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What Makes A Great Google Text Ad?

There are millions of ads on Google that under-perform. That’s because most advertisers don’t put in time and effort to create truly exceptional text ads.

This can be an advantage to you of course. You have less to worry from other advertisers, even those with larger budgets and sometimes higher positions. You’ll see lower bounce rates, higher click through rates, more conversions and sales and better performance overall as you improve your ads.

But this will take some work. You will have to know your target audience well and do a little research to come up with great Google Ads text ads. The effort will be worth it though and you’ll outperform the field consistently.

The reality is most advertisers don’t take the time and effort to do this. And no wonder many ads underperform and look bland when they appear in the search results.

So here are some points on what makes a great Google text ad:

It stands out


An ad that stands out benefits in many ways. It gets more clicks than other ads in the auction and has a better click through-rate than others because searchers find it appealing and leads to more conversions, all else being equal.

Here are some actions to take to make your ads stand out more:

  1. Use different descriptions and headlines from other advertisers – some advertisers seem to think that having similar ads is the solution to doing well on Google. So, they use the exact same descriptions because they think this is working for their competitors so they should do the same to perform well too.
  2. Aim to rank at the absolute top – of course this can come with additional costs which can be a problem if budget is very tight. But the psychological benefits in the first position can outweigh all the cost disadvantages. In general, searchers trust advertisers more that come up right at the top and tend to judge other advertisers by this first advertiser.
  3. Include a strong call-to-action – many advertisers have multiple conversion actions they can track on their websites like sales, leads, newsletter signups, white paper downloads and others. Include only one call-to-action in each ad and make it as effective as possible. If you want visitors to purchase, then state it clearly in the ad and include other details like free shipping or quick delivery if you offer this. Or tell them that the download is instant and they can therefore get it in seconds.
  4. Add a countdown timer – the countdown timer is one of the least used features in Google Ads. Most advertisers don’t know this feature exists and many who do, don’t know how it actually works. The timer can be added in the headlines or descriptions and you can use it to countdown to an event or the end of an offer. This is an example of what it looks like:

Has all the key features

There is no hard or fast rule about what should go into the headlines, descriptions and ad extensions of your ads. However, these are some of the best performances we have seen for ads we have run for our clients:

Headline 1 – this is possibly the most important part of your ad and the first thing that searchers see. With a 30 character limit that includes spaces, you can only add a maximum of 2-4 words, depending on the length of each word of course. Because of this, we recommend that your keyword is included in this headline. People are more likely to click an ad when they see that their search query is closely aligned with the first headline. This is less so when the query is in the other headlines or in the descriptions or worse in one of the ad extensions. However, you can test the first headline with the other headlines to see how your ads perform and go with the best structured ad.

Headline 2 – the second headline is important too and is one of the first things that people see. What you add here will weigh heavily on your click-through rate so you should think carefully about it. This is a good place to add a call to action to get people to buy, make contact, download a document etc.

Headline 3 – this is an optional but recommended headline and will only appear when the Google Ads system determines that it is relevant to the search query. Also, only two headlines are shown for each search query and for each auction there is an interchange between headlines 2 and 3. Headline one will always appear in your text ad, but the second headline could be either headline 2 or 3. The third headline can also be used for a call-to-action or a strong benefit related to your offer. Avoid using any features here and assign them to your ad extensions like callout and structured snippet extensions.

Description 1 – only one description is shown at a time but you want to utilise both because the machine learning system tests them and gives more prominence to the better performing one. Remember you can also create responsive search ads which give you up to 4 descriptions and you can test more benefits and features.

Description 2 – this description line is optional and not required, but very necessary though. The Google Ads system will rotate the descriptions and start showing the better performing one. Make this description as good as the first one and include a good benefit that you want to test along the other benefits.

Path 1 and Path 2 – like Headline 1, you should also add your keyword in Paths 1 and 2. This will appear as a display URL to make the landing page look more relevant to the searchers query and is therefore more likely to click. Remember this is a vanity URL, so it’s not the actual landing page for your ad.

Has all three headlines

The headline is the most important part of your text ad. It’s also the only part of the ad that is clickable besides the sitelinks. With up to three headlines to add, you have much more text space than in ages gone by and you should use them all for maximum effect.

The first two headlines are required but the third headline is optional. And many advertisers make the mistake of ignoring the third one which affects the overall performance of the ads.

Includes sitelink descriptions

Adding ad extensions like sitelinks is a must and most advertisers do it nowadays. However, what is not so common is adding descriptions to sitelinks because this is not required.

This is what an ad with sitelink descriptions looks like:

Google Ads Sitelinks

As you can see, the benefits are huge as this means the ad takes up more space in the search results. However, sitelink descriptions only appear when the ad is in the number 1 position – so they will not appear when the ad is in position 2 or position 3 etc.

