Some Guidelines on How to Write Killer Google Ads Copy


I have a little confession to make: Google Ads Copywriting makes my teeth hurt.

The copywriter in me hates Google ads because they require you to learn Google’s language, algorithms, and writing style.

Copywriting on its own is more of an art than a science, but Google ads require a little bit of science to get it right.

Keep in mind that Google isn’t primarily interested in Google ads to dazzle or entertain. Google wants Google Ads copy that converts, which pretty much places science above art as far as their ads go.

You’ll find the Google Ads copywriting guide here.

I don’t believe Google has the definitive authority on writing AdWords ads, but these guidelines make for as good a starting point. What follows is my take on Google’s Google Ads copywriting guide.

The Google Ads Writing Guide

There are four main parts to Google’s Google Ads copywriting guide:

Search Query – Google wants your ad to be relevant to what an online user happens to be searching for on the internet. 

It must match the keywords they type in and what they mean by them. 

It’s Google’s job to deliver ads that people want to click on, and Google chooses those ads based on what Google thinks people will find helpful. 

Google is not a friend; Google is Google. 

It doesn’t care that you made this product with your two little hands and that you have the freshest ingredients on earth or that this product will save humanity or whatever other branding message ad copywriters can insert their “creative juices.” 

All they want is to deliver Ads that convert. 

Headline – Google wants headlines that “effectively communicate the offer and lead users to click through.” 

And even though many people think that Google prefers creativity, they’re all about clear language in reality. They want your ad copy to be as straightforward as possible. 

Google is big on clarity and simplicity. To write a compelling headline, you need to make sure every word counts.

Keyword(s) – Google wants you to use relevant keywords only. So be sure to bid on keywords that convert. 

The best way to get a good Google Ad is through detailed analytics and targeting what people search for on Google, not what you want them to click. 

The thing is: Google knows more about Google than you do. And they don’t care how much of a good copywriter you are. 

Description – Google wants concise and relevant text for your Google Ads copy, so it nets as many clicks as possible. They’re okay with you fine-tuning your ad description. They, however, don’t want you to go wild with it. 

Go slow on the flowery language or refrain from using words that delight the senses, and instead focus on using Google’s recommended language – straightforward.

They want your ad description to be specific and targeted, as well as descriptive and punchy. 

Google is big on quality over quantity, so don’t go overboard with ad text. Google recommends well under 90 words for Google Ads copywriting.

What’s the Character Limit on Google Ads?

You’re allowed to use up to 30 characters for the headline and 90 characters for the Google Ads description. 

Note that Google Ads has three headlines, where each headline accommodates up to 30 characters of text.

Previously, you could only communicate your ad message in two headlines and one description. But with the new, improved Expanded Text Ads, Google is now giving Google Ads copywriters a bit more breathing space to get their message across. 

So, instead of two, they’re giving you three headline slots (each with a character limit of 30), and instead of one, you have two description lines (each with a character limit of 90).

Previous Character Limit New Character Limit
Headline 1 Up to 30 characters Up to 30 characters
Headline 2 Up to 30 characters Up to 30 characters
Headline 3  – Not Applicable- Up to 30 characters
Description 1 Up to 80 characters Up to 90 characters
Description 2  -Not Applicable- Up to 90 characters

How Expanded Text Ads Work?

  • Expanded Text Ads Have Three Headers, as we said. The first two headers are mandatory, while the third one is optional. We suggest you include the most important information in the first two headlines and include supporting details in the third one.

For example, say you want users to sign up for your newsletter. You want to mention that in the first and second headlines because Google wants you to state the offer. 

In Google’s Words, Google says, “Offer details should be in the first and second line (required), with additional supporting information in the third line (optional).”

Then you can use your third header to explain how they’re going to benefit from this newsletter, or how often you plan to send them this newsletter, etc. That way, you won’t miss out on displaying the CTA.

But Google wants you to keep it short and sweet. Google calls it “clean.” Google doesn’t want your ad copy to be chock full of flowery language or unnecessary details that don’t support the offer. 

  • The Third Headline and Second Description: Whether or not the third headline or second description will be displayed depends on the user’s device screen.

For example, if the user views the ad on their desktop computer, Google will display the third headline and second description. But if they determine the user is viewing the ad from a mobile device, they won’t display those ad components.

It’s simple: if the user’s device has a low resolution and not enough screen real estate to accommodate three headlines and two descriptions, you can bet Google will not be displaying the third headline and second description.

Responsive Search Ads (RSA)

After introducing Expanded Text Ads in mid-2016, Google would also introduce a new Google Ads text format called Google Responsive Search Ads in 2018.

