Many businesses struggle to convert qualified leads because their ad copy sucks.
It’s all too common that a promising new product line hits the market with optimism, only to fizzle out while thousands are poured down the drain in advertising costs.
In fact, some estimates measure average wasted ad spend at 50% of total advertising budgets.
Luckily, this deadly trap can be avoided by writing ads that work. From my experience running advertising campaigns for dozens of companies across diverse market verticals, I’ve found that following winning methods and processes yields the best results.
This article is all about those winning processes – the theory, practice, and implementation of killer ad copy that converts.
If you want to make more sales and save money in the process, read on.
What Makes Good Ad Copy
When thinking about what makes good ad copy, it helps to think about the end goal and work backward. The purpose of ads is to:
- Generate interest (from a target audience)
- Communicate a message (that is relevant to your audience)
- Inspire action (usually to buy a product)
Therefore, if we want to write good ad copy and increase conversions, we have to communicate in a way that achieves these goals.
Here are the essential elements of effective ad copy:
Good ad copy focuses on the emotional rather than the logical. One of the biggest mistakes that I see with poor ad copy is boring people with the details.
Good ad copy catches your attention. This means you have to speak to people’s emotions rather than their logical brains. Put another way, focus on benefits before features.
Even though it seems people make logical decisions based on reason and logic, it is more common for people to make emotional decisions and then justify those decisions with cherry-picked facts – this is commonly referred to as rationalization.
Additionally, people are more likely to pay attention to negative information than positive – this is called negativity bias. So make sure to talk about all the bad things that will happen if the reader doesn’t take action rather than the good things that will happen if they do.
Example: “Learn how to write good ad copy so you don’t waste thousands in ad spend”
is better than:
“Learn how to write good ad copy to make thousands in sales”
Notice the difference?
The basic formula for good ad copy involves introducing a problem, agitating that problem to make it an immediate threat, and then providing a solution that relieves the pain caused by that problem.
This is best achieved with emotional language, so leave the logical language for technical documents once they’ve already been sold.
Good ad copy speaks to your target audience directly. Readers will tune out if the ad doesn’t relate to their unique problems and pains.
Therefore, once you’ve identified your target audience, you want to filter all of your communications through that audience’s hopes and dreams – the more specific the better.
Instead of saying “Get this fitness program to get in shape”, say something like “Attention all Moms! Shave off 15 lbs in 4 months without sacrificing valuable time with your kids”.
Notice how the ad copy:
- calls out the reader
- talks about their specific pain points
- Uses exact numbers to talk about the benefit
In a world of overwhelming options and offers, you have to stand out by “niching down” – narrowing your target audience and the solution that you offer to them.
Another massive mistake that I see all the time is being wishy-washy with their language.
Instead, write with certainty. This means talking in absolutes.
Instead of saying, “This product may help with weight loss if you use it properly”, say “This product is the fastest, most effective, and healthiest way to lose weight.”
When you speak in absolutes, you will create certainty in your customer which empowers them to take action.
Anatomy of an Ad
A good ad has a good structure. While you can get creative and break the rules, you have to know what the rules are to start with. Generally speaking, good ads follow the following structure:
- Call-to-Action (CTA)
This is a proven structure that reliably achieves the results that we want (see section on what makes good ad copy).
The hook captures the reader’s attention. It should snap the reader out of their passive consuming state into a state of conscious awareness.
Good hooks use emotional language, speak to a problem, get straight to the point, and call out the reader.
Example: Say you are selling tutoring courses for university students – a good hook could be as follows:
“Are you struggling to keep up with your studies in university?”
See how the hook talks specifically about the pain of a university student? It brings attention to their problem directly and succinctly without droning on about the minute details. It uses emotional language in the negative – “struggling” has negative connotations and speaks directly to the reader’s subconscious.
Once you have the reader’s attention, it’s time to introduce the value or the body of the ad.
The value should speak about the solution, or pain-relief associated with the introduced problem – again, using emotional language except now focusing on the benefits of the solution.
Example: “Stop falling behind your peers with custom tutoring courses designed to cut your study time in half”.
See how the content of the ad focuses on the benefits (cut study time in half), uses emotional language to describe how to avoid the negative/pain relief (falling behind your peers), and introduces the value vehicle that will deliver those results (custom tutoring courses).
When you write the content of your ads like this, the reader can immediately see the value of your offer. This empowers them to make a decision about how to proceed.
Once a reader’s problem has been called out and a solution has been presented, they are perfectly qued to resolve that problem. The Call-to-Action (CTA) tells the reader how to take action to resolve their problem.
A good call to action should authoritatively prompt people on what to do next.
Example: For the tutoring lesson example, I would simply want to tell the student to “Sign up Now”.
Assuming that they read the ad, they have already shown that they are interested and the offer is relevant to them. Now, all they need to know is exactly what steps to take next.
Do not tiptoe around what to do.
Instead, go in for the kill with a well-crafted Call to Action (CTA).
Here are some examples:
- Get Educated Now
- Get Free Training
- Download the eBook
- Start Saving Today
- Get the Deal
- Get 15% off
- Join 1500 informed readers
If you want to check out more CTAs, check out this list of 75 CTAs.
The main thing to remember with CTAs is to make them immediate so that the reader can take action while they are emotionally primed to make the decision. If your hook and the content of your ad achieved their desired result, you have a thin window of time in which someone is likely to act.
