The Anatomy of AdWords & How to Write Copy that Converts

Discover how to crack the code of writing adverts that convert and how to make your ad copy impress, so your competitors don’t get the chance to steal your sales.

If you aren’t already familiar with AdWords then you should seriously start getting your mail forwarded to that rock you live under. 😉

AdWords are the clever ads that sit atop the search results in Google and typically look like this:

Example Ad:

anatomy of a google adwords advert

I’ll get into the various parts which make up AdWord’s Ads, as well as what makes for great copy, but for now let’s consider why this is such a fundamental area of your marketing strategy.

For starters, Google AdWords are the indisputable king of pay per click – and that’s not just our ppc agency bias either. Google currently owns 81.12% of the Desktop Search Engine market share and a whopping 96.38% of the mobile/tablet market share. This means Google vastly overshadows others like Yahoo and Bing and should be your number one choice of where you place your money.

Google AdWords are a clear choice because it’s where your customers are. If you’re a lion, you don’t go looking for gazelle in the sea, you go where they hang out.

For example, a recent survey by Advantec revealed that 54% of purchases were made through Google, with other avenues like promotional social media posts on other sites barely making an impact at all.

So, it’s indisputable that Google is the place to be, but just being in the right place isn’t enough and quite often people seem to miss a few tricks when creating Google ads.

In this article, I’m going to go through the ad guidelines you’ll need to know, how best to utilise what’s on offer and also have a look at some examples to give you a better idea.

Ready. Steady. Google.

What’s in an Ad?

A lot.

Or there should be, so let’s start with the basics:

This is the most basic stage of creating your Ad. The criteria for each is:

  • Headline 1: 30 Characters Max
  • Headline 2: 30 Characters Max
  • Path 1: 15 Characters Max
  • Path 2: 15 Characters Max
  • Description: 80 Characters Max

Scary, isn’t it? All those restrictions (which do include spaces by the way, just in case there were any remaining optimists….). However, don’t despair, this is more than enough to do what you need to and doesn’t mean your copy need be robotic.

Before we move on to that however, let’s see the other facets of AdWords you should be using if you want your ads to look fuller and command more attention (which, ladies and gents, is the aim of the marketing game).

As well as the standard headline, description etc, there is also a selection of Ad Extensions at your disposal and we’ll quickly run through these with you too. The type we’re looking at are known as manual extensions, but you’ll also discover automatic extensions which include consumer ratings and seller ratings.

1: Sitelink extensions

Sitelink extensions give you an opportunity to provide additional landing page links to your site. It’s important that the Link Text you use is specific and gives the user a clear indication as to where they’re going

Sitelinks are particularly good for adding value by reducing the amount of clicks a user has to go through to get to their end goal. So, for example, if a company has D’Addario guitar strings as one of their brands, a user might search for ‘D’Addario’.

However, they may already know that they want ‘D’addario guitar strings’ specifically even though their search didn’t actually include that search term. By adding a sitelink to D’Addario Strings adds value because it helps the user miss a step in the sales process.

The idea is that the fewer hoops (or links) you make a user jump through, the more likely they are to convert.

Like So:

Sitelink example:

So, as you can see, Network Telecom have opted to use their sitelinks to push their reviews, a CTA, a piece of free content and a description page, which is a pretty good mix of things all in all. You don’t want to use this entire section to sell, sell, sell necessarily, you’ve got plenty of that going on overhead so think about how best these additional links could be used.

Review extensions

Review extensions are a great way to give your advert extra credibility by offering a small third-party review. These are especially good to use if you’ve been reviewed by a highly respected third part and if you’re a service based company. It’s worth noting that the reviews generally must be on a third-party site and can’t be an official Google review source such as Trustpilot since these are covered by the auto extensions.

Review Extension example:

So, in the above example, Unbounce has a glowing review from the G2 Crowd. The G2 Crowd are a high-authority company dealing in reviews of business software and services, so it would be a great shame if Unbounce hadn’t included them, especially as the review itself deems them the ‘best’. If you have a review that’s from a high authority third-party and they are singling you out as the best in your field then always, always, add a review extension.

Call Extensions

Call extensions, shockingly, allow you to add a phone number to your ad. They are a clear CTA to a potential customer and a great way to cajole action from a viewer. You also have options to add call tracking to your number which we highly suggest employing, monitoring how much traffic is coming from which source is a fundamental part of any advertising campaign and takes minimal effort to set up, so why wouldn’t you?

Call Extension example:

Combined with copy that informs you of “No Call Out Fee” and “Fast Response”, adding a Call extension is a logical next step to push the viewer to take action.

Structured Snippet extensions:

Structured snippets are a particularly nifty ad extension that allow you include a list within your ad. This can be either products or service you provide and give a viewer a better understanding of what you do.

