Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ad Basics I: Creating Effective Online Ads

So you've signed up for Google Adwords or Project Wonderful and set up a few ads but you're not getting clicks. Now there are several things that might be causing this problem, maybe you're targeting the wrong sites or keywords, you're bidding too low, or your ads aren't inviting clicks. The first two are for a later post, today I'm going to focus on the third: making an ad that gets clicks.

As a disclaimer, I'm not an advertising professional this advice comes from my own research and experience not any formal training. Like any of my posts please take this as a starting point upon which to build your own ideas and do further research.

Text Ads
The most basic ads are of course simple text ads such as those sponsored links beside Google search results. These can be the hardest to create, a graphic ad you can show your products with text you can to attract interest without the benefit of someone seeing what you sell. Simply stating what you sell isn't enough.

The headline for your ads is what people will see first since it's usually in a larger font size and different color than the rest of the ad. Grab attention with it “Handmade Soap” just isn't that interesting compared to “Delicious Blueberry Muffin Soap”. That second headline makes you want to find out if the soap really smell like blueberry muffins and maybe if it shaped like one. You can also use it to ask a question like “Are you looking for vegan candles?” this will grab the attention not only of people interested in vegan candles but pique curiosity in those not sure what they are. Use a call to action, words like buy, purchase, order, etc. it encourages a user to click if they are looking to shop. Don't forget your keywords, try to slip one or two big ones in your headline and more in the rest of the text.

After you have a good headline you can use the rest of the ad text to elaborate on your products. Describe what your products are made of, are they organic, are they precious metal or other premium material like angora, silk, etc. Suggest a use, gift for mother's day, pamper yourself, pamper you pet, etc. If you're having a sale or promotion create an ad to promote it and get the word out.

Graphic Ads
Many graphic ads also contain text and you should follow many of the same principles for that text as you do for writing a plain text ad. Okay, now what should the graphics be? Most ads aren't that large so choose product photos that are clear even when reduced in size. Even better shoot new photos specifically for your ads so you can fit them within the size constraints of your ads. I find shooting photos for banner ads to be especially tricky because of the combination of narrow height and wide width.

Animation or not? Animated ads can definitely grab attention but can also be very annoying. If you choose to create animated ads don't make them rapidly flash especially between bright colors. Aim for an animation speed that any text is easily read before changing and your photos can be absorbed. Most animated ads are still .gifs (though an increasing amount are flash) which are limited to 256 colors that means the quality of your photos will be reduced so choose carefully.

General Advice
Look at other ads. Take time to see what other ads look like and what words they use. If you see an ad that catches your attention take a close look and try to figure out why. Test multiple ads and see which come out on top.

Resources
Here are some links to more articles on creating web ads.
How do I optimize my ad text? - From Google Adwords Help
Ads, Writing Effective Print
Write the ad, I pray you
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