If you were going to write a PPC ad promoting the opportunity to run your own graphic design contest, how would you write your ad?
That was the question facing the BoostCTR writer who wrote the winning ad in the contest below. Take a look at both ads and see if you can pick the winner:
In case you're unfamiliar with 99designs.com, they provide graphic design services through contests. You pay a fee to host the contest. Graphic designers submit their designs. They are competing against each other to win the contest and collect the award fee. Businesses who host the contests can then pick their favorite design from all those that have been submitted.
With that as background, make your decision and keep reading for the answer...
In this particular contest, the new winner is ad #2. The winning ad was written by "cartmetrix," and it increased CTR by 52%.
Since this particular ad group is targeting broader keyword phrases instead of brand-specific phrases, it's important to imagine what frame of mind the searchers are in. If they've never heard of 99designs and don't know anything about the service, then what are they going to respond to?
Let's take a look at the differences between the two ads...
1. "Graphic Design" is a broad phrase that has many different applications. "Logo Design," on the other hand, is a very specific application. It's something that searchers are actively looking for. So the winning ad chooses to emphasize "Logo Design" and places it first in the title copy.
2. The losing ad starts the title copy with "99designs," which may not have any meaning or relevance to the searcher. So the winning ad puts "99Designs" at the end of the title instead of the beginning. Result? The searcher sees what they're looking for faster. (The hyphen between "Logo Design" and "99Designs" also helps readability.)
3. At this point, the two ads take completely different approaches. The losing ad does not explain what the service is or does, choosing instead to emphasize the guarantee of the mysterious service and the award that this service has won. The winning ad omits all mention of guarantees and awards, choosing instead to explain the service and how it works.
- After reading the losing ad, all I know is that it involves some sort of "graphic design." I don't know if that applies to business cards, print newsletters, web sites, logos, etc. All I know is that whatever graphic design is being offered, it's guaranteed. Oh, and the service won an award.
- After reading the winning ad, I know much more. I know I can host my own design contest. I know that includes a logo design contest because the ad says "Logo Design" in the title. I also know that I can pick the design I want from "dozens of samples." Sounds like a low-risk way to commission a new logo design.
Can you see the differences here? There's really no point in emphasizing a guarantee or an award until I know what the guarantee covers and/or what award was given for.
4. The winning ad manages to squeeze in a Call To Action (CTA): "Start Today!" In most contests I've analyzed, ads that include an overt or even covert call to action generally do better than those that don't.
5. The winning ad uses an exclamation point! All other things being equal, PPC ads that include an exclamation point at the end of the first or second line of body copy generally do better than those that use a period or omit punctuation.
6. Last but not least, the winning ad reiterates the "Design Contest" idea in the URL. This minor change ties in well with the body copy, and it may have bumped CTR, but I think the overall approach of the winning ad is what really made the difference.
The bottom line: The new ad wins because it actually describes the service, provides specific details about the service, and includes a call to action. This makes searchers feel more certain about what they're going to find when they click through. (The losing ad leaves the searcher feeling uncertain. Uncertainty leads to inaction.)
What's your takeaway from this particular contest? How will you apply what you learned to the next PPC ad you write? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.
 About the Author: Ryan Healy is a direct response copywriter and BoostCTR writer. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Alex Mandossian, Terry Dean, and Pulte Homes. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth.