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The Myth Of Ad Text Succinctness

Published: January 24, 2012

Author: Todd Mintz

Yeah, you say it best/When you say nothing at all. – Keith Whitley

Google AdWords allows ad headlines to be 25 characters long and ad description lines to be 35 characters long. In other words, SEMs have a maximum of 95 text characters to entice a prospect to click through to the website. We all agree that people writing ad text for AdWords are forced to use very direct language and “short” words in order to create compliant ad text and get their messaging out to prospective visitors. Correct?
Not necessarily.
Recently, I had the opposite problem. 95 characters were too darned long for the sort of messaging I needed to create.
Since I have a long history of working with AdWords, I’ve learned that I could lop off about 5 characters of both the headline and each of the description lines without the ad looking too short…leaving me with 80 characters. Still, I really had to stretch out the communication in order to get to 80 characters…because in actuality, I wanted to convey extremely minimal information in my ad text.
What was the situation? I was creating PPC ads driving targeted prospects to narrowly-focused content-rich articles. Without revealing the client that I was working for, let me give you the flavor for what I was doing:
Suppose I was entrusted with creating ad text that will drive people to this article:  Top 10: Manly Power Tools. The client isn’t making money on power tool sales…instead; they are monetizing the page/site where the content resides. So, my objective was to entice people who are interested in the information presented and who then use the landing page where the article begins as a springboard for clicking through to each and every page of the article – as well as to, perhaps, other related articles.
The ad text in such a situation would not have a sales hook, but an information hook. Here’s what I might write:

What did I do here? The ad headline was the title of the article. Then, the two description lines restated the title of the article using longer & (some) different words. Within the 70 characters of the Ad Description, I restated “Ten” (3 characters…and spelled out to gain the additional character), “Manly Power Tools” (17 characters), and added the phrase “Super Tough Guys” (16 characters) which is reasonably redundant modifier of “Manly Power Tools” (since few “wimpy” guys will be using manly power tools). I could argue that “Discover” was the only word unique to the description…but even that is somewhat redundant since anyone clicking a hyperlink is “discovering” the content contained on the webpage they’re going to.
In other words, the entire ad text after the headline was meaningless filler. I guess I should be fired from my job for writing crummy ads, right?
The entire campaign, consisting of ads similar to my example, succeeded beyond all expectations for the client.
Part of the reason the campaign was so successful had to do with the very tight nexus between the keywords in all the campaigns and the articles that I was marketing. That certainly helped.
When I obscured everything about the article besides its title, I drove a ton of curiosity traffic and because the content was of very high quality, the sites were able to retain the visitors and generate lots of exploration. If the visitor knew too much about the content, he or she would be less likely to click through to it. In a perfect world, I could just say “Top 10 Manly Power Tools:  Click Here,” but the aesthetics (and quality score) of such an ad would suffer compared to all the other ads in the auction, making it less likely to be clicked. The “filler” was absolutely necessary to making the ad successful.
The ad text alluded to the content contained on the landing page but kept the illusion of thorough description when I actually did nothing but restated the ad headline.

Todd Mintz, Senior SEM Manager

25 E Washington Street
Suite 420

Chicago, IL 60602

(650) 539-4124

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