The Robots Don’t Know Best
It’s time to draw a line in the sand between robots and humans. We can only surrender so much to their idol of cold reason.
Pull that subservient stare away from your 17-inch tunnel-vision display of AdWords. Your ads are living out there in the world, smacking people in the eyeballs with language and either firing up their synapses to click through the link or letting them fall asleep on the spot, as they are so prone to do.
No robot can feel this impact of your ad copy. And it’s this human, gut feeling that actually determines your click-through-rates, conversions, and cash-money profit that you can use to pay for things like donuts and rent (things the robots don’t appreciate).
Here are some strategies to consider when appealing to the most valuable, yet unmeasurable metric: human emotion.
Trust Comes First
When advertising online, the very first emotion you want on your side is trust. All other emotions will be off limits unless you break through the viewer’s firewall of skepticism. Knock this out early by identifying language to use in your copy that is:
- Relevant – Relevance doesn’t only help your quality score – it also helps searchers feel a direct, reliable connection between their query and your answer.
- Familiar – As with all things, familiarity breeds trust. Using industry jargon or conversely, attempting to mimic certain dialects, both alienate and confuse searchers.
- Professional – Choosing professional language doesn’t mean being overly formal and distant. It does mean diminishing any impression of being a spammer or sales-obsessed shyster.
Understand the Humans that See Your Ads
Walt Whitman wrote that “whoever walks a furlong without sympathy, walks to his own funeral, drest in his shroud.” That’s a pretty intense way to say that if you can’t feel for anyone else, you’ll be pretty isolated and alone. Forever. Like the robots.
I’m going to be tacky and apply this poetic wisdom to the basic principles of online advertising. If you can’t imagine what it’s like to be your target audience, then you will find your business very isolated in no time.
That leads to three essential techniques for understanding the audience to whom you are writing.
1. Put yourself in their shoes
This seems basic, but if it’s not deliberately practiced, insights are dulled and your ad copy can become clumsy.
Take a moment and imagine the mindset of someone that would search using a particular keyword set. What triggered this search? What was the overall context? Why would they use these particular words? How might they be feeling? Use whatever insights you come up with to influence how you shape the tone of your ad, presenting language that will register immediately with their frame of mind.
2. Know which shoes you’re actually wearing
Not everyone that sees your ad is searching for your product. Your broad range of keyword groups represents searchers that fall in different stages of your “buying funnel.” Identify which group a searcher fits within by analyzing the nature of the keywords (Joe searching for “best household cleaning” has a different intent and position in the buying funnel than Mary searching for “power rug vacuums”). You can then tailor your ads with the realization that folks at different stages of your buying funnel are going to respond to different cues.
3 Stages of the Buying Funnel
- Aware – People at the awareness stage are simply learning about your product, or maybe just your surrounding market. While they aren’t necessarily looking to buy, you can expose them to your website, planting your brand’s seed early on and satiating their curiosity in the industry. Keyword Example: “how do you get rid of robots?”
- Study – This stage is characterized by more active comparison and research into your industry’s products. They are interested enough to want a working knowledge of your industry and how companies differ. The consumer could end up buying, but is not initiating his search with that intention. Keyword Example: “best robot crushing machines”
- Purchase – These folks are ready to buy. They have an immediate need and are looking for a direct incentive to buy. At this point, it’s important to rise above the fray and give the searcher a reason to look at your product instead of your competitor’s. Keyword Example: “Robot Crush-o-matic”
3. Now take ‘em for a walk
Once you’ve associated your keyword groups with the searcher’s place in the buying funnel, you can strategically shape your ad copy.
Ad Copy Techniques for Stages of the Buying Funnel
- Aware – At such an early stage, emphasize general benefits and positive information in your ad copy. Make sure your language is very familiar and straightforward at this point, communicating how your product leads to a concrete benefit in the consumer’s life.
- Study – Try to incorporate testimonial or comparison studies in your copy to appeal to their investigative side. They already understand the general benefits of your product category, but they won’t respond to “hard sell” language without feeling more confident with their grasp of the industry. Allow your brand to be their educational resource while highlighting your particular advantages.
- Purchase – As mentioned above, this is when you need to provide the customer with a direct incentive. Stray from the language of general benefits and focus more on specific features that will differentiate your product from the rest. Include simple, gripping calls to action that are tied to other quickly identifiable features like discounts or free shipping.
Test a Dozen Times, Then Test Some More
The best way to discover effective ad copy is through testing. This ability to quickly measure an ad’s effectiveness (and just as quickly pull or publish an ad) is one of the best features of paid search advertising. If you aren’t consistently using it to get the most business, then you may as well let a billboard sit stagnant on the highway.
Here are some techniques that you can experiment with in your ad copy, testing for the best combination of copy and keyword group.
- Information – Give searchers the answers they’re looking for. You can match the tone of your customer’s inquiry in this way by describing your company, your product’s benefit, or even a useful study on your website.
- Numbers – Speaking of studies, they show that searchers respond favorably to ads with numbers. Numbers in the form of discounts (25% off), lists (Top 5 ), and testimonials (4 out of 5 all apply.
- Call to Action – Use action verbs. Instruct. Give the customer a clear path to get what they want.
- Negative Copy – Appeal to any mistrust or fear by describing what you are not.
- Questions – By mirroring the searcher’s inquiry, you are echoing and validating their feelings, convincing them that your ad will resolve their search.
- Testimonials – Allow other voices to stand in and lend credibility to your business. Let customers hear their future purchasing hopes and wishes through the satisfaction of their peers.
Use the robots. Don’t worship the robots. Their bottomless analytics toolbox can arm you with tons of data (thanks for that, by the way). But if you don’t accurately identify your audience and write for those specific people – with a sympathetic, deliberate eye – then the robots will dutifully record your failure to connect with human interests.