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HOW TO: Optimize Text Ads for Search

Text ads aren't sexy. They look bland, aren't colorful and often read like they're being shouted by annoying salespeople. But the simple fact is that many businesses use them to drive site traffic and sales. We spoke with Michael Gold, search engine optimization specialist and co-founder of Midtown SEO, about how marketers can optimize their text ads to make them more appealing to search engine users. He said to use groups of relatred keywords. There are a number of best practices when setting up your search campaigns, and you can use tools, such as the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, to research and choose the best keywords. When you've settled on your set of keywords, create advertisements that focus on each group of related keywords. "A unique advertisement should be written for each group of closely related keywords," Gold advises. "Those keywords that match text in the advertisement will be displayed in bold, hopefully catching the search engine users’ attention." In the Neiman Marcus and Forever 21 ads above, the user searched for keywords "Stuart Weitzman Sandals" and "Discount Fashion," respectively. The two retailers included these keywords in their ads, so those words are highlighted, drawing a bit more attention to them. "The text in the ad should create a clear offer," says Gold. "The search engine user should know what to expect once they click on the link. Some examples of appealing offers are a free report, a free trial, a way to request information or a way to buy a retail product." When showcasing a specific offer, make sure you choose an appropriate destination URL, so that the user lands on a page that describes the same details. If a particular offer, pricing plan or special is outlined in your ad, make sure that information is visible on the landing page. If users do not immediately find what they are looking for, they may leave your website out of confusion. In the example above, search engine users are offered "40% off organic granola" by advertiser Wai Lana Yoga. Once interested users click through to the website, they immediately find an offer for 40% off Wai Lana's Little Yogis Granola. The offer is clearly communicated in the ad, and the landing page also communicates the same deal. "The offer should include a call-to-action that creates a sense of urgency by using scarcity or an expiration date," says Gold. "People are more likely to react if there is a deadline." The ad above communicates a clear call-to-action ("Buy 1 Get 1 Free") and reads that the sale is a limited-time offer. In the other example above, Nick's Towing Service takes an urgent situation (the need to have a car towed) and makes contacting the company easy, noting that operators are available at all hours of the day. "The text and tone of the ad should focus on people who are already considering the offer or are ready to buy, not people who are doing general research or are already loyal customers," says Gold. "This will help to cut down on paid clicks from search engine users who probably aren’t interested in responding to the advertisement." In the Ray-Ban ad above, a simple deal on free shipping for orders over $125 is offered to push potential consumers to click and buy. This sort of offer would probably be appealing to a search engine user already on the brink of purchasing, but it may not appeal to someone at the early stages of research. With Twitter's character limit and the short attention spans of Internet users, social media marketers are well-versed in conveying their messages in short form. Gold recommends that search marketers consult with their company's social media team to get a feel for which messaging types and specific phrases appeal to their audience. "We usually get input on the search engine ad text from the people who handle social media for our clients, because they already know the short-form text content that resonates well with the target audience," explains Gold. Consulting with these short-form masters is just one more way to make your text ads more appropriate for your target audience. Experiment with multiple copies of an ad to see which gets the best results," advises Gold. After testing a few ads, choose the one that performs best and run with it. In the example above, L.L.Bean is currently split-testing two ads for the search term "hiking boots." Your Tips The above tips provide a guide on how to optimize text ads for search. For all of the search engine marketers in the audience, please let us know which tips you'd add to the list in the comments below.

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