The Return of Pimp Your PPC Ad: Lessons from Bad PPC Ads

The Return of Pimp Your PPC Ad: Lessons from Bad PPC Ads

March 29, 2011
Elisa Gabbert

That's right folks, it's the auspicious return of Pimp Your PPC Ad, in which I scan the SERPs for sponsored ads that don't pass the sniff test, then tell you how to make them better (-smelling?). I always meant to make this a regular feature, but apparently I only did it once in 2009. Oops.

So, maybe it's only a biannual feature. Anyway, here we go with five more lessons from poorly executed pay-per-click ads.

Lesson #1: Don't Put All Your Keyword Eggs in One Basket

These are some of the ads I was served up for "army surplus gear":

PPC Ad Writing

This last one suffers from a lack of targeting – these different keywords (ACU headgear, ACU jackets, etc.) should really all be in their own ad groups. In addition, the ad doesn't communication any value proposition and doesn't have a call to action – it's just a list of terms. When you read it, you just think, "We get it dude. ACU."

Lesson #2: Watch Your Significant Digits

I think facts & figures in PPC ads are great, but you should have some grasp of junior high math before you start crunching the numbers. Check out this ad that was served in response to "orange blossom honey":

ppc ads

"Check 6.500 shops for great prices!" 6.500? I have a feeling that period was supposed to be a comma – unless they were really trying to make six and a half look like a much bigger number. Then again, would anyone really want to check over six thousand of anything? This is just unappealing all around. Plus the line "Looking for Orange Blossom Honey?" is a complete waste of space. Of course someone who searches for "orange blossom honey" is looking for orange blossom honey! How about something like: "Compare Prices on Orange Blossom Honey. Hundreds of Options, Great Prices!" This gets the keyword in there again while actually conveying some information (what you can do on the site).

By the way, notice how some of the ads have an extra line of information, location in one case and ratings in another, which makes them stand out. Learn more about these seller ratings in yesterday's post from Tom.

Lesson #3: PPC Is No Place to Be Vague

Check out this ad triggered by the query "link building services," authored by the PPC ninjas at the amusingly named "":


In lieu of a CTA, we get the supremely vague claim "You Will Not Find This Anywhere." I guess they meant you won't find this (this being quality link building services, maybe?) anywhere else? But it ends up sounding like they're saying "You won't find a good link builder anywhere. So, you might as well go with us." Not real persuasive. Dot com.

Lesson #4: Look for Missed Opportunities

Whaaaat? No one's bidding on the term "graphing calculator"? That's what this SERP leads me to believe:

pay-per-click advertising

The only ads are broad matched or dynamic keyword insertion. This strikes me as really odd – a graphing calculator is a pretty high-ticket item (in the $90-$150 range) and there's a big market for them because many high-school students are required to purchase them. What the heck, people? How about some keyword research? According to the AdWords keyword tool, this term has low competition and 450K global monthly searches.

Lesson #5: Pay Attention to Intent!

I'm confused:

PPC Copywriting 

First of all, "dog lover collectors"? I'm pretty sure that's a crime in most states. They probably just mean "dog lovers," but even so – this is a really weird call to action. I like secrets and games as much as the next guy, but someone using the search query "puppy calendars" probably just wants to buy a puppy calendar, don't you think?! "The secret" sounds like some new-age mumbo-jumbo, not a calendar with cute pooches on it, and by clicking I get to "see" it, but do I get to buy it? It would help if the ad gave some indication that this business is in fact a purveyor of calendars.

The other ads, of course, are a lesson in the failures of broad match. But it's good to know that Amazon, Bing, and exist, thanks.

So that brings us to the end of another episode of Pimp Your PPC Ad. Until next time! (In a couple of years.)


Maneet Puri
Mar 29, 2011

Keep going Elisa. Its interesting! Thumbs up~

Matt Vaillancourt
Mar 29, 2011

Awesome article, Elisa. Great info, a plethora of visual examples, humorous. Rock on!

Elisa Gabbert
Mar 29, 2011

Thanks, Matt!

Richard Kraneis
Mar 29, 2011

PPC Ads without Standards

PPC ads without standards are a recipe for wasteful ad spends.

I worked for one client who never had written any PPC ads. My client (a nice lady) would accept or reject each individual ad. No standards, no guidance on writing PPC ads.

A large company that does its own PPC ads would surely have its own PPC ad standards, wouldn't it? Maybe.

A vendor creating PPC ads would do well to establish some PPC ad standards signed off by the client. That would eliminate confusion down the road. Does that really happen?

What those PPC standards could be for in-house PPC or outsourced PPC is a topic for another day.

Elisa Gabbert
Mar 29, 2011

A document with standards and guidelines is a great starting point. After that, testing testing testing!

Toni Voutilainen
Mar 29, 2011

Nice job combining hard facts and sarcastic humor. :)

Elisa Gabbert
Mar 30, 2011

Thanks, Toni -- I try to write without sarcasm sometimes but it's hard!

Guillermo Ortiz
Mar 29, 2011

Hilarious! A good reminder to double check those ads and look for missed opportunities.

Elisa Gabbert
Mar 30, 2011

Thanks for reading!

Daily Digest for March 29th | A Blog by John A. Lee
Mar 29, 2011

[...] @WordStream: NEW Post: The Return of Pimp Your PPC Ad: Lessons from Bad PPC Ads [...]

Christine Pepin
Mar 30, 2011

I enjoyed the way you presented some classic bad examples and your take on each. Not to mention, hilarious!

Elisa Gabbert
Mar 30, 2011

Thanks Christine, so glad you liked the post!

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