Giving searchers what they want instead of what you want to sell them.

Christian N.By Christian N.

This is Part 1 of a 3-part series about the philosophy and pragmatism behind writing powerful Google ads.
Intro   ♣   Part I   ♣   Part II   ♣   Part III

Warning: This article contains mature content.
Reader’s discretion is advised.


Always craving for attention, talking about our products, services, offers, always trying to make a sale. It’s not our fault, we just want more customers. And more money.

The paradox. Those who think less about making that quick sale and more about helping people, make the most money. Is it really obvious? We think we’re helping when in reality, most of the time, we’re not. When it comes to Adwords ads, this is overwhelmingly true.

Forgive the mature content of the example that follows, it was the best I found to illustrate the effectiveness of taking an altruistic approach to ad writing.

Here are two ads:

This first ad outperformed all its peers with a CTR of 3.65%. The keywords were not very specific and quite broad in nature but this ad attracted the attention of my prospects in a way that my other ads never could.

Because of it, the seven keywords in the ad group were awarded perfect 10 /10 Quality Scores and allowed me to bid a few cents while getting more exposure.

The reason this ad worked was because I finally offered my searchers exactly what they wanted to know. Not what I wanted them to buy from me.

The dozens of ads I wrote before it barely managed to get a CTR above 1%. The second highest performing ad in the ad group never went above a 1.62% CTR and a Quality Score of 7/10. It was the best I could do for a long time.

This wasn’t bad, in fact it was doing pretty well by current standards and I could have just moved on. However, it was my highest traffic ad group, I wanted a 10/10 and the benefits that came with it so I made an extra effort.

With intensive research, I discovered what the hidden questions in my prospects’ minds really where and the true nature of their search. Reading many forum posts on the subject matter, going through every link in the search results, it became very clear what people “really” wanted to know.

Each of the many variations I tested took me about an hour to write. Some even more. And the vast majority of them did not work.

Most advertisers lack the determination and patience that is often required to find the gold that is right in front them. Worse, most don’t know that it exists. And even those that do know the gold exists, will often give up after a few attempts proclaiming that they have done all that can be done, not admitting to their failures.

I have succumbed to those failing attitudes many times myself, and many times I have surprised myself to find words that made all the difference when I had completely lost all hope. Of course I have not won all my battles, but the reasons for my own failures, and the mistake I made have always been the same.

Ad Writing Mistakes
The 3 bad habits robbing you of your ability to write better PPC ad copy

Mistake #1

Writing ads staring at your
AdWords account

This is how you’re writing your ads, it doesn’t work.

It can take me over an hour to write an ad because of research. I’m not staring at my Adwords screen for an hour nor trying to pull it out my…

Yes I’ve managed to increase CTR or conversion rates by a few percentages by switching description line 2 with 1 or using similar clever tricks, but never in ways that tripled my results and significantly improved performance. Great ads are created by caring about users and going where they are.

When you’re in front of your AdWords account, you’re not caring about your users and it will be evident as you write ads of no importance over and over again.

Before everything, it all comes down to you making a decision. A decision not to be blinded by your business needs in thinking that what you offer is really what they’re looking for. It is harder than you think, as it always catches up with you no matter how far you leave it behind. You simply need to recognize when it does, and make a conscious effort to preoccupy yourself with the needs of the searcher instead of your own. Selflessness.

Mistake #2

Not doing enough research before
writing new ads

If you’re trying to improve your Google Ads Quality Score, you can stop the research only when you’ve managed to write an ad that doubles or triples your ad CTR and shows a significant, permanent increase in QS. Until then, the research is not over.

You still don’t know what users want until you’ve been able to write that ad that magnifies your results in ways no other test has been able to. There are many ways to conduct user research. My favourite is to follow users where they are before they reach my landing page.

In many cases, we trust that Google knows user intent better than we do. Your ability to analyze the search results and squeeze information out of it is what will define your success or failure. This will be the topic of my next article that will cover Empathy: How to put yourself in your searchers shoes to discover their world.

Mistake #3

Thinking you know what searchers
actually want

I was having a call with Marilyn the other day (Marilyn is our fabulous content writer for Tenscores Daily PPC News & Tips) and I asked her whether she knew what people searching for “violin rosin” in Google actually wanted.

She knows a lot about violins and so her natural instinct was to tell me what violin rosin is, what people searching for that term actually want and the kind of ads we should write for them. That is the number one behaviour that will ensure you never write great ads.

You should always assume you know nothing.

It’s only when you acknowledge that you don’t know, that you can truly take the steps necessary to write ads that make a difference. It is accepting this reality that will drive you to hours of research in a market that you’ve already been working in for years. It was this that pushed me to write an ad that would get a perfect score of 10, while in reality a 7 was already good enough.

The first two mistakes all stem from this last one. It’s a decision you have to make for yourself, a choice to always assume you don’t know until you’ve written an exceptionally high performing ad.

What it is and why cultivating it is crucial to the ad writing process

Selflessness is a very attractive quality.

One that can also be very lucrative when done right. Think about the times a friend truly did something for you simply to make you feel good or just because they cared.

Now think about the times someone stopped you on the street trying to sell you something.

