11 Successful AdWords Ads and Why They Crush the Competition

by 49 03/26/2012

You don’t get much space.

25 characters for the headline.
70 characters of ad text.
35 characters for the Display URL.

That’s it.

I’m talking of course about those little ads you see whenever you do a search on Google.

Some businesses are able to phenomenally successful AdWords ads while others have failed miserably.

Ultimately, success with AdWords comes down to your landing page/website. But the first step on that road to winning at AdWords is to get the clicks.

What does it take to write an AdWords ad that gets the clicks?

I’ll give you a list of common traits seen in successful ads at the end of this post. But before we get to that let’s put some top performing ads, in some highly competitive markets, under the microscope to see what we can learn.

(Note: To figure out which are the top performing ads, I used a “spy” tool that shows me data such as: how long the ads have been running, what their average ranking is, and the advertiser’s Impression Share (a measure of how often their ads appear in the rankings). Ideally we’d have access to the actual performance data from these advertisers but that’s clearly not going to happen. So, short of that, it’s a good bet that the ads which have been running for a long time, have high rankings, and a high impression share in highly competitive markets are performing very well.)

With that said, let’s take a look at these winning AdWords ads and see why they work…

Logo Design Guarantee

This is a great ad to start with because it includes so many factors you’ll see in top performing ads including…

  1. The use of numbers – You’ll see numbers a lot in successful AdWords ads. They make the ads stand out visually by breaking up blocks of words/letters. They also add some specificity to the ads, in this case the $49 price, the 100% money back guarantee and the fact that the logos are 100% custom made. This lets people know exactly what they’re getting and, especially when you include a price, can reduce clicks from those who aren’t a good fit for your business.
  2. The use of ASCII characters – This ad has a greater variety of ASCII characters – the percent sign (%), registered trademark (®), plus sign (+) and asterisks (*) – than I’ve ever seen in one ad. As with numbers, ASCII characters make the ads stand out from the competition and draw more eyeballs to it than a block of words/letters.
  3. A great offer – This ad makes a compelling offer…custom made logos, on sale for just $49 with a 100% money back guarantee. As I mentioned last month in regards to factors that make websites convert, a great offer can overcome a lot of other deficiencies in a landing page. The same is true for an ad.
  4. A call to action – Let people know what they’re supposed to do. In this case, Logo Design Guarantee makes it very clear that they want you to order online…NOW.
  5. A benefit – In this case, the benefit (aside from the low price offer) is implied in the use of the word USA a few times. They’re not-so-subtly hinting that your logo design is not going to be outsourced, it’s going to be done in the US. This will resonate with those in the US who are wary of having their logo work done overseas.

North American Spine

  1. Note the use of ASCII characters here in their AccuraScope™ Procedure. Again, it makes the ad stand out visually and also adds a degree of credibility that they’re offering a procedure that’s been trademarked.
  2. The phone number in the ad is an implied call to action. They want you to call (which positions them quite differently from many other back pain treatment sites) if you’d feel more comfortable talking to someone as opposed to just gathering information off their website.
  3. They’re offering a benefit – to treat your back pain with a minimally invasive procedure. And if you want to discover more benefits about the procedure, click on the ad to read about them (which is a good incentive to get people to click).

 ThermaCare

  1. Note the use of numbers again – including the very specific “16 Hours” (not 10 or 15) which helps lend credibility to their claims.
  2. ASCII characters with the registered trademark and the dollar amount you can save when you click on the ad.
  3.  The benefit of getting relief from back pain for 16 hours.
  4. The offer to save $3 on your purchase.

POC Hiring

  1. What I really like about this ad that makes it unique is it starts to tell a story. Starting a story in your ad that continues on your landing page creates intrigue and can give your ad’s clickthrough rate a big boost if it’s done well. The implied story here is about an “American Mom” who makes $7,847 a month from home.
  2. They use a question to set up the ad. They could have just gone with the statement “Make $7487 a month”. Instead they added the question mark on the end. The question mark adds an ASCII character to the mix which we’ve talked about already. But more than that, in the “make money from home market” using the question works particularly well because a lot of people are going to be very skeptical of the claim. Just using the statement “Make $7487 a month” will be met with the thought of  “yeah, right” by many who see it. However, adding the question mark softens it up a bit and almost plays into the skepticism by reframing the claim by asking if it’s really possible to make that much money in a month from home.
  3. We’ve talked about using number a lot already. What this ad does well is use a very specific number $7487. Bringing this level of specificity to the ad helps its credibility in a market where that’s extremely important to have.
  4. The ad offers the implied benefit that if the typical American Mom can make $7,847 from home, so can you!

