Time to Play ‘PPC Ad Copy Survivor’ : BoostCTR Review

1 Comment » Written on August 30th, 2011 by
Categories: Analytics, Copywriting, Facebook Ads, Google Adwords

About a year ago I chatted with David from Boost CTR about his new business, designed to get writers to compete in contests for their advertiser customers to see who could write the highest CTR ads.

If the writers’ ads performed better than the customer’s control ads, Boost CTR gets a small commission.  Pretty simple yet brilliant value proposition for Adwords advertisers who want to see if they can jack their CTRs, which in turn earn them higher Quality Scores and lower CPCs.

Four Challenges to BoostCTR’s Model

It’s kind of like the TV show “Survivor” for ad copy writers.  I wasn’t sure if it would fly however for four specific reasons:

  1. Would enough decent writers actually participate in the contests to get some decent results?
  2. Would said writers know enough about each advertisers’ niche to actually write effective ads?
  3. Would said writers toilet my brand by running ads that weren’t a fit or appropriate for my campaigns and my business?
  4. If I gave Adwords API access to BoostCTR would they be able to steal my campaigns and compete with me?

Add to that from an entrepreneurial standpoint: Could BoostCTR carve out a decent business even though they don’t offer soup-to-nuts campaign management, a bid management system or keyword research solutions like most of the PPC performance enhancement platforms offer, aka. “Can they make a successful business by focussing on ad performance improvement only”?

Well, it’s now a year later and their business is booming with a whack of big-name advertiser clients, so I guess so…:)

How it Works

OK, so here’s how BoostCTR works for me as advertiser:

  • First, I sign up and submit one or more ad groups for improvement.
  • After I’ve submitted at least one ad group, BoostCTR’s expert writers compete against each other to beat my best ads.
  • I only pay when BoostCTR is able to beat my current control ad. (I can track either CTR or conversions to determine the winner.)

Here’s some screenshots of the advertiser UI (Click to Enlarge):

BoostCTR dashboard screenshot

BoostCTR PPC Ad Copy Contests



From what I’ve see in Google ad copy lately, many, many PPC managers could use a hand in the ad copy department, so a bit of fresh blood writing for you can’t hurt here.  In fact, it’s not uncommon for PPC managers to split-test a few ads, then leave the best performing ad uncontested for months at a time.

Then there are active PPC managers who’ve been writing ads for the same business for years. They’re always testing new creative, but they’ve gone through all their best ideas and need a fresh perspective from somebody who’s seeing the account for the first time.

It’s kind of similar in many ways to ’99designs’ where web designers compete with their mockups to earn your business, but you only pay when you find a winner…except here we’re talking ad performance improvement.

Sounds awesome, but what about the questions I mentioned above?  Read on…

What Do You Know!? Good Writers Can Write For Anything…

So were they able to find pro writers to compete in my ad contests?  Yup, in fact I’ve heard from a few people I know quite well in the PPC biz who bang out great ads for them on the side. It turns out they now have hundreds of writers competing in the time since I originally spoke to David, their CEO/Founder.

Can they write for my niche?  Apparently so, CTR and conversion improvements on winning ads averages around 30%.  Some see bigger boosts, others smaller, but they regularly beat the control ads which is the whole point.

Check out some examples here on their “Win of the Week” blog.  (In one case they increased an ad’s CTR by 415%)

Campaign Data & Privacy

BoostCTR has thought this through pretty well and their security measures are tight. For instance, when you submit an ad group to BoostCTR only a handful of the broad search phrases are included for writers to see. No other data is included, so search volumes,CTR, and profitability are never revealed.


BoostCTR writers rely pretty heavily on their own research and experience, as well as any information you include in your creative brief. The brief includes any specific requests you may have for how new ads are written.

Reject Ads You Don’t Like

While I don’t have control over who writes for my account or what ads are submitted per se, I still get the final say when deciding which ads to test and which ads to reject.  The creative brief I whip up ahead of time for the writers helps prevent ad submissions that I’m not comfortable with. But even if you do get an ad I don’t like, I can reject it.

*When I reject an ad, I can also send comments back to the writer so he knows how to write better ads for me on the next round.

The Good and Bad of Crowd-Sourcing

If there is any downside to BoostCTR, it’s that you can’t choose or put a face to who writes for your contests. It is bonafide “crowd-sourcing” — an anonymous group of people who all work to improve your PPC ads. That said, the writer or writers who end up working on your ad groups may change depending on the time of day, week, and month you post new contests.

On the flip side, this lack of choice saves you time. Rather than worrying about the person writing for you, you can divert all your attention into deciding whether or not to run the ad or ads that have been submitted, which is a lot faster and easier.

And while this approach is a bit unorthodox, it’s worked well so far. BoostCTR already has a stable of “Big Name” clients including CafePress, Expedia, 99 Designs, Beach Body, and many more.

Personally I don’t care who writes it as long as it lifts myCTR and is appropriate for my campaign.  I’m looking for improved numbers vs. personality.

Who Should & Should Not Try BoostCTR

Obviously, if you’re ad spend is under $250 a month, or if your search volumes are low, then BoostCTR probably won’t be a good investment for you, try growing your traffic first.

But if PPC advertising is a big part of your marketing, and you’re spending thousands of dollars a month, you need to try it.

(NOTE:  I asked David for a trial for PPCblog readers, here’s the “ONE FREE CONTEST” Link Here They Provided)

I have to eat some crow here BTW as well.  I personally was not sure their model would pan out, but they’re kicking butt at this and have now even expanded into doing Facebook image ads, something that’s a major pain due to the fickle nature of FB CTRs and requirements for constant freshness in your ad creative.

Congrats to David and team (Now including Tom Demers formerly from Wordstream – good guy that Tom) on building a successful model by really hammering on one key pain point for advertisers: lifting conversions and CTRs with better ad copy.

