What teen fiction can teach you about writing ad copy
What do young adult novels and search ads have in common? More than you might think! Columnist Allen Finn discusses how you can apply the tactics of these novelists to create compelling ad copy.
What exactly do novels for angsty tweens and teens have to do with AdWords?
For one thing, young adult novels understand the behavioral patterns, struggles and idiosyncrasies of their audience. So do good search engine marketers (SEMs).
That isn’t the only thing young adult (YA) fiction and pay-per-click ads have in common, though. When it comes to readability, it just so happens that top-performing text ads tend to be written as though they were meant for a classroom full of ninth graders! If AdWords and “The Hunger Games” have more in common than you thought, you’re not alone.
Today, I’m going to show you how three tactics used by YA novelists — optimizing for readability, leveraging emotional appeals and pandering to your audience’s sense of entitlement — can help you write killer ad copy.
Tweenage readability is the secret to improving CTR & conversion rate
Earlier this summer, the marketing team at WordStream (where I work as a pay-per-click focused content specialist) analyzed more than 600 top-performing AdWords ads to see what made them tick.
While we uncovered some neat stuff about calls to action and lexical diversity, the thing that really stood out to me was that the best text ads tend to be written at a level of complexity that falls somewhere between colloquial speech and “Catcher in the Rye.”
I wanted to see if this held true across all ads, so I pulled over 3,000 text ads that had, at some point between 2008 and 2017, been active in WordStream’s in-house AdWords account. After tidying the data up a bit to account for structural differences between older, “standard” text ads (R.I.P.) and expanded text ads, I ran them through a Python readability calculator to determine the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scores for each one.
The Flesch–Kincaid Grade Level score is a readability test primarily used by educators to determine text complexity and grade appropriateness. It’s a variant of the Flesch Reading Ease test, which provides an indexable raw score based primarily on use of polysyllabic words and sentence length. If you want to test the grade-level of your text ads, without needing to ask your developer friend for a hand, you can paste your copy directly into this free readability test tool.
Here’s what I found: When it came to click-through rate (CTR), ads with middle and high school readability outperformed their elementary and college-level counterparts:
As you can see, the difference in CTR is greatest when we compare the sweet spot (ninth grade!) to college-level readability. If your copy’s too simplistic, then sure, people are slightly less likely to click; but ads overwrought with polysyllabic leviathans may as well be positioned on page two.
When I looked at conversion rates, I noticed an even greater disparity: