20 Years of PPC – Top PPC Tips for 2023
Did you know it’s been 20 years since pay per click (PPC) advertising was first rolled out by Google? In recent years it has gone on to become one of the most effective digital marketing tools in every marketer’s arsenal, but writing good ad copy is something that is still somewhat of a niche, even two decades after the need for it first came about. As we move into 2023 and the reliance on PPC grows, it’s important you know how to nail your ad copy, which is what we’re here to help you with.
In the same way it would’ve taken the Jedi a hot minute to get to grips with the pure plasmic power of a lightsaber, it takes marketers a little while to master the art of Google Ads and PPC, especially where copy is concerned. Don’t worry, though – our Brains are here to lend an expert hand by revealing 10 handy tips to help you supercharge your PPC campaigns and start 2023 on a strong note.
Early PPC and its evolution
Before we get into our 10 top tips, there’s a lot to be gained by understanding how PPC got its start and how it has developed, as well as how it’s likely to continue to evolve. After all, the greater your understanding of the platform, the better your ads will be.
The first PPC model wasn’t actually introduced by Google – it was implemented by Planet Oasis in 1996, before Google was even a thing and when Yahoo! was the search engine king. It was a virtual city where companies like Warner Bros and The New York Times each paid $10,000 to get a ‘building’ in the city/on the homepage. Other companies paid around $3,000 to get visibility in smaller, more niche suburbs of the city (like games or magazines). Users could click on the buildings and be directed to the corresponding company’s websites. By 1997, more than 400 businesses featured on Planet Oasis and paid between $0.005 to $0.25 per click. At this point, Google registered its domain and Yahoo reigned supreme, generating a whopping $52 million purely in online advertising revenue alone.
This all seems like a far cry from PPC as we know it today, but it set the foundation for charging businesses every time they received a click. At the time, many businesses saw this as an absurd concept and would rather pay a fixed fee. When Open Text introduced the idea of bidding on keywords at around the same time, many company CEOs saw this as a terrible idea. Lycos CEO, Bob Davis, even said: “To me, this damages the integrity of the search service.”
Despite the initial reservations, PPC continued to evolve and Google, like many other companies like Overture and Goto.com, were still pushing forwards with it. By 2001, Google had made more than $85 million from PPC alone. In 2002, Google launched AdWords; by 2004, it generated $1 billion in online ad revenue, and by 2021, Google generated $209 billion in ad revenue (Statista). In that time, it acquired a number of other ad services, received hefty fines for its ad practices, and developed AdWords into Google Ads, but ultimately, the success of Google as a search engine over the years lead to huge leaps in the adoption of PPC globally, leading us to where we are today.
(All statistics except Statista link sourced from Lunio).
How important is writing good ad copy?
There are several factors that determine how successful a PPC campaign will be. From simple beginnings to a multi-billion dollar industry, Google Ads and PPC as a whole have only gotten more complex as time has passed, so good ad copy and money to spend are no longer the be-all and end-all of a decent campaign.
“It’s really important to take the time to properly research and plan any PPC campaigns. You’ll need to carefully plan which keywords to align with each target landing page to make sure the content is in line with the intent of the searcher.
“You’ll also need to balance target keywords against your budget to create a profitable strategy. However, many PPC experts underestimate the importance of the ad copy itself. At the end of the day, compelling ad copy that uses strong CTAs and NLP tactics goes a long way to getting those coveted click-throughs.”
- Vicky Smith, Strategist at The Brains
That being said, there is still a significant amount of weight behind ad copy and the success of a PPC campaign. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for ad content, but – paired with the tips we’re about to share below – following the general rules of thumb outlined beneath, you stand a good chance of creating ad content that has the potential to be a hit:
- Simple language and short sentences
- Captivating and attention-holding statements
- Claims should be true – no clickbait
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10 tips for supercharging your PPC ads in 2023
Now we’re into the nitty gritty: the 10 tips you can take on board to ensure your 2023 PPC campaigns are bigger, better, and bolder than ever before, and ultimately, more revenue-generating. There’s a fair amount of psychology that goes into good ad content and convincing buyers to convert, and we’re going to tell you how to harness that.
- Understand your channel limitations
First of all, you need to make sure you understand what your PPC channel can offer you. By this, we mean knowing how many descriptions you can have and how many characters you can use. For example, Google’s responsive search ads allow you to have up to four descriptions that are 90 characters long each, or one larger description that is 180 characters long. Anything over this isn’t optimised and will be cut off, meaning your ad won’t make sense.
- Shorter is better
You might think you need to pitch yourself as the very best (which you do), but in order to do that, you need to write a novella. This isn’t true; in fact, the internet kind of works in reverse. Most people have short attention spans and want to know the who, what, when, where, why, cost, and benefits immediately. Everything else is irrelevant to them, so don’t fall into the trap of creating ad content that is too long. Short and sweet is usually the winning recipe.
