In his book Ultimate Guide to Pay-Per-Click Advertising, internet marketing expert Richard Stokes helps you master advanced search engine strategies from top search engine marketers to increase your sales. In this edited excerpt, the author the best tactics you can use for creating ads that get the most clicks from viewers.

Search ads are short. You have only the following to work with:

  • Headlines that contain 25 characters
  • Two lines of copy that contain 35 characters each (70 characters total)
  • A display URL (which doesn't have to match the clickthrough URL).

To succeed, you must be concise. But there are plenty of other rules you can follow to write more effective ads.

In late 2012, AdGooroo analyzed 20 million paid search ads appearing in the United States to identify best practices you should follow when writing your copy. The top 10 findings are below. Please be aware that a specific rule may or may not work in every situation. Always split test when changing your ad copy!

1. Use "www" in your domain name. Your domain name is found at the end of every paid search ad. You can use either the long form with a preceding "www" (for instance, "www.adgooroo.com") or a short form that omits the prefix ("adgooroo.com").

The longer version was found to increase clickthrough rate by nearly 16 percent.

2. Avoid numbers. Many paid search ads contain at least one number. For instance:

50th birthday gift ideas
A free service to help you find
creative 50th Birthday Gifts.

Or "buy" ads, like:

Save 45% On Abrasives
Grind & Cut Wheels, Discs, Belts
Quality Same Day Ship on Stock Items

This is a widely recommended practice. However, data suggests that it doesn't work for most advertisers. Ads with no numbers performed nearly 20 percent better than those with them.

3. Avoid exclamation points. Another practice many advertisers follow is to include exclamation points in their ad copy. For instance:

Facilitate this!
Effective and dynamic meeting
facilitation and skills training

Ads with exclamation points were found to perform nine percent worse than ads without.

4. Avoid overused call-to-action phrases. When writing new ads, it's often a good idea to test a call-to-action, such as "Buy now," "Try now" or "Download now." However, Google frowns on certain terms, so this tactic isn't nearly as effective as it was a few years ago. Ads with the word "now" in them actually underperformed all other ads by seven percent.

Here are some other common call-to-action phrases you might try testing in your ads:

  • Get official quote
  • Shop and save
  • Learn more today
  • Get tips
  • Order today for quick delivery
  • Request info
  • Read this

5. Offer something for free.  Including the word "free" still seems to work like a charm. Ads with this word performed nine percent better than ads without.

6. Save space with ampersands. Space is tight with paid search ads, so anytime you can save a character or two, it's welcome news. The ampersand (&) not only works well for this, but it also increases the average advertiser's clickthrough rate by eight percent.

7. Don't include the price. Many search marketers include the price in their ad copy assuming that by doing so, they'll avoid unnecessary clicks from those who are looking for either a higher or lower price offering. While this does work (and will save you money), it will also lower your clickthrough rate by a whopping 17 percent, ensuring you get hit with a quality score penalty.

8. Be the "official" site. Although Google has quietly eliminated most affiliates from its advertiser list, some advertisers are still using "official site" in their ad copy. Take a look at these examples:  

Shop For iPod Nano
Official Site. Free Shipping on orders
$24 & up or pick up in store

Tiffany & Co. (Official)
Shop the Official Tiffany & Co. site
for exclusive Tiffany designs.

Using it seems to make a big difference. On average, "official" ads have a 71 percent higher clickthrough rate.

9. Incorporate trademark symbols. Trademark symbols (™, ©, ®) may be required only for legal reasons, but they can dramatically boost your paid search results. These unusual characters improved clickthrough rates by nearly 90 percent!

10. Use all the space you're allowed. Sometimes you might not need a lot of space to say what you've got to say. Take a look at this pithy ad:

Books
Buy a book
Read and become smarter
www.books.com

Other advertisers try to be cute with their ads:

Postcards
No way!
Can't be true?
www.postcardsrus.com

Avoid this tactic, and use as much of the available space in your ad as you can. On average, longer ads have a 64 percent higher clickthrough rate.