Structured Snippet example

For a big company like boots, who have branched out to much more than makeup and medical products, creating a ‘types’ structured snippet is a great way to remind viewers of what else they have to offer.

Callout Extension

Callout Extensions essentially allow you to add short bullet-like points, particularly good for flaunting your USPs or general information about what you can provide.

Callout Extension example

In this example, Helping Hands Home Care have opted to use the Callout extensions to list their biggest selling points. It’s a great way to utilise this option and gives the viewer a great deal of information at a quick glance.

Creating Great AdWords Campaigns (Briefly)

The crux of creating an AdWords campaign that converts is consistency.

Your keyword, ad copy and landing page should all align, mirroring the same phrases and feel. The more integrated you can make this the higher your quality score will be for each keyword and thus the lower you can bid to achieve a good rank.

So, if you’re selling football boots for example, your keywords might be ‘Men’s Football Boots’ and you would incorporate this into your Headline 1 accordingly: ‘Men’s Football Boots’. The description beneath then, could be “Men’s football boots in sizes 4-13” and the landing page to which this ad is linked should also reiterate all the points once again: the items available are men’s football boots ranging from one particular size to another.

Sounds easy but people often trip up by not enforcing consistency between all three campaign facets or else not utilising all the additional areas of Ads.

Key points for a successful AdWords campaign (Copy):

  • Full (Utilise all options available to fill as much of the advertising space available).
  • Useful (as relevant as possible to the users’ exact search).
  • Use a clear CTA.
  • Send the user to the right place on the site without fail.

Key points for a successful AdWords campaign (Optimisation):

There are four different ad rotation/optimisation options in Google, namely:

  • Rotate indefinitely
  • Rotate for 90 days then optimise
  • Optimise for clicks
  • Optimise for conversion

Contrary to popular belief, optimising for clicks and conversions isn’t always the better option. The reason being is that Google quite often take marginal success and call it a ‘winner’ without giving other ads a chance (Facebook does much the same).

Because of this you’re better off rotating ads evenly, so you may control the ads and have a fair test.

Ad copy that converts (Triggers)


So, what makes for excellent AdWords copy? Is it wittiness? Brazenness? A Shakespearean way with words or a firm grasp of consumer psychology?

Well, none of those things hurt I suppose but the real factors that influence ad copy success are much more practical.

Allow me to give you the guided tour of our AdWords top-tips.

1: Be specific

You have to remember that as an advertiser, you’re already starting on the backfoot.

You only have one option, to be a conversion master or wither like an abandoned bunch of spring onions in the salad drawer. Whereas the viewers, well they have all the options in the world, if you don’t impress them, someone else will, it’s no skin off their nose.

So, you need to dazzle them from the word go, and one key way is to avoid wishy-washy nonsense.  And the antonym of wishy-washy, as we all know, is specific.

Numbers are the key way of taking the wishy-washy and giving it a foundation. Numbers don’t lie (well, statistics can but that’s a different discussion) and people are much more swayed by a claim that’s backed up numerically.

In short, if you’re claiming to be the follow up from Jesus, back it up.

In the above example from GS Capital, you get a lot of specific information, which is just as well as they’ve claimed to be the ‘best’. Firstly, there’s the starting price but better still is the amount of money they’ve generated for a vast number of clients. Had this ‘best’ claim been left to hang on its own you wouldn’t be nearly as inclined to click it, anyone can be the best, it’s the proving it that matters.

2: Offers

special offer ad copy writing

Adding an offer to your copy is a sure-fire way to gain someone’s interest, trigger words like ‘free’, ‘limited’ and ‘50%-off’ all give the customer further incentive to buy into your business. If your USP is generic and you’re struggling to stand out from the crowd then an offer can always help you undercut the competition.

Take a look at a few good examples:

Say what you like about SproutSocial but they sure know how to make an offer. The area of Social Media Management is of course a hugely competitive one and so one of the best ways to stand out for a business like this is to throw in offers, which Sprout have done no fewer than three times. They’ve also made sure it’s the subject of their Headline 2 copy to make it particularly eye catching.

Compare this with Hootsuite:

Hootsuite haven’t given their offer centre stage in the Headline copy and instead it’s mentioned once in the extensions. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean Hootsuite are ‘bad’ at making an offer, but it suggests it isn’t their main aim. It may well be that this particular copy choice wasn’t converting well for them and so they’ve removed it from the foreground.

Which brings us back to the same old but tirelessly valid conclusion: Split testing.

3: Call to Action

Strong CTAs in ad copy are a fundamental part of getting people to convert.  Potential customers are divas, they need to be swept off their feet and then pleaded with to follow you via some very explicit signage.

Your CTAs should be your explicit signage.

Like so:

The main CTA from Halifax is “Get a Personal Quote Online”. This is a clear direction as to what to do next and leaves no room for misunderstanding as to where you should end up if you choose to click through.

