Search Advertising 101: Dos & Don’ts for Writing Text Ads

Text ad writing tips

Creating effective text ads for your search engine advertising campaign is not always as simple as it seems. It’s important to understand all the parts of a search ad so that you can write enticing copy while meeting all the publisher guidelines. Here are a few dos and don’ts you should follow to write text ads that will show up when someone searches for your keywords.

Do: Know the Text Ad Format

The top three search engines, Google, Yahoo!, and Bing, have slightly different guidelines for the text ads they display on the search engine results page, so if you’re running ads on all three platforms, make sure you know the ad format and word count, so you can tailor your ads to meet their individual requirements.

If you choose to run the same ad across all three publishers, you can use this formula:

It’s important to note that ads can be placed above and to the side of the organic results. If your ads run above the organic results, the search engines may combine your headline and first line of text, so make sure that they make sense if run together.

Do: Optimize Your Display URL

The search engines will automatically feature a display URL above your headline that is not included in the character count. You may be able to customize a vanity URL that, while itself may not be real, links to your website home page or the landing page you are sending search traffic to. Ensure the URL you are displaying with your text ad is relevant to the destination URL of the landing page, or your text ad may fail the publishers’ text ad requirements.

Do: Include Target Keywords

To get the most out of your text ad, we recommend using the text ad’s headline and Line 1 for keyword-rich content. Although the keywords you use in your text ads don’t have to exactly match the keywords you are bidding on, they should closely relate to them, as well as to the keywords on your landing page. For example, if you’re an attorney, you may be bidding on several keyword variations, like “attorney,” “attorneys,” “lawyer,” and “lawyers.” However, you may want to limit your text ad to include only one or two of the keywords that you think consumers will typically search for. You can use tools like the Google AdWords Keyword tool to help find keywords related to your business with a higher search volume. Keep in mind that the relevance of the keywords in your text ad to those you are bidding on and to the keywords that appear on your landing page can impact your quality score, clickthrough rate, and cost per click.

Do: Write a Strong Call to Action

We recommend reserving Line 2 for a compelling call to action, such as “Call Today” or “Sign up Online.” You can also use this line to include a promotion or free offer in your text ad, like “Free Consultation.” Make sure that if you do include an offer that information about that offer is also present on your landing page, or the search engines may flag your text ad.

Do: Use a Call Tracking Number

Only Google allows the use of phone numbers in a text ad, but using a phone number in your search ad could potentially work against you if your goal is to get clicks from people searching for you rather than to generate phone calls. So, before you choose to include a phone number, determine what the goal of your text ad is and how people will be using it. If you do choose to include a phone number, it’s in your best interest to use a call tracking number so you can see if any calls came as a result of your search advertising, even if the consumer did not click your ad. Remember that numbers take up valuable space in text ads, so you can also consider using Google’s ad extensions if you want to include a phone number.

Don’t: Include Your Business Name

While it’s perfectly acceptable to bid on your business name keywords, don’t eat up your text ad word count with your business name. Unless your business is a well-known and recognizable brand, it probably won’t increase clicks on your site. Instead, focus your text ad copy on your benefits and competitive differentiators that will entice searchers to click on your ad.

Do: Capitalize Every Word

When writing text ads, it’s a best practice to use title case, also known as camel-capping, which means capitalizing the first letter of every major word in the ad, excluding short words like “a,” “the,” and “in.” However, you want to avoid using all caps or excessive capitalization, which can cause your text ad to fail publishers’ guidelines.

Do: Include the Right Punctuation

It’s mandatory to include punctuation—most typically a period– at the end of Line 2 of your text ad. You should also consider using punctuation throughout your text ad, as it gives you the flexibility to ask questions or end an idea in the middle of a line. It’s also important to include punctuation after line one if your ad is placed in the position above the organic listings.

Don’t: Use Trademarked Terms

It’s important to note that all search publishers prohibit the use of trademarked terms like “Botox” or “Lasik” in the copy of text ads, unless you own the trademark on that term. However, you can still bid on these keywords so that your ads have an opportunity to appear to consumers who search those trademarked terms. Instead of including trademarked terms in your copy, use a general phrase like “laser eye surgery” to ensure publisher approval.

Don’t: Use Unknown Abbreviations

Many businesses want to include abbreviations in their text ad copy to stay under the required character count. If you decide to include abbreviations, only use those that are common and easily recognizable, like “Appt” for appointment or “Apt” for apartment. Don’t use any potentially confusing, made-up, or uncommon abbreviations like “Tdy” if you mean “Today.”

Now that you know some of the basics of how to write a text ad, stay tuned for some best practices for optimizing your text ads to get more clicks from people searching for you in part two of our series on text ad best practices.

What other dos and don’ts do you follow when writing search ads? Share your text ad writing tips and best practices in the comments.

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Tamara Weintraub

Tamara is a content marketing manager at ReachLocal with over 7 years experience in B2B marketing and has a nerd-level affinity for software and technology. She specializes in helping local businesses succeed online, writing and learning about Google, search advertising, SEO, and social media marketing. When she's not writing about online marketing, you can find her watching cult TV and hanging out with her Doberman.

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