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What Makes a Good GDN Ad?

Mike wrote earlier this week about how you can place your ads in front of the people that are most likely to buy your product. The next step is getting the click.

This is a good time for two little, yet important, reminders:

  1. GDN & Search are operating on different principles. Search pulls people to your site, GDN pushes them there.
  2.  Start with the assumption that this prospect is at the very widest part of your sales funnel, gathering info but not actively looking to buy.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of text ads and image ads, step back and think about how these ads are seen. It’s always wise to consider the context of your ads, in any medium!

So, there’s your prospect happily browsing. Reading the news, a blog or just about any little joy they’ve found on the net . Then they see your ad.

Ideally your ad stops them cold, they immediately forget about whatever it was they were doing, click on your ad and purchase 2 of every product or service.

A nice thought. Over here in reality, getting people to stop doing what they want and do what your want is no small feat.

These 3 things will give you a better chance of actually getting clicks from people that aren’t actively searching for you.

The Offer

Good GDN ads start here. You’ve got to offer something that captures attention, something valuable with hardly any, or better, no strings attached. The word “free” is a good start. The more value your “free” offer has, the better !

(This works well because your ad will get more clicks, which means it gets shown more which results in more clicks so it shows up more and this cycle will continue)

Your offer needs to be clear and obvious, and your ads need to convey that benefit simply.

Text Ads

What could be simpler? No graphic designers needed and can you can put it together in seconds. Text ads have the distinct advantage over image ads in that they can blend into articles nicely. Your prospect could be halfway through reading your ad before they know it! If your offer is good in the prospects mind, it could derail them from their activity and divert them to your site.

What sort of text ads work best on the GDN? Ones with headlines that illustrate the why they need your product. And you can measure this.

In some recent WebSavvy work we had a client that was using the name of the service as a headline. Changing the ad copy that highlights the benefit resulted in a far higher average time on site, meaning that prospect slid just a bit further down the sales funnel.

For example, an ad for massage with a headline of “Back & Shoulder Massage” is less likely to be actively read & clicked on then “Got Shoulder Tension?” or “30 Min Stress Release”.

Even better is if you can fit your offer in “Free Massage” would be great, but make sure you qualify in the description. Being honest & upfront gets more engagement than a gimmick.

The next step is the description – make sure it follows what the headline is talking about. Nobody will read about how long you’ve been in the massage business or when your hours are. Ensuring the descriptions work with each other will get better results!

Text ads are short, but on your last line should be a clear call to action. “Start Your Free Massage Here” would get me!

DO NOT FORGET TO TEST. Look at the data, beyond the clicks and click through rates because the only metric that truly matters is profit.


It’s much easier & faster to show than to tell! Images are a far better way to show your prospects what your product or service is.

So what kind of banners or images work best on the GDN? The ones you’ve tested over & over. It’s not a simple answer, but the truest one you’ll ever hear.

Here’s a few variables on what to test first. Always test the largest things first.

Start with 10 ads, all 300×250 to begin with. These 10 ads must be as varied as possible and its best to avoid any animation initially. Then test:

  • Bright colours vs muted colours
  • Black & White photos vs Colour
  • Cartoons or Drawings vs photos (please don’t use ClipArt!)
  • Product Shots vs Smiling People

The results of these tests are going to be very different depending on your industry or service, the only way to find out what works is to put on the lab coat and get the results.

A definite must – your images should have a button with a call to action. And yes – test this too! Once you’ve got a few winners you can test different headlines, borders and more.

The big advantage to testing? The GDN will reward your success with lower CPC and show them more. (and the cycle continues…)

Are you actively testing your ads and fine tuning them? If not you’re leaving money on the table!

Read part 1 in our GDN Series Here

Read part 3 – Evaluating GDN with Analytics Here

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