by Brad Smith, Founding Partner & Director of Marketing, Codeless Interactive, LLC

3 AdWords Headline Templates That Write the Copy For You

You have to write 20ish characters. It should only take a few seconds, right?

Yet after 30 minutes and counting, you’re still staring at a blank AdWords ad.

We’ve all been there. Fortunately, there are easy-to-use AdWords ad templates to help you write effective ad copy fast.

Here are three.

1. The Zen template, compliments of Jon Morrow

Years ago, when I was a lowly in-house marketer at the bottom of a giant org chart, I would read Jon Morrow’s content with envy.

His style was direct. To-the-point. Bold and Hemingway-esque.

So I would take Jon Morrow’s posts—especially How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World and On Dying, Mothers, and Fighting for Your Ideas—and rewrite them. By myself. Over and over and over again. (Creepy, right?)

Basically, I have a long and illustrious career of stealing Jon Morrow’s best work.

This tip is no different.

His headline hacks blew my mind the first time I saw them. Jon painstakingly lays out dozens of amazing headline templates, each with a backstory of how and why they’re so powerful. By this point I began doing what I did best—copy and paste his work into a document that I could later refer to—and still do to this day.

AdWords ads can (and should) follow the same structure Jon lays out, relying on different proven hooks that produce urgency to click.

For example, your wedding might have been one of the best days of your life. But planning for your proposal was probably one of the most stressful!

Jon’s “Zen” template is perfect for situations like this because it helps alleviate fear, which can be a powerful motivator. The formula is name the problem and solve the problem. Here’s an example:

zen adwords formula

The problem is that wedding proposals are stressful and the solution is “No-Stress”, “We plan, coordinate, and deliver”, “You just show up and smile.”

Some other examples to adopt from Headline Hacks include:

  • Can’t Keep Up? XX Ways to Simplify Your (blank)
  • How to Take Charge of Your (unruly problem)
  • 10 Shortcuts for (completing tedious process) in Record Time
  • Get Rid of (recurring problem) Once and for All

The rule of thumb is speak to the internal emotions people are already feeling, or the external problems that may have urged them to take action.

2. The [Location] + [Keyword] template

Facebook ads have a lot of variables. From the device to the placement to the ad creative and more. There’s so much going on that they’re tough to streamline.

Thankfully, AdWords is the opposite.

Beyond the new expanded headlines, your ad is going to be pretty much the same—no matter which device or even which industry we’re talking about.

That means you can take a formulaic approach in many cases. In fact, you can often discover the exact template to use before you even open up AdWords.

For example, fire up SEMrush to perform a little competitive due diligence. Their tool will allow you to see many of the ads competitors are running, all in a helpful list.

Here’s what I found while doing research for a prospect in the highly-competitive “tax relief” space:

Keywords PPC Ads Scale

Notice the obvious pattern?

The first three keyphrases on the list involved some variation of “[Location] + [Keyword]”. Upon further digging, we noticed that they were using both state and city-based locations with the primary keyphrase (along with some location-targeting no doubt).

Turns out, this structure is extremely common for location-based businesses. So it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about tax relief or attorneys or even pest control companies.

pest control adwords headline

Best of all, this simple and direct template works the best because it’s how people naturally search. So there’s no need to overthink it.

3. The “How does insert your name here compare?” template

People search for different keywords at different stages of the funnel.

They look for high-level topics to educate themselves at the top of the funnel, and more branded searches towards the bottom of the funnel. That’s because they’ve now become brand-aware and are looking for something specific (like plans & pricing) when they navigate directly to a company’s website.

That laser-focused intent makes bottom of the funnel folks high valuable prospects, which means competitors will come out of the woodwork to try and snatch them away at the last second.

For example, look at what pops up when you perform a simple query for marketing analytics company, Kissmetrics:

image 1

Not one, but two competitors bidding on the Kissmetrics keyword. In each case, they’re trying to establish their competitive advantage and explain why the searcher should give them a look.

Here’s another variation of this in the social commerce space:

image 3

PowerReviews bids on a Bazaarvoice brand mention with the template: “How Does [MyBrand] Compare? – More [Benefits] for Less”.

When you launch a similar ad, don’t just stop at the ad and send them to a generic homepage. The other side of the coin is the landing page you’re sending them to.

In this instance, you’d want to show off how you compare and how you’re different/better/less expensive than the initial brand someone searched for.

Here’s another example. Managed WordPress hosting has become another highly-competitive industry over the last few years. When you search for Pagely, a WordPress hosting provider, you’ll see this:

image 2

First up is a competitive-ad from WPEngine (who’s also excellent by the way). And when you click on that ad, it takes you to a custom landing page that shows off how their brand compares to competitor X (or in this case, Pagely), and how they come out on top.


The point of this long-winded explanation is that this landing page (and the specific strategy behind it) are what guide the copy in the first place.

Instead of starting with the ad, they’re working backwards. When it’s time to sit down and write, all of the hard work is already done and the ads quickly write themselves.


AdWords headlines are difficult to write from scratch. There’s also a ton of pressure to get them right the first time.

One way to speed this process up is by starting with the Zen template to alleviate stress. Next, give the [location] + [keyword] template a shot to reach people where they are. And if all else fails, start with the primary objective of targeting competitor searches, then work backwards from conversion to landing to page to ad.

What AdWord headline templates do you use? Any you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

Author Brad Smith, Founding Partner & Director of Marketing, Codeless Interactive, LLC

Brad Smith is the Founding Partner and Director of Marketing at Codeless Interactive, LLC, a B2B content creation company.

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