Go give it a try!


Review: The Premise Landing Page System for WordPress

18 Comments Written on March 28th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting

A few months ago, Brian from Copyblogger told me about a WordPress landing page system Copyblogger Media was working on called Premise. At the time, it sounded very promising: a plugin-able WordPress framework with a collection of pre-optimized templates and call-to-action graphics that you could host yourself without paying fees on a CPM basis to use it (unlike some of the landing page templating solutions currently on the market).

Now that I’ve had a bit of time to play with it, I thought I’d share a full review (something I haven’t done on PPCblog before).


I tested Premise on both WordPress 3.0 and 3.1, but I needed to upgrade my PHP install from 4 to 5 before I could successfully activate the plugin. Additionally, your wp-content/uploads folder has to be writeable via the folder permissions settings in your FTP client. Following that, you basically just dump it into wp-content/plugins and activate it like any other WordPress plugin. Pretty simple.

Pre-optimized Lander Template Styles

To start off, here’s the kind of pre-generated templates Premise has built in (Click thumbnails to see a demo of each page type):

Premise Sales Page Template Demo

Standard Sales Letter or "Sales Page"

Premise Content SEO Landing Page Demo

Content Marketer's Landing Page

Premise Email Optin Page Sample

Email Optin Lander

Premise Video Lander Demo

Video Landing Page

Premise Sideways Tab Landing Page Sample

"Sideways" Lander

Post Install – Create Your First Lander

I consider Premise would qualify as a WordPress “framework” system not really a ‘theme’ per se. It installs to your wp-content/plugins folder, and creates custom panels in your WordPress dashboard (similar to the way Copyblogger’s other framework product Genesis snaps in):

Premise Landing Page Panels in WordPress

When you go to create a new page you pick the variety of lander you want to build:

Premise Landing Page Types

Copywriting 101 Baked-In

Once you’ve selected a page type you’ll see a different-looking WordPress layout for page creation that gives you a lot more control over the various elements of the page.

The first area you notice is the new Headlines boxes, you an additional headline option that gives you the chance to put in properly sized ‘subheadline’…nice touch.

Premise Headline Entry Window

In the copy edit window, you’ll see a few new little buttons, the first one pops in sample copy Brian and the Copyblogger team have come up with to work as a ‘best practices’ guideline for you to fit your copy into rather than just leaving you staring at a blank page.

This has to be one the best parts of the framework, the sample copy can spark your imagination and help you come up with compelling copy.

In fact, if you’re having trouble coming up with copy that will actually sell, Copyblogger includes a pane right inside the edit screen in WordPress full of copywriting tips and tricks:

Premise Copywriting Advice

Promotional Graphics Included

The next button pulls up a HUGE library of free promotional graphics their team includes with Premise for free, check this out:

Included Premise Promotional Graphics

The interesting part is that the image gallery appears to be fed by Premise’s server so you don’t have to wait for hours for all of the images to upload with theme to your WordPress site. Smart.

I had a chance to go through all of the graphics, and it’s a pretty impressive collection that you have full rights to use on Premise-generated landing pages. Here’s some of my favorites:

Insert LeadGen Anywhere

The other new task buttons allow you to insert an email collection box (directly connected to your Mailchimp, Aweber or Constant Contact account) right into your lander. I connected my Aweber account to Premise via Aweber’s apps feature, and Premise pulled in my existing email collection form without my having to recode what happens when an email is collected and the rest of the existing signup flow:

Premise Email Collection Form

Finally, the small yellow button: inserts a “notice box” that puts a nicely coloured yellow ‘call out’ box into your page where you can add special text you really want to stand out.

SEO, Website Optimizers, Split Testing

After you’ve completed your copy and layout, Premise has a few options for customizing SEO settings like title tags and meta, as well as options to block googlebot from indexing your landing page if you choose.

Just below you can auto-insert your Google Website Optimizer or Visual Website Optimizer code and Premise will place the tags in the right place in the lander code to ensure your multivariate tests work properly from the beginning.

There’s also a cool option to create an identical clone of the lander you’ve just built for A/B split testing purposes:

Premise Landing Page Copy

Colors, Fonts & Design Tweaking Galore

If you’re not keen on the default fonts, colors, layouts or graphics, you can tweak pretty well everything within the Premise Design panel, no custom CSS required. The level of granularity here is impressive:

Premise Landing Page Design Options Panel


Copyblogger has priced Premise at $85 USD for unlimited use on as many domains and landers as you want, but version updates, support and new additions to the graphics library will only be available to you for 6 months. They also have a lifetime updates plan for $165. In my opinion either option would be worth it when you consider what it costs to have a single lander developed, let alone with all the copywriting templates Premise builds in.

Overall Thoughts & Impressions

Almost everyone is running WordPress these days, and too often landing pages have been built outside of the WordPress CMS and just ‘hang off’ the core site like orphans. Premise lets you bring them into your site’s CMS without screwing up your SEO, mainly because you’re given the options in Premise to control how Google views the pages (if at all) and you can align common header images and footer content across content pages as well as landers.

The default templates are tremendously well laid out, as you’d expect when they’re designed by people who market content online for a living. The technical features aside, the copywriting templates are worth their weight in gold. They help you push beyond just extolling “features” of your product and focus on detailing the benefits your customers will achieve with your product or service.

In my opinion this WordPress plugin model is better than paying ‘per impression’ for landing page templates as some services currently do. You don’t end up getting ‘punished’ for having a lot of traffic and being successful.

From a PPC perspective, the basic elements that Google looks for with Landing Page Quality Score are accommodated with Premise landers, and the professional design style should more than pass the ‘sniff-test’ for Adwords reviewers, much more so than the ‘trashy’ sales letter templates. The resulting web code is reasonably clean and shouldn’t cause any issues for Google’s adbot.

