7 Data-Backed Tips for AdWords Ads that Work Right Now


PPC advertisers said farewell to standard text ads last year and we began preparing for the new age of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs).

A lot has changed since Google first started selling text ads way back in the 20th century. Technology is better. The way people search has changed. And, perhaps most importantly, we're now in a mobile-first world.

All of this meant it was time for some major changes to AdWords. So text ads that used to look like this:

non expanded text ad

Have evolved into today's expanded text ads:

expanded text ad example

The great news – advertisers saw an average click-through rate (CTR) boost of 15 to 20 percent when transitioning to Google Expanded Text Ads. There was even better news about ETAs for Bing Ads advertisers – CTRs were nearly 20 percent higher than AdWords.

However, averages can be misleading at times. While most saw CTR gains from ETAs, one in three English-speaking AdWords advertisers saw CTR decrease after transitioning.

If you're struggling to evolve with expanded text ads, here are seven insights on how to write more effective PPC ads right now.

1. Adapt to Voice Search Trends

People search for – and expect – more specific answers. That's why we've seen query lengths consistently increasing year after year. Long-tail searches have increased from a share of just over 20 percent in 2008 to more than 60 percent today:

voice search keyword trends

Another huge change is that people aren't searching just on search engines anymore. Voice search now accounts for 20 percent of all Google mobile queries.

Looking ahead to 2020, comScore estimates that voice search will account for more than 50 percent of all searches, while Gartner predicts that 30 percent of all web browsing sessions will be done without screens.

But voice search is more than mobile – and Google. Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Microsoft's Cortana are all competing with Google Assistant to dominate voice search on the web, on mobile devices, and inside people's homes.

What's it all mean? You must optimize your site for voice search to compete.

2. Write Ads in Natural Language

People increasingly use longer and more natural language search. Searchers want answers to their questions, not keywords. So your ads should reflect this trend.

Google didn't introduce Expanded Text Ads so you could repeat your keywords. It was so you could write ads that read naturally and attract more clicks. In fact, our research into the best ads in AdWords reveals that ads in the top 15% repeat just two words per ad.

Further, keyword relevance is the LEAST important Quality Score factor.

You know what's 4x more important than keyword relevance? A high-quality ad and landing page experience! Google infers that your ad is really speaking to people when it gets a higher than expected CTR based on its position.

quality score components

Remember, the most common words people use in natural language (e.g., the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, and I) aren't actually your keywords. Yet, in paid search ads, the most common words are keywords (nearly all of which are nouns).

3. Use the Power of the Pronoun

Keywords don’t buy your product, people do! The habit of writing keyword stuffed ads can be a tough one to break though. A simple trick to break this habit is to make sure you write your ads with pronouns.

Not only do pronouns help you write in a natural way, but it forces you to write your ad copy with your audience in mind. It's surprisingly simple to do this using the three most powerful ad pronouns that are proven to increase click-through and conversion rates:


This word allows you to focus on selling your solution, not your keywords, and puts real people behind your ad copy. For example, look at this ad, which was struggling on the SERP with a 0.25% CTR:

using pronouns in ads

Not great. The ad is clearly written for the keyword, not the user. Rewritten with the word “we” however, the ad now focuses on the emotional connection of the user to their service. The result – a 20 fold increase in CTR!

how to use pronouns in ad copy


We too often take for granted how much we know about our audience. Consider this ad, which ran in a US-targeted campaign for people searching for “Israel SIM Cards.” The ad written for that keyword performed nicely on the SERP with a 7.15% CTR

the word you in adwords ad copy

Not bad, right? But writing ads for the keyword alone leaves so much on the table. Consider what we know about the searcher – yes, we know they’re searching for “Israel SIM cards,” but we also know that they’re not in Israel. We can easily connect the dots and deduce that the searcher is planning to travel soon. With that little extra bit of information, we can write an ad that speaks directly to the audience with “you”

pronoun a/b ad test

Now the ad is written not to sell a piece of plastic and silicon, but to solve the bigger problem behind a user’s search. And that rewritten ad has a whopping 11.86% CTR, an increase of 65%!


“You” may cater to our own selfish desires, but “Him” or “Her” speaks to our emotional connections to a loved one, friend, parent, child, or enemy!

For example, the CTR of this ad was a super-high 7.31 percent:

pronouns in ads

(We’ll revisit this ad a little later….)

4. Re-engage Your Audience With Remarketing

Remarketing is incredibly powerful because it brings back people who have already visited your website before. Our data (based on 928 WordStream clients using remarketing audiences and proper conversion tracking in January 2015) showed that remarketing results in greater ad engagement:

engagement data for remarketing

But not only are returning users more likely click on your ads, but they’re also up to 3 times more likely to convert when they arrive at your site from your campaigns!

conversion data for remarketing

5. Get Personal with Demographic Targeting

Remember that Valentine's Day ad we looked at earlier in the "him/her" example? Without any demographic targeting, it had a 7.31 percent CTR and 1.82 percent conversion rate. Not bad at all. But the “Sweeten up his or her day” struck me as intentionally impersonal.

