• SEM Campaigns: Writing Ad Copy

Search Engine Marketing (or SEM) is used by businesses today to boost their visibility, increase their online presence, and drive more leads and sales. A large part of the success behind the paid search ads of SEM campaigns is the targeting. Search engine advertising platforms base ads off of targeted keyword phrases, audience demographics, or niche markets. However, while keyword and demographic targeting help get your ads in front of the right people, the ad copy (the words in the advertisement itself) is what ultimately influences whether people engage with your ad. Writing ad copy for SEM campaigns is a delicate process that can make or break the success of your campaign. This post will provide tips for writing ad copy for successful SEM campaigns.

SEM Campaigns: Writing Ad Copy

Writing SEM Ad Copy

While the targeting and keywords of SEM ads are important, they’re not enough for a successful SEM campaign. Effective ad copy is the other half of the equation that will facilitate your desired outcome. In order to run a successful SEM campaign, the copy of the ad needs to be geared toward target customers. Like audience and keyword targeting, writing effective ad copy is quite a balancing act. The copy must be informative but not too complex; eye catching but not distracting’ and up front but not too aggressive.  Sound intimidating? Here are some tips to consider when writing ads for SEM campaigns.

Numbers and Characters

Using numbers and special characters serves several purposes for your paid search ads. Numbers and special characters are eye-catching, which serves to break up the monotony of text-only ads. Numbers also work to more efficiently convey information like discounts, ratings, and timing that may be relevant to the advertisement. Also, numbers provide more specificity for certain offers.  Good examples of numbers and characters in ad copy include terms such as “#1”, “A+”, “20%”, or “16 hour turnaround.”

The Offer

Whether you’re writing an ad for a specific time frame, new low price, or exclusive deal, making a clear offer will boost the SEM campaign’s success. The offer presented in the ad should be compelling to the audience. Typically the offer is something that solves a problem that your customer has, or helps them make the decision to click and convert. Think of the problem your business is solving for customers, or what would entice an interested buyer to make a purchase or sign up. Examples of offers include “Get a free consultation”, or “Save 30%”.


Features are special characteristics of your business that make it unique and set your products and services apart from your competitors. What makes your business stand out? Perhaps you provide free shipping, custom packages, multiple plans, home delivery, extended hours, or a one-stop shopping experience. When writing ad copy, include features of your business to boost the appeal of your ad.


While features focus on your business, benefits focus on your customers—in particular, what the customers derives from the features. What will potential customers get as a result of your feature, or the product or service you are advertising? Will customers save time? Is there a money back guarantee? Will their health improve? When writing ad copy, Including benefits is a must!

The Call-To-Action

While the above elements of the ad copy are used to influence searchers in the decision-making process, the call-to-action (or CTA) directs someone to take an action. The CTA tells users exactly what to do to obtain the features, benefits, and offers presented in the ad copy. Examples of CTAs include “Order Now!”, “Call for a free consultation”, or “Save 30% today”.

Extending SEM Ad Copy

The above components of paid search ad copy will aid in the success of SEM ad campaigns. However, there may be additional details and information that you want to include in your ad that will not fit within the allowed character limit. This is where ad extensions come in.

Ad extensions are a feature of advertising platforms that enable you to expand your ad copy. Ad extensions allow you to provide more detail that may influence a user to click, and also to increase the size of the ad itself. There are serveral different types of ad extensions, the use of which will depend on the additional information included in the ad copy. Examples of ad extensions include:

Sitelink Extensions: these extensions show additional links below the standardad copy, such as links to specific product pages on your website.

Location Extensions: these extensions show a business’s address, phone number, or map marker in the ad. These extensions enhance ads geared toward local search. For mobile ads, your directions can be in the form of a link for users seeking out directions.

Call Extensions: call extensions include a tracked phone number in the ad, or a button for mobile phone calls.

Review Extensions: these enable you to include a quote or excerpt from a review in an ad. Reviews must come from a reputable third-party site, approved by the search engine on which the ad is displayed.

Callout Extensions: Callout extensions are often used to highlight additional features or benefits of the advertised product or service.

Extensions can help improve ad conversion rates by immediately supplying the resources needed for customers to act. They can also improve your ad rank and lower your cost per click (CPC). Once again, however, keep in mind the delicate balance of writing ad copy. Too much information could be overwhelming or distracting, so make sure to only use ad extensions when additional information is critical to the success of the SEM campaign.

Writing ads for SEM campaigns is a delicate process that takes time, thought, and a lot of practice. Like most things in life, running an SEM campaign yourself is often a game of trial and error, but over time you’ll learn what works for your business. If you’re nervous about writing or running your own SEM ad campaigns, a certified campaign management company can do it for you!

Kristen McCormick
Kristen McCormick
Kristen is the Content Marketing Manager for ThriveHive, where she geeks out daily over SEO, organic traffic, and A/B testing. When she's not equipping business owners and marketers to get their name out there through effective content, she's out pedaling the streets of Boston on her beloved bike.

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