The templates are somewhat monochromatic at first, but once you add in the button and badge graphics along with your own header image, it gets a lot brighter. The selection of templates cover just about every type of lander you might want to create except for one: a “deals” lander. I’d like to see Premise build a template for a Groupon-style deal or coupon offer as these “Deal of the Day” style lander designs are becoming the standard for “specials” of all types.

All in all, I think Premise is the fastest way to build landing pages in line with conversion optimization standards. When you add in the fact that 99% of us are using WordPress backends, it’s even more attractive.

Premise is available for download now at

School of PPC Hard Knocks: Localizing & Translating Adwords Campaigns

4 Comments Written on March 14th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting, Geo Targeting, Google Adwords, Landing Pages

Having just recently finished the localization process of some of my English Adwords campaigns into European languages, I thought I’d share some things I learned along the way.  After considerable effort and reorganization the campaign is succeeding, but it was fraught with failure and ‘lessons learned’.  Hopefully some of my experiences will be helpful if you’re thinking of translating your campaigns to target new markets and languages…

Surveying the Competitive Landscape

Before going through the work of translating my English campaigns into the most common European languages, I took a look at the competitive landscape via Google’s much-improved Ad Preview Tool (remember to set both the country to the locale you’re after, but also the language selection).  I was looking for a few things in surveying the competition in each country:

  • Were the competitors in the various markets were English vendors using translated campaigns, or companies native to those locales?
  • If the competitors were English, was their translation properly done by native speakers, or just a quick Google Translate?
  • Again if the competitors were English, was their entire end-to-end process properly localized, from keywords to ads to landers to  e-commerce and customer support?
  • If the competitor was a local, how aggressive were their PPC ads, landers, shopping cart and the like from a conversion optimization perspective?

The basic idea here was this:  “Is this going to be like shooting fish in a barrel if I’m highly optimized, or do the competitors have strong PPC fu?”

It turns out that in most countries my competitors in this particular niche were typically other English vendors with Google-translated ads, landing pages, and completely untranslated e-commerce checkout setup.

Finding a Translator and Where to Start?

Now that I knew which countries and languages to start localizing for (in order of local search volume primarily),  I needed to decide where to begin.  I had decided to do a full end-to-end localization from keywords to e-commerce and customer support.  I also knew that I wanted my translated content to be as close to 100% accurate as possible.

To test just how good or bad Google translate was, and to help evaluate the proper translation, I put an ad on Craigslist for a fully bilingual translator who was born and raised in the first country I decided to test.  To qualify the applicants, I gave them a sizeable snippet of text from one of my existing landing pages and ask them to email me back their translation from English into the chosen language.

I have a friend who certainly qualifies to do proper translation but wasn’t looking to be a translator for this project to evaluate the control text in English, and then the submitted translation in the new language.  To make things more interesting, I translated the English snippet using Google translate and included that for review as well.

The results were interesting.  Five candidates had submitted translated snippets, plus the version made with Google Translate.  Oddly, three of the five candidates submitted results identical to the Google Translate version:)  Disregarding those, I forwarded on the remaining two real translations.  My friend sent back one saying it was the most accurate, and represented the way a local would translate the English snippet.  The other had spelling errors and other grammatical issues and was disregarded.  And the Google Translate version?  To say it had butchered the translation would be an understatement.

The point?  There’s a big difference between Google Translate’s “good enough” on-the-fly translation to help you quickly understand the odd alternate language site, but for heaven’s sake don’t use it to translate your ads and landing pages.

Translation Gotchas & Efficiency

Now that we had a translator, we set her to work (on an hourly basis, in our local offices) on translating the keywords first, then the Adwords ads, then the landing pages, then the shopping cart, then the receipts and customer support touch points.

One thing I learned very quickly is that English does not always have a one-for-one equivalent in other languages.  In fact, you have to watch out for tenses of words as well, as often the past/present can be tricky and change the meaning of keywords and ads if you’re not careful. Same goes for plurals.

Though overall the process of finding someone locally to do the translation, vetting them, and then working with them at your offices worked really well.  When you realize the amount of back and forth and questions the translator may have to clarify the meaning of what you’re promoting (particularly with technical terms and the like) I highly recommend not trying to do the entire process over email.  There’s just too much interaction required in my experience to make the email back-and-forth route efficient.

Adwords Campaign ‘Cloning Fail’

I had decided not to start a net-new campaign with entirely new keywords and ads for this project, rather I thought I’d just clone the English campaign and have it translated, then switch the language and geographic settings in Adwords Editor and reload it.

Seems logical no?  Well as it turned out, it wasn’t quite so simple.

Of course copying, pasting, and translating the campaign in Adwords Editor was a snap, as was quickly adjusting the languages and country settings.  What I didn’t factor in though was that even with a seasoned translator doing the heavy lifting, people just do not always search for things the same way they do in English.

It wasn’t just that they use slightly different suffix’s or word order:  keywords that were the ‘high volume’ winners in both search traffic and conversion rates in English BOMBED in some of these other languages.

The best part?  The clicks were still there in large volume, but they just weren’t converting. The challenge in a lot of situations was, you have this keyword, it’s getting a ton of traffic, but you can’t figure out what’s gone wrong until you first see the Search Terms report in Adwords which can take days to fully an properly populate.  At first you’re looking to see if you’ve stumbled on to a term that has dual meanings, something that can easily happen in English, let alone languages you’re not familiar with.

So the keywords weren’t working the way they did in English, how about the CPCs?  Turns out that simply using the (typically high) CPCs you’re used to using in your English campaigns is a BAD idea too.  How bad?  By the time I had things fully optimized bid-wise, I had cranked the bids down by up to 80%!

