10 Rules for Creating Killer Ad Copy

Jessica Ascher

The average Canadian small or medium business spends $31,000 on marketing each year, according to Business Development Canada. And while investing in marketing activities, from search engine ads to social media, can be an important way to reach new customers and drive repeat business, if you’re not optimizing your ad campaigns, you’re not getting the most bang for your buck.

There are several aspects that can determine how successful your advertising will be: these include your ad creative (copy and images), and how and where you deploy your ads. Advertising copy specifically refers to the words in your ads – and the right words can make a big difference to how your ad is received and the results it achieves.

Compelling ad copy accomplishes several important functions. Done well it:

  • Grabs the attention of prospective customers
  • Keeps your audience reading for the entirety of your ad
  • Compels people to take action

Of course, writing great ad copy is just the start of an effective ad campaign; some aspects, such as targeting ads to a precise audience, can be fairly technical, which is why many small businesses choose to leave these essential marketing activities to proven experts such as Yellow Pages. But however you do it and whatever platform you choose, crafting your message for the best results is an important early step.

These 10 rules for writing killer ad copy are an ideal place to start.

Rule 1. Determine the goal of your ad.

Having a specific goal in mind will help you craft the perfect message. Before you start writing, decide what you want your ad to achieve, whether that’s growing awareness of a new product or location, driving foot traffic, moving specific inventory or services, or something else.

Rule 2. Check the competition.

Your ad can’t stand out if you don’t know the crowd from which you’re trying to differentiate yourself. Take some time to check out your competitors’ ad copy, with an eye to the value differentiators they communicate about their business and the types of hooks, they are using to attract customers.

Rule 3. Tailor your message.

Advertising targeting capabilities make it easy to show specific messages to specific groups of people – for example, you could target different ads to people who are researching products from the comfort of their couch and groups who are on their phone mere metres away from your door. And though services such as Yellow Pages Search Engine Marketing mean you don’t have to worry about how to make those ads appear to each group, as you craft your copy, it’s still important to think about what messages each will see. After you’ve determined whom you to reach, think about what their frame of mind is most likely to be when they encounter your ad. What problems are they trying to solve or what need are they trying to fulfil at that exact moment? Frame your message accordingly.

Rule 4. Keep it simple, specific and direct.

Don’t waste valuable words on obscure jargon, overly broad terms or passive phrases that fail to speak directly to the reader. Specific details such as your neighbourhood name, pricing and brand names are often more compelling than generic phrases.

Rule 5. Use the right keywords.

If you plan to target ads based on people’s search queries, use those exact words and phrases within your copy – as people scan search results, they’re likely to be looking for those specific terms. Including these in your headline and ad body will help you grab their attention.

Rule 6. Make it timely.

Including a timeframe – today only, one-day sale, etc. – creates a sense of immediacy that can compel the reader to act fast.

Rule 7. Don’t forget the call to action.

Just as you’re never fully dressed without a smile, your ad copy isn’t complete without a call to action. Just as it sounds, a call to action is a line that directly calls upon the reader to do something specific after they see your ad. Like the rest of your copy, it should be clear and direct. While “buy now” is an obvious one, here too it’s important to think about the reader’s frame of mind. Depending on the objective or your ad, calls to action such as “click for more info,” “request a quote,” or “get a free trial” can all be effective.

Rule 8. Adjust your length.

Your ad won’t be effective if it gets cut off or has formatting issues when it displays. Different ad platforms have varying specifications, including character count requirements. Check the specs for each specific platform (or ask an expert) and adjust your copy to each platform’s requirements.

Rule 9. Read your ad aloud.

Our eyes and ears process words differently, which makes reading copy aloud a secret trick for ensuring that it’s simple and clear. Reading your ad out loud can help you identify awkward wording, typos and unnecessarily long sentences, which you may not spot reading your copy in your head.

Rule 10. Don’t be afraid to play with your words.

Even if you’ve followed all of the rules, there’s one last step to help you produce your best ads ever: testing. Switching up calls to action or try making other tweaks – and then using analytics to compare the results (a process known as A/B testing) – can help you zero in on the formula that is most resonant with your target audience.

Ready, set, deploy!

Now that you’ve crafted some killer copy, it’s time to deploy your ad. From placement on websites, within search engine results or online listings, on social media or in print, Yellow Pages can help you find the best platform to get the message out and handle all aspects of your ad campaign. Learn how to extend the reach of your message now.

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