Why all search ads seem the same (and what you can do about it)

Want to create search ads that stand out from the crowd? Columnist Pauline Jakober explains how a thorough examination of your business and its customers can help you create original and engaging ads.


Let’s face it: anyone with an AdWords login, bank account and keyboard can create ads for search. It can be a Wild West out there, which means that many ads ultimately fail. They fail because they don’t capture the attention of searchers, because they don’t include the best information, and frankly, because they look like every other ad out there.

Your paid search ad strategy goes way beyond the 140 text characters allotted to you. It starts with that, sure, but the entire architecture of your ad from the text to the extensions should all support a strategic message about your brand, its products or services.

So in this post, we’ll look at some of the steps you can take before you type that first word of text, so you can construct informative, eye-catching ads that truly support a company’s goals and stand out from the crowd.

Get into the mind of the business and consumer

You can’t very well create impactful ads without first understanding the business and consumer needs inside and out. And there are several ways you can facilitate research to get a 360-degree view of the company. Let’s look at those now.

Interviews and questionnaires

Create a questionnaire you can send to employees from various departments — like customer service representatives, sales teams or product teams — or talk to them directly. These folks are on the front lines every day and should have some interesting insight.

Sample prompts and questions include things like:

  • Describe your target audience.
  • Do you have a secondary market you’re looking to tap into as well?
  • What’s most important to your target audience when they purchase Product or Service X?
  • What are your customer pain points, and how do you solve them?
  • How often does your target audience need or buy your product?
  • What are three to five key selling points for your company and product or service?
  • Do you experience seasonal slow or peak times?
  • What does the company promotional or event calendar look like currently?

Customer reviews and testimonials

What a company’s customers have to say (the good and the bad) can do a lot for the ad strategy. Read as much of these as you can to see if you can spot any trends that you can work into the ads.

You may also want to talk to key folks in the organization about any negative trends in reviews. Oftentimes, internal teams are not aware of what the customers are saying, and a conversation like that can be helpful so they can tweak their strategy.

And remember that when it comes time to create the ad, you also have things available to you in AdWords like review extensions for third-party reviews and seller ratings that can help highlight those praises.

Study the competition

Understand how the company is the same and different from its competitors. And watch out for the we-don’t-have-any-competitors response. If you run into that, simply search in Google using the top keywords you plan to target to get a better picture of who you’re up against.

But be aware: Sometimes the ads that show up for the keywords aren’t really your competitors. For example, if Target shows up for a specialty dance shoe, use your discernment in assessing if Target really is a competitor to a specialty dance shoe company.

In this sense, an exercise like searching for keywords can really get you up to speed on the competitive landscape.

Reviewing competitor ads can also be a good thing if you don’t let what they are saying influence too much the ads you want to create (Remember, you’re trying to get away from what every other ad is doing).

However, it can help you spot missed opportunities for your own ads — places where you can one-up the competition. And sometimes, you can learn from them, too — so go in with an open mind.

Then, having candid conversations with the company about the competition’s advertising (what they like or don’t like) is also important in the strategy phase.

Understand your other marketing efforts

It’s good to understand the full scope of the company’s marketing efforts in other channels because they often inform and influence one another. So get plugged into the strategy by talking to other teams and vendors and looking at product guides, subscribing to the company’s mailing list and so on.

You can learn a lot of about the tone and the messaging of the brand by how it communicates, and you can then incorporate that into the advertising.

Plus, when you know what the other marketing teams are doing, you’re more likely to be able to work with them on the things that impact both your channels (for example, website speed) and react quicker in any given situation (for example a PR crisis).

Like any other marketing or sales effort, you have to put in the research to understand both the business needs and the audience desires. With those two areas researched well, you can begin to create killer ads that stand out from the crowd.


[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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