4: Pathos

Pathos in ad copy is always a winning ingredient. A Neuromarketing study revealed that 31% of successful ad campaigns (generally) were pure pathos, whilst 26% were a combination of pathos and fact.

Which isn’t surprising. Donald Trump aside, we’re all human and we can’t help but respond to emotional triggers, something advertisers have used to their advantage long before the internet rolled up with its new-fangled ways. Of course, some products and services more naturally lend themselves to pathos, but that’s not to say it’s impossible to use emotional manipulation for every ad.

Here’s a good example:

This is a really good example. Counselling is of course already a very emotionally loaded concept and thus not hard to make emotive, but still they did this well.

The reason it’s done well is that they’re going for the right emotion. The phrase “You Deserve to Be Happy” is positive, it’s honing on whatever distress you may have and suggesting that it’s not right, you deserve better. Consider the alternative “Got Issues? We Can Help”

Counselling is something people will already have many emotions about and one is likely to be shame, no one likes to admit they aren’t having a great time after all and this is not the emotion you want to tap into or enforce.

5: Keywords

Again, this harks back to our initial point of consistency, but also to give your ad the best chance of being seen by upping its relevance.  If your keyword is ‘Kids Playhouses’, your ad might say ‘Buy Kids’ Playhouses Here’.

The more general the keyword, the more people you may reach (though generic keywords provide very little value for money in actuality) whereas the more specific, the fewer people you’ll reach but also the more likely they are to convert. Which is why you need to really think about what keywords you choose and make sure you incorporate them in your ads.

6: USP

As mentioned in the ‘specific’ section, having a UVP is essential in a world where there’s plenty of competition. Whatever it is, you need to shout about it, the more niche you are, the more fuss you should make.

Take this example:

Now, while other aspects of this ad could be better, the USP is pretty good. People within the industry itself may feel a little ambivalent about winning awards, but clients tend to be wowed by them. So, if you’re yet another fish in the sea of marketing, standing out in any way, by winning awards or (ahem) creating top content, it’s always worth shouting about.

Here’s another good example:

If you’re the largest, best, brightest, then shout about it. Certainly, being the “Largest UK Motorhome Hire” is a great USP to have and well worth flaunting in your ad copy. Again, it’s all about standing out of the crowd.

7: Questions

There’s a psychological knee-jerk reaction to questions, we can’t help but answer them, even if they aren’t relevant to us, even if they’re ridiculous.

For example, the question “If you turned into a rabbit tomorrow what would be your plan of action?” is patently ridiculous, but we bet right now you’re considering whether finding carrots or digging a burrow should be top priority.

So, you see, we can’t really help ourselves, but questions don’t only prompt a response, they make things personal. The direct nature of them makes it about us, rather than something removed and easily passed up.

Now we’ve all been plagued by PPI calls so this is an example that’s sure to make you wince but it’s nevertheless a good one. This is a ‘what if’ question and combined with all the additional copy pushing how easy and unobtrusive it is, makes for quite a good ad.


This accident at work compensation ad is really good as it asks the question and then presumes the answer. The beauty of this is that if your answer is yes to the above question then the presumed answer makes the process seem easy. Compensation brings to mind endless form-filling and complicated vernacular, but this ad makes it sound like it’s just sitting there, waiting to be picked up.

As with most advertising psychology, we all deem ourselves too clever to fall for them, but alas, we get sucked in irrespective of our so-called enlightenment.

And whilst this ‘add a question to your copy’ seems just one such trick, it’s also one worth trying.

8: Non-Robotic Copy

One of the biggest issues with AdWords copy is that due to the character limitation, it can make for very stilted wording. AdWords ads can often read like a computer has flung them out, not a human, which is never a great way to inspire confidence in prospective customers.

I know it’s tricky, there’s character limitations and a million things you want to get across in those very small parameters, but it is possible.

Take this example:

The copy is candid, clear and very human.  It would be easy, especially for a very formal business like accountancy, to be stiff.  However, as you can see it’s possible, even with all the ostensible limitations to reach your audience at a human level.

Closing thoughts

The best way to make the most of your AdWords campaigns is to split test. The main things that are worth split-testing will be:

  • Keywords & Negative Keywords
  • Ad Schedule
  • Geographical Targeting
  • Device Bid Modifier
  • Ad Copy
  • Landing Pages

When it comes to split testing copy specifically, it’s worth seeing which of the triggers we talked about previously work best for your company. Ideally you want to incorporate as many of the ‘triggers’ outlined as possible, but you will often find some work better than others depending on your brand and KPIs.

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Nakita Mason

Author: Nakita Mason

Media Executive at Midas Media. When I'm not writing or reading, I'm wondering how I would fare in a Zombie apocalypse. Pretty sure I'd ace it.

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