Five tips for writing better targeted ads

Apr 22 2013

As the marketing manager at Reese, I’ve been helping to promote an e-book about creating content for smartphones. “News on the go: Field notes on storytelling for mobile devices” is a reporter’s guide to engaging 21st-century audiences. Edited by our senior producer Sara Peach, the e-book offers advice on topics like shooting video, designing a logo and writing attention-grabbing headlines.

To publicize the e-book, we decided to experiment with Google and LinkedIn ads. Based on our experience, here are five tips for launching your own campaign.

1. Know your audience
Think about who you’re trying to attract. We hoped our ads would reach reporters, journalism scholars and anyone interested in mobile innovation. It’s useful to put yourself in the shoes of your target audience. If you were a consumer, what type of ad would you find useful? What type of ad would be intrusive or annoying? What wording would you find clever, unique or enticing?

2. Know the platform
Think about how your target audience would experience your ad. For example, Google ads are related to search terms. If you’re selling a technology product, you might choose to link your ad to words like “innovation” or “digital.” LinkedIn ads also appear based on key terms, but they’re related to words that professionals use to describe themselves in their profiles. In other words, you could choose to serve an ad to individuals who list “graphic design” as one of their skills.

3. Use language that’s meaningful but simple
Every word really does count, so focus on getting your essential message across. Don’t be preoccupied with the specifics – if your ad is effective, your readers will want to dive in further on their own. For example, one chapter of our e-book discusses the benefits and drawbacks of using responsive design. This concept is too complicated and specific to reference in a 75-character ad, much less a 25-character headline. Instead, consider the major benefit you’re offering. In our case, we’re helping journalists gain more readers by giving them the skills they need to create content for a small screen. To communicate that, we settled on a concise headline that said: “Go mobile, gain readers.”

4. Include a call-to-action
The “Go mobile, gain readers” headline was by far our most successful Google ad. As of April 19, it had generated 21,337 impressions and eight clicks. On the other end of the spectrum, the headline “Creating mobile content?” had generated 4,047 impressions and just one click. While the first headline was powerful and direct, the second was vague. Stated as a question, its tone was more passive.

5. Incorporate statistics
We paired the “Go mobile, gain readers” headline with two different versions of descriptive text. The first said “74% of users prefer mobile-friendly sites. Learn how to stay current.” Like the headline, this text had a built-in call-to-action and promised a specific benefit. On the other hand, the text of another ad encouraged viewers to “Buy News on the go, an e-book from UNC’s experimental journalism lab.” This ad generated only 6,916 impressions. The problem? The e-book’s name and the fact that it was related to UNC were probably not essential facts. Think of your ad text as an argument; it’s your chance to convince the reader that your product is worthwhile. To succeed, you need to focus on proving relevance. For us, statistics were a good way to achieve that.

Have you launched an ad campaign on LinkedIn or Google? What characteristics did your most successful ads have?

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