So not only are you bleeding money on keywords that aren’t working, you’re also paying 80% too much for said keywords.  Not good.

Save Some Money: Learn Your Market

My advice from all of this?  Do some serious research into how users in different languages and countries look for stuff online.  Ask anyone and everyone you can who is from these locations originally to answer a few ‘quiz’ questions like “if you needed to find a solution for problem “X”, what would you type into Google?”

In fact, put together a Survey Monkey questionnaire and post it on Craigslist paying people a small amount from those markets (either originally or ex-pats) to fill it out and tell you they would search for refer to your product natively.  This can save you HUGE dollars.  In my case I blew through over $10k in ad spend before I realized I should have done this first. The same goes for just dumping a load of keywords out of a PPC spy tool and thinking that’ll cover it, you’ll end up with exactly the same problem: context.

When the dust settled and Google Analytics + the Adwords Search Terms report populated, I could see a few land mines that I had fallen onto via double-meanings etc, and also a number of negatives that were missed (to be clear, the negatives list was also translated one-for-one, but again, the correct negatives for the campaign used entirely different terms, terms I didn’t even have).

You might wonder: If the translator ‘was so good’ why didn’t she catch these things?  Bottom line?  That’s not really what she does.  And the “what” is context.  In retrospect, I needed to know the questions to ask her (see comments above under how people search for things in other countries), and I didn’t know to ask her what I didn’t know.  Sounds convoluted, but basically it was my fault not hers.  It’s my job to know the big picture context in my business, not hers.  Lesson learned: Learn what you need to ask.

Finding the ‘Missing Piece’

Even after fixing the ‘keywords and negatives’ problems by cutting and adding new negs, the campaign still wasn’t profitable, and the keywords that were profitable were far too low in search volume to move the needle.

Why not?  There was still ONE BIG problem to find and conquer before this campaign started rocking…

What was it?  How did we fix it?  What’s happened with the campaign since?

Usually I don’t do this with our public blog posts, but I’m going to save the answers to these for our PPCblog members.  If you haven’t signed up yet, I’m running a $1 one month trial deal right now so it’ll only cost you a buck to join and get the rest of the details as well as the hundreds of pages of PPCblog members-only content.

Members have access to this, and all of our case studies, join now!

PPC Pain Points

2 Comments Written on February 21st, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting

Pain Point
Nothing motivates a person quite like pain.

If you’ve got a toothache, you probably can’t wait to use a dentist’s services. The money, so long as you can afford the fee, becomes a non-issue compared to the thought of enduring the pain for one day longer.

You want your customers to be in a similar painful position – not in the sense that you wish pain upon them, but you do want them to have a burning need. This need might be to travel immediately (“last minute flight bookings online”), wanting to have the latest technology (“iPad 2.0, avoid the wait”), or a suit cleaned before an important meeting (“express dry cleaning service, while you wait”).

The customers that are most likely to convert have a pain they need to alleviate. Now.

The commonality in the examples above is that the customer doesn’t just want something. They have a burning need for something, so much so that is causing them a degree of pain. They alleviate this pain by buying what you have to offer. These highly motivated customers are certainly the type of customer you want to select when you’re paying by the click!

In terms of PPC, we have three tools to work with – the pitch, the landing page and the ad text.

1. The Pitch

Everyone says “understand the customer”, but what does that really mean?

Try to understand your customer in terms of the pain they are experiencing. In the example of the dentist I used above, the pain point is self-evident: a sore tooth!

However, most consumer situations are more subtle. Having a suit cleaned before an important meeting is an organisational pain. Time creates a constraint i.e. the suit must be cleaned before the meeting. The need to have the suit cleaned is linked to a strong desire to make a good impression.

There is pain involved in not completing this task. The time constraint creates a sense of urgency – itself a form of pain – as does the mere thought of showing up to an important meeting wearing a shabby suit – i.e we try to avoid the pain of embarrassment.

Look at your good or service in terms of the “medicinal” quality it offers. Identify the point of pain, or points, of pain in the customer, and make a list. Also make a list of general pain points. For example, time pressure, social pressure, work pressure, family pressure, etc, that will be common to many people, and may only be indirectly related to your offer.

2. The Landing Page

Take your list of pain points, and turn it into copy.

Identify and acknowledge the pain points in your audience. A cheesy way to do this involves asking ridiculous questions “You Have A Hot Date In Two Hours, But Your Suit Needs Cleaning Now! Who Will You Call?”.

That works, but it comes across a bit like a 1950’s used car salesman. A more modern technique is to refer to the problem more obliquely. “Immediate Dry Cleaning, While You Wait”. The suggestion is that other services don’t offer immediate dry cleaning. The customer connects the dots in their head. Note that this phrase “Immediate Dry Cleaning, While You Wait”, as is a result of me noting, following step one, that time, and shortage thereof, is a common pain point.

Your “medicinal” qualities become features. For example, “guaranteed service”, “we’re a phone call away”, “we pick up and deliver”, and “there is no garment we can’t clean within an hour”.

3. The Text Ad

The text ad is the same as the landing page step, except you must focus on the most “painful” point your customer is experiencing.

You haven’t got a lot of words to play with, and there are many words on the search results page fighting for the customers attention. The text ad is, of course, related to the search phrase, an analysis of which can also be used to isolate pain points.

Your text ad may focus on time and location: “One Hour Dry Cleaning”. The pain doesn’t need to be stated, just the solution, but you must first have identified the pain point in order to focus on time constraint as being the most important aspect.

Prosper By Asking Questions

1 Comment » Written on January 20th, 2011 by
Categories: Copywriting

Whether we do PPC, SEO, or social media, we all have something in common:

We’re in the communication game

In order to play the communicate game well, we need to understand people.

