8 Secrets to Creating Killer Ads: Expert Shortcuts to Ads That Work, Convert and Increase ROI

Ads are the life blood of any business, no matter how big or small. Getting your message out in front of your audience is critical to maintaining a constant flow of customers and prospects through your pipeline. For most businesses, the biggest problem is that their target customers don’t really know them, who they are and what products and services they provide. An effective, strategically placed ad will help get that message in front of the right people at the right time. Dan Kennedy famously said, “You’re one sales letter away from big business.” Russell Brunson, founder of QuickFunnels, modified that to, “You’re one sales funnel away from big business.” We are taking it one step further, “You’re one ad away from big business.” In this article we’re going to let you in on our top eight secrets for creating killer ads. These are our favorite shortcuts that have worked over the years for us; resulting in ads that work well, convert well and result in a great ROI.

What Makes Us the Experts?

We’ve been in the online advertising and marketing world, collectively, for nearly 20 years. Before starting my own agency, I spent four years at Microsoft managing their Ad Center platform, where I managed $25 million in ad spend every year. I got to see tons of ads, change ads, change creative, and build ads for hours on end, testing to see which worked and which didn’t. That’s exactly what I do for my clients today. Ashar Alam has been in digital marketing for almost 15 years, spending $1 - $2 million in Facebook ads per month for various clients in various industries. This involves a lot of testing to find the winner. When we do find that winner, we scale very rapidly, which leads to exceptional results for the client. In fact, he has one ad running now that is generating over $10 million in sales.Together, our experience has resulted in many millions of dollars of sales for our clients, and that keeps them coming back. While the online world is constantly changing and evolving, there are some foundations that, if done well, will lead to advertising that produces winning results.So, let’s dive right in with our first secret to creating killer ads.

  1. Think of Your Business as Aspirin

Let’s look at the very root of the customer-business relationship. Whatever product or service you’re offering has to be solving a problem that your customer has. Period. So how do you communicate that to your clients? That’s here your ad comes in. For any pain that a client or prospect has, your product or service is the aspirin that will take away the pain. Transform the problem into a villain in your ad, and your product or service becomes the superhero that fights the villain.That’s where your killer, winning offer comes in.

  1. The Perfect Ad Structure is 5th Grade Reading

There is a simple formula that we follow when creating ads that convert:

  • Headline – A clear headline that grabs one’s attention; this is often a question that asks about the problem/pain. When you open with a question, you’re forcing the target to answer yes or no. If they answer “Yes,” they will read on, if “No,” they are not your target audience.
  • Description – This is where you will want to introduce your solution to the problem/pain and establish your credibility (what you’ve done, systems you’ve used). Include social proof (actual reviews or testimonials) at this point. Be sure to present your solution as benefits to the target audience. It’s important to speak the same language that the target audience would use in order for them to better relate to you.

Here’s the key:

Keep your ad copy at a grade 5 reading level so that it’s consumed quickly and easily.

Remember, you’re competing with a very short online attention span, so consumers want to be able to get the main message without having to work too hard to find it.

  • Call to action – This is where you get them to do something, to take some sort of action (register for a free event, receive a discount, sign up for a consultation, etc.). Be sure to tie your main offer to the main benefit as much as possible.
  1. Know Your Ad Sizes

Knowing what size ads to use where will be very helpful when building your overall online advertising strategy because it will help determine what’s included in your ad. There are a lot of different options to choose from, and you don’t need to use them all. But knowing the sizes you have to work with will help you create the most effective ads. If your ad is too big or too small, you won’t be able to use it in certain applications.Some of the most popular ad sizes are shown below:

Ad Sizes
  1. 5 Secrets to Creating Great Text Ads

Contextual advertising is really just using text ads to gain customers. You’ve seen these text ads all over, specifically in Google. Whenever you type a keyword search, the first few search results that you’ll see are ads (easily identified by the word, “Ad” above the listing). Or you may see text ads on a website within the content, making them a little more “hidden” than a typical ad with a catchy image.It’s very easy to spend a lot of money on contextual ads, so it’s important to know what’s working, what’s converting, and what’s not. There are some shortcuts you can take to test ads and get effective ad copy out quickly. You can find this out by doing the following:

