The Secrets of AdWords CTR in 5 Charts

5

Click-through rate (CTR) is arguably the most important metric in paid search (organic, too, for that matter). It’s a key component in determining Quality Score. It’s indicative of copy that entices prospects to visit your landing pages.

It. Matters.

A lot.

Consumers click on exceptional ads, ads that address their needs or make an emotional appeal, and gloss over bad (or even fine) ones. And while it’s possible that too many clicks can flood your landing pages with un- and under-qualified traffic, if you’re optimizing your landing pages and running remarketing campaigns, the benefits of a high CTR are clear.

Of course, exceptional landing pages and all-encompassing remarketing efforts mean nothing if you aren’t driving a steady flow of traffic to your site, and to do that, you need great ads. What’s the indicator of mind-melting ad copy? CTR.

Given the importance of click-through rate, let’s explore AdWords CTR (in graphs!).

1. What did CTR look like in 2016?

According to our data, beautiful. Radiant. Dare I say it: unicorn-y.

account wide search click through rates in 2016 

In 2016, the average SMB account ad CTR across all positions was 3.23%, up from 2.7% just a year earlier. Why the improvement?

According to Larry, the biggest reasons for the increase in CTR are Google’s inherent preference for good ads, an aversion to running “crappy ads (with low CTR and low QS) in the first place,” and the advent of Expanded Text Ads (more on those in a minute). “There’s tremendous leverage in ad text optimization. The top 10% of accounts (the unicorns) are doing more than 3X better than everyone else (the donkeys).”  In other words, a high CTR is a clear indicator of success.

This is especially interesting when you consider that…

2. Many industries have average CTR’s below the 50th percentile

That’s right. According to our industry benchmarks, a CTR of 3.23% would be a welcome sight in the AdWords UI of almost any advertiser.

Adwords click through rate industry benchmarks 

Of the 16 verticals included in our research, only one, dating and personals, had an industry-average CTR above the 50th percentile. While this is cause for matchmakers to rejoice, it also means the majority of advertisers aren’t writing the right ads.

How can you ensure your copy’s optimized for above-average CTR’s?

The first step is rather simple…

3. WRITE EXPANDED TEXT ADS

Shocking, I know.

As we’ve mentioned ad nauseum since mid-2015, Expanded Text Ads are upon us (and they’re awesome).

The format, in which two 30-character headlines are featured prominently atop a larger description line, gives you more room to say something compelling.

Improvement in CTR due to expanded text ads

As you can see, we recorded some insane increases in CTR across WordStream clients who were early adopters of ETA’s; in some cases, the improvements over standard text ads climbed well over 100%. If that doesn’t convince you to make the jump over to ETA, I don’t know what will!

Just kidding. I’m keenly aware of the hurdle 45% more space in your text ads represents. Boosting CTR’s is great, but, frankly, ETA’s can be a pain in the ass to write.

Case in point: in our own AdWords account, we actually saw click-through rates dip when we first introduced ETA’s. Why? Simply put, we attempted to mash old (high performing) ads together, creating an account overflowing with “irresistible” Frankenstein copy. (For more examples of what not to do, check out the 7 Deadly Sins of Expanded Text Ads).

Our strategy proved wholly invalid within a week. We reverted back to our top performing standard ads, and the brains behind our in-house PPC efforts rolled up their sleeves and started cranking out brand new copy tailored to the new, expanded format.

Now, we’ve got enough ETA-related resources on our blog to turn you into a PPC copywriting pro. But if you don’t have time to dig in right this second, the next two graphics will show you how simple tactics can lead to massive gains in CTR.

4. Bidding on long tail keywords? Include every syllable in your ad copy

Bidding on long-tail keywords is smart, right? Longer keyword, less competition, more obvious intent.

Great.

With standard text ads, it was likely that your long-tail keywords didn’t fit neatly into your copy. They were probably a hair too long to be featured in headlines, and if you managed to work them into a description line they either a) detracted from your ability to include an enticing value proposition/CTA or b) created a painfully awkward line break.

