How to Write Effective PPC Search Engine Ad Copy

Last updated


Daniel Wade


July 28, 2022

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Ad copy, the written text portion of an ad, is the single most important element of the entire ad campaign. Admittedly, ad copy isn’t what initially attracts the viewer’s eye to the ad - that is the job of the ad image and/or the ad headline - but it is this element that can cause the consumer to act, or in this case, click.

Give ad copy it's due. It is a critical element that can make the difference between lackluster and remarkable results. Invest some time into researching who the ad should be speaking to and how the message should be presented.

This article will flesh out 4 key advertising guiding principles that are essential for the creation of effective PPC ads. Incorporating these principles into ad copy creation will stave off some common pitfalls and enhance ad results.

Gone are the days when marketing professionals had no choice but to hire an advertising agency to create ads and ad copy. Modern technology allows anyone with a Google Ads account to reach millions of people with their advertising message. Even so, the basic guiding principles of effective and ethical advertising remain unchanged.


Table of contents

Know the Audience

Of primary importance is knowing the intended audience. This really can’t be overstressed. More specifically, what must be known about the potential customer is exactly what problem they are trying to solve when they enter keywords into the search engine. Not only will this allow for an effective keyword bid strategy, but it will also provide the opportunity to create ad copy that targets the consumer’s immediate issue. No one enters “leaky pipes” into a search engine because they just want to learn more about the plumbing options in the area. They are more likely frantic to get some help immediately.

Each consumer will go about trying to solve a problem in their own way.  This is because they have different values - or things that are important to them. Some value prices, others value experience, and yet others value convenience.

Consider these two examples:


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Note that in these examples, the first ad targets a more discriminating customer that may be willing to pay more for quality and experience. The second is geared toward those customers that value a low price.

If a customer needs to find a contractor that they can trust to come into their home and provide a quality service at a fair price and stand behind their work, an ad that highlights the contractor’s low price only may not hit the mark. The flip-side of that coin says that a home improvement contractor that has built their business on a low price model should not expect to easily capture the attention of consumers that value trust and dependability more than price.

Creating effective ad copy requires research. Understanding the potential customer’s most pressing questions relative to your offering is essential. Effective ad copy will anticipate those questions and answer them. While space in Google Ads PPC advertising is very limited, every effort should be made to identify and answer probable questions.

Get to the Point - Quickly

Technically, in typical advertising, the headline is a separate element from the ad copy. This paradigm doesn’t translate well to the creation of Google search ads. With Google Ads, every word, even every character, counts. Think of the first and second headlines as just the most prominent parts of the body of the ad copy. 

Use these headlines to get to the point quickly. The number of seconds that the reader will spend scanning any one ad is very small. The headline’s job is to entice the reader to read on and ingest the remainder of the ad copy.

Use headlines to frontload your message. Resist the temptation to repeat any portion of the message from the headlines in the body. Put the most compelling argument for solving the customer’s problem in the headlines and then continue answering their anticipated questions in the ad copy.

Resist the temptation to put the company name in the headline. Unless the company name conveys value in and of itself, which is rarely the case, the best place for the company name is in the landing page’s UR. which is displayed in the ad. In the few seconds the reader will initially grant the headlines, the name of the company is not usually the most critical information. 

Be Specific

When writing ad copy, be as specific as you can. Specificity can be difficult because it will feel like the field of potential customers is becoming narrower as the ad copy becomes more specific. The thing to remember here is that getting the right potential customers to click on an ad is much more important than getting a larger quantity of clicks. Remember, this is Pay-Per-Click advertising. Each click will cost the advertiser money, so a large volume of unqualified clicks is not valuable. 

As an example, if the ad target is customers that value a low price, show the actual price rather than just say “low price” where possible. Unless the product being offered is a widely used commodity, what constitutes a low price may be different for each customer, so listing the price will let the customer make that determination. 


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Some consumers will see the above ad and say to themselves, “Wow! only $95 for new stylish prescription sunglasses.” Others may say, “I certainly can’t afford those sunglasses.” Use the ad copy to reduce the number of unqualified clicks and therefore create more effective campaigns.

If the product or service being offered has multiple important value propositions, use multiple ads. For each ad focus on one value proposition and be specific. While it is true each ad will attract only a subset of the potential customers, it will attract them more efficiently than will less specific ad copy. Use the next ad to capture another subset of potential customers.

Respect the Audience

Showing respect for the intelligence of the audience is the holy grail of ad copy guiding principles. There is far too little of this in today’s digital advertising and therefore advertisers have earned a poor reputation.

Making a sale should be viewed as a process, not an event. It starts when an advertiser makes a good first impression through an ad that is presented respectfully, at the proper time, and in the proper context. It proceeds with the advertiser feeding the consumer additional information until the transaction is concluded.

When this is done well, the process is very helpful to the consumer. The advertiser is like a trusted friend who is serving the consumer’s needs. When it’s done carelessly, the chosen advertiser is seen as only the least objectionable from a selection of unfortunate choices.

There is a tremendous temptation to try and capitalize on the emotional weaknesses of consumers. This type of ad copy is designed to resonate with the customer’s worst fears and anxieties in an effort to dupe them into making an emotional buying decision. Catering to the audience’s sense of unwarranted entitlement, fear of being left out, or a desire to get something for nothing will not, in the end, endear the customer toward the product or service provider. In fact, there is often a sense of resentment created between the buyer and the provider. 

Presumably, if advertisers were asked if they are insulted by ads designed to evoke negative emotions, they would answer yes. Yet many will still design advertising campaigns that indicate that they believe their customers are less intelligent than themselves. Truthfully, this is an exhibition of the reverse.

In some cases, an advertiser may believe that making the sale is of more value than creating a lasting mutually respectful relationship with the buyer. This is rarely the best long term economic choice and is never the best ethical choice. 

The scarcity of respectful advertising has created a market for advertisers willing to abandon the empty promises of making a quick buck with a misleading ad and instead exercise the patience required to build a respectful relationship with their potential customers. Consumers appreciate honest advertising and find it useful. Good advertising often appeals to positive human emotions and evoking positive emotions shows respect for the intelligence of the audience. 

By understanding the needs of the intended audience, being direct and specific with the message, and exhibiting genuine respect for the customer, ad copy creators can bring real value to potential customers seeking to solve their problems.

How to Write Effective PPC Search Engine Ad Copy


Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

After working for multiple digital advertising agencies and managing hundreds of client accounts and spending millions of dollars via Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Native Ads and Direct Media Buying, I took things out on my own and started SparrowBoost. Now, my tight-knit team and I continue to get smarter and more efficient at running our own campaigns and we share our knowledge with you.

Learn more about SparrowBoost