Provide Benefits That Resonate in Your Ad Copy

This article was originally published on ClickZ on February 20, 2009. It remains highly current, because PPC marketers always need to be able to “put themselves in the searcher’s shoes” and devise copy that provides appealing, tangible benefits to searchers.

I’ve discussed the pros and cons of including search keywords in your ad creative at length in the past. While there are benefits of doing so, over using this tactic can result in boring homogeneous ads.

Let’s examine whether you should consider mentioning additional benefits and incentives in your ad copy.

Benefits that Resonate

If you aren’t conveying benefits with your ad copy and your competition is, are you cutting your odds of achieving success? What are the unique benefits of your product or service? I’m not talking about touting special prices or other promotional incentives here. You can’t rely on promotions as a crutch.

Consider making your ad copy benefits-driven. What will searchers receive if they choose your ad? What promise do you make in your ad and then fulfill on the site (and afterwards, when the customer buys)?

Searchers — regardless of economic climate — are looking to solve a need and are weighing factors other than price and promotion. If you can find a way to address these factors in the few short characters, your best bet may be to emphasize emotional benefits. These benefits must resonate with the heart, not just the mind.

To determine what benefits may resonate with your audience, remove yourself from your role as a search marketer who knows everything about your product. Instead, put yourself in the place of searchers who are scanning Google’s results, looking for the perfect solution to a problem. They had a motive for the search that occurred seconds before. The more you can intuit their motives, the better you can write an ad that contains benefits that resonate.

The biggest problem in moving beyond the searched keyword and staying away from simple promotions is that the searchers seeing your ad may not all be homogeneous. They aren’t the same in every way and may have different emotional hot buttons.

Some marketers describe these different audience clusters and assign them demographic differentiators, assuming that age, gender, wealth, or geography are the appropriate ways to think of different audience groups. Other marketers, particularly recently, have preferred to think of groups with different needs, desires, motives, and behaviors as having different personas.

Personas must be identified using one or more of the targeting variables over which we have control; otherwise, they become a moot point. To pinpoint large groups of customers with a similar mindset through additional targeting options, consider splitting your campaign up to market to these different segments with different messages. In the meantime, look for a message that resonates with the largest percentage of your target audience.

Incentives (Pros and Cons)

The obvious incentives are ones that increase the likelihood of a click but don’t degrade post-click quality (conversion to a lead or a sale or meeting whatever other success metrics you desire). Search engines prohibit you from asking (or telling) the searcher to click or take action.

Let’s look at the types of incentives and promotional language that may improve your CTR (define). Many of these tactics are more appropriate for online retail, but services, businesses, or local businesses also looking for drive in-store activity, phone calls, registrations, or an inbound e-mail should think about the psychology of incentives.

Price may seem like the obvious choice as an incentive to click, but price is a dangerous area for many marketers. Before including pricing in your ads, consider the following:

  • Your brand position may not be as a price player in the market. An aggressive price may actually convince people to look elsewhere. If you compete on other variables, price can be a dangerous incentive.
  • Sometimes people prefer to pay a bit more if they believe there are additional service benefits. Buyers may have been burned in the past by lowest-price providers and the simple mention of a price may cheapen your image.
  • If you can’t win the price war, why start it?
  • Do you want a price shopper as a customer? Some studies (and some evidence I’ve seen from clients) show they have the lowest predicted lifetime customer value (i.e. they are always shopping for price).

There are other ways to communicate value besides price. Free shipping is another favorite. This is just a pricing message in disguise, though it seems less aggressive.

Messaging for sweepstakes and contests can be woven into ads. However, if you choose to explore this area of promotion, be aware of laws and regulations. Check with your legal team before doing even the simplest contest or sweepstakes.

Remember, if a searcher is looking to solve a problem and is in the late stages of the buying cycle, a contest or sweepstakes may be a distraction and add little perceived benefit. At the same time, for a shopper still in “browse mode,” the incentive of winning something may be enticing. This means you’ll be paying for clicks that have a lower conversion rate to sale and instead are simply registrations (which, depending on your business, may be highly valuable or nearly worthless).

Free trials work well for certain online or offline services where trust is required before a long-term business relationship ensues. Not everyone perceives a free trial as a benefit, so the result may be a cheapening effect similar to that suffered when offering low prices.

Great return policies have taken some online retailers to the point of no longer having to compete on price. Their customers will pay a premium to have a liberal return policy. If something is unique about your policies, and this uniqueness can be expressed in a few short characters, consider weaving it into one of your ads to be tested.

Bundles (buy one thing or a particular level of purchase and receive something else free) can also be interesting, but it’s rare that you pre-identify a bundle that will be of interest to the majority of searchers. Unless you can increase your CTR, your efforts in bundling products or services together should be focused on the landing page.