As Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
One of the keys to success with Display advertising is not what you do once or twice, but rather what you do on a regular basis—specifically, constantly creating, testing and optimizing ad creatives.
However, it’s easy to get lazy. It can be hard to come up with ideas for ad creatives on a regular basis. Or you might become content with decent performance instead of going for that slight boost in CTR or conversion rate.
Yet, there’s a simple way to conquer this laziness.
By standardizing the process and having a workflow you can use every week to create new ads that are more likely to convert.
Everyone has their own method, but what you’re about to see is a specific workflow that’s worked for Team Adbeat for a number of years.
It’s a simple process that anyone can replicate and start seeing better results with their Display ads.
Step #1: Do Your Due Diligence
Most of the concepts we’ve used for our most successful ad creatives did not appear out of thin air.
Just sitting down with a cup of coffee and brainstorming new concepts can work, but it’s not the quickest or the most effective way. The best way to come up with new ideas is to do your competitive intelligence. In other words, see what concepts work for other advertisers and use them as inspiration.
Create a Swipe File
The first step is to find ads being used by competitors within your industry. You can find these ads by going to publishers relevant to that specific industry, and looking at sites read by people in your target audience.
For example, if If you run an eCommerce site for women’s clothing, you can go to sites that other advertisers like Zulily might be advertising on:
Take screenshots of your competitor’s ads and put them in a folder. This will be the start of your swipe file (a collection of proven ads and sales pages).
Next, you’ll want to take The next type of ads you’ll want to do your competitive intelligence on are ads from common direct response markets. Examples of these markets include weight loss, relationships, beauty, and finance/make money.
Why ads from these markets?
The first reasons is because offers from these markets work well on Display. Second, these markets are extremely competitive. Mass market advertisers know what works currently on Display because they’re constantly testing different ad concepts, landing pages and funnels. Something that works for a direct response advertiser can usually be ported over to any market with a bit of modification.
Since these offers appeal to a general audience, you’ll find a lot of ads from mass market advertisers on large news and entertainment publishers, like the Huffington Post, PlayBuzz and POPSUGAR.
Sidenote: Want to make this step easier? Use Adbeat. Adbeat allows you to see competitive data for any advertiser or publisher. You’ll be able to drill down to see their exact creatives, landing pages and even how much they’re spending.
Step #2: Jot Down Ideas
Now it’s time to start the actual brainstorming process.
Get all your ad creatives together.
Look over everything you have.
Notice the kind of copy, images and concepts they’re using.
What kind of emotion does the copy convey? Is it moving towards (positive)? Or moving away (negative)?
Write down all your ideas down on a sheet of paper, in an Excel spreadsheet, Google Doc, wherever.
Write down as many ideas as possible. It doesn’t matter how stupid, sketchy or lame you might think they are. If you’re like most people, then the majority of your ideas will be bad. But don’t fret. You only need 2-3 good ideas to start with.
Step #3: Start Writing Ads
Let’s get writing.
Take all the ideas from step #2 and start formulating actual ad copy.
Here’s my process for writing ads:
Open up an Excel file or Google Sheet and create three columns: headline, body copy and call-to-action. These are the 3 main parts of any banner ad. The Display URL itself will appear in text ads on the Google Display Network, but don’t worry about that for now. The Display URL is one of the last components you’ll want to test.
If you’re just testing text ads (which I recommend to start out with), headline and body copy is all you’ll have space for.
Now, go ahead and start writing ads based on the concepts and ideas you put together in steps one and two. You’ll want to write between 15-20 ads, and plan on testing 4-8 of them to start.
Wait… 15-20? Why so many?
Everyone knows they should test a bunch of ads.
However, people tend to make the mistake of writing 2-3 ads and testing those. While that’s better than nothing, it’s far from ideal. If you only write 2-3 ads, it’s very unlikely you’re going to write your best 2-3 ads, no matter how amazing a copywriter you are.
Think of writing ad copy like playing basketball. No NBA player jumps into a game without taking warm-up shots first. These warm up shots are usually pretty bad, until they get into a groove. Just like an NBA player, you’ll need to warm up your ad-writing muscles by writing a series of so-so ads. You’ll eventually get into a creative flow around ad #10.
This means by the time you write 15-20 ads, you’ll have 5-10 good ads you can start testing out.
Although writing 15-20 ads might seem excessive — don’t skip it. This is one of the most important parts of the process.
Step #4: Feel The Rhythm
Most people subvocalize.
Subvocalization is hearing the words in your head while you read.
Something that looks good on paper doesn’t always sound good, either out loud or in the head of the reader. If your prospects read an ad that sounds strange, confusing, or doesn’t seem to flow, they won’t click it.
You can’t confuse someone into buying your product.
Therefore, step #4 is to read each ad out loud and feel the rhythm of the copy.
What does it feel like?
Does it feel like you’re being pulled smoothly through the copy?
Or does it feel like you’re being dragged through the mud?
Does it seem confusing when you hear it out loud?
Good ads feel smooth when read aloud. Bad ads feel unnatural and choppy. Even if you’re not an expert copywriter, you can instinctively tell when an ad doesn’t flow.
Cut these ads out, or fix them until they flow.
Step #4: Copy First, Then Images
Most advertisers start by testing out a bunch of banner ads with different pictures, copy, designs, etc.
You can do this, but I highly suggest you start with text ads.
There are so many different factors that can make the difference between a good banner and a bad banner. You’re only testing the copy when you test a text ad. You’ll know which pieces of copy work, instead of trying to guess if it was the design, the call-to-action, the copy, etc. in a banner ad.
Once you’ve found the winning text ad, you can now put that copy (or a variation) into a banner ad and start testing different images.
Now, you’ll be testing your best copy with different images and discovering which images work best with your highest converting copy.
Step #5: Rinse and Repeat
Testing ads is an ongoing process.
Even the best ads will eventually burn out and people will stop clicking.
Keep doing your research and keep testing out new ideas.
Success with Display advertising has little to do with unknown traffic sources, advanced settings or “sexy” tips and tricks. It’s all about going back the boring old basics. One of those boring but effective basics is having a testing workflow that is sustainable and leads to consistent improvements in campaign performance.
Do you have a specific strategy for testing your ad creatives? Let us know in the comments below!