BeyondDiet.com

  1. This ad uses a number, but in a different way from the other ads we’ve looked at so far. They use it in the context of offering “5 Foods you must not eat”. People love numbered lists like this so this will definitely get people’s attention and interest.
  2. This ad is offering the benefit of cutting down on “a bit of stomach fat every day” by just avoiding the 5 foods they’ll share with you when you get to their website. This works on a few levels. First, it sounds simple…cut down on stomach fat by avoiding 5 types of foods. People like simple solutions. It also creates intrigue. Don’t you want to know what these 5 foods are and go to the site to find out? I was curious and I’m not even looking to lose weight!

Dr. Simoni – Plastic Surgeon

  1. Another ad using numbers (see a trend here?!) in yet a different way than we’ve seen so far. This ad from a plastic surgeon in Los Angeles uses it to highlight his practice being in Beverly Hills by using the city’s famous 90210 zip code.
  2. Using the zip code with “Dr” also adds credibility by invoking the TV show of the same name “Dr 90210” which is sure to get the attention of those considering plastic surgery, especially in LA.

  Rodeo Drive Plastic Surgery

  1. Here’s another ad from a Los Angeles area plastic surgeon. No numbers. No ASCII characters. No benefits. No call to action. This ad is purely using the various TV shows and publications they’ve been seen on as a proof/credibility element to stand out from the competition. As with the previous example, this approach will particularly resonate with this market of people looking for a plastic surgeon in the Los Angeles area.

 1-800-Need-Help

  1. This is another ad that features a question in the headline which, again, is great way to grab attention. I’ve seen questions work well in both the headline and the body of AdWords ads. Here it’s used to qualify people who are in their target audience…people who have been injured in an accident.
  2. It also gets attention by using numbers. And in this case a pretty big number that lets searchers know that they may be entitled to $10,000 or more if they were injured in an accident.
  3. Along with the potential benefit of getting $10K or more, the company offers the benefit of getting a free case evaluation.
  4. They use the word “Free.” This is a great way to get people to notice and click on your ad. Though you have to be careful using ‘free’ because it may attract the wrong kind of prospect. You may end up getting clicks from a lot of people looking for a handout but have no intention of giving you money.
  5. There’s a clear call to action that they want you to call them.

Proflowers.com and From You Flowers

  1. These ads are the first ones we’ve looked at so far that use quotes, another effective element in AdWords ads. Using quotes like these works for a few reasons. First, the quotes, like the other ASCII characters we’ve seen, make the ads stand out visually. Second, the quotes add credibility to the companies. It’s not them talking about themselves and saying how great they are, it’s an outsider singing their praises.
  2. Speaking of outsiders, having the endorsement of the Wall Street Journal or CBS News adds a strong element of proof to this ad that the competition can’t match.

Elance.com

  1. We’ve seen in previous ads how they’ve used credibility from media sources to add the element of proof and credibility to their ads. This Elance.com ad inserts proof and credibility (along with numbers!) by focusing on the fact that they’ve had 25,000+ “Happy Customers”.
  2. Elance also puts out a compelling offer in the ad to get “top design and development from $99”.
  3. They also slip in the call to action at the end to encourage you to start now.
  4. They use the Display URL to reinforce what they’re offering by adding “/Custom_Design” after their URL. A lot of people ignore the Display URL, but it can be a good place to expand the messaging in your ads. The rule is that the URL must match the same domain you’re directing the people who click on your ads to. However, after the URL, you can put anything after it you want (even if it doesn’t correspond to the subpage on your site you’re sending people to). You have 35 characters for your Display URL, like Elance.com does here, make them count!

So there you have it. 11 AdWords ads that have been running successfully for a long time in highly competitive markets, along with the key elements that make them successful.

To recap, all these ads have at least 1 or more of the following (and usually a lot more).

  1. Use Numbers
  2. Use ASCII characters
  3. Focus on benefits
  4. Offer proof/credibility
  5. Use quotes
  6. Ask a question
  7. Make a strong offer
  8. Include a call to action

There are three other more general elements at work here that are important to note…

First, with the possible exception of the work from home ad, these ads are not overly hypey or sensationalistic. You have very limited space with which to work in an AdWords ad. There’s no room to be cute or gimmicky…you have to cut to the chase and make every character count to get the clicks.

Second, these ads do a good job of standing out from their competitors ads. It’s not uncommon to do a search and see a good percentage of the AdWords ads with the same headline or using basically the same dry, boring message. (In fact, one time I did a search for accountants in Chicago and 3 ads were identical except for the URL!)  When you’re coming up with ads, look at what the competition is doing and make sure your ads are unique.