You’ve heard the maxim “it’s not about you, it’s about them”, meaning that people aren’t interested in hearing about you or your product, they are interested in themselves and how your product can benefit them.

People are like this because our society centers around the wants and needs of the individual, as opposed to the needs of the group, or the producer. When we understand this simple fact, we can better craft marketing messages people can relate to.

Yeah, but so what, you may be saying. “What’s in it you me”?

In search marketing, communicating well leads to more activity on your site. It can lead to more money. It can lead to more money because visitors will engage, where they wouldn’t if the message didn’t appeal to them.

Here are two techniques to help you improve communication. The most important thing you can do in order to communicate well is to ask questions.

1. Ask Questions Of Others

If you don’t understand your audience, how can you sell them anything?

If you ask your customers “what is the single thing they care about most” – i.e the reason they are engaging with you – what would their answer be?

I often receive surveys from PayPal. The surveys come in the form of multi-choice answers.

I could tell PayPal how to make their service better, but they never ask. They don’t send a message saying “what is the one thing we could do to make you happier?”. Instead, I get the same old multi-choice surveys, forcing their narrow frame of reference on me. That’s not asking the customer what they want. It’s as if some manager somewhere is going through the motions. Needless to say, I don’t answer them.

Never has there been an easier time for two-way communication between vendor and customer. Comments forms. Forums. Email. Social media. So many opportunities to engage with your customers, and ask them the simple question “what do you want”?

Be assertive – pick up the phone, and ask them. Every email you send should have a tagline: “please get in touch if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions”. Think about the various ways you can make it easy for people to tell you what they want.

It’s true that sometimes customers don’t know what they want. If Henry Ford had asked people what they wanted, they would have replied “a faster horse”.

But it’s our job to read between the lines of their answers to find out what they really mean e.g.. “to get places more quickly”.

Look In The Mirror, And Ask Questions Of Yourself

I’ve just read a book called “So What?” by Mark Magnacca. It’s a simple, straightforward introduction to communicating well. Whilst intended for those giving presentations, one useful tool that is directly applicable to search marketing is the “So What?” matrix

Any presentation can be transformed by asking these questions:

  • For what? What reason, and for whom, are you doing this?
  • So what? Why is it important for the audience?
  • Now what? What do you want to happen as a result of this information?

That’s the essence of a well-constructed landing page. What problem are you solving? Are you sure that is a problem the audience has? If not, rethink your offer. If it is, then what do you want people to do next? Click on an order button? If so, make it prominent. Make it easy.

Pretty simple, right. But those simple questions, when applied, will solve most landing page problems.

This also applies to SEO. If people land on your page, you need to answer those three questions, else they’ll click back. There’s no point ranking #1, or bidding into the top position, if people click back. Your efforts are wasted at that point.

Go through your copy and strike out everything that does not clarify to your audience what is in it for them. Every point about how good you are should be put in the context of how you being good helps your audience.

Changing Your Offer

No Comments » Written on November 25th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting

If your competitors offer a similar, or identical product to your own, here are a few ideas on how to change your offer, without really changing anything!

This strategy also works well if you feel your offering is getting a little stale could use a kick-start.

Positioning In The Sales Funnel

Where, in the sales funnel, are you currently pitching?

Try shuffling the positioning either earlier or later.

For example, a landing page might provide a lot of information, targeting people who are at an early research stage of the sales cycle.

However, what happens if the advertiser were to focus on price points and/or shipping options instead i.e. targets the end of the sales cycle? Does this result in more buyers? Or try the other way around. Provide more information, and focus less on the price, to try and woo buyers who are still researching?

The sales funnel is a continuum. The buyer could be anywhere along it. It can be a good idea to run slightly different campaigns targeting people at different points along the funnel, and not just leaving it to the path structure of your website.

You could also try presenting your product with a different image, or in a different context.

For example, a holiday package could be presented as “an escape”, or “an indulgence”, “a learning adventure”, “part of a lifestyle”, or as “something earned”. Each message requires a different approach, as each message engages with different types of buyers.


The breakout involves taking one feature of the product, and making it central.

For example, let’s say someone sells used iPads. They bundle the ipads with an attractive case, but haven’t, in the past, drawn attention to this point. They could try creating an ad that focuses attention on the case, as opposed to just the ipad, reasoning that potential customers already know what an ipad is, but they’re looking for a point of difference. Breakout items can include accessories, service contracts, and guides.


If you sell multiple parts, which you sell individually, try bundling them together.

For example, someone could sell individual BBQ implements, such as a scraper, a knife, a large fork, an apron, a burger flipper, carry case, etc, or they could bundle them together into a “BBQ Kit”. Sometimes, individual items can be rolled into an attractive concept, making them easier to sell.

A variation of this approach is often used in traditional collectible mail order. They sell individual model cars, yet show a display case full of the complete set. Buy one each week, and the target is to fill the free display case. At that point, it becomes “a collection”.


Don’t assume the customer knows everything about the product.

Again, using the iPad example, this could be pitched to a different market by describing it as “a small computer”. Think boaties, small apartment dwellers, motor-home owners, and anyone else pushed for space. The “small” feature is emphasized and dramatized in order to appeal to a sub-market within the computer buying market who are motivated by space saving.

This type of positioning also works well for the small business. A small company may not be able to provide the same benefits a large company can, but they can provide different benefits i.e. more agile, more personal, more customizable more approachable. These aspects are emphasized. The small companies prices may be higher, but again, they can spin this into a positive i.e. “we are there for people who appreciate quality, not quantity”.

Notice how the products aren’t really changed, they are just repositioned, bundled, or described differently to appeal to different markets, or to add a fresh angle.

