How to Write a Text Ad That Gets Clicked and Converts

Convert more website visitors into email subscribers by perfecting the art of writing and positioning your text ads

How to write a text ad that gets clicked and convertsAbout 100 words into every article we write, and into every article our clients write, you’ll find a little snippet of text that alerts the reader to a free download. When I use the term “text ad,” it’s these little ads that I’m referring to.

In the new world of digital marketing, text ads have now surpassed display ads as the most effective and widely used online advertising medium.

High-design, long-text, hard-to-produce display ads are dead. Less is more. Short-attention-span text ads work.

Text ads are the new control.

The result: Copywriting now reigns supreme. If you want a click, or if you want someone to download a product in exchange for their email address, even if it’s free, you have to work for it.

But that doesn’t mean text is the only variable in a text ad. In fact, you might notice our text ad, which I’ll insert below, includes a graphic for our free report. It’s part of a test we’re currently running to see if we can increase website email capture rates (so far it’s minimal, but positive.)


Writing a text ad is not particularly difficult. But it is different from what you may think … and it is a rare skill. The same skills needed to write a text ad are those you need to write a 95-character Google AdWords text ad, or a 140-character Twitter message, or an effective, 55-character email subject line.

The harsh discipline of writing for a very constrained space forces you to produce the best work you’ve ever created. Here are the guidelines we use and offer to our clients when they’re writing text ads:

1. Don’t give everything away in the ad. Is your text ad sufficiently intriguing to prompt the recipient to click your link? Or do you “give away” the entire take-away in the text ad, diminishing the subscriber’s incentive to download your free product?

2. Don’t trick subscribers into clicking your link. Mystery is a good thing, but make sure not to cross the line of “tricking” your readers into clicking your ad for a download that’s not in line with what you’re promising them. The text ad is not creative if it prompts the recipient to click your ad, but subsequently disappoints, confuses, or worse, alienates the user.

3. Keep the download relevant to the category you’re publishing in. If your free download is about kayaking, don’t publish a text ad with copy solely about fishing, even if the download is about using the kayak to get to the fishing venue.

4. Place your text ad around the fold. We like to include text ads within the first 100 words of an article, or at least by the first 200 words if the introduction doesn’t lend to interruption.

5. Make the first line count. Bold it and snag their attention. Years ago, experts told us that in print ads, 75-80 percent of all buying decisions are made by reading the headline alone. It’s still true today. That means that a full three-quarters of your sales or conversions are the result of an effective headline. If the headline isn’t engaging and persuasive, the contest is over and you’ve lost. Only 25 percent of your audience will read any further.

6. Tell the reader what’s desirable about the product or information you’re offering, and why they should care. We all know that people search for self-interest in every statement they read. Everyone’s favorite radio station is WII-FM, short for “What’s in it for me?”

7. Arouse curiosity or the desire to know more. Your goal is to get them to click and take the next action. From the text ad, they’ll arrive on an even more convincing landing page. Get them there.

8. And do all this while being succinct and getting straight to the point. Cause y’know, it’s an elevator pitch, not a mission statement.

As part of our basic SEO best practices, we tell publishers to create a new text include ad for every free download they produce. The secret to writing them is that there isn’t any one secret: test, test and test again.

Some sources for your text ad may come from copy that’s already in your landing page, in fact that’s exactly where I found the copy for the text ad in this article.

There are no formulas or special tricks other than playing with your copywriting technique and seeing which one gets the most clicks and downloads.

For every free download you create, come up with five different text ads you can use in your articles to provoke downloads. Use tracking codes on each of them and rotate through them until you know which reigns supreme and then stick with that one.

Do you use text ads? What would you add to this list?


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