Lastly, and most importantly, all these ads are successful because of extensive testing on the part of the businesses. Testing your ad copy and testing your landing pages is the single most important factor in developing a winning AdWords ad and campaign.

Because while the ads above are top performers, what works well for your business may be quite different. And the only way to figure out what ads will be successful for you is to test, test, test!

About 

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on Google+

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49 COMMENTS

Ben Ferris

What I found interesting in the POC Hiring ad is that they reversed $7487 in the title as $7,847 in the ad copy. I wonder if that was intentional?

-Ben

March 27, 2012 Reply

Adam Kreitman

Ha! Great catch, Ben. I must have read over that ad a dozen times and didn’t notice they flipped those two digits. My guess is it’s not intentional, but you never know.

Thanks!
Adam

March 27, 2012 Reply

Samantha

Thanks Adam,

That was a very helpful article.

I can see how all these elements play a role in getting clicks.
I used a couple of your ideas in an ad I just created. So I’ll be interested to see what kind of responses I get.

It’s amazing to me though, that there are so many advertisers such as the accountants you spoke of, who don’t even check to see what their competition is doing.

But of course, who knows, maybe they did and decided to just do the same thing because they thought “if it works for the competition it’ll work for us” lol

Samantha

April 19, 2012 Reply

philip

Really good article Adam, I’ve had a adwords account since 2006 and stupidly only over the past few months set it up correctly and put effort into it and the results are impressive.
I am going to take into consideration all your key points and see how this effects my adds
thanks
phil

July 14, 2012 Reply

Pubudu Gokarella

I was wondering whether google allow to post SALE:All in Capital?Usually they don’t allow all in capitals right?

July 21, 2012 Reply

Adam Kreitman

Pubudu, you are correct. Google’s ad policies say that using all caps is not allowed. However, sometimes advertisers can get away with bending the rules a bit like in the ad you referred to.

July 22, 2012 Reply

Adam Kreitman

Thanks, Philip. Continually split testing and refining your ad copy will only help.

Adam

July 22, 2012 Reply

Chris

Hi there. Thanks for posting this great article, exactly what I needed right now. I am just wondering how the Back Pain Treatment ad (no. 2 in this list) has 3 lines of description (i.e. phone number followed by two lines of textual description)? I can only have a max of two lines and there doesn’t seem to be an option to add the phone number in betweeen those lines and the advert’s title.

July 25, 2012 Reply

Adam Kreitman

Hi Chris…glad the article was helpful!

Regarding your question, in AdWords there are Ad extensions that allow you to include additional pieces of information with your ad. The ad you referred to is using a Call Extension which adds a tracking number along with your ad so people can call you directly as opposed to having you clickthrough to your site to find a phone number. (And, yes, you do pay for the calls.)

Thanks!
Adam

July 25, 2012 Reply

Saman

Adam, thanks for the great post. Would you recommend that I start using my phone number in the Ad Title for mobile ads only rather than the traditional text titles? I’ve been hesitant to use this tactic because I’m worried about my quality score going down.

Thanks in advance,

Saman

September 24, 2012 Reply

    Adam Kreitman

    Hi Saman-

    Glad you enjoyed the post!

    As with any changes to ad copy, the only way to know whether putting your phone number in the ad title is to test it. Before you do that, however, I’d ask you if you’re using Call Extensions in your campaign. Using the Call Extensions (there’s a mobile only option you could use) will add a clickable phone number to your ad, in addition to your regular ad copy, on mobile devices. Doing that will give you the added benefit of being able to track your calls through AdWords so you can better track results.

    With regards to Quality Score, it is important but it isn’t the be all end all of an AdWords campaign. If putting the phone number in the Ad Title gets the phone to ring more and results in more clients, then I’d gladly sacrifice Quality Score for that.

    Hope this helps!
    Adam

    September 25, 2012 Reply

Scott Martin

Thanks for sharing these. It’s all direct response copy. Just condensed. Shorter.

October 19, 2012 Reply

Rob

Why so many special characters? I thought Google does not allow special characters? Do you have a list of what special characters Adwords will allow?

October 23, 2012 Reply

Robert Nemerovski

Great article. I see some google ads with a telephone number and a little phone icon as the top line and the only clickable line. Do you think these are useful? How do you set it up with the phone number hotlnked but nothing else? Thanks.

November 9, 2012 Reply

    Adam Kreitman

    Thanks, Robert. I believe you’re referring to ads that you see on mobile phones. You can set up Call extensions in AdWords so that people on mobile devices can only see/click on your phone number but the ad doesn’t link to your website. If you don’t have a mobile optimized site or if you’re really only interested in driving phone calls, it’s a good option.