Given modern people’s declining average attention span, inspiring immediate action is all the more important.
How to Write an Ad Step-By-Step
Now that we know what a good ad is made of, let’s take a look at how to write a good ad step-by-step.
Step 1: Determine your Target Audience
The first step in writing a killer ad is to determine your target audience. Think about who would benefit the most from your products and services. Ads always perform better when they are hyper-specific so really drill down into an audience profile.
An audience profile should outline things like:
- job type
The more characteristics you can identify in your target audience the easier it will be to write your ad.
Step 2: Identify a Pain Point
Once you know what your target audience looks like, start to identify what problem they are having that you can provide a solution for. What pain point does your product/service address?
Generally speaking, people have pain surrounding social status. Status is someone’s perceived value in relation to other people. Having status makes people feel valued, relevant, and needed. Not having status makes people feel dejected, alone, and insecure.
You’ll find that many pain points can be reduced to the need for status when you drill down far enough.
Example: The pain point of not having time to workout > causes pain because you’re unable to get in shape > causes pain because you don’t feel confident with your body > causes pain because you will not get love and admiration from others > causes pain because of a lack of social status.
When analyzing pain points, keep asking the question “why” to drill down to the real emotional reason why someone has pain.
Step 3: Write an Ad Outline that Speaks to Pain Point
Write your ad so that it brings attention to your target audience’s pain point and explains how your product or service can alleviate it.
I typically like to write the rough outline of the ad in a google doc and then flesh it out more when I upload it. The outline should have the different sections of your ad (Hook, body, CTA).
If you’re having trouble getting your creative juices flowing, use an AI writing tool like ChatGPT to write some ideas. Jasper.ai is another great AI tool for writing marketing material – it has restructured AI prompts that create outlines for you.
Step 4. Publish the Ad
Once you’ve written the outline for the ad, it’s time to upload the text onto your ad platform and publish it.
Now a day, most ads are online, so you have to upload the text to the ad platform in the required format.
For example, Google Ad formats are made up of an ad headline, a description, and a final URL. Your ad should answer search intent and include the right keywords (typically for shorter search queries with purchase intent).
Pro Tip: Because Google Ads use responsive formats, (AKA an algorithm picks the format), a really helpful tool for uploading Google ads is Google Ads Editor.
Facebook ad formats typically have primary text, a headline, and a description.
Facebook uses a platform called meta ads manager to upload and format all of your ads.
Writing good ad copy requires being familiar with the most common ad formats and writing to fit that structure.
Pro Tip: The best way to become familiar with different ad platforms is to practice running ads on them and learn by doing!
Step 5. Track Conversions and Measure Results
When you write ad copy, you always want to measure your results. That way, you actually know what’s working and what isn’t. You can read theory about writing good ads until you are blue in the face, but the best ad copy will come from trying new things.
Luckily, with modern digital marketing, there is an abundance of ways to analyze and track digital advertising data.
Make sure you set up conversion tracking on your campaigns so you know when someone takes a conversion action.
I typically find third-party tracking tools and KPI platforms to work better than the native tracking tools built into the advertising platforms – they tend to have more functionality to track the exact conversion actions that you want.
Pull a report every month based on the results that you saw. You should be looking to get high click-through rates and high conversion rates.
If you are getting high conversion rates but low click-through rates, you need to work on your ad copy.
If you’re getting high click-through rates but low conversion rates, you need to work on your offer.
Expert Tips to Take Your Ad Copy to the Next Level
After writing copy for thousands of ads over the years, here are some of my expert tricks to make your ads work like magic:
Use Hard Numbers
Always use objective numbers in your ad copy. “Join 23,450 monthly readers” is a better CTA than “Join a bunch of monthly readers”.
Using hard numbers makes your ad copy concrete – it allows your reader to get a clear understanding of your offer. The more clear and less confusing you can make your ad copy, the more likely your audience is to take action.
Use Definitive Language
Always write definitively. The last thing you want to do in your advertising copy is create uncertainty. If you write with uncertainty, your audience will never commit to action.
Instead, confidently state your offer and tell the reader what to do. For example, “Take this program to triple your income” is more powerful than “Take this program to increase your chances at making more money”.
Speaking directly gives your ad copy authority which fosters certainty in your reader – certainty empowers them to take action.
Expertly Craft Your Offer:
Every ad contains an offer. The basic premise of an offer is to give something of value in exchange for something of value in return. In order for people to take your offer, they have to see that they are getting more value in return for the value they are giving – this means increasing the upside of the offer while minimizing the downside.
Things that increase the upside of an offer:
- understanding target audience struggles
- offer solutions to customers’ problems
- achieving a desired outcome
- making the desired outcome highly probable
Things that decrease the downside of an offer:
- making it easy to get started
- ensuring a fast time to completion
- making the commitment pain-free
- discounting the offer
Great advertising copy paints a picture for the customer that ensures an ideal future outcome with minimal discomfort or time delay to get there.
Writing great ad copy that speaks to a pain point is the key to success in advertising. Start by identifying your audience’s pain points and drilling down to the real emotional reason why someone has pain. When writing your ad, bring attention to this pain point and explain how your product or service can alleviate it. Make sure you track conversions and measure your results. Trial and error is key to getting better.
Like anything, you have to practice to get better at writing ad copy. But if you follow the tips for writing ads in this article, I can assure you that your conversions will shoot up right away and only get better and better.