The 3 Pillars of PPC Text Ads


A pay per click text ad may look unimpressive, but as a seasoned PPC professional, I can tell you that no other group of 140 characters can be so confounding to perfect, nor have as much of an impact on your online marketing efforts as your pay per click text ad.

Why is it so tough? With that 140 characters, you have to prove that your offer is relevant to the searcher’s need, your offer is credible, and that you can provide some value missing from your competitors. And you have about 1 second to do so (see the chart).

How can you give yourself the best chance to win a searcher’s click and a chance at a sale? The answer lies in three important factors that I’ve already mentioned, which I like to call the 3 Pillars of Text Ads. Did you catch them? I’ll list them for you:

  1. Relevance
  2. Credibility
  3. Differentiation

By evaluating your text ads through these three lenses, you will find ways to make your text ads more compelling and increase your pay per click ROI.


Try an experiment on yourself (don’t worry, this won’t land you in the emergency room): go to and do a keyword search for whatever you choose. Make a note of the ad that you decide to read first.

Why did your eyes gravitate to that particular ad? I’ll bet dollars to donuts that your ad of choice closely mirrors the keyword you entered in the search box. That’s because the first thing your brain is looking for is validation of your search. Search nerds like me call this factor “message match”. The first thing your text ad has to convey to a searcher is “I’ve got what you are looking for!”

You can accomplish this by including the keyword somewhere in your text ad. The title is a great place for this, but not 100% of the time. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. Let’s just say that as a general rule, your keyword should be in the text ad or your click-through rate is going to be lower than it could be otherwise.

Once you’ve snared the searcher’s attention, you have only a moment to pitch yourself, which brings us to pillars 2 and 3:


OK, my brain’s figured out that your text ad relates well with my search. Your second task is to prove that I can trust you. Please understand that I, along with the majority of Internet users, am skeptical of you. Anybody schmoe can put up an ad on Google, so you are guilty until proven innocent. Hurry, your second is almost up.

If you’re a small business, you probably don’t have the benefit of high brand recognition to pull this off like Nike or Sony. That’s OK. You do have a split second to tell me about how long you’ve been in business or perhaps an industry award you won recently. Are you the largest, the fastest, most reliable, most secure, cheapest, or some other superlative? (Don’t even bother with the generic “best” or “leader” – we can all smell empty marketing-speak a mile away.)

Maybe your offer is so compelling that I click right away. If so, nice job!

Sometimes your ad can look promising, but I still want to check out my other options before moving forward. Here’s where our final pillar comes into play:


It’s possible that your great offer is also replicated by other advertisers on the page, or your ad is one of seven that have the keyword as the title. If that’s the case, you’ve sorta blown it. Winning the click becomes a roll of the dice. Maybe I click on your ad because I saw you first. Maybe I look at the ads with a different offer because they appear more unique, which lends them credibility (oooh, see how they interrelate?).

If you do a good job of making your offer unique, odds are that I’ll click your ad and do the online shopping dance with your landing page, but that’s an entirely separate series of articles that have already been written by very smart and successful online marketing gurus.

Keeping your offer unique is an ongoing process. Your competitors ought to be are watching and adjusting their search tactics based on what you’re doing. You should be doing the same. Don’t go overboard and invent a new offer every 2 weeks–unless that works–just to make sure your ads are always different. DO pay attention to what your competitors are advertising and make sure your offer clearly demonstrates your unique strengths and advantages.

The 3 Pillars of Text Ads are a simple way to gauge the strength of your PPC advertising message. Writing your text ads with these factors in mind will help you rise above the noise and reap great returns from your pay per click campaigns. Now go get ’em!



Josh, Great post! So many search advertisers too much on just a single one of these area’s, not to mention they are often reluctant to test and optimize each of these pillars.

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