    Adam

    November 13, 2012 Reply

Phil Cropper

Hi Adam,
really useful tips here, I’m in the middle of building my 1st adwords campaign and need to create a number of different ads to see which work best. Will implement your tips using numbers, questions etc.
cheers
Phil

November 14, 2012 Reply

Dallas Movers

Great helpful post, on my way to Adwords-thx.

April 3, 2013 Reply

bhavya

Adam,

This was a terrific piece. Great for newbies who are just going into PPC.

Wanted to understand one thing here..How do you integrate snippets like reviews in ads? There must be a rule to it, just that I dont know when and where do I find that in the Adwords tool

Thanks.

May 8, 2013 Reply

Motionboardshop.com

My big question is do I hire out to have somebody ie. SEO agency to do this research, fail, success testing . Or do I get one of my employees to manage this from time to time, couple hours a day. I just can’t spend the time to manage this along with my daily duties. I know, I know….. “but… Jason can you afford not to’….. But seriously, it’s commitment. Kinda off topic but relevent to bring up.

Huge thanks from the family at Motion.

June 29, 2013 Reply

Jim

Nice article, some great examples in here. I would like to see some real world analysis of restaurant ads as that is what I am trying to build up with an AdWords campaign. The tips here are quite useful though.

July 2, 2013 Reply

Tanielle Lobo

Excellent examples. I think adding testimonials as in the case Proflowers.com is interesting, considering they have managed to fit it perfectly in the ad.

August 4, 2013 Reply

    Adam Kreitman

    Thanks, Tanielle! Recently I tested some ads for a client that has a testimonial in it (from one of their clients… not a media outlet like Proflowers.com does) and it performed quite well. It’s a great way to make an ad stand out and give it an emotional appeal.

    Adam

    August 4, 2013 Reply

bob spiegel

great stuff, gonna try a few of these suggestions

October 3, 2013 Reply

Gary

Thanks Adam, I’m using a couple of these elements in my ads now, but I am not too sure how to fit it in with painter and decorator quoting site. I need all the help I can get to stand out as my ads are way too expensive.

October 8, 2013 Reply

John Fitzgerald

Wow. Some great info there Adam. I’ve been strugling with a fairly poor CTR rate for my ads… <1.5% and have been wondering how to improve things. Never thought about ASCII code – to be honest I thought that probably Google banned it – but they seem to allow it no problem. So I have used it in my ads to see gow it goes. Once again a big thanks!

December 14, 2013 Reply

Srikanth aj

Great helpful post, some weight loss adwords ads tell me adam

December 26, 2013 Reply

Joel

Great article. Here’s another article with five tips to writing an effective adwords ad. http://onlineuprising.com.au/adwords/5-tips-for-writing-an-effective-google-adwords-ad/

January 9, 2014 Reply

Ben

Thank you for your article. I have implement some of the tips from this article. Hope to see some good result soon.

Thanks again!
– Ben

February 28, 2014 Reply

Poulami Ghosh

Hi Adam,
Thanks for your valuable tips.It is very relevant post.I will surely consider all of the above points and see how it effects my ads.Keep sharing.

March 5, 2014 Reply

Mizner

Great ideas, working on creating a few new ads and defintelty going to add a few special characters.

April 17, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    That’s great, Mizner! Let us know how it works for you.

    April 18, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Mizner, glad you liked them. Let me know us know if you need any help along the way :)

    April 18, 2014 Reply

Srihari

Thanks Adam, for the tips. I always belived Adwords wont be that helpful (after my experience with Admob, which consumed my $200 in an hour without even a minor deviation in daily downloads of app). But after going through your article planning to experiment with AdWords now!

June 3, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Srihari, let us know how it works out :)

    June 4, 2014 Reply

renee

Great article and so useful. Thank you so much.

July 10, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Renee, glad you liked it. Thanks for the feedback :)

    July 11, 2014 Reply

Tim

Some awesome tips! I often fall in to the trap of trying to pack in as much text as possible when I should focus on 1 Unique Selling Point

July 20, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Tim, glad we could help. Thanks for the feedback :)

    July 21, 2014 Reply

Karl Cardoza

Awesome article with really the core of writing Good ppc ads.

Cheers…. Thanks for sharing.

August 12, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Karl, glad we could help. Looking forward to hearing more from you :)

    August 13, 2014 Reply

Raj

Great Article. I am planning to setup ad for my company which provides tool for running Employee Engagement surveys.

August 22, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Raj, awesome! Let us know how it all works out :)

    August 22, 2014 Reply

Lexa

Hi adam,

I just curious, how they can make 3 lines of ads like you give example of Back Pain treatment?

Because when i use my ads, google just give me 2 lines of description? Do they use ascii? can u enligthen me? Thanks

August 28, 2014 Reply


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