10 Things You Shouldn’t Say in a Google AdWords Ad



Writing effective ad copy on Google AdWords is a task easier said than done. One must be able to make a compelling case for their product or service and encourage searchers to take action all while complying with Google’s policies and character limits. Given the limitations of 25 characters for a headline and two lines of 35 characters for ad text, it can be more strenuous than writing a newspaper classified ad!

If your AdWords account isn’t being managed by an agency or a professional, figuring out what approach to take in writing your AdWords ad copy can quickly become frustrating. There are many ad copywriting pitfalls that can easily damper your click-through and conversion rates. Not only can these issues cost you money in wasted clicks, but they can also leave your campaigns not reaching their fullest potential. A few simple guidelines can help make all the difference in spending smarter, not harder. For the do-it-yourself AdWords advertiser, here are 10 things you shouldn’t say in a Google AdWords ad.

1. Bad call to action

  • Example: “Check us out!”
  • Why Not? We don’t just want people to click, we want people to click with purpose! A proper call to action sets the user’s expectation of what their next step will be when they are enticed by your ad copy. This can include browsing the selection, signing up for details, or purchasing a product. Lastly, “Click Here” is a major faux pas in AdWords, ads containing this phrase are swiftly disapproved.
  • Instead, try “Shop Now”, “Learn More”, “Get a Quote”, or “Download Now” – anything that fits the desired action you want your customer to take.

2. Meaningless superlatives and “puffery”

  • Example: #1 Television Retailer; Best TV Store Ever; Cheapest TVs Online
  • Why Not? Neither Google nor searchers take kindly to puffery and meaningless claims that can’t be verified. It’s natural for the searcher to immediately doubt generic claims that have no actual value. After all, the advertiser’s mission is to attain more sales, meaning the searcher can’t put confidence in those claims. Extravagant claims void of meaning or proof can instantly hurt your credibility.
  • Instead, try using the extra characters to better explain what makes your offering unique (use your unique value proposition) or tell about your website’s key strength at a particular attribute (Ships Same Day, Excellent Service, Hassle Free).
  • Exception: The only exception is when there is a backup of said claim by a credible third party. If a popular publisher says your store or service is the best for one reason or another, feel free to flaunt this in your advertisement. It’s important, however, that you include proof of that claim within 1-2 clicks from the advertisement per Google’s policies, or you’ll risk your ad being disapproved.

3. Hailing features instead of benefits

  • Example: “Mints with as much caffeine as coffee”
  • Why Not? This is a guiding principle of direct response ad writing in general. Good ad copy is all about what the customer has to gain from using your product/service. Put it in the context of the customer’s mindset as to why they’ll want to use your product. Don’t sell the back scratcher; sell the relief of the itch.
  • Instead, try: “Feel alert and awake without the coffee breath/stains”

4. Calling out your competitors (or mudslinging)

  • Example: “Cheaper Than Amazon” or “Tired of Walmart?”
  • Why Not? While this is potentially a great way to compare your company to your competitors and get a great click-through rate on your ads, if the competitor becomes aware of an ad that is putting their name in a bad light, you can expect a cease and desist letter in short order. They can also file a trademark claim and have the ad disapproved by Google. Customers may inherently distrust mudslinging efforts, as again the source is biased to increase their own sales. Much like politics, you want customers to vote for your product (with their buying power) because it’s the best, not because the competitor is inferior.
  • Instead, try using the space to be more relevant to what the customer needs by highlighting your benefits, strengths, and promotions that help position your superiority to the competitor. (“Free S&H Until 12/20”; “24-Hour Support”; “We’ll Match Any Price!”)

5. Company name as the headline

  • Example: Home Depot Online (on a search for “black and decker drill”)
  • Why Not? Including the searched-on keywords in your headline is a surefire way to grab user attention, as those keywords will appear in bold if they match the search query. Imagine somebody remodeling their home in need of a new cordless drill at the best possible price. Rather than browsing retail stores, he/she searches Google for a “black and decker drill”. In our example, “Home Depot Online”, nothing in the headline will show in bold, and the user is much more likely look past it. Typically the user will assume that the ad must not be relevant, and they’ll instead favor an ad that reads “Black and Decker Drill” in the headline – with the keyword appearing fully in bold.
  • Instead, try using keywords in your headline. Bolded headline keywords will make your ad much more visible in the sea of ads that may appear. The end result: better quality scores, lower costs, and better click-through rates.
  • Exception: Branded campaigns. Some advertisers will have a campaign dedicated solely to searches for the brand name of their company. This is especially useful when competitors are trying to capture your customers by bidding on your brand name.