Further Resources

Ad Character Limits Are For Schmucks

3 Comments Written on October 4th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting, Google Adwords

Hat tip to PPCblog member George for pointing this out:

Google seems to be stretching the  limits of the old ’70 character’ limit with their Webmaster Tools “Google Promotions” (not “Sponsored links”) ads:

Google Stretches Adwords Ad Character Limits

Hey, it’s their inventory and ad system, they’ll do whatever they like…

I guess when setting up the DKI (Dynamic Keyword Insertion) on these ads they don’t have to worry about putting in an alternative keyword in case the user’s search query runs too long.  Must be nice:)

Andy Beard had some commentary on this early as well, looking at this tactic from the webmaster’s point of view.

An Interesting Approach to the Advertorial Squeeze

This was discussed a couple of months ago in our PPCBlog private members forum, (membership tour available here), but we thought our blog readers, especially those doing lead generation and/or information marketing, might find it interesting.

Disclaimer: Normally we wouldn’t identify the specific advertiser using a particular technique, however in this case the company no longer appears to be advertising actively and the site has not been updated since March of this year and its community appears to be abandoned at this point.

The Content Ad Blend

A while back on Yahoo Answers I came across this ad, heavily meshed with the surrounding text-heavy content and served up by Yahoo’s display ad platform (so no, I’m not sure if this lander would make it through Adwords:)

“Advertorial”-style square display ads that look highly similar to the fonts, colors, and imagery of the site you’re targeting can net slightly above-average CTRs in some cases.  One easy way to do this is find a placement you want to target your ads to, and replicate the look and feel as much as Google’s display ad reviewers will allow.  You may have a tough time replicating site buttons, but colors, fonts and general image look-and-feel usually gets approved.

First off:  This ad has a fantastic headline, and the copy (though it has its flaws) is compelling enough to pique your curiosity:

I’m not an expert on the use of publicly-licensed celebrity images, but this one got through.  Any legal eagles who might be able to clarify feel free to leave a comment:)

On ad click, you’re taken to a straight-up email squeeze page, notice the one-liner to “Put your credit card away…”  (nice touch).

(Click Image to Enlarge)

*Note re. Adwords:  Depending on the brand strength you have, you may or may not be able to get away with squeezing visitors this hard into an email submit as Google likes to call this “info harvesting”.  That said, I’ve seen brands get away with it…

After you enter your email, here’s where you’re taken:

(Click Image to Enlarge)

On the thank you page here, it’s interesting to see how they’ve done the ‘membership login’ info…pre-populating the login data so it’s just sooooo easy to go to the next step….

Here’s the “Member’s area:

Great, But Does it Convert?

No one knows for sure how this pipeline ultimately converts, and given that the site now seems to be abandoned perhaps it was a dud, although that could be due to factors other than the conversion funnel.

They’re also not capturing the credit card in the ‘free trial’ stage, but it could be that the raw number of people coming into the funnel is large enough to offset the ‘forgetful trial subscriber’ optimization.

When we were discussing this approach in the forums, Aaron brought up a good point as to the credit-card-collection-on-trial approach:

I wonder if on the inside if they had some sort of “bonus” which cost $1 and got the credit card data maybe that would help convert a lot more people, while still allowing for the huge numbers of free people upfront to sign up free?

It’s an interesting question.  Simply because you didn’t get the credit card on the initial lead form doesn’t mean however that you couldn’t get it shortly afterward while they’re farther into the signup process…

Love it or hate it, the trend towards blurring content text and display ads with editorial will continue, and it’s interesting to see how some advertisers have started to take advantage of the opportunity.

Headless Body In Topless Bar

8 Comments Written on June 28th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting

That was a New York Post headline.

It was a great headline for the New York Post. I think it’s fair to say they understand their readers.

Is it a good headline for a post on PPC Blog?

Maybe 🙂

You tell me.

In a minute.

But first….

A Post About Headlines

Today we’ll look at the headline in the context of PPC. This topic is probably nothing new to PPC veterans, but if you have a background in traditional media and copy writing, hopefully it will give you a way to approach PPC, and search marketing in general.

We can think of text ads as being headlines. They serve a similar purpose to headlines in traditional media. Their purpose is to grab attention. Unlike traditional media, text ads lead to a second headline, and copy, on a separate landing page. So the two need to work in tandem in order to be most effective.

In traditional media, the headline writer simply wants to grab attention from a reader who may not have been interested in the topic a second ago. They want you to read and, at best, recall a message, but there’s not a great deal of jeopardy involved if you don’t. The PPC headline leads the reader to take a specific action, and that action typically involves handing over cash.

In this respect, the stakes are higher for the PPC copywriter.

The Role Of Headlines In Our Culture

All our media has been reduced to the headline.

The sound bite. The lead story. Digg. Reddit. Social media. Our inbox. Our feed readers. Everything is being aggregated and reduced to headlines. Our culture has infinite messages, yet there are still only 24 hours in the day. What media you consume, and what you buy, is typically “directed” by the few words that make up a headline.

No wonder marketers place such importance on headlines. Those few words lead to everything else.


Our media has been reduced to headlines because time is short. Headlines summarize. Headlines must be both brief, and loaded with meaning. They must hint at something deeper.


Ad text and the landing page headline must resonate with your audience. The key to writing a good headline is to first know your audience.

PPC is a great test bed for getting to know your audience. Tim Ferris, the author of the book “The Four Day Workweek” used PPC to test a range of title ideas for his as-yet unnamed book. The ad text that generated the most clicks became the title of his book. The audience “told” him the name they deemed most interesting by clicking.

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions.

Search is a hunt and find medium. Unlike the newspaper or magazine, PPC is not about grabbing disinterested, passing attention. It is about being directly relevant to the searcher who knows, of thinks she knows, what she wants. It’s about reflecting the searchers own perception of what is good and relevant.

