We all have that one friend.
You know, the one who hears about the latest and greatest new trends, products, bands and movies before anyone else in the group. If it weren’t for them, the rest of the group wouldn’t have ever discovered that great hole-in-the-wall restaurant, that band you know will be h-u-g-e in a few months, or that random site that sells hilarious pajamas for cats.
When it comes to your marketing, paid ads are like that friend in the group.
With paid ads online, you can reach beyond your existing customer base and tell more people about your business. Your ad will basically be that cool friend letting all your new customers know why they need to hear about what you’ve got.
The best part is that the amount of platforms and targeting options available for digital paid ads, also known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, you can reach exactly the right people and show them the perfect ad.
But because you're paying for ads, you need to make sure they actually work. Here's how to craft the perfect one:
What is a Perfect Ad, Anyway?
Well, what’s perfect for someone else’s business won’t be perfect for yours – even your competitors’ “perfect” ads won’t be perfect for you. So how can you create this perfect ad if it’s such a moving target?
First, let’s define “perfect.”
A perfect paid ad is one that reaches your ideal customer, with an offer that’s valuable to them, and gets them to take action.
Before you can even get started on creating that perfect ad, you need a few things in your toolkit.
Know who your ideal customer is
Gather up everything you know about your ideal customer. How old are they? What do they care about? And importantly: where do they spend time online?
Know your value proposition, cold
Why does your ideal customer care about your business? How do you help make their live easier, better or more fun? That’s your value proposition.
Know your budget
How much money do you have to spend on ad placements?
You need time (or money) to spend on creating content
If you’re creating the ads yourself, you’ll need time to draft the ads, figure out which elements to test and find images that work with your ad copy. If you’d rather have someone create the ads for you, you’ll need to figure out how much money you want to spend.
Know your goals
This is the big kahuna. If you know what your goal is, you’ve already taken a huge step towards creating the perfect ad.
Most paid advertising goals fall into one of two categories: awareness or conversion.
- You want to get the word out about something. Maybe you’re a new business in the area, maybe you’re gearing up for a big launch or maybe you want a whole new group of people to know who you are and what you’re about. This type of campaign is all about getting your brand in front of the right people.
- You’ll want to measure the number of impressions your ad gets, how many people visit your landing page, and you’ll want to include your brand name and logo in every ad you place.
- With conversion goals, you want people to see your ad to do something. Maybe you want them to sign up for a newsletter, buy a product, take a survey or download an ebook. To see how perfect your ads really are, you’ll want to measure your conversion rate. How many people who saw your ad clicked on it? How many people who clicked on it took action?
You’re halfway there! You’ve got all the tools you need to create a perfect paid ad.
Now, for the fun part: building the perfect paid ad. (Mad Men outfits totally optional.)
Crafting an Attention-Grabbing Headline
Your headline is the attention-grabber, the first thing people will see. If it’s great, they’ll keep reading. If it’s not… well, let’s just make sure it is. For a great headline, make sure to look at these three things.
Where are people going to see your ad? This is the first big thing you need to think about when writing a great headline. Take a look at how paid ads show up in Google versus LinkedIn.
In the Google search results, the person finding your ad is actively looking for something related to your business. They’re also looking for a headline that matches – or makes sense based on – the keywords they used to search. If they’re looking for a time tracking app, you should try to use as many of those words in your headline as possible, so people know you have what they want.
On LinkedIn, people are primed to be thinking about their career, but they’re also not there to look for your service. It’s a different strategy altogether, because you have to compete with the latest updates in their professional network, not to mention the list of people who have viewed their profile (because come on, everyone loves that, right?)
Your headline needs to be attention-getting in the right way, by appealing to what your customer is thinking about when they see your ad. To be competitive, you need to consider context.
Keep it Short
In most cases, a short headline isn’t optional. You’re working within some pretty tight character limit constraints for most text-based ads.
- Google has a 25 character limit on headlines.
- Facebook has a 25 character limit on headlines.
- LinkedIn has a 25 character limit on headlines.
…you get the idea.
Those are only some of the ad platforms that run text based ads, but you can quickly get a sense of how many characters you’ll be working with for most text-based platforms.
In that limited space, make sure to include keywords that will make your customers sit up, take notice and click on your ad.
Highlight the Value You Can Offer
Time to bring out your toolbox: why do your customers want what you’ve got? An easy way to grab their attention in a headline is to offer people exactly what they want – and if they don’t want it, they’re probably not your ideal customer.
For example, here’s a Facebook ad shown to an entrepreneur who runs her own freelance writing business.
If you’re not an entrepreneur, you probably won’t click on that ad. For their ideal customer, however, there might be a moment of recognition. “Hey, I’m an entrepreneur, and I DO have problems with email. This might be worth my time.” And that’s just from the headline.
How to Create Great Copy
Depending on the type of ad, you might have more than a headline’s worth of space to make your point and convince the reader that they’ve found The One, the Ad They’ve Been Waiting For! So let’s get convincing.
Give Your Customers What They Want
It’s time to elaborate on the promise of your headline. Give people a reason to believe you can deliver the cat’s pajamas and more (bonus points if you’re a cat’s pajamas delivery service.) What value do you bring to your customers? This is where you shout it from the rooftops.
...And The Information They Need
When people read your headline, they’re about to make a snap decision, and it’ll sound something like this…
- “Is clicking on this ad going to get me what I want?”
“Am I interested enough in the offer to learn more?”
“Is this more interesting or important than what I’m doing right now?”
Your ad copy is the place where you get to convince them, in only a few characters, that you have what they’re looking for. Make sure to use keywords, and to choose every word carefully. You don’t have a lot of space to work with!