Although still relatively new to Google Search, demographic targeting is also available on the Google Display Network, Bing Ads, and nearly every social network.

Demographic targeting really helps you personalize your ads for your audience. For instance, we rewrote the same Valentine’s Day ad to show differently for men and women. The change was subtle, just changing out the opposite gender pronouns.

demographic targeting for ads

targeting ads to gender demographics

The result of combining demographic targeting with swapping out these gender pronouns raised the CTR for women to 9.25% and men to 11.59%, an increase of 30 and 60% respectively.

But increased CTR wasn’t the only gain – conversion rates grew to 3.8% for women and 4.35% for men – an increase of over 100% for both genders! All that by changing a single 3-letter word in the ad copy!

6. Include IF Functions for Device & Audience

Device preference was noticeably absent with the arrival of expanded text ads and advertisers may have noticed a dip in CTR on mobile as a result in 2016:

how to use if functions in adwords

Thankfully, Google corrected this in February, rolling out IF functions, which allow you to tailor your ad copy based on whether a condition is met, such as device or audience. That means your ad copy can be written to vary depending on if someone views your ad on mobile or desktop and serve a more relevant call to action for mobile searchers.

mobile ad copy

In terms of audience, if you want to target just cart abandoners or returning visitors, you can include special offers just for them.

7. Use Mobile-Specific Ad Extensions

IF statements aren’t the only way to cater your ads to mobile searchers. Mobile ad extensions are particularly powerful on the Mobile SERP and can really dictate success of your mobile ads. Here are five types of ad extensions you can take advantage of to reach mobile searchers on the go:

  • Location Extensions: One thing we know about mobile searchers is that they’re mobile (duh!). To take advantage of the on-the-go searcher, use location extensions to direct customers to your store. Searchers will see either your address, a map to your location, or distance to your business.
  • Affiliate Location Extensions: Similar to location extensions, you can use affiliate location extensions to tell customers the nearest chain store that sells your product. Customers will see either the address or a map.
  • Message Extensions: Mobile searchers can click on an icon within your search ad to directly send you a text message to book an appointment, get a quote, ask for information, or request a service.

message extensions

  • Call Extensions: Allow customers to call your business directly from your ad by clicking or tapping on a call button.
  • App Extensions: Get searchers to download or open your mobile or tablet app directly from your ad.

Evolved Text Ads Are Here

Search has changed a LOT in recent years. People today are searching the way they speak. Searches are also more specific and people on the go are conducting the majority of those searches, on mobile devices rather than desktops.

The key to writing more effective PPC ads now is to make sure your strategy takes into account your audience and how they search. Tailor your ads so they speak to the people you really want to reach: Use remarketing (including RLSA), demographic targeting, IF functions, and mobile extensions to attract more clicks and drive more conversions from your best prospects.

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Google +.

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vineet k
Jun 15, 2017

Hi I actually heard about the voice search. But I was thinking that it is only limited to 4-7% but as you told that it has reached to 20%. So we simply can't ignore it. The whole article is very useful, especially for me. And the best part about this article I like the most is the examples of the ads which makes it too easy to understand the whole point. Thanks

Jun 20, 2017

I think your data may be skewed. For example, in the before and after ads you show the lift by using pronouns. But the rest of the ad text is entirely different. How can you assume that just the use of pronoun caused the lift? So many altered variables.

Mark Irvine
Jun 20, 2017

Hi Andy,

You're right - I don't believe that the pronouns alone make these ads perfect entirely differently, but using pronouns is a simple way to train yourself to write in a more natural language, with your audience in mind.
When you teach kids how to write better, a trick teachers use is to keep a journal or a pen pal because it makes them think about writing to a person. The same idea works here and pronouns are a character-effective way to force that change.

Jun 20, 2017

A couple things that stuck out to me as an ad writer while reading this...

1. Using "your" in ad copy. I use it a lot and have seen a lot of positives from it. However, I see even better results when I use "my". We can assume the searcher is reading the ad in their head, so by saying "my" you tie what they are reading to themselves.

2. Every example of an ad that you use in Pronouns section is very different from the one it is tested against. I'm not sure you can deduce the use of the pronoun as the factor that led to the increased CTR.

3. For the 2 ads swapping out "him" and "her", I think there would be a better headline 2 for the men that is more related to what an actual guy wants for Valentine's Day. I'm a guy and I certainly don't want "Roses, Teddies, Or A Gift Box" (ok maybe the gift box depending what is in it). I am confident most men's significant others would think this rings falsely.

4. For your IF Statement ad, I'm pretty sure Google doesn't allow you to use the work "Click" in your ad. If this isn't true I would love to know because I have seen good results using that word in my display ads.

Mark Irvine
Jun 20, 2017

Hi Dan,

Thank you for your feedback! What's interesting here is how these can all be positioned. I definitely see a lot of good uses of "my," but many advertisers write it in the 1st person and forget to highlight the value to the end searcher, but I'm glad you're seeing success with it!

Sep 16, 2017


I have a question.
>Keyword relevance 22%
>Expected CTR 39%
>Landing Page Experience 39%
Is this a Google specification or is it speculation from your experience?
Please let me know if there is a reference source.

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