Any headline (link) not directly relevant to the search phrase will likely be ignored. This is why repeating the keyword term in a PPC advertisement is important. It’s a confirmation that the searcher is in the right place. This is why traditional attention grabbing headlines, like “Headless Body In Topless Bar” don’t work so well in search.

They aren’t specific enough.

Be Specific

Google sees PPC links as being information. Google reasons that advertisements are information in the same way an organic search results are information in that their function is to answer queries. This is especially true when searches have a commercial imperative.

Google rewards you for being specific.

A PPC headline isn’t a place to get clever. “Headless Body In Topless Bar” would not work in PPC. Whilst it might grab attention because it’s different, people would not see it is as being relevant to them, because it’s not specific to their search. It would also fall foul of Google’s relevancy algorithms, and is unlikely to be shown at all.

A Headline Must Lead Somewhere Even More Interesting

The ad text needs to hint at something deeper. Just like the purpose of the headline is to lead people to the first line of copy, our PPC ads need to hint at something unseen, yet valuable, beyond the link. When the visitor lands on the landing page, the landing page headline must confirm what was hinted at in the PPC ad.

Uniqueness Is Rewarded

If you’ve read this far, my headline probably worked. It got your attention, and led you to the second line, and you kept reading.

But you and I both know that shock tactic isn’t going to work in PPC. It probably worked in the context of a feed reader, because it stood out in that context. Typically, the titles for PPCBlog articles don’t involve headless corpses in topless bars! But it’s not a great headline. It’s over-played. And it is unlikely to work again. Any shock/curiosity value has now gone.

However, I want to make a point about context. In a crowded environment, like a feed reader or search results page, uniqueness is often rewarded.

As a species, we’re conditioned to notice what changes in our environment. The new. The different. Likewise, our text ads must be more compelling than any other link on the page. That includes the organic results. Look thought the search results, not just the PPC ads, to see what is, and more importantly, what isn’t there.

Your ad should be unique in this context. Uniquely relevant. This comes from understanding your audience, and specifically addressing their needs.

15 Steps To Improve Your Copywriting

6 Comments Written on May 25th, 2010 by
Categories: Copywriting


Good copywriting isn’t just about writing.

Good copywriting is the process of convincing someone to take action.

Good copywriters convince a person to exchange their cash for a good or service. A poorly written landing page, however, can earn a back-click. In PPC, there is no click more expensive than the back-click.

Could your landing pages convert at a higher rate with a simple rewrite of your copy?

Let’s look at the proven tricks and techniques great copywriters use to achieve high conversion rates.

1. Become A Product Expert

You probably already have a considerable advantage over a generalist copywriter. You are a product expert.

Product expertise is essential for good copywriting. It is difficult for a copywriter to convey meaning if they don’t truly understand the product they’re selling. If you don’t know your product, take time to learn it thoroughly.

2. Figure Out The Essence Of Your Product

Once you know your product, isolate the essence of the product.

The essence of a product is the reason people should respect and love your product. If people love and respect a product, they are more likely to buy it.

What do you think of when you hear the word “iphone”? Is an iphone a plastic, high-priced pocket-sized PDA made by Apple? That’s a product description, and it is technically accurate, but it isn’t essence of the iphone.

The essence of an iphone is that it is a social tool. It is a membership to a club. It’s a reflection of a set of values to do with simplicity, design and desirability. Oh, and it’s also a phone!

The essence of the product informs the way you write about the product. In the case of Apple, it would grate if they talked about the iPhone in technical terms. Instead, they talk about the iphone in social terms. They use the word “you” a lot. They relate the phone to social and personal situations and applications.

That’s the essence of the product.

3. If You Can’t Get Love, At Least Earn Respect

Getting “Love” is ok for Apple, especially from the fanboys, but what if you’re selling something mundane, like life insurance?

You might not get people to “love” your product, but they should, at very least, respect it. Use testimonials and examples of social proof i.e. images of other people using the product, positive branding, positive news reports, reviews, and other validations that give people a reason to respect your product.

If you can’t convince people to either love or respect your product, there is little chance they’ll pay for it.

4. Know Your Customer

This is an obvious point, and no doubt you’ve heard it a thousand times before, yet it’s surprising how many advertisers answer this question with “people who want to buy my product x”.

Can you visualize your customer? Who are they? How old are they? Where do they live? How much money do they earn? Why are they buying online? Male? Female? Who is a typical customer?

It’s important to know, specifically who your customer is so you can speak their language and set the appropriate scene for selling.

5. Speak The Customers Language

In social situations, we often change our speech depending on our audience. The way we speak to our friends is different than the way we speak to people whom we don’t know. We should pitch our speech to our specific audience on our landing pages, too.

For example, would you trust a Doctor who used the term “Dude” to finish every sentence? It wouldn’t signal authority, which is needed if you’re to trust the doctor!

Consider different market segments have very different value systems and ways of talking. If your customers are baby-boomers, it is more likely than not they will be responsive to appeals to authority i.e. reviews from qualified, professional people and organizations. If your customer is young, chances are they want the talk to be about them and the message to come from someone who is likely to be in their peer group. They are less enamored by authority than those in the baby boomer demographic. If you customer is in the trade, industry jargon will make your site sound more credible. If your customer is not in the trade, industry jargon is likely to confuse them.

There are countless examples of the characteristics of different market segments, but how do you learn your customers language?

Once you’ve identified who your customer is, go to places where your customer hangs out. Amazon reviews, forums, Facebook groups, Twitter. Go to stores. Go to industry seminars. Read consumer reviews. Buy the same newspapers and magazines. Pay careful attention to the use of language. Is it authoritative? Personal? Is the language uneducated? Or specialist? Is the language informal or formal?