This one is a little more advanced, but it is designed to work in conjunction with Expanded Text Ads (not replace it). Google says Google RSA is designed to “help you provide a highly customized user experience on Google by taking into account the device that your users use to view your ads.”

It comes as part of Google’s continued attempt to provide Google advertisers with better tools to tailor their Ads copy for specific devices.

How Responsive Search Ads Work? 

Responsive Search Ads let Google know that you want to “display different text in your ads depending on the user’s device.” Google will then select the most relevant Google ads components for each device.

So, if Google detects that a user is viewing your Google Ad from an inappropriate device, Google will automatically pick the most appropriate Google Ads components. 

Google is smart enough to display ad components that provide the best user experience based on the attributes of both your campaign and the specific device the user is using.

The Pros and Cons of RSA

Let’s start with the Pros:

  • Test Different Headlines:  RSA allows you to test various ads and intelligently rotate them based on the generated user experience. Thanks to Google’s machine learning, Google can determine which ad components are best for a given device.
  • You don’t have to select which ad components to use; Google does it for you. So, if Google determines that your first headline works better on mobile but the second one works better on desktop, then Google will automatically display the most appropriate ads component.
  • Google does the heavy lifting for you. Google will determine which ad components will work best for each device and display them accordingly.
  • A Higher Level of Control: RSA allows Google to give you more control over Google Ads components. Google doesn’t say this on their help page. Still, I’m willing to bet Google RSA allows Google to analyse your Ad performance in ways that are not possible with Expanded Text Ads (since RSA automatically selects the most appropriate ad component for each device).
  • Room to Include More Information: RSA ads allow Google to display more Ads components than Expanded Text Ads. Google says RSA can accommodate a third headline and second description —like in Expanded Text Ads— but technically speaking, they could expand this to include additional Ad components such as site links and callouts.

The Cons of Google RSA:

  • Limited Data:  RSA is still fairly new. Google talks about intelligently selecting ad components. They, however, don’t elaborate much on the process used. 
  • There is also limited data on Google RSA performance (anecdotal evidence, mostly). Google doesn’t even provide Google Ads conversion tracking code for RSA ads. You’ll only receive Google Analytics enhanced e-commerce conversion tracking for Google RSA —provided you have it enabled— but not Google Ads conversion tracking.

It’s also unclear how Google evaluates which device is appropriate for your ad or which ad components should be displayed in an RSA campaign; this process remains somewhat of a black box.

Going Beyond Google’s Google Ads Copywriting Guide

In addition to the Google Ads copywriting guide above, here are some extra tips to help Google Ads copywriters write better Google Ads copy for conversion:

#1 The more informative your ad is, the more persuasive it will be. 

The first principle is from David Ogilvy, who some may call the Father of Modern Advertising. 

He’s a real-life Don Draper to those who have watched Mad Men. 

According to Ogilvy, advertisers don’t sell [people] anything. They simply try to find out what people want and then tell them.

Google advertising is about finding out what Google ads users want and serving them exactly that. 

We can demonstrate this with a real-world example:

Let’s assume you work as a realtor. You’re trying to sell a home for $250,000. Google suggests you include a Google Maps component in your ads. That’s because they have enough data to know Google maps increase click-through rate (The logic behind Google’s suggestion is that people are more likely to buy homes if they can see a real-time view of their house from Google Maps).

Google’s advice here is spot on, and it’s because they know their audience.

To copywriters using Google Ads, this means you no longer have to “trick” your audience into clicking on your ads.

Instead, take your time to understand what they want and give it to them. You can now relax and watch as your click-through rate skyrocket.

How to find what your potential customers are looking for?

Simple: some tools can help you out with this.

The first tool that might help you come up with a good headline is Answer the Public. You can use it for free online to generate new ideas for your ad headlines.

All you need to do is head over to their official site and enter your keyword in the search bar provided before hitting enter.





Here’s what I got for the keyword “web hosting:”

As you can see here, Answer the Public shows you how many questions and answers has Google indexed under that specific keyword. Furthermore, it provides 50 ideas for ad headlines —with details such as search volume and relevancy— to help you out with your ad copywriting.

Answer the public provides a turn of helpful information. All these are thoughts going through the minds of your target customers.

Regardless of whether you’re an experienced copywriter or beginner, you’ll find Answer the Public to be a great source of fresh new ideas.

Another tool that can help you write better Google Ads copy is Keyword Tool.


Its purpose is simple: it shows Google’s search volume for any keyword in real-time.

This tool is useful because it helps you understand your target audience besides reminding you to focus on the benefits.

Let’s assume you’re a non-technical person. You want to start a business that sells web hosting services. 

