If you have been writing Ad copies online and offline for some time, you know variations in Ad copy matters. In Paid Search in particular, visitors spend no more than a few seconds looking at organic search and sponsored results. Some studies have shown most visitors look at sponsored results in clutters, which means most of them will hardly read the Ad.
I was curious to find out what made a good Ad copy stands out for the competitors. In particular whether the good old principles of advertising still apply in the digital area. In Ogilvy’s 1963 book ‘confession of an advertising man‘, he laid out a number of tips to write effective ad copies. Let’s see how many of these are still relevant today:
Tip 1 ”On the average, 5 times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy’.
The headline remains the center price of any Google (or other Search Engine) Ad. It makes about 25% of total ad space allocation. Typically, it includes dynamic keyword insertion where search queries are added automatically to things such as the headline, display UR etc.
Tip 2”Inject news in the headline”
What might have been true during Ogilvy’s time is a hard thing to do in Paid Search, given space limitations of 25 characters. But if you can find creative ways to make your headline sounds like newsworthy, go for it. Keywords such as ”announcing”, ”new”, ”available now” have higher click-through-rates.
Tip 3 ”The two most powerful words are ‘NEW’ and ‘FREE”
These words definitely attract more eyeballs. The value of adding the word ‘FREE’ is a bit ambiguous. Some industry observers like Google Lady recommend to stay away from any Ad copies which includes freebies. Since advertisers pay per click, you might want to stay away from freebies hunter. They will hard convert anyway. The third keyword that has great success online is ‘OFFICIAL’. Its popularity is probably due to the fact there is a lot of junk on the web and potential visitors pay more attention to any credible Ads.
Tip 4 ”Other most powerful words include:” This is Ogilvy’s list,as published in 1963.
And here are Google Lady’s favorites (February 2010):
Once we take out all e-commerce jargon such as ‘download’, ‘free shipping”, the two lists look awfully similar!
Tip 5 ”Include your selling promise to your selling promise’
The selling promise became our value proposition but it’s pretty much the same idea than 40+ years ago. Make your value proposition relevant, unique and differentiated. Don’t forget that in an online environment, any competitor can track changes in headlines in less than 24 hours and copy it in even less.
Tip 6 ”Headlines should not contain more than 6 to 12 words”
It’s actually probably closer to 3 to 5 in Paid Search given the 25
characters space limitations. But the idea remains the same. Your Ad copy headline must telegraph your value proposition and entice potential customers to read description lines. Don’t forget the objective of your headline is not to sell, but to connect with your readers.
Tip 7 ”Do not use obscure headlines”
Obscure headlines, particularly ones with negative can be confusing to potential customers. I have always been interesting to find out how effective these Ads can be online:
As a summary, it’s interesting to see that most Ogilvy’s principles are still relevant today. I would think the primary differences lie in technology progress. Some semantics might have changed slightly ”download now” but the biggest changes are:
- Ability to dynamically create ads with customized keyword
- New functionalities such as geo-targeting, day-parting (change ads depending on time of the day) and demographics targeting (for Google’s content network for example)
- Stronger immediate call-to-action. Potential customers are now one click away to buy products and/or sign-up services.