Content Strategy

Smart Ads: Lexical Diversity, Active Words, Punctuation!

WordStream conducted a very interesting analysis of the top-performing AdWords ads. The study looked at nine months of US-based, English, non-branded ads. They ran textual analysis on the ads that performed best (based on impressions, clicks, and CTR) to suss out which words truly work best.

A few findings:

1) Make it about audience — note that “your” is the most-used word, and “you” is in the top 10. While it’s easy to write ads all about the advertiser, step back and think about who you’re actually talking to.


2) You need a call to action, and when you’re writing a whole batch of ads, things start to get repetitive. “Get” is the most-used CTA verb — and for good reason. It’s short (just three characters!), direct, and is less blatantly transactional than “shop” or “buy” or similar verbs. And “click” appears nowhere in the list of Top 10 CTA Verbs. Beyond word choice, location is everything:

“If [your CTA] doesn’t live in one of your headlines, you’re doing it wrong.”

3) “Lexical diversity” is important — that is, choosing a variety of words. This can be tricky while trying to cram in keywords, but the top ads only repeat two words per ad. So avoid lazy keyword stuffing that just repeats itself. Think, “Does this sound like a human would say it?” Write accordingly.

4) Exclamation marks are the most commonly used punctuation mark, appearing in 42% of top ads! Question marks end ads only 11% of the time. Marketers use lots of commas, too, which can help connect thoughts while minimizing characters.

5) Top-performing ads are written at about a 9th grade reading level. (You can always check yours using the Flesh-Kincaid tool in Word — just hit F7 if you’re on a Mac, or run the spellcheck.)

The full study is excellent. Hats off to WordStream for some actionable, interesting findings. Check it out to see the data and charts for yourself.

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