I was putting together some training materials for new members of my team on ads today and it made me think really hard about what it is that makes a good ad great. Like, really, really great.

In the training, I talk through the usual suspects – using keywords, writing well, promoting your offering, and of course some of the specific techniques that can make your copy excel.

ad copy testing

Some of these could use more testing (really, Target?).

It’d be so easy at this point to declare that the secret of good ad copy is testing. While that’s true up to a point, I think that saying testing is the key doesn’t really go far enough. For me, what it all comes down to is whether you can learn from what the tests are telling you.

I’m going to guess we’ve all seen situations where we’ve built on a client’s “poor” ad copy to make an ad that is hands-down guaranteed to succeed. And then the client’s ad wins.

It’s what you do then that matters. Do you sulk and write another stellar ad because that was clearly a fluke? Or do you look again at what they’re doing to figure out why it works?

– Are they talking in their prospect’s language?

– Does their ad stand out from the competition?

– Is it as simple as a difference in style, e.g. you like to Capitalise All The Words and they didn’t?

Study what you think worked about their ad compared to yours and list what factors could be influencing the searcher. From this list, pick out the one key factor that you think is the real key to its success. Use that hypothesis to create new ads more in tune with the prospects.

Next time around, your ad is more likely to win, if it does don’t lose sight of the elements that made those ads great in the first place. And if your new ad fails, you can simply go back to that list and choose the next most likely factor in their ad’s success as your hypothesis (and on and on).

Either way, you shouldn’t lose sight of those factors that equalled a great ad in this account for this client. That data is gold, and you should build on it over time to make future ads even more awesome.

I’m not saying that all the usual elements of great ad copy don’t apply, just that best practices don’t always equal the best results. Be sure you’re figuring out the customized best practices for each particular client for truly great ads.

Leave a Comment

Katie Walton is Head of PPC at Boom Online Marketing. She works with all major PPC platforms, loves Excel and never met a cake she didn’t like. When she’s not at work you’ll find her walking her miniature schnauzer.