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Top 3 PPC Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid (Expert Tips & Advice)

Liz Murphy

Director of Web & Interactive Content, Speaker, Host of 'Content Lab' Podcast

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Top 3 PPC Copywriting Mistakes to Avoid (Expert Tips & Advice) Blog Feature

Published on June 27th, 2019

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So, a few months back, I sat down with IMPACT Paid Media Specialist Jason Linde for an episode of the Content Lab, during which we discussed copywriting for paid media ads -- for example, Google Ads.

Since our chat, however, I've been pondering something.

I loved that I walked away with a lot of positive, actionable advice on how to tackle copywriting in the paid space, which I consider to be a very challenging medium, given the character count constraints. 

But what are the things that I shouldn't be doing, in the world of PPC copywriting?

More specifically, what are the most common mistakes those who are new to copywriting for Google Ads and PPC make?

Thankfully, being the all around good guy that he is, Jason graciously agreed to sit down for a little chat this week to help me answer that question. 

Mistake #1: You're Missing the Call-to-Action

ME: OK, so when you say someone is "missing the call-to-action" in their PPC copy, what do you mean?

Jason: A lot of times not letting the actual clicker or potential clicker understanding what to expect. Right? Is it a downloadable offer like a whitepaper? Is it something to view? Is it a "learn more" opportunity?

Essentially, when someone clicks-through, do they know clearly where journey is going to lead next? 

In this day and age, most folks tasked with PPC copywriting tend to write more "properly" due to the space constraints. Or, those who come from more of a long-form copywriting background may lean into the habit of "leading with the pain point" of the user. 

Unfortunately, while leading with the pain point is great for a website page, that kind of strategy can lead to wasted clicks -- you chew up all of the copywriting real estate you have with pain point-focused messaging, and you won't have any space left to say what it is you're giving them.

This can lead to confusing copy that doesn't really tell someone what they're going to get on the other side of that click.

If you miscommunicate (or completely fail to include) the call-to-action, the user may still click-through, but may not be happy with what they find. It may be overwhelming or demanding too much from them when they aren't ready, or there might be too little for them to consider what they've come across to be valuable or relevant to their query. 

You need to be very explicit about what it is you're giving them. And, depending on the ad type, you can do this in the headline and in the description below it.

Me: You're absolutely right. Being more of a traditional copywriter myself, I can tell you we are always trained to lead with the problem first; to really focus on the pain points and not necessarily go right into, "Here is the solution! This is what we're giving you!" It sounds like what you're telling me is that when you're writing copy for, let's say a Google Ad, you really need to fight that urge.

Jason: Well, not so fast. You can still speak to the pain points if you do your copywriting right. The key is to not let the the pain point be the primary focus or sole focus of your copy. You need to be up-front in your ad about what the solution is, or whatever it is they can expect on the other side, as it relates to that pain point, as well.

Me: Gotcha, so you can't leave them hanging. You either need to go all-in with just focusing on the thing that you're giving them, or you can have the pain point and whatever that thing may be. You just can't go only with the pain point and leave them hanging in suspense about what is waiting for them on the other side of that click.

Jason: You got it!

Mistake #2: Keyword Stuffing Is Still a Problem in PPC Copywriting

Me: I thought keyword stuffing is well-known as a no-no in any copywriting space. This is still a problem with PPC ads?

Jason: Oh, definitely. What typically happens is people know the exact keyword they're going after with their ad. So, they think it's logical to just put that keyword right into the ad copy. At first glance, this might make sense. 

But if you just put your keyword into the headline and/or description for the sake of it, you're not really focusing on how it will read to the audience. 

Sure, there may be scenarios where it totally makes sense from a conversational perspective to include the keyword. But if you're just dropping it in because, "Well, it's the keyword we're targeting!" -- especially in multiple spots, like the headline and the description -- it's going to look a little weird to the audience. 

Again, to be clear, I'm not saying that it's not right to utilize the keyword within the ad copy. If it makes sense -- if I'm the user putting that keyword into Google, and the ad shows me that exact query or something similar to that, then I will feel good about my next step, which is to read the ad.

It's all about context.

Me: So, you need to approach your copywriting and then the review of your own copy from a human point of view. Not what you think will make the robots happy. I always find that funny. I feel like half of the time we have to remind marketers, "Yo, you are a human. Act like one. Market like one." 

Jason: Exactly.

Mistake #3: Punctuation Is Not As Straightforward as It Sounds

Me: Wait, what? How is punctuation a mistake?

Jason: OK, so it's not really a mistake, per se. I'm talking more about a misuse of punctuation in Google Ads copy.

Me: Can you give me an example?

Jason: Sure! Let's go with comma. Sometimes you know a comma needs to go somewhere, right? There's a pause, so there needs to be a comma. But you may only have a certain number of characters and that comma may be the culprit that pushes you over.

You're going to have to look critically at your copy in those cases, because you may want to drop that comma -- or maybe even the period that comes later -- but that might not be the right move.

When you do that, what you have with your copy might not read well. You could end up with a run-on sentence or something that reads strangely because of that missing comma. 

Additionally, dropping punctuation can make people hyper-focus on what's not right with your copy -- no matter how spot-on the remaining message may be. Visually, they may not be able to get over the comma or period that should be there.

Me: Any other punctuation pointers? 

Jason: I think in descriptions you use exclamation marks when appropriate -- especially around messages like save now, hurry while whatever lasts, etc. Put excitement where it's needed. I think commas when definitely appropriate, like to break out, especially if you're just going to try to just put a whole bunch of benefits together in a string. You need to properly break that list apart.

One Final Piece of Advice from Jason Linde

Jason: When you make your keyword decisions, Google those keywords to see what other people are saying. Look at the paid verbiage, look at the organic verbiage so you can kind of get an idea of what people should be expecting when they're querying out those keywords.

Write an ad to the pain point that you feel like you could be the best solution for. Make sure it's clear. Make sure that you tick all those things off -- so your pain points and the call-to-action need to be there. Because is the person going to understand what to expect next?

And then test. Test different versions.

Don't spend an enormous amount of time on only one ad and put that one ad and let it hang it all on that. Test different versions of headlines. Test things like punctuation. Test the CTA, or different iterations of the way you can get somebody to sign up for that demo or download a piece of content.

Sometimes you have to let them know that it's a frictionless ask, meaning they don't have to give personal information (like an email address) to get what they want or what you're offering. Sometimes you have to let people know so they're willing to click to then go to that gated piece and put in their email.

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