One is attractive, the other is repulsive. Of course, we’re marketers, and I’m not suggesting you become Mother Theresa (although I suspect she would be a better marketer than any of us), but your close friend would be much more successful at selling you something down the line than a salesman ever would.

You need to learn how to talk to your users like you were their best friend, and they need to believe that you actually care. It is harder than you think, especially if you don’t start practicing this approach.

Best practices

When it’s time to leave best practices behind

Best practices are never the best. They produce average results, not the best.

They will only give you the same results as everybody else because everybody follows best practices. You’re probably one them, those I call “best practice advertisers”. It is time to stop doing that.

This doesn’t mean that best practices are bad, they’re just training wheels that prevent you from making mistakes and falling face first. The problem is we tend to keep those training wheels on and never catch up to speed with those who are riding unassisted. They travel faster.

This doesn’t also mean that you should just try anything that pops out of your head. Nope, that doesn’t work either. You let your research guide you and you leave any bias behind that you may be carrying with you.

One of the best practice I like to break is the idea that keywords should be in the headline or the ad itself. Sometimes a slight variation of the keyword works best, sometimes not having the keyword at all works better. That is because when you present to the searcher exactly what he wants, he can’t resist, and sometimes what he wants is not exactly what he typed. You can only figure this out when you dedicate yourself to understanding who your searchers are.

In my example above, notice that the keywords I was advertising are not systematically in the ad, in fact, you might not be able to guess exactly which they were.

If you’re still one of those who believe that a headline should always contain a keyword, then you will never be able to surpass yourself nor beat your competitors. The kinds of results we’re talking about are only accomplished by the top 1% of advertisers and they employ strategies that go beyond the average “best practices” advice you generally encounter.

Landing pages

Understand what needs to be on your landing pages to convert more visitors

Once you know what people want through your ads, you’ll understand what is lacking in your landing pages to convert better. When you decide to hop on that quest, what you learn allows you to find the offers and how to present them in way that generates conversions.

Your skills as a marketer evolve continuously. The ability to influence people with words start with understanding who those people are.

The first time I wrote an ad that significantly improved my results is when I decided to learn more about copywriting. If this article convinces one person to read and research about how to be a better copywriter, it would be my success as this is in my opinion the most important skill a ppc marketer should have.

How can one sell anything without words? Most words are meaningless, but a few create emotions that drive actions. They are different for different groups of people. It is your job to find out which they are. Isn’t that what “ad words” is all about?

For the example above, what I did was create an entirely new landing page on which I offered the answers to the questions in exchange of an email address. An opportunity to build a relationship with people who would soon buy from me.

It’s always a good thing when people come knocking at your door to shop and you already know who they are and what they want.

Perfect scores

Make all your keywords behave like your brand terms

Is that even possible?

You’ve seen how cheap you’re paying on your brand related keywords, you know you don’t have to worry about them as no competitor can beat you. You’ve probably put them in their own campaign and you have perfect scores for each of them, the acquisition costs on those are way lower and you generally don’t have to optimize them.

What if all your keywords behaved that way?

I want you to know that this is possible. It is not easy for most, but it is possible. I’m not asking you, nor expect you to make this a reality for yourself tomorrow. I just want you to understand that this is a reality for some advertisers in any market you’re in. And that you can catch up to them. Eventually.

We have many Tenscores customers who have whole accounts with thousands of keywords with Quality Scores ranging from 9 to 10/10.

In this article and the ones that will follow, I will attempt to give you the strategy to make it a reality for you. At the very least, I hope it will help you write a few ads that will increase your scores for the main keywords that are responsible for the bulk of your revenue.


It’s hard at first, really hard… then it becomes easy

It’s like trying to forcibly push your way through a closed door. You’ll push hard and hard at first until the door gives and let’s you in.

The work that I’m suggesting here, for most markets, has to be done once and your discoveries can be used across the board.

It’s like finding the core that drives a group of people to behave a certain way, once you’ve found the heart of the issue, everything else is a slight variation of the center.

So if you’re thinking to yourself “I have thousands of keywords”, you’ll only need to figure out a handful of searches that will open the door to understanding what you need for the vast majority of your ad groups.

Coming next

Selflessness is the mindset, empathy is the process, charisma is the language

You’ve just read how important it is to be selfless and be concerned with your searchers needs, but I haven’t told you how to actually discover what they really want.

I’ve written about it in the past but didn’t go into detail about how I do it myself. In fact I skipped over some very important aspects of the process.

There are two other qualities you need to cultivate: Empathy and Charisma.

Empathy is having the ability to really understand where users are coming from, being able to put yourself in their shoes. This is where all the research comes into play and will be the subject of my next article.

Charisma is about knowing which words, which tone, which message to convey in order to attract swarms of clicks. It will be the last article of this series.

Together with selflessness, empathy and charisma amplify your ability to write irresistible ads and dominate your market. Stay tuned.

Do you have any deep insights on ad writing you would like to share?

Thanks to Rand Fishkin of SparkToro for providing initial feedback on this article.

Christian N.

About Christian N.

Chris is one of the two-man team that founded, he wrote his first PPC ad in 2007, fell in love and hasn't stopped ever since.
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