6. Identify The Burning Need

People buy something because it solves a problem for them. They have a need. The stronger the need, the more likely you are to sell them your product.

What problem does your product solve? What need, as determined by the customer, does you product fulfill? Speak often about the problem, the solution, the need, and how you address that need.

7. Set The Scene

If you walk into a car sales room, what do you see? Gleaming cars. Bright lights. Reflective chrome. It’s like a giant-sized, glittering jewelry box. This is scene setting. It makes you feel like buying, more so than if you walked into a dim, messy basement with cars covered in dust. The scene matches your expectations.

Keep the same thing in mind when crafting a landing page. If you sell based on discounted price, then your page should look like a discount flyer. Highlight prices, prices crossed out – typically in red – and the new bargain price featured prominently. If you sell based on high value and desirability, you page should be more sober. Clinical. Less circus, less shouty, sedate. Price is seldom mentioned. If you’re selling something for a million bucks, your pages should look a million bucks.

People will get an immediate feel for the scene. If the scene is dissonant i.e. you use a sober, high value approach when the visitor is expecting a discount i.e. your Adword text might have indicated low pricing, then you may lose a click. A dusty, messy car showroom would feel dissonant because the scene setting is not what the audience expects.

8 Notice I Haven’t Talked About The Mechanics Of Copy Writing Yet?


9. Only Once You Understand The Product, The Market, The Customer, And The Need Should You Start Writing

Write the first draft quickly.

Typically when we write, we have two competing voices in our head. One is the creative voice imagining what words to write next. The other is the editing voice, the voice that worries if the sentence reads well. Combining writing and editing is a slow cumbersome process and can make your copy sound stilted.

It’s better to separate those two functions out.

Write as fast as possible without editing, even if what you’re writing is gibberish. When you’ve finished your page, take a break, and then edit. It’s much easier to reduce than to produce.

Tip: When you edit, try removing the first paragraph. Make your second paragraph your first paragraph. I’ll bet your page reads a lot better.

10. All Page Elements Have One Function

Headings, sub-headings, pictures, diagrams, copy, logos, buttons and layout. What function do they all have in common?

The common function is to get the visitor to read the first sentence of the copy.

The first sentence is the place we are all conditioned to start. The first sentence is the gateway to everything else on the page, so it needs to be compelling. What’s the best way to make it compelling? Keep it short. Short sentences suck people in. They are easy to digest.

So what’s the purpose of the first sentence?

To get visitors to the second sentence.

And the function of the second sentence?

To get people to the third.

And so on.

Traditional copy writing manuals tend to say that the purpose of each sentence is get you to read the next sentence, which is true, however we need to be careful when translating this idea into an online environment.

Online, people don’t tend to read linearly, at least not for long. They scan. For this reason, paragraph headings become even more important than in print. If people don’t find what they’re after in the first two or three sentences, they tend to scan to a point that does interest them.

Compare a print magazine page to a web page. Notice how dense the print layout looks. Ensure your landing pages are less dense than a magazine page. Break up your copy into headings, bullet points, images, video and other elements that are easy to scan.

11. Create Harmony

This is an old sales technique, but still works a treat. The aim is to get people to agree with you regarding a series of minor, obvious points. This puts people into an agreeable frame of mind leading up to the point where you ask for an order.

When writing, aim for that same reaction.

Make sure you first paragraph includes a couple of points that are generally true and therefore easy to agree with. People will be a lot more responsive to your sales message if they agree with it.

Be honest. If something you say is factually wrong, you run a high risk of losing people. Speak essential truths your audience will deem to be self-evident.

Your voice should be consistent. Don’t jump around between the personal and impersonal voice, or the formal and informal. It doesn’t ring true. When you read the copy aloud, does it sound like you? If it doesn’t, rework it until it does.

It will sound “true-er”

12. Fall Towards Desired Action

Everything you write must progress the reader to desired action.

The reader should be able to read and scan down to a desired action. Nothing should be superflous or confusing or get in the way of this graceful, downwards momentum. Each concept must build on the next.

Use curiosity to advance people through the copy.

13. Curiosity?

Want to see a copy of all the pager messages that were intercepted in New York on the morning of 9/11?

Are you reading this sentence in the hope I’ll show you?


Ok, here 🙂

Arousing curiosity is the most powerful way to pull people down into your copy and keep them reading until they get to the desired action. All landing pages are stories – the reader should always be cusrious about “what happens next”?

This never happens in corporate reports, which is why corporate reports go unread.

14. Test & Retest

The above points have a “truthiness” quality about them, huh. But how do we know they really work?

First of all, this copywriting theory has stood the test of time. If it didn’t work, it wouldn’t still be used.

Secondly, and most importantly, testing is essential to the copy-writing process. If one style of copywriting fails with your audience, then try another. The best copy is arrived at through rigorous testing and iteration.

The online advantage is that testing is easy. Run copy for a few days and look at the results. As you don’t pay for printing costs, it’s easy to tweak, adjust and restest. Copy that doesn’t convert isn’t good copy, no matter how many guidelines we follow.

15. “Steal”

Ok, perhaps not steal. Borrow some ideas 🙂

While every project is unique, many of the same conversion and copywriting concepts apply to all projects. Here are some master-class examples of copywriting and landing page conversion in action:

  • Conversion Rate Optimizer Blog – contains some great case studies of landing page optimization.
  • Copyblogger – scroll down for landing page makeovers.
  • Marketing Profs – requires a free login to access some articles, but worthwhile. Take a look in the “Landing Pages” and the “Copywriting” categories.
  • FutureNow – a collection of white papers on conversion.

Mix and match ideas, test what works, and keep pushing further into doing more of whatever is working well for you. 😀