Always use lists: Top 10 Ways to Write Killer Headlines.

On and on it goes.

And … as my buddy, Jon Morrow, the undisputed king of “Headline Hacks” will tell you: This stuff works like hot wax on a patch of hair … rightly written headlines will get the reader’s attention. For PPC writing, it will take a well-designed and suited-to-the-ad landing page to keep that attention (or the right kind of response to a click-through phone call.)

The secret sauce the experts aren’t spilling

For pay-per-click writing, especially, there is another way to approach headlines, (or “ad-lines,” if you will). Reading through the list of headline hack shortcuts and standbys can certainly help you come up with ideas – especially for article writing.

But the most effective way to approach PPC writing is to begin with your BPCyour “best potential customer.”

Really, that’s the premise behind keywords. You want to know the language your BPC’s are using when searching for topics related to your business. The savvy PPC ad writer will then craft PPC headlines (not titles, mind you) to attract the attention of those best potential customers, inviting them to take the first step towards becoming a current customer.

two arrows target
via Casito. Creative Commons.

Where PPC account managers often miss the mark

The day is coming (I’ve my amateur Nostradamus suit on again) when high-performing pay-per-click agencies will admit that passing the Google AdWords certification exam does not make one a PPC writer – not by a long shot.

The current most popular means of fine tuning ads is the shotgun method: fire off a volley of rounds in the general direction of the target, watch the results to see who goes for what, reload, and then powder up for another volley.

That allows account managers to brag about being top-gun PPC ad writers and eventually results in ad groups that perform “good enough.”

Of course, you know who pays for all this experimenting, don’t you? Don’t you? And what if you are someone who thinks good enough isn’t good enough? Then what?

Where oh where can the PPC writer be?

The logical recourse to the situation would be to hire real writers, battle-scarred veterans, to bring craftsmanship to the table and lend a hand. Two problems with that: real writers need real wages AND there aren’t that many writers (yet) who are Google AdWords certified. As the prophet said, though, “The times, they are a changing.”

Another problem: real writers are fine with meeting deadlines, but tend to balk at “I need 60 ads written every hour … and the clock is ticking.” Shotgun blasters have little need for research, customer personas, or anything that resembles serious thought. They only want ads … a bunch of ads … and they want them NOW.

To be fair, there is a strategic use for shotgunning. When the bids are set correctly and negative keywords are in place, a quick scatter-shot approach can help get a more accurate view of the territory. It’s like popping a flare at night: for a little while, the surroundings become much more evident. As an ongoing and primary means of advertising, though, the shotgun approach will never deliver marksmanship-quality results.

Do it yourself PPC writing made simple (not easy, but simple)

The premise is fairly simple, though. With some forethought, most anyone can make a start. Find a rifle and scope. And rather than fire in the general direction of your customers, settle in like a sniper.

Observe the behavior of your best potential customers. Listen to them. Carefully craft words meant to get their attention. Then, when the time and place are right, don’t FIRE at them, rather seek to join them in the conversation.

Point your BPC’s (best potential customers) towards a solution to their most troublesome problems. Become a trusted friend and adviser, not a salesman or hawker of “better than butter” gimmicks and gadgets. Get real.

You see, the primary problem with pseudo writers is they take their ideas from the zillion other shotgun-blasted ads seen every day on every channel. They either copy the hucksters, or they shoot for cutesy work that leaves potential customers wondering what in the world the ad is talking about.

Titles accurately describe the content. Headlines draw attention from a select audience. And it all begins with listening.

To find out more about how to identify and begin talking with your best potential customers, see the following Conversion Max articles:

What You Don’t Know About PPC Advertising

The Most Important Part of Any Business

Learn How to Listen Better — And Win More Customers

To find out how to optimize your landing pages, check here:

Optimizing Landing Pages

Why You Need Customer Personas

Landing Page Golden Rules

Find out more about how to increase click-through, boost your conversions, and target your PPC ads to the right customers. Call 888-659-2680 for your no cost, no obligation initial consultation with the Conversion Max team.

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Don Sturgill

Freelance Writer at Don Sturgill
Writer, Dreamer, Believer and Friend of Entrepreneurs, Don Sturgill is a freelance writer and the author of Roadmap to Freedom (Dream Into It), the field manual that helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality … fast. Don is from Bend, Oregon, PPC capital of the world. His home on the web is at donsturgill.com.

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