  1. Keyword research – Keyword research is so important in advertising. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find the highest impressions, highest volume searched words that have a lot of competition and a high CPC. If a competitor is willing to spend that much money on a high traffic, high CPC word, then it must be converting for them or they are wasting their money. Take that word and incorporate it into your text ad.
  2. Build a swipe file – Don’t reinvent the wheel. Keep a library of screenshots of text ads in a file – these will be ones that catch your eye. Having your own swipe file will be very useful when it comes to creating your own killer ads.
  3. Search Google Images – This is a lesser-known strategy but one that will lead you to some of the best ad copy you can get your hands on. Some of the highest paid copywriters in the world are those who write headings for popular magazines. If you search the Image library for “covers published” you’ll see wording that is hand-selected and tested that you can then bring into your ads.
  4. A/B split testing – This is one of the best methods to use to refine and really dial in your ads. When you run a split test, you take your ad, change one thing at a time (and only one thing, otherwise you won’t know what element caused the change), and see which version – the original or the one with the change – performs best. Start with changing the headline, and after maybe 100 clicks or 1,000 impressions, see which version gets the highest CTR (Click-through Rate), then pause the lower performing one and try to beat the higher performing ad by again making one change. Repeat this process over the course of 6 months or a year, and you’ll end up with an ad that performs very well.
  5. Headline secrets – There are a few tricks you can use to create really strong headlines in your ads. Include numbers or symbols or dashes because these will catch people’s attention right away. When you find the best performing keywords, incorporate that word or phrase in your headline because it will be BOLDED in the search results, so it will stand out more.
  1. Facebook Ads That Convert

Facebook ads are a little different beast because you have a lot of room for text. You can actually take 300-500 words to tell a story to capture the audience’s attention and build engagement. These longer form ads typically contain:

  • A captivating headline that speaks to the target market
  • Text (pain-solution, “hero’s journey”)
  • A compelling and relatable image (ex., a photo of a bride for a wedding photographer)

We’ll often open with a question, asking the target audience if they have experienced the “pain.” That is followed by a statement that shows how our product or service provides the solution to the pain, followed by an offer. The key is to keep it simple and make sure you’re focusing on your target audience. Because there is more space to tell a story, a good strategy is to include the “hero’s journey.” This type of story highlights the struggles they had that their client also had, and how they overcame the struggles to come out victorious. The hero’s journey is relatable and will help build engagement and conversion.

  1. Be A Stalker

Have you ever visited a website, clicked on something, then left the site without taking further action, only to have that product or business “follow” you everywhere you go online, essentially stalking you? That’s a strategy called retargeting, or remarketing. We’ll save the details of this strategy for another article, but know that it can be a very effective way to increase conversions using display, social or email ads.AdRoll is a company that will create these types of ads for you for free, with a minimum ad buy of $25/week. This makes it a relatively inexpensive strategy to experiment with, giving you flexibility to try different options. It’s a very effective way to perform A/B split testing to see which ads convert best.

AdRoll Screenshot
  1. Spy on Your Competition

In advertising, not only is it important to have your own ads that perform well, but you need to know what your competition is doing that’s working. And when you can figure that out, you’re one step closer to having your own ads that work. This is simple competitive intelligence. Don’t reinvent the wheel is there is already an ad campaign in place that’s working.Whenever you’re looking around online, keep track of the best ads that you see in a swipe file. When you see an ad that catches your attention, save a copy of it on your computer. By building your own library of effective ads, you won’t have to start from scratch when it comes to creating your own ads.One tool we like to use to see what specific competitors are doing is Moat. On Moat, you can see a showcase of the creative (ads) that the competitors in your industry are using. You can see the actual ads – images and text – for all types or formats of ads. Below is an example that shows just a snapshot of the ads Moz.com (a software for SEO tracking) is running. When you click on an ad, you will see specifics about that particular piece of creative that you can then use in your own advertising efforts.

Use Moat to Spy on the Competition
  1. Sneaky Groupon Hack

One of the best places to look for successful promotions for local businesses is on Groupon. The site features ads for discounts on all types of businesses, from dentists to Lasik to auto repair. We’re able to share a sneaky trick for finding the most popular ads and bring them over into a Facebook ad.When working with a local business, the first thing we’ll do is look at the top ads in Groupon in a parallel local business. To determine which ones are working best, simply look at the number of times the offer has been claimed – some have been claimed tens of thousands of times! Once you find that killer Groupon offer, take that same offer and put it on Facebook for your business. You’ll find that a lot of your competitors are not advertising on Facebook, so now it’s virgin territory because a lot of the target market has not seen that ad before. By doing this you’re using a different advertising medium to get to your target audience. As we’ve seen in a previous post, the targeting is much more effective on Facebook than it is on Groupon.

Recommended Reading

These are some of our favorite books and authors on the topic of advertising and are worth a read:

  • Ca$hvertising by Drew Eric Whitman – This is a great beginner book
  • Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene M. Schwartz and Martin Edelston
  • The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy – Really, any of his books
  • Any of the books by Bob Bly

What’s Your Next Step?

Are your ads falling short? Are you getting the results that you hoped for? If not, then it’s time to reevaluate your online advertising, and we’re here to help. Contact us today to start seeing increased conversions and sales, all thanks to an updated advertising campaign.

Photo by Aaron Sebastian on Unsplash