Home » PPC Optimization: Ad Text – optimize adwords call only text ads for higher performance

PPC Optimization: Ad Text – optimize adwords call only text ads for higher performance


Learn the best practices of PPC ad text optimization. Use your limited space wisely and follow (or break) these guidelines to find the best ads. Iterate these alpha ads, then rinse and repeat. Even small changes can have big effects.

When optimizing PPC Adwords campaigns, two of the most effective techniques are keyword selection and ad text optimization. You only have a limited text palette to play with when crafting text ads, especially for Call Only ads. Use that space wisely and test different combinations of ad text to find higher performing ads. This article shows that even small changes to ad text can make large changes to performance.

Ad Text Optimization

Once you get your keywords refined, its time to optimize your ad text. There are a number of best practices you’ll hear about when optimizing ad text, here are some highlights:

  • Identify benefits first (grab user attention)
  • Highlight what’s unique (i.e., “Green Cars,” improves conversion rate)
  • Use your main keyword in the headline (ideally early in headline, increases relevance)
  • Include at least one keyword in ads (improves ad relevance)
  • Use negative keywords (filters out non-relevant searches)
  • Avoid repetition (repeat after me)
  • Include prices and promotions (“$500 off Invisalign,” “Black Friday Sale”)
  • Use Title Case and lower case articles (Can Increase CTR)
  • Highlight features
  • Use calls to action (improves response)
  • Match creatives to keywords (tailored ad groups increase ad relevance score)
    • Google recommends using 15-20 keywords per ad group
    • An extreme version of tailored ad groups to keywords are SKAGs or Single Keyword Ad Groups
  • Avoid generic language (get specific)
  • Give answers, avoid questions in ad text
  • Longer text is better (increases ad size)
  • Focus on headlines (most prominent part of ad)
  • Use ad extensions (improves CTR and ad text size)
  • Use keyword insertion
  • Align ad copy with query intent (use Google Ad Preview Tool)
  • Use attention-getting symbol/letter combinations (i.e., 24-7)
  • Test punctuation!
  • A/B test ads

Break the Rules

These are all good ideas and can usually yield good results. However, we’ve found that breaking the rules can help improve ads while lowering cost. For example repeating text can often cause Google to lower the CPC and ultimately cost per conversion (ex., “Car Service” repeated twice in an ad). Another example is simplifying ad text, sometimes shorter punchy text is more effective than longer phrases. Ad text is like a short haiku or poem, there is a flow to a good ad. Phrase selection and length, punctuation, and capitalization and symbols can all promote or interrupt the flow.

Test and Optimize Ads (Call Only)

Once you’ve got multiple ads created, you need to monitor their performance and pause the losers and test variations of the winners. In Call Only ads you want to optimize for conversion rate and cost per conversion. A high CTR is nice, but ultimately you are generating calls with Call Only campaigns. To maximize your new ads do the following:

  • Optimize for conversions (not CTR)
  • Create at least 3 ads per ad group (let Google rotate/optimize)
  • Test ad text on higher volume campaigns first
  • Then use what you learned on lower volume campaigns
  • Rotate evenly first to lose fast, then Optimize for Best Performing Ads
  • Pause losing ads quickly using early warning metrics (i.e., use Ad Rank and Phone Calls which are reported early)
  • Iterate your best ad text (high performing ads with high conversion rates and low CPC and cost per conversion)
  • Look for high performing text patterns (i.e., “green cars”)
  • Don’t test too many new ads at once (can reduce performance/clicks as Google displays non-performings ads)

Utilize Ad Real Estate

Generally longer ad text has higher performance than shorter ad text. Google allows 25 to 35 characters per line, 25 for the headline and 35 characters for the rest of the ad fields (see Figure 1).

Call Only PPC Ad Text Length Limits

Figure 1: Call Only PPC Ad Text Length Limits

Use Punctuation!

Although each ad is different, using punctuation can often improve ad performance. We’ve found that using a period “.” at the end of the headline can improve performance. With a period at the end of a line, sometimes Google with give you a “mega headline” with the headline and the first description line appended, this improves CTR. Using a period at the end of the last description line can also improve performance, but both of these tweaks can also increase the CPC. Exclamation points are limited to the ad body (not in headlines) but can increase CTR!

Use Attention Getting Symbols and Character Combinations

Users see many ads in their searches, so you need to make your ads stand out. Using combinations of symbols and letters that break up strings of characters and cause our rapid eye scanning to pause, even for a moment, can improve performance. Phrases like “24/7 Service” and “24 / 7” and “24-7” can improve performance over “24 Hour”. As long as the text makes sense and isn’t gratuitous Google will usually allow the ad.

