Getting attention through creative adtexting

Mon 28 December 2009 14:00, Evert Veldhuijzen

Getting attention through creative adtexting

This post was voted "BEST POST ON SEARCHCOWBOYS IN 2009". Evert's post was a follow up of his presentation he did at SES Berlin. A presentation which got a standing ovation, something you don't see very often at a conference.

"Getting attention through creative adtexting"
Originally posted on December 1st 2009

Many people asked me where they can download my presentation of Search Engine Strategies Berlin. Unfortunately I can’t publish it like this. I have to clean it up a bit before publishing it and to be honest, I’m not sure I will. But in this post I’ll tell you the whole story again of my presentation at SES Berlin called:

My session was about attention. Attention by using Google Adwords in a creative way. The problem is, that when you get creative with Google, you’re probably violating their guidelines ;) So I looked at the guidelines and showed the public some things you can do to attract the user’s attention.

I covered 5 topics:

1. Using CAPITALS in ads
2. Fun with the new Adwords sitelinks
3. Using symbols in your ads
4. Ads beyond limits
5. The unclickable ad

(Please note: this presentation was made for German audience, some things might be slightly different in other countries)

1. Using capitalization in ads
Google’s guidelines are pretty clear: "Don't use excessive capitalization such as 'FREE'. You can choose whether or not to capitalize the first letter of each word in your ad. Capitalization of the first letter of each word within your display URL is also permitted."

There is an exception though: when you are using your brand in capitals normally (in your logo for example) you can also capitalize your brand in Adwords. My example: PEUGEOT
Another brand from the car industry, which isn’t using this possibility, but could: NISSAN


When looking at the second example, I was wondering, why they could violate the guideline in their sitelinks. So I decided to have some….

2. Fun with sitelinks
With the Nissan ad in mind, I decided to try out what I could do in the Adwords sitelinks. I found out that Google doesn’t check ANYTHING when saving the sitelinks!

I was able to:

  • Use capitalization wherever I wanted
  • Use esclamation marks wherever I wanted!!!!
  • I could use every brand, also the protected ones (in Germany we still have brand protection)
  • I was able to insert words likePoker, Viagra etc!

But the most funny thing was:

I was able to link to every domain I wanted!!! So I linked apple with and poker with a famous pokersite:


3. Using symbols in your ads
The use of symbols in your ads is limited by the guidelines. That’s a pity because you can do some really cool creative stuff with symbols. Best example was a campaign of German rental car company Sixt, which made this great looking Ascii ads:


But you can also do other stuff:

  • Take a look at this article with David Szetela’s “Bullet Point” Ad.
  • I showed an example of an ad for holiday homes. Actually we A/B tested this one against the same ad without the home. The CTR of the one with the little house was 2.5% higher at the same position!

If you are a trademark owner (and if you’re not, you can try it anyway ;)) you can put the ® or the ™ sign behind your brand. Especially when you are doing advertising for a manufacturer brand, but others are also bidding on the same brand, it can be very useful to put the ® behind your brand just to distinguish yourself from the competition as “the original store”.

We use this strategy for example for a shoe manufacturer, which shoes are also sold by Amazon, on Ebay etc. We A/B tested a version with the ® sign against the same ad without the ® sign. The first one had a 5.5% higher CTR!

I also showed an example of a centered headline:


Actually this is pretty simple, but you can’t use only spaces or underscores!
In the Adwords Editor (which you should always use when you want to play around!) it’s like this:
_ _ _Tip: Online Marketing_ _

Maybe you also noticed that this headline has 29 characters instead of the maximum of 25! That was my next subject:

4. Ads beyond limits
I never thought I was violating a guideline when making ads beyond the official limits, but actually I was:

“Your intended headline, text, and URL must fit within the limits below and not be cut off. Please keep these ad text limits in mind when planning your ads: Ad titles are limited to 25 characters.
The two description lines and display URL are limited to 35 characters each.”

I don’t think Google will punish you for this though.

Preparing my speech I made the following Ad as an example:


As you can see the headline contains 29 characters and the textlines both contain 40 characters. How is this possible?

Well to be honest: I don’t know exactly. It obviously has something to do with the reserved space of the headline. We found out that the maximum for the headline must be approximately 230 pixel.

Of course you can’t write headlines of 29 characters directly in your interface or Adwords Editor. That will not work. But you can do it by using DKI (Dynamic Keyword Insertion). So the keyword is “Search Engine Strategies”.

In Adwords Editor the ad looks like this:

{KeyWord:SES} 2009
{KeyWord:SES} 2009 in Berlin.
Buchen Sie die {KeyWord:SES}!

As a formula we use the following:

Number of total characters – spaces= 25 (or 35 for textlines)
But as you can see, this formula can only be an indication because the example above has 29 characters and only 3 spaces.

5. The unclickable ad
As you probably know there are 5 url parameters you can use for tracking purposes:


The funny thing is you’re able (or you were able actually, because by now Google closed most loopholes) to use this parameters also in your adcopy. And you could do some nasty stuff with this.

For example:

  • use the {ifsearch:”protected brand”} to overrule the brand protection.
  • use the {placement} parameter to dynamically insert the name of the website your ad is running on. (So you could do “Powered by {placement} to build phrases like “Powered by Google, Powered by Ebay etc.)

And you could use the {ifcontent:} parameter to make the headline disappear on Google Search! (Be careful: the display url is clickable on the search network!)

The {ifcontent:} parameter is replaced with nothing, so your headline will be empty. Doing so your ad will be unclickable as you can see here:


In the Adwords Editor it looks like this:

You are out there between about 10 competitors and you have to be creative to get the users attention! Always try out at least two ad copies, always A/B test your ads and remember to always use the Adwords Editor or the API.

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