You search Google for some keywords like “web hosting” and “cheap” or “affordable,” for instance, before adding them to your list.

Next, you’ll want to use Google’s keyword planner to understand exactly who your potential clients are. In addition to showing search volume and traffic estimates, the planner can also provide information about their location.

Finally, it would be best to focus on benefits —the entire point of advertising with Google is to convince users they get more by clicking on your ad than by clicking on someone else’s— you must know your audience.

Are customers looking for cheap or reliable hosting? What are their other needs? 

It would help if you listed those down first.

With this information, you can start writing Google Ads copy that meets the specific needs of your potential clients.

#2 Scarcity Mentality

If you’ve ever read Dr Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” then you probably know how powerful scarcity can be as a marketing tool.

Psychologically, customers tend to lose self-control when they sense the potential loss of an item.

That’s why realtors will often say things like “the house sold in less than 24 hours” or similar statements as a way to convince people that they should not delay their decision and buy that home now before it’s too late.

Scarcity works in two ways:

  • Limited Time: People are motivated to take action when they fear missing out on something.
  • Limited Quantity: People are more likely to buy when a limited supply of items is available.

Both of these elements do their part in steering you toward better Google Ads copywriting.

Consider the fact that you have only 24 hours to jump on your chance to get a really good deal on web hosting. You can take it as an invitation for customers to take action before it’s too late, or else they’ll miss out.

Of course, offer them a variety of plans to choose one that best suits their needs.

#3 Find Your Opening in a Competitive Market

Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors of the book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” talks about the concept of “point-of-difference” a lot. With this approach, you’ll get to understand how to write Google Ads copy that’s tailored to your audience.

The idea is simple: find a way to communicate what makes you unique compared to your competitors. It’s the only way to stand out and gain authority with potential clients.

One example is HostGator, a well-known web hosting company. Instead of just saying “we’re the best,” they invite potential buyers to compare them with their competitors.

They found a way to let people know that they’re different from other hosting companies, which is why anyone should choose them.

LeoVegas Casino is a relatively new business, but they’re already dominating their niche. Why? Because they found a unique way to connect with their audience.

They advertise through Google Ads with the tagline “Wanna play casino games online? Then you’re in the wrong place.”

It is a challenge for potential customers to click on their ads and go to the website only because of this statement that LeoVegas uses as part of their advertising.

Challenges are a great way to create curiosity and make people want to know more about your business.

They’re confident in their brand, so they already know that the answer to their question is “no.” It’s not all about gambling – it’s also about having fun with friends and family at home or on the go.

Here are a few unique differences to cash in:

  • You’re local and actively involved with the community. 
  • You’re on the cutting edge of technology. 
  • You’re a market leader.
  • When a customer leaves behind a message, you call them back.
  • You’re available 24/7 – there’s no wait time for calls, and emails get answered immediately.
  • Anticipate their needs even before they do.

Here’s an example to imagine: 

You’re a marine electronics store that specializes in providing products and services to boaters.

Your main competitor is a chain of big-box stores, but you’ve decided to stand out. Here’s how:

You have your own fleet of boats that you use for customer outreach. When customers buy stuff, they also get a free lesson in boating when they receive their products. In this way, you’ll be trying out their new products and services on the water. 

This particular approach is unique, creative, memorable, and gets your message across in a way that immediately connects with customers. It makes you stand out from other marine electronics stores because you’re very different in this specific way.

#4 Understand that Your Customers are Fundamentally Selfish

Okay, maybe selfish is a strong word, but the point is that you need to understand what motivates your customers to want to buy your products or services.

Realize that they have needs or desires, and they often don’t care about you unless you guarantee them that you can meet their needs and help them achieve those goals.

The Backstreet Boys will tell you a similar story, as their song “I Want It That Way” is all about wanting something that way!

So, whether it’s making money, getting a promotion, losing weight, finding love or even enjoying life a little more, you need to know what’s important to your customers.

#5 Make Sure Your Ads are Accurate

The lesson here is to never lie in your ads.

If you’re selling software, don’t try to trick people into thinking that it’s the best by claiming that it has some special features when it really doesn’t. Don’t use fake testimonials or stock photos of actors in your ads, either.

These kinds of tactics may work to a certain extent, but it’s unlikely that you’ll build a long-term relationship with your customers if you’re not honest about what you’re selling.

That being said, you don’t have to tell your potential customers everything about how your products work. In fact, it’s important not to reveal too much information because that can give away the secrets!

Instead, emphasize the benefits and features of your product or service without going into the nitty-gritty details.

#6 Have some Empathy for Your Customers

Dale Carnegie talks about this in his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People”:

“The only way to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.