Iterate on Your Best Ads

A good technique for creating multiple high performing ads is to iterate the text on your best performing ads. First locate your best performing ads using metrics like conversion rate, cost per conversion and CTR. Look for ads with lower cost per click and cost per conversion that get higher conversion rates. Next create close variants of said ads and test. Pause out the losers and let the winners run. Rinse and repeat.

Think Small

Oftentimes seemingly insignificant changes can make big improvements in ad performance. Here is an example of a small change with a big improvement. We located the best performing ad in our Green Car campaign and made a few variations. Two ads made the cut (see Figure 2).

PPC Ad Text Optimization

Figure 2: PPC Ad Text Optimization

Otherwise identical, the ad with “24 Hour” got a higher position (1.0) than the ad with “24 Hours” (2.5). One measly character made a huge difference in performance.

A Generalization about Gross Generalizations

Be careful about making gross generalizations, however. One set of ads may behave differently than another. The keywords associated with each ad group, the particular phrases in the ad, and capitalization can all effect how Google and users react to ad text. Above all, test, prune and retest.


Ad text optimization can have a significant impact on the performance of your campaigns. In Google’s Call Only campaigns, space is more limited than in classic search campaigns. Use your allotted space wisely and follow (or break) ad text best practices to find your best ads. Then create variants of these best ads, prune out the losers and let the winners run. Even seemingly insignificant changes as small as one character can make a big impact on performance.

Further Reading

Adwords Editorial Policy
Google gives style and spelling, punctuation, capitalization, repetition and other guidelines for writing ad text.
Michigan Green Cars s the subject of this PPC article. A local green cab company with offices in Ann Arbor and Southfield Michigan, MI Green Cars deploys a fleet of hybrid, gas-sipping Toyota Prius’s throughout southeast Michigan.
PPC Optimization: Abbreviate Ad Text
Abbreviating key phrases in PPC text ads can lower CPC and the cost per conversion. Our otherwise identical text ad with “Michigan” abbreviated to “Mich” decreased the cost per call by more than 35%, and increased the conversion rate by 33 percentage points.
PPC Optimization: Ad Text Position
Leading with benefits can improve PPC text ad conversion rates. We show a case study that improves conversion rates by 1.8X.
PPC Optimization: Age Range Targeting
You can target specific age ranges in Google Adwords to optimize conversion rates. By tweaking the bids on high performing age ranges you can tilt your campaigns to those folks more likely to convert.
PPC Optimization: Average Income Targeting
Targeting your desired audience within particular geographic area using income is a powerful tool you can use to improve your conversion rates. Average household income is just the first demographic that Google has rolled out for that purpose. Coming soon are gender, age, and parental status which could be used to further refine your campaigns.
PPC Optimization: Be Specific
Using specific copy in your PPC ad text can improve conversion rates. Giving searchers ad text that more closely matches their search queries gives them results that more closely match their goals.
PPC Optimization: Call Only Ad Extensions
Adding ad extensions to Call Only campaigns can boost click-through and conversion rates.
PPC Optimization: Display URL Expansion
By including keywords or calls to action in your display URLs you can boost text ad performance in Google Adwords. This article shows a real-world example of display URL optimization.
PPC Optimization: Early Warning
In Google Adwords, you can use phone call metrics as an early warning system to optimize text ad conversion performance. Avoid scary PPC ad spend using fast-reported phone calls.
PPC Optimization: Experiments in Punctuation
By varying the punctuation and plurals within your text ads, you can optimize their conversion rate and cost per conversion. This article shows a case study of call only text ad optimization.
PPC Optimization: Gender Targeting
In Google Adwords you can optimize conversion rates using gender targeting. Learn how to squeeze more leads out of your PPC spend by targeting high performing demographics singly or in combination.
PPC Optimization: Strange Attraction
Learn how using strange attraction in your ad text can lower CPC and boost CTR and conversions. Grab attention with letter and symbol combinations to optimize PPC campaigns.
PPC Optimization: Wordplay and Humor
Humor and wordplay can make your advertising stand out from the crowd. Unexpected word combinations and humor attract valuable attention and can garner higher PPC click-through and conversion rates.
PPC Optimization: ZIP Code Targeting
Learn how to add ZIP code targeting to your PPC campaigns to boost conversion rates. By optimizing the performance of individual demographics and locations, you can improve conversion rates to squeeze more leads out your AdWords spend.
Supercharge Your Call Only Ads with Ad Extensions
Google shows which ad extensions can be used with Call Only ads.