This was a real shame, since long-tail keywords are proven to produce better CTR’s than one-, two-, three-, and four-word keywords, regardless of position.

adwords ctr with paid search ads based on length of keyword

As you can see in this graph, the more words in the search term, the higher the CTR. And with Expanded Text Ads space is no longer a constraint!

By adding an additional headline, Google has given you the ability to include a long-tail keyword and a call to action within your headline. Realistically, most searchers are going to skim headlines because they’re in bold; many might never see your description line copy. While this is a tidbit disheartening, it provides insight into how one might structure an effective Expanded Text Ad.

That being said, if you’ve got your keywords and a CTA in your headlines, what on Earth should you do with your description line? How do you ensure that your hyper-relevant, long-tail keyword-packed ad copy resonates with your prospects?

5. Fill your copy with powerful emotional triggers

Leveraging the power of human emotion in ads is a tried and true copywriting tactic.

But just how powerful is it?

how emotional copy impacts adwords click through rate 

In a word: very.

In a study conducted by one of our PPC Strategists, it was determined that ad copy that combined a promotion with some form of flattery improved CTR by 29%. Only including the promotion or the aspect of flattery alone didn’t move the needle as much as combing the two!

And this study was based on standard text ads: imagine the ways you can weave emotive copy within an Expanded Text Ad! You’ll never have to settle for “Buy now!” again…

Data Sources

  1. Data is based on 30,000 reports from advertisers who ran WordStream’s AdWords Performance Grader for the first time in the last six months. We focused on small and medium-sized businesses with average spend between $10 and $5000 per month, with accounts world-wide. (Source)
  2. Data is based on a sample of 2,367 US-based WordStream client accounts in all verticals (representing $34.4 million in aggregate AdWords spend) who were advertising on Google AdWords’ Search and Display networks in Q2 2015. “Averages” are technically median figures to account for outliers. All currency values are posted in USD. (Source)
  3. Data is based on a sample size of 11 accounts (WordStream clients) using Expanded Text Ads on the Google Search Network in June 2016. (Source)
  4. Data is based on 1,000 keywords in the same keyword niche (to isolate external factors like Google shopping and other SERP features that can alter CTR characteristics). The keywords are all from wordstream.com. (Source)
  5. Data is based on an ad experiment conducted in a single account.  (Source)

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what's good for you, you'll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Comments

DNN
Jan 25, 2017

To be honest, I always have problems writing good AdWords ads and increasing my probability of increasing CTR %'s and getting steady streams of traffic from the ads I wrote myself. I have no prior experience writing AdWords ads, though I used to try my hand at it back in the early 2000's when you could link affiliate links directly to the Google ad before the FTC intervened and said otherwise about making it clear about disclosure of affiliate links. Please tell me your company also writes AdWords ads for paying customers, because I'd like to give you a try.

Allen Finn
Jan 25, 2017

Good morning! Our software can help you write ad copy and optimize for improved CTR: Here's a link to a free trial (https://www.wordstream.com/ppc-free-trial). If you're looking for someone to take the reins entirely, here's a link where you can check out our Managed Services offering (https://www.wordstream.com/managed-services). Good things, Allen

Amie Botes
Jan 30, 2017

Hi Allen,

Great article, I am managing a few clients for a small agency and these tips would definitely help to increase my CTR.

Cheers
Amie Botes

Daniel Vardi
Feb 14, 2017

Do you guys have new data pulled? Since Some of this data seems outdated (specifically, second chart uses 2015 Q2 data). A. RHS ads were taken off since then B. for the most part there are 4 ads on top (vs. 3 in the past) C. ETAs are now more present than at that time D. Google search page changed even for shopping PLAs, locations etc.. E. mobile traffic significantly increases YOY.

Do you guys segment traffic between brand and non brand? The first chart uses data for relatively low budgets ($1k-$5k budgets) which suggests a bigger portion of the traffic relies on branded.

Luella
Feb 14, 2017

This website was... how do I say it? Relevant!!
Finally I've found something that helped me. Appreciate it!

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