Online Marketing Blog

5 More Ways to Improve CTR

In a previous post, I went through some ways you can use “strong” words in combination with strong call to action words to improve your PPC click through rate (CTR). Since that post, there have been some updates to the Google Ads quality score algorithm and as such, CTR plays an ever important role. In fact, it is my opinion that incremental CTR increase is the most important part of any PPC marketing campaign as it is one of the few factors you can directly influence to increase your ad position and reduce your cost per click (CPC). Remember to always be A/B split testing your ads and never leave an adgroup with only a single ad.

Below, I outline five examples of ways you can increase your CTR without doing anything technical or magical. The ads are fabricated but the data is not. The ads are as close to the original as possible. Besides, you’re going to test the theory yourself anyway right?

1) Trademark Symbol/Registered Symbol.

While I have been using this method myself for years, Brad and Amber make some great points on this very topic. Not only can special symbols be used to increase your PPC CTR, but they can also be used to increase your organic SERP CTR. I could not agree with Ian Lurie more on his blog post predicting that organic CTR will matter a LOT in 2009.


2) Price In Headline

Adding the price in the headline is a great way to increase CTR. Be careful with this one though, if you’re not the cheapest, you’re CTR will suffer.


3) Seasonal Headlines.

Doesn’t matter if your product is not seasonal. If you sell blue widgets all year around, a headline like “Easter Widget Sale” will work great. There are so many different holidays, festivals and events that this can be used with. If you’re targeting locally, even better.


4) Trademark in Display URL Subdomain

While you can’t use most trademark terms in your ad copy, you can use them in your display URL.  Amber has a great post on why Google Ads allows trademarks in the display URL here. Using the trademark in the display URL some argue confuses potential clickers into thinking that it is the “official” site of the trademark holder. Be careful with this one too… Google knows when a visitor clicks the back button on their browser!


5) The exact Keyword in the Headline.

An oldie, but a goodie. We all know that search engines BOLD your keywords when they match the search query. Having tightly knit adgroups will allow you to take advantage of this without having to use dynamic keyword insertion.

Remember, CTR for quality score reasons is only calculated on the exact match of the keyword and is only counted on the Google search network. This means that any increase in CTR from Dynamic Keyword Insertion does not improve your google quality score. CTR on Google search partners does not contribute to your quality score calculations.

  1. Britalian Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    As always, clear, concise, sensible advice, Dave. Thanks for sharing your findings, I am already thinking where I can apply these to my PPC campaigns.

  2. Dave Davis Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    No problem Britalian. Sorry for the poor quality screenshots, you can tell how they were edited ;)

    Nice blog you have there, I’ve subscribed.

  3. Jordan McClements Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Great post.

    At the very least, I’ll be going back over some adverts where there is enough space to fit the price in the title line….

  4. Web Templates Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I would not have considered that the TM symbol would impact click through. I wonder if it was because it lengthened the title that it increased clicks….

  5. paul savage Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    One great thing with using ™ symbol is that it is counted as only one letter, so you get get one more character in the headline or description.

    Good tips Dave !

  6. St. Charles carpet cleaning Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    I’m surprised that I don’t see a lot of trademark symbols, etc., thrown around. To me, I definitely click through more when I see something that makes a link appear authoritative.

  7. Britalian Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks Dave, that’s my first favourable comment!

  8. Learning holidays Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Interested to see if you believe there’s a good benchmark CTR? Is 5% good or 20%? What’s other’s experience?

  9. Dave Davis Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    @Paul, exactly :)

    @Hilary, that’s a very good point. I probably should have included that in the post.

    @Britalian, you’re welcome.

    @Learning holidays, you don’t get a link. I know you came from a dofollow spam list. To answer your question, it completely depends.

  10. Geordie Says:
    February 2nd, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I’ve used the trademark symbol for a long time, works great.

    I’ve also had success using quotation marks around the keyword in the headline like so: “Valentine’s Day Flowers”

    You’re also right about the quality score adjustments, CTR is absolute king now…

  11. come dimagrire velocemente Says:
    February 3rd, 2009 at 11:00 am

    You’re very kind to share your knowledge. Sure it works, tank a lot.

  12. John R Says:
    February 3rd, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    These are some good tips. In general I’ve found that individually crafted ads beat the large store ads easily because you can figure out what a searcher would be looking for.

    Good ideas to split test.

  13. Shadow Says:
    February 4th, 2009 at 2:00 am


    thanks for the tips, has been very useful, anyway i’m a little worried why i have a personal blog, really i dont get too much visits, like 10 per day, but i have a CTR in 70%-80%, and worry me maybe adsense think i’m cheating the program and ban me the account. do you something about this?


  14. AdWordsPro Sarah Says:
    February 4th, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    This is a great post. I’m struck by how the visual really helps your point- the same advice in bulleted text would not be as powerful. Noticed that you didn’t include keyword insertion- is this something you shy away from?

  15. Dave Davis Says:
    February 4th, 2009 at 10:55 pm

    Hi Sarah, nice of you to stop over.

    I did not include keyword insertion as I wanted the CTR improvements to be directly related to incremental quality score improvements. Dynamic keyword insertion I have found does more harm than good to CTR as it’s popularity grows (think 10 sponsored listings with the same headline).

    Would it also be correct to say that CTR for quality score calculation is only taken from the exact match keyword?

  16. Greg Says:
    February 5th, 2009 at 2:24 am

    Good to see you back Dave!

    My fav CTR story is from a guy who optimized at Google for their best customers. Today he’s a consultant with one client that buys books.

    He did his best, and one day asked who the biggest customers were. It was college students selling their textbooks.

    With *that* information, he knew the target audience and realized he could be funny and irreverent. So:

    Sell Your Textbooks Online
    You’re Lazy. We Respect That.
    Sell Your Used Textbooks Online.

    30% CTR.

  17. Cyrus Says:
    February 9th, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Thank you for the info, the ad copy is the one that will pull. Of course if your ads are on the top 3 position, it will increase the CTR as well.

  18. Matt Says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Just getting my feet wet with Google Adwords… I tried it before by getting all the relevant keywords and then using them all. Didn’t work, and reading more and more about quality scores… Good info here, Haven’t seen these tricks yet.

    Do you think “FREE” in the ad improves or lowers your CTR?


  19. web hustler Says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 7:09 am

    the trademark and copyright symbols are good ones. they make the product seem much more legit. great tips dave.

  20. Keen Says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Thanks dave. I used the trademark at the start of the display url, and I got immediate boost in CTR. Thanks again for the tip!

  21. Joseph Dillon Says:
    February 10th, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Great tips – thanks. I’m wondering where the marketing “call to action” fits into PPC advertising and how it impacts CTR. Would be interested to see examples of this.

  22. Jack Zufelt Says:
    February 11th, 2009 at 1:