Two Advanced Tactics For PPC Copywriting

I received some great tips from SEM pros after my last two posts regarding paid search copywriting (The Left Brain Of Paid Search Ads: Parameters & Limitations and The Right Brain Of Paid Search Ads: Tips & Tricks For Creative Ad Copywriting). For example, one person offered the great tip to use a question as your copy. Think about it—what’s more engaging: Buy Cubs Tickets or Need Some Cubs Tickets? What about: Car Loans or Do You Need a Car Loan? Another person mentioned that smaller ads, ones that don’t take up the full character limits, might stand out on a SERP with your competitors’ wordy ads. And, in the comment section of last week’s post, user netmeg stated “Write enthusiastically, even in such a small space. If you don’t sound excited about what you’re saying, nobody else will be either.” Great advice!

Writing ads in directions to gain insight

This week, in the final post on copywriting, I’ll discuss two advanced tactics that SEM pros use when writing search ads. The first one I’d like to share is something I swear by. Basically, I find that many search marketers write ads based on best practices, which is good, but doesn’t take full advantage of the need to test concepts. What I like to do is write ads in specific topical directions so that after the engine has rotated through all of the ads and picked its winners, we get a good sense of what is really resonating and engaging users. It’s basic A/B testing as you would with landing pages or other web content.

This is something I outlined in my 95 Character Poet post a few years ago here for In The Trenches column on, and it’s still valid today. Below are twelve example directions that you can use to build your ads. Because Google allows for 25 ads per ad group, I suggest writing two ads per direction per ad group. Then, after a few weeks, you will see which directions are performing best and you can use that insight to build more ads of that type.

  • Strong call to action
  • Promotions
  • “Official site”
  • Pricing
  • Benefits
  • Emotional connection
  • Ask questions
  • Time sensitivity
  • Awards/recognition
  • Buying cycle
  • Branded terms
  • Dynamic keyword insertion

As a rule, try to go “all in” with whichever direction you try. If you’re too wishy-washy and not committed to the topical direction you’ve picked, you won’t get the insights you need. Once you find your direction, you can always build out softer or harder versions, so go for it!

Dynamic keyword insertion

The second advanced tactic is actually a very commonly used device called Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). Basically, DKI is a way to automatically insert the keyword that triggered that ad into the ad itself. For example, an online camera retailer could bid on every model in stock and then deliver a headline like this: Shop For {keyword: Cameras}. Then if someone searches on the term Nikon S570, the ad would look like this: Shop For Nikon S570 (the Cameras part of the variable is default text which I’ll explain later).

For reference, here is the exact definition of dynamic keyword insertion from Google:

Keyword insertion is an advanced feature used to dynamically update your ad text with your chosen keywords. You insert a special modification tag into your ad text to enable this feature for your ads. Depending on a user’s searched keyword, AdWords automatically places your triggered ad group keyword or a broad match variation into the ad text. This makes your ad more relevant and useful for users while making it easier for you to create multiple unique ads for a large amount of account keywords.

So how is it done? In Google, DKI is performed by inserting the variable {keyword} into the ad text where the final keyword will be inserted. You also have to include default text in the variable in case the keyword insertion is rejected by the engine—either for editorial reasons or, more commonly, because the insertion would exceed the maximum characters for that line in the ad. So, simply: {keyword: default text} is the way the variable needs to be implemented.

Also, the way you list keyword in the DKI variable determines the way the inserted keyword phrase is capitalized. Here’s a handy chart that shows the various ways it can be utilized:

What are the benefits of dynamic keyword insertion? Well, first off, the engines will bold any keywords on the SERP that match the initial query including words in your ad which makes it stand out a bit more on the page. Also, the relevance increases. There tends to be more of a connection with an ad that displays keyword that the user just searched on. DKI is a great tactic for online retailers that have tons of products where creating a million ads just doesn’t make sense.

There are some issues with DKI, though. One that sticks out often is that the keyword doesn’t match the ad text very well, usually due to a singular being inserted where a plural should be (or vice versa) such as in Find Great Deals on Josh Dreller. Another problem with DKI can be the loss of control. When you have a hardcoded ad without any dynamic elements, you know exactly what was shown to the user at the time of the impression. DKI ads don’t provide that level of control and thus becomes another moving variable that must be considered before optimizing.

That’s it for PPC copywriting. At this point in this course, you should now have all of the research you need plus a solid set of campaigns, ad groups, keywords and ads that you’ll need to launch. Next week will be the midway point of this course so we’ll review the first half of posts. This will set us up to finish the year by launching our PPC campaigns on the engines and all of the managing, reporting, and optimizing that goes into SEM.

This week’s question: “What are some things you need to think about before launch?”

PPC Academy is a comprehensive, one-year search advertising course from beginning to end. Starting with the basics, PPC Academy progressively explores all of the varied facets of paid search, and the tactics needed to succeed and become an advanced paid search marketer.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | PPC Academy


About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

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  • http://www.Match.ccom simons1321

    {KEYWORD: default} does not capitalize all letters. It only capitalizes the first letter of each word.

    AdWords capitalization rules still apply, meaning an ad can’t include excessive capitalization such as ‘BUY DVD BURNERS.’ Full capitalization may only be used when the natural spelling of a word requires it, such as in acronyms, technical terms, and trademarked terms.

    see Adwords Capitalization guidelines here:

  • Luke

    You said relevance also increases with DKI. Has anyone seen how much this will increase by?

    I haven’t noticed that with my campaigns but always wondered the relationships between relevance and DKI.

  • Matt Van Wagner

    simons 1321 is correct. The {KEYWORD: default} syntax now operates just like the {KeyWord: default} syntax for Adwords DKI.

    To be fair to Josh, this is a very recent change to the Google Adwords DKI syntax, and I don’t recall seeing it announced anywhere. I’ll bet that too many people simply abused the option and created spammy All Caps ads in violation of Google’s guidelines, so Google simply changed it. So, for all you adventurous advertisers out there who were taking advantage – your ads are probably still running, but not like you thought they were.

    I never felt that the ALL CAPS option very useful, actually, and found few legitimate use cases for it.

    What would be useful, however would be the ability to use ALL CAPS for interior words, not just first and last, so that ads where acronyms and abbreviations logically and naturally fall in the middle can be implemented using DKI

    For example Ad Headlines like this can not be implemented with current DKI syntax options:

    Great NH Vacation Rentals
    Great ME Vacation Rentals
    Great VT Vacation Rentals

    What do you think, Google-team? Is there a way to implement interior caps within your DKI syntax?

    Josh – thanks for this great post and your entire series. It is really great stuff!

    Matt Van Wagner

  • andrewholladay

    Yes..Thanks for a great article.

    Matt/Simons 1321..I’m still seeing the {KEYWord: Default} operator still working properly in my accounts. Is it possible its grandfathered in and simply not working for new ads created moving forward? Or only applicable in some accounts at this point before being rolled out entirely?

    Andrew Holladay

  • http://www.Match.ccom simons1321


    You can have one word capitalized, just not an entire phrase or multiple words unless they fall into the exception. So {KEYWord:Default} and {KeyWORD:Default} should still work.

  • andrewholladay

    Got it. KEYWord works. Just not KEYWORD.

    Also, I second Matt’s request for caps on interior words.

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