Encourages action

Your text ad should speak directly to the searcher in a personal way. So, use words like ‘you’ and ‘yours’ especially in the description as you list the benefits that prospects will get from your products or services.

And get them to complete an action like downloading a white paper, buying a product, completing a booking form etc.

Has a high click through-rate (CTR)

CTR is one of the first metrics to look at when analysing the performance of your ads. It’s one of the easiest to understand too as it is a ratio of people who click an ad to the number of total searchers.
Google Ads Click Through Rate
Ads with low CTRs usually underperform on other metrics like conversion rates, bounce rate, time on page etc. This is mainly because the ads are not very relevant and the people who click through are not targeted to your market.

CTRs vary from industry to industry and in different campaign types too. For local service businesses a CTR Above 5% is achievable and anything above 10% is very good. For online retailers, CTRs above 2% are generally good but that of course depends on the product being sold.

Expected CTR also has an impact on your keyword Quality Scores which we cover below.

Leads to high keyword Quality Scores

Quality Score (QS) is a metric that measures the quality of your keywords and ranges between 1-10. The higher the score the better and lower scores are a sign that something is wrong with the ads, keywords or landing pages.

The three factors that determine Quality Scores (QS) are Expected Click-Through Rate (CTR), Ad Relevance and Landing Page Experience. Each of these factors will have a rating of Below Average, Average or Above Average based on its performance. Scoring ‘Above Average’ for example on all three QS factors means your keyword will have a QS of 10 – the highest.

So you want to ensure that you are getting ‘Above Average’ for each factor, but any score from 7 and above is good and anything below 4 is poor.

It’s important to know that Quality Score is like the dashboard in your car, warning you of any potential problems and how they can be fixed. So it’s worth keeping an eye on this metric.

High Ad position

Ad position is important in Google Ads. It determines the number of impressions your ad will get and the clicks to your website which also determines your click through rate. It also affects the number of sales or leads you’ll get and determines whether your ad is successful or not.

So, a good ad position can turn a mediocre ad into a good ad. And with the other factors mentioned in this article it could be a great ad that outperforms other ads.

Here are some steps to take to achieve the above and have great Google text ads:

Avoid asking questions

People go to Google to find answers. So asking a searcher a question in your ad is usually not a good idea. For example, someone looking for a local plumber should not see an ad that has the description ‘Are you looking for a plumber?”

Such questions usually underperform. Assume you have what they are looking for and state it clearly in your ad. Show them the benefits they get from hiring you as a plumber by including things like turnaround times, a call to action, where you are based and so on.

Of course, there are many situations when a question can do well, especially to highlight a benefit. For example, you could ask “How would you like to increase sales for less advertising spend?”, if you are an agency promoting a marketing service. There are many ways to implement this of course and you can test out many different question formats.

More benefits and less features

Searchers are more interested in what your product or service will do for them than what it actually is. They want to know how they will benefit from doing business with you instead of your competitors. So’ this should not be left to the website, but should be stated clearly in the ads too.

It’s not enough that you include benefits though. You should aim to differentiate them from what they get from other advertisers and it should be a Unique Selling Point (USP).

Move features to ad extensions

Your ad extension is where you should place your product or service features. This should be in your callout and structured snippet extensions and you can add as many features as your offer has. One reason why you should put features in the ad extensions is because you have only 25 character spaces to use for each extension and that is a maximum of two to three words.

Setup a full search campaign

If you’ve been running a smart campaign for some time you’ll know from experience that there is little ongoing management to do. Most of the optimisation decisions are made by Google’s machine learning algorithm. The benefit is you can save yourself a lot of time by allowing the Google automation technology make targeted decisions at auction time.

But the problem is you lose the ability to optimise your campaign the way you like and for maximum effect. Firstly, you don’t have ad groups to group closely related keywords and create multiple targeted ads. Instead you have a campaign where you create all ads and extensions and add keyword themes.

You are also limited in the number of ads to create and run unlike a search campaign that allows you to create as many ads as you like and run experiments.

With a full search campaign you can create multiple ad groups and have many ads in each of them. However, the ideal number is up to 15 ad groups in a campaign and between 3-5 ads in each ad group which you don’t get with a smart campaign.

Update Ads regularly

Many advertisers set up ads and never update them. If you are going to see great performance you will need to have a process in place to update ads when necessary. Fortunately, Google’s machine learning capabilities provide recommendations for how to improve your ads.

You will find these in the Recommendations tab which you can access for each of your campaigns
Google Ads Recommendations
You’ll see recommendations for your responsive search ads and expanded text ads and dynamic search ads too if you need to add these.


Creating great Google text ads has many benefits. You’ll outperform competitors and see a consistent improvement to your campaigns and spend less for your traffic.

I'm a Certified Google Ads Expert and Marketing Author and in this blog I share my latest tips and secrets on how to promote your business successfully on the web and increase customer loyalty, retention and advocacy on Google Ads.

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