6. ‘Cutesy ads’ instead of straightforward ads

  • Example: “Sun Glasses for Home & Work. Eyewear for the Irreverent & Jaded.”
  • Why Not? Simply put, the search network is not the place for trying to be clever and cute. Leave the branding to the display network, where it’s most effective. People who have their wallets out and are searching for a product on Google are seeking something specific. Meanwhile, being “jaded” isn’t exactly a positive connotation that will help you sell reading glasses at this point in the buying cycle. Your ad must be relevant to what the searcher wants (i.e.: what type of glasses or frames, what brand of designer frames).
  • Instead, try being direct, straightforward, and sensible in your message. Users need to know why they should buy the product they’re looking for from you and not anyone else.

7. Long words that have abbreviations and excessive punctuation available

  • Example: “Free Shipping”, “And”, “Or”, “Information”, “North Carolina”
  • Why Not? Space, of course! Every character that can be must be conserved so it can be put to better use: highlighting your strengths!
  • Instead, try abbreviations everyone can understand, such as “Free S&H” (or “Ships Free”); ampersands “&”, state abbreviations (“NC”); “Info” instead of “Information”, etc. In some scenarios, a forward slash “/” can be used in place of ‘or’, saving you up to 4 characters (i.e.: “iPod/iPhone Docks” instead of “iPod or iPhone Docks”).

8. Vague/ambiguous wording

  • Example: “Save Tons” instead of “Save 30%”
  • Why Not? Searchers tend to respond more to quantifiable terms. “Save Tons” says nothing to those who know the price range in a category of products, but “Save 30%” or “Save $70” speaks to what kind of value the searcher can expect (setting expectations is important!) Furthermore, “Save Tons” can mean different things to many people. If one clicks through expecting to “Save Tons” and finds a measly $10 discount, he or she will be fairly disappointed and may leave quickly. Don’t forget that the competition is just a click away.
  • Instead, try qualifying your clicks by setting expectations with savings searchers can understand, such as “Save 40%” or “Save $70”.

9. Bare minimum display URLs.

  • Example: Searching for “Las Vegas Hotels” and seeing an ad’s display URL as “www.FindHotels.com”
  • Why Not? The display URL is your last chance to take advantage of another 35 characters. While it doesn’t give much room for added copy, it does help set expectations for someone who may click through. Ending your Display URL with “.com” is a missed opportunity if the ad is for a particular product or destination within the website.
  • Instead, try leaving out the “www.” prefix and ending your display URL with a hint of where the searcher will land within your website, like “FindHotels.com/Las_Vegas_Hotels”. You can also use a sub-domain, such as LasVegas.FindHotels.com. Only the root domain has to match the destination URL. This strategy works best on tightly themed account structures. In addition, using a keyword can help this added piece of the URL to show in bold, adding to your ad’s visibility.

10. Don’t abuse dynamic keyword insertion!

  • Example: For the seasoned AdWords advertiser, dynamic keyword insertion (or DKI) allows you to insert any matched keyword into any portion of your ad copy. For example, by using {KeyWord:Refurbished Television} in the ad headline, the headline will be replaced with any keyword within that ad group that triggers the ad. Any keyword longer than 25 characters will be replaced with the portion after “{KeyWord:” minus the end bracket. While it may be tempting as a means for spending less time on writing ads and building account structure, it shouldn’t be used all of the time, especially in extremely broad campaigns.
  • Why Not? DKI in a broad ad group requires that your ad copy be especially generic and non-competitive to make any sense. You can’t brag about a unique advantage or a specific promotion if you’re covering a broad amount of themes in one ad group. DKI becomes most dangerous when advertisers aren’t building campaigns with granular, separated themes in different ad groups. This mistake can lead to ads making no sense at all. Nextag, Amazon, and eBay among others are repeat offenders of DKI abuse.
  • Instead, try only using DKI in the most granular account structures without overlapping keyword themes between ad groups. If you’re unsure of how to use it effectively, stay away from it altogether.

Writing effective AdWords ad copy is all about setting proper expectations, speaking to the customer’s mindset, and being relevant in terms of your offering and the webpage your ad points to. With these tidbits of ad writing wisdom, the do-it-yourself AdWords advertiser can easily boost their click-through rates, lower their costs from wasted clicks, and help get the most out of their AdWords account.

Leave a Comment