February 7, 2011
Last Thursday, Google AdWords announced a big change to (select) PPC ads. It seems those marketers who like proper sentence structure will be rewarded with a much longer "headline" – but only if they're already showing up in the coveted "top 3" section. For those ads utilizing sentences for each line of their ads, they'll see the second line jump up to join the first – separated by a hyphen – and the third line will occupy the second's place:
So these ads aren't really receiving more copy for their ad; just a longer headline. How is this such a big change to Google PPC ads? Well, for starters, if you're showing up in the top 3 places, you already have a bigger boost over your competitors (i.e., those in the 4th-10th place positions) but now with the longer headlines, you can stand out amongst the top 3 spots, even if you're the third ad:
As evidence by this pizza example, it seems you can even have multiple sentences in your 2nd line and still have those show up alongside your headline.
Of course, once everyone catches on and starts writing their ads in sentence structure – i.e., ending each line with a period or question mark – we'll be back to square 1 and still need to come up with creative ad copy to stand out. But for right now, suffice it to say if you use sentences for each line of your pay-per-click ads, you're more likely to get a bump in your click-through-rate.
Gone are the days of trying to cram as many words into each line of your PPC ads as you can; now we've got to be grammatically correct. After re-writing all your ads to ensure you (hopefully) show up with a longer headline, the next step is to also show up with a Google Boost:
But wait...is it really about good sentence structure?
After re-writing some ads and checking to see what other businesses are doing to gain an edge within this new format, I'm finding it's not about overall sentence use in ads, it's really about how the 2nd line of ad copy is punctuated. The 3rd line evidently doesn't factor in at all – as long as your 2nd line appears to be proper sentence structure, you get your longer headline. The family attorney ad above is an example, as well as this:
Notice how the 3rd ad line (now moved to the 2nd line) isn't punctuated. However, the 2nd ad line IS punctuated, so it moves up to join the headline. But, wait...hang on!
That 2nd ad line isn't a sentence...is it? Come to think of it, neither of those ads used proper sentences at all. Just to be sure, I had to re-read the blog post from Google AdWords about this detail:
..."we’re changing the placement of the first description line for certain ads that appear above the search results on Google. For some ads where each line appears to be a distinct sentence and ends in the proper punctuation, description line 1 will be moved to the headline and separated by a hyphen."
This got me to thinking: what, exactly, does Google AdWords consider a sentence? According to Dictionary.com, a sentence is:
"a sequence of words capable of standing alone to make an assertion, ask a question, or give a command, usually consisting of a subject and a predicate containing a finite verb."
Curious, because the more I look, the more I run across ads which are not only missing punctuation in their ad copy, they're not even using sentence structure:
Let's not mention the fact this business makes a hefty assumption about their skills; neither their 2nd nor 3rd lines of ad copy are sentences. In fact, they're sentence fragments – and poorly punctuated ones at that. But, at least they use all English words.
I realize we live in a world of texting and instant-messaging short-hand, but could this ad's 3rd line be deemed even a sentence fragment (even with proper punctuation)?
Let's take another look at that example, so we can all see how few actual sentences exist in those 2 highlighted ads. In fact, sentence fragments abound:
Evidently Google AdWords needs to redefine their definition of "sentence," or start imposing a more thorough check of ad copy before assuming proper sentence structure is used – if that's indeed what they mean when they say each line of ad copy needs to be a "distinct sentence."
You be the judge – sentences only, or sentence fragments?