June 8, 2010, 12:53 PM

Words matter

Crafting canny search ad copy is key, Tom Funk told IRCE attendees.

Lead Photo

Tom Funk, Timberline Interactive vice president, talks to IRCE attendees.

The right ad copy can make the difference in driving the best performance out of a retailer’s search advertising investment, Tom Funk, vice president at Timberline Interactive, said today at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition. “Write ad copy that connects with the customers you want,” he said, and the difference between successful and unsuccessful copy can be a matter of just a few words.

Online ad copy that works uses the targeted search terms in the copy itself, preferably in the title of the ad, as well as in the display URL for the ad, he said. “You’ll get higher click-through and probably more qualified traffic,” Funk said.

Effective search ad copy may also use brand names in the text, but only if the brand is well known, he added. Search ad copy also should include an explicit call to action and state a value proposition—“free shipping,” for instance—upfront.

Funk said exclamation points in search ad copy can be effective in enticing consumers to click. Google allows one exclamation point per ad. He also encouraged retailers to be judicious about their use of superlatives in search ad copy. “Superlatives can be tricky on Google. You can’t say ‘best’ or ‘fastest’ unless you can make a claim to that,” he explained.

Testing copy is critical to driving the most value out of it, Funk said, and testing may reveal results counter to a retailer’s assumptions about the copy. He shared the example of one retailer who featured “free shipping” in search ad copy for one of its products, a sharpening tool, and saw a 22% increase in conversions.

But when Timberline and the retailer tested this approach on a different product—an expensive wooden tool chest—conversion actually dropped. “This was of such high quality and such a high price-point that the man buying it, or the woman buying it as a gift, didn’t want to have it cheapened by free shipping,” he said.

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