Make it About Them
It’s tempting to make the ad about you, but it’s critical to write it with your customer in mind. When you read an ad, you want to know what’s in it for you, not why your business matters to the company. Take that into consideration when creating your ad copy.
Choosing an Image
Some ads, like Google Search Advertising, don’t let you include images. If your ad does have space for an image, you want to make sure it adds something great – and worth paying attention to.
Make sure to consider these five things when you’re trying to find that perfect image.
- Does it relate to the text of the ad? Everyone loves a good meme, but if you’re selling insurance, it might not send the right message.
- Does it relate to your ideal customer? If you have people in the picture, do they look like your target customer? A picture of a 65-year-old might not be the best choice to sell clothes to teens.
- Do you own the rights to the image? Since you’re using the image in an advertisement for commercial gain, you’ll need to make sure you have the right to use the photo, otherwise the penalties could be steep. The list of Creative Commons licenses – and what they all mean – will be a big help in determining if your image is on the up-and-up.
- Is the image attention-getting? Does the image add something to make people sit up and take notice? Any image is better than no image, but why not make sure it’s something your customers will want to click on.
- Does it fit the dimensions of the ad? Every ad platform will have different image specifications – that is, how tall and wide your image should be to display properly. If you don’t pay attention to these details for Facebook, LinkedIn and other platforms, you might end up with an oddly-squished font – or face – in your ad. Not exactly the look you’re going for.
Creating the Perfect Call to Action
This is the sense-of-urgency part of the ad. Why should someone click on your ad now? There’s a place and time for awareness advertising, but to get the most bang for your advertising buck, you want people to take action. That’s where your call to action comes in, to deliver the one-two punch that leads to a click.
Call-to-actions tell people exactly what they can expect when they click on your ad, and what they’ll get out of it.
- “Get a free trial” = I should be able to sign up for a free trial on this page.
- “Request a demo” = I should be able to request a demo.
- “Free shipping!” = I should get free shipping on my order from this ad.
This might seem obvious, but your conversion rates will thank you if you make sure that your call-to-action always matches up with what people can do on your landing page.
It’s important to only include one call-to-action in each ad, for two main reasons.
- It takes up less space. Adding in more than one call to action uses up important ad real estate. You should choose the one CTA that means the most to your customer, and you can add in any other offers or incentives on the landing page.
- It’s much less confusing. With one call to action, and a clear corresponding message on the landing page, every customer will understand exactly what they should do next.
A Landing Page That Makes People Act
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that most of the elements of the perfect ad have a lot to do with a corresponding landing page. That’s why you can’t quite hit “perfect” if your ad doesn’t link to a stellar landing page.
An ad can be great on its own, sure, but in most cases the goal isn’t just a click on the ad – it’s an action on your website. The action could be filling out a form, downloading a guide, starting a trial, signing up for a newsletter, or any other action that’s important to your business. That’s why the landing page is so important: it’s where the magic happens.
So how can you make sure your landing page can support your ad?
Make The Message Match The Ad
When people click on your ad, they’re expecting to see relevant content on the landing page. Make it easy for them to figure out that yes, this page is relevant to the ad I just clicked on, otherwise you’ll be facing some pretty high bounce rates – and not getting your message across.
A good rule of thumb is to match the headline of your landing page to the value proposition in your ad. If you’re offering a free trial in the ad, make that the focus on your page.
For example, this ad for Moz offers a free trial.
That’s the main offer, and it’s crystal clear. When you click through to the landing page, though, it’s a challenge to find the free trial offer. I wonder how many people leave without finding the link or starting a trial?
Make The Design Match The Ad
With display ads, you can take it one step further and make sure the design of the ad matches the design of the landing page. Think fonts, colors, images and style – if you’re following brand guidelines, these things should line up pretty well in the first place. This makes people feel like it’s a seamless experience, and removes one possible reason for them to feel like they’re in the wrong place.
Keep it Simple
It’s tempting to cram as many things as possible onto a landing page. Once people have clicked on your ad (yay!) you want to give them as much information as possible, and as many ways to explore your site as you can, right?
Especially if your goal is conversion, you want to limit the amount of things a person can do once they get to your page, ideally down to one item. That’s the action you want them to take, whether it’s signing up for something or buying it now. By offering them only one option, there’s a better chance they won’t get distracted, and they’ll complete the action. Hello, higher conversion rates!
Last but not least, there’s one secret weapon that can take even so-so ads all the way to perfect with a little time and strategy.
Your Secret Weapon? Testing Everything You Do
What’s perfect for your audience, business and goals is unique, so you won’t be able to find a perfect ad just by looking at what you “should” be doing. Luckily, that’s where testing can help.
Let’s say you’re not sure which call-to-action will resonate with your audience more, free shipping or a money-back guarantee. When you’re creating your ads, instead of trying to cram both offers into one ad, create two separate ads, one with each value proposition.
Then, set up both ads so that the only difference is the call-to-action. You should run them on the same ad platform, with the same budget and same targeting options. Set a time limit or a budget for how much testing you’re willing to do, and at the end of that period, take a look at each ad. How did they perform? Did one of them get a lot more clicks or conversions? Based on that information, you can refine your ads and focus on one core message.
Testing one element of the ad at a time will give you the most precise information about what’s really more effective, so make sure you aren’t testing two completely different ads against each other – you won’t be able to pin down exactly why one out-performed the other.
Create Your Ads, Don Draper
That was a lot to take in, but there’s a very good reason you should put time and effort into creating the perfect paid ad. If they’re done properly, and they manage to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right message? They work.
They get your business in front of the people who are interested in what you’ve got, because even if you do sell cat’ pajamas, there’s a whole internet out there who might be interested in them.