Empathy is the secret ingredient you need for people to notice your ad, click on it and buy from you. Let’s look at some classic examples of empathy in action.

Example #1: “What’s the biggest problem with texting and driving? It’s not getting pulled over by a cop; it’s crashing your car into something and hurting yourself or someone else.” 

So how does AT&T encourage people to put down their phones while they’re behind the wheel?  By simply asking them to put themselves in the shoes of someone else.

Example #2: The “Got Milk?” campaign was a viral sensation that has been imitated and reused several times because it’s so simple, memorable and successful.  The ad that started it all shows a girl at a basketball game who is less concerned with the game than she is about her long list of chores waiting for her at home. She’s about to make an important call (presumably to Mom) when she realizes that she doesn’t have any milk.  

#7 Keep it Simple and Clear

When writing Google ads, always remember that you’re not the only one trying to win over people’s attention.  There is a ton of competition for your target audience’s limited attention. It would be best if you stood out in any way you can, and part of that is cutting the fluff out of your ads.

Example: Let’s say you’re selling a product or service on how to play golf better.  You could keep it simple by saying something like this: “Learn how to improve your score today with this free online golf training guide”.  

Here are a few examples that win by being straightforward:

Example #1: “When You’re Ready to Buy a Home and Live in Comfort, Call Me, I’ll Help You Find the Perfect Home”

Example #2: “I Make Your Job Easy. Get All the Administrative Support and Customer Service Your Business Needs”. This one is an ad for a virtual assistant company. They’ve taken something complicated like administrative support and broken it down into words that their audience can understand.

Example #3: “30 Day Money Back Guarantee If You’re Not Pleased with Our Service”

#8 Be Specific (To A Point)

Remember, you’re trying to convince people that they have a problem and that your product or service is the solution.  That means being specific about what you offer is almost always better than generalizing too much.

Example: You’d be surprised how many ad headlines go something like this: “Are You Ready to Make More Money Online?”

If you’re trying to sell a product, why not name it? Better yet, if your product is better than the competitions, then say so. Something like “The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Make Money Online.”

Example #2: If you can’t name your competitor by name (or have a trademark on mentioning them in your ads), then you can still be specific about what makes you better. Generalizations like “better” or “easier” don’t do the trick. They flop because people want to know how much better or easier.

Example #3: Another way to be more specific is by providing a detailed list of features and benefits your product or service has.

Example #4: You can even be specific about price and what you’re selling, as long as your offer is compelling enough. For example: “The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need to Make Money Online – Just $5.”

#9 Get Emotional

On the Internet, Fear = Clicks. If you want people to click on your ads, you need to push the right emotional buttons. Fear is a great one. But so are things like urgency, desire for approval (from family or peers), and even anger.

More examples:

Example #1: If you have something that people want, but they only have a minimal amount of time to get it, you can use urgency to your advantage. “Only 7 Days Left to Get 50% Off – Act Now!”

Example #2: People love feeling like they’re part of something larger than themselves, so groups and collectives are another great way to get emotional about what you’re selling. For example, “. You And 1,000 Other People Just Like You…”

Example #3: Emotive language like “How Can I Get This and Still Be Able to Feed My Kids?” is another powerful emotional ad headline. The use of the word “still” in this sentence implies that it’s a question people ask themselves and puts an additional moral imperative upon them to buy. Asking people questions about their future is a great way to hit them emotionally.

Example #4: If your product or service can solve peoples’ problems, you should tell them that it does right at the front end of your ad and not in some boring message in the middle or at the bottom of an ad. For example: “Sell Your House in Just 7 Days with Our New ‘Sell Your House’ Software” is a lot better than “Buy Our New Software, And We’ll Help You Sell Your House Fast!”

#10 Make It Personal or Action Oriented

People love talking about themselves and what they do, so allow them to do just that! “How To Lose 20 lbs In Just 30 Days” is more interesting than “New Weight Loss Product”.

Example #1: People like to make their lives easier, so pointing out how your product can help them do that or make their job simpler will go a long way. Headlines like “Make Your Job Easy – This [Product] Will Do It Instantly” have been known to work well in the past.

Example #2: You can even use humour to gently poke fun at people, encouraging them to click on your ad due to curiosity. An excellent example of this would be “I’m So Unemployed I Can’t Even Get a Job as An Ad Copy Writer” – This headline works because it pokes fun at the times we live in (high unemployment), which makes you laugh.

Example #4: Turn your product or service into a personality, and make it more interesting to click on an ad about it. For example: “Mia, Your New Productivity Coach” is a lot more fun and personal than “New Productivity Tool Helps You Get More Done at Work.”


About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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