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6 ways to create headlines that put the clicks back into Pay Per Click


For years copywriters have argued that if you get the heading right you have won more than half the battle.

PPC ads are no exception, except here the challenge is multiplied. AdWords allows you just 25 characters to stand out from the rest, attract attention, engage interest and create that clickthrough.

Yes, of course you have those other two lines but let’s face it: it’s the heading that determines whether these get read or skipped over.

  • Those 25 characters have to count.
  • They have to connect.
  • They have to convince.
  • Or your ads will never convert.

Here are 6 secrets to writing PPC headlines that win clicks.

The headline news about headlines

PPC headlines count. But don’t take my word for it.

Here’s Brian Clark of Copyblogger on the importance of headlines in general:

“On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline.”
(‘Don’t read this or the kitty gets it’ in Copywriting 101)

And here’s one of many eye tracking studies that prove the relevance of this to PPC ads:


Source: Moz

Look at how the eye hones in on those headlines, hugging them like a rally driver does a corner. Now look at how this translates into hard stats:


Source: Moz

Enough said? Let’s reveal the headline tricks that bring you those PPC clicks.

The 6 secrets of successful PPC headlines

1. The one that’s not so secret, but still remains key

I’m afraid I’m opening not with a bang but a whimper. It’s still broadly true that keywords in your heading will make a big difference. It’s still broadly true that dynamic keyword insertion does work, even when tested against a static heading that is keyword rich, as you can see below.  

If you don’t know how to use it in your AdWords campaign you can learn in all of a minute or two by following Google’s advice here.

Don’t get carried away though, the secret is to continually test and mix your tactics, and I’m about to show you why.

2. How to stand out from the in-crowd

When does dynamic keyword insertion become not so dynamic?

It sounds like a joke but it’s not: the truth is that when everyone is using it, instead of drawing attention to itself by its unique relevance to the query, your heading simply becomes part of the search page wallpaper.

Which ad do you notice first here?


What ads did you ask? Exactly.

If this is the case in your ad space then it’s time to buck the trend. Forget the received wisdom and start playing smart. Lock up your keywords and do something different to make your ad slot an ad feature.

Oh, you want some ideas?

Coming up.

3. Ask and you shall get

Whilst it’s true that advertisers should be providing answers a question is an underused way to attract attention and empathise with your target audience. And, precisely because it is underused, it is a winning PPC headline writing tactic.

  • Looking For a Fridge Van?
  • Need a Local Gardener?
  • Problems With Maths?

Just picture ‘Need a Cheap Getaway?’ appearing in the slew of ‘Last Minute Holidays’ above and you’ll see how direct, involving and instantly noticeable it can be.

Will It Work For You?

4. Elementary, My Dear Watson

We’re back in classic copywriting territory: an advertiser’s job is not to sell but to solve. It’s not all about your product or service but the needs and desires it addresses.

  • A luxury mattress is a good night’s sleep.
  • An iPod is a thousand songs in your pocket.
  • A jacket spud is a nourishing, cost-effective meal with no preparation time.

So let’s put on our deerstalkers and get all Sherlock with our headlines.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. To solve a problem you have to identify it first and then resolve it. I just took 70 characters to explain that and you have 25 to do it in. Take the time and find effective ways to do it and you will be paid back handsomely.

Let’s put this problem to bed: here are some ways a heading may sell a good night’s sleep rather than a mattress.

Bad back? Problem solved.

This hypothetical ad for an orthopaedic mattress rather handsomely combines a question with an implicit solution.

Get some Zs with Doze® mattress

This one really stands out. The Z grabs the attention, there is a touch of humour and an implicit solution to a problem. The use of the registered trademark symbol also always catches the eye, so if you have a brand it makes a great way to draw attention to it.

Sleep secrets revealed

A hint of intrigue, which must be answered on the landing page, will make this a compelling click for any bleary-eyed, stiff-limbed must-have-a-better-mattress searcher.

5. Do your maths

You can count on numbers: people trust them much more than they do slippery words. As a copywriter that was hard to say.

Numbers are seen as cold facts rather than lukewarm half-truths. They also seem to give facts rather than distant promises.

This all adds up to getting them in your headlines. Check out Aviva’s ad below.


The headline states a fact. It jumps out at us. It inspires trust. It helps us make a judgement call.

And, even if the body copy tells us just one in ten achieved this ‘fact’, by then we have clicked through and the ads job is done.

Over to you, landing page.

6. Quote unquote

This one really is a no-brainer. It’s so simple and so effective.

Take your headline. Now find the quotation marks on your keyboard. Place one at the start and one at the end. Now sit back and watch your clickthrough rate improve.

Crazy, isn’t it?

It works because your ad stands out.

The same is true of using questions – partly the effect is psychological and partly it’s the visual distinction of the question mark itself.

(The same is also true of the registered trademark symbol referred to above.)


A great night’s sleep

“A great night’s sleep”

Unqualified statements and bald assertions suddenly become testimonials. Your advertising is somehow elevated by a left quotation mark and a right one.

And it’s just so easy.

Putting it into practice

There we are. Six secrets: some challenging and some simple, some widely used and some sorely overlooked.

The real secret though is the seventh.

The only way you know if these secrets work is to test them. And the results for one campaign or one Ad Group may not hold true for another.

Don’t assume: assess.

The proof, as ever, is in the A/B testing.

Matthew Fidge works for Nexus Design and Print, a marketing agency in Brighton, where he writes killer copy, creates PPC campaigns that convert and turns search intent into search results.