- Always conduct A/B testing
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: digital marketing is a whole lot of trial and error. Yes, you can look at data and make educated guesses, but by and large, you’ll learn the most from your mistakes. PPC ads are no mean feat, but despite this, a lot of marketers still place pressure on getting it right first time. This is rarely possible; instead, focus on making two versions of every ad and seeing which one is received the best. Sometimes, what you think is the best ad copy won’t resonate with your users, so make sure you take heed of the A/B testing results.
It should be noted that A/B testing is rarely profitable, but it can lead to profits, so it’s worth sticking with initially.
- Get specific with your audience
Speaking of audiences, make sure you try to drill down as many specifics as you can. Carry out in-depth persona research and try to establish exactly who they are, where they work, what their intentions are, how their mannerisms might be, their preferred tone of voice, what they’re looking for, and what they’ll expect from the customer journey. For example, if you’re looking to sell an often-bought product to a family, mentioning cost savings and keeping the tone lighthearted and fun may resonate with them. If your target audience is a 55-year-old CEO, you’ll want to keep it professional and amiable.
The more you know about your audience, the better your ads will be.
- Always have a call to action (CTA)
Most marketers will be aware that no piece of copy is complete without a CTA, but a lot of professionals leave this out of the ad copy. If you include a CTA, you are telling your audience what their next step should be. For example, if you’re hosting an event, your CTA could be ‘reserve your place now’, whereas if you’re selling an item, it could be ‘order yours today’. Not only do CTAs direct your audience to the next stage of the customer journey, but they also instil a sense of urgency which, as we know, is a great sales technique based on FOMO (fear of missing out).
- Choose one goal per ad
It’s normal for businesses to have several goals and objectives in mind, but when it comes to ads, it’s important to focus on only one. As an example, you might have a new product that you’re launching that you want to promote, but you might also have a discount on an existing service or product you offer that you want to highlight. One single ad is not the place to be drawing attention to two different goals. Instead, choose your main goal and make an ad for it, or create two ads focused on two goals. This will ensure the user is clear on what you’re doing and doesn’t get confused about your messaging.
- Keep your content customer-focused
One of the major mistakes a lot of businesses make when it comes to ad content is focusing it around them and their achievements. Sure, you might have 15,000 five-star reviews from happy customers that you want to boast about, but a PPC ad is not the way to do it. Save stats like that for banners on your website or other marketing collateral. Keep your PPC ad content focused on what you can do for your customers, because realistically, that’s what they care most about when searching on Google.
- Use your data
Not everything in marketing is based on data (some things just work, others don’t, and we don’t always know why), but a good chunk of what you do for PPC and how you structure your campaigns will come from analysing data. As mentioned earlier, A/B testing is a great way to procure data from users on what works and what doesn’t. Key metrics you’ll want to look at include:
- Click through rate (CTR) – this refers to the number of people who see your ads and click on them. The higher your CTR, the better your copy.
- Conversion rate – this is the number of people who made a purchase or enquiry (depending on your goals and what you determine as a conversion) based on your ads. The higher the conversion rate, the better your ad.
- Cost per conversion (CPC) – this refers to how much every conversion costs you. For example, if you had 10 conversions and your total spend was £100, each conversion cost you £10. Some industries will have a naturally higher CPC, but you want to aim for the lowest CPC as a general rule.
The data you source will show you what is proving to be successful, and you can even use the data to inform your organic marketing strategy, too.
- Address your users
Users like to feel like they’re unique and getting a personalised experience, and speaking to them directly is a good way to take advantage of this. For example, rather than saying ‘we provide the lowest prices in the industry’, say ‘we give you the lowest prices in the industry’. People like it when you talk to them, so personalising your ad copy is a good way to encourage interaction and engagement.
- Don’t use cliches
Cliches have been worked to death in marketing and pretty much have lost all meaning. Every business claims to ‘understand your needs’, ‘have the perfect solution’, or ‘do more with less’. Your business might actually live up to the cliches, but they don’t work on audiences anymore. If your copy is using the same phrases as the other three ads next to it, it’s not special and it doesn’t stand out.
As you leave cliches in 2022, don’t be afraid to sprinkle in a bit of humour or humanness in 2023 – if relevant to your demographic, of course.
Google Ads is always evolving and the way in which consumers operate and use the internet is also always changing. This means it’s time to leave the decades-old PPC tactics behind as we look forward to 2023, and the tips above will help you do just that.
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The Brains is an award-winning digital marketing agency, consultancy and training provider in London.
Our Brains are experts in their field, helping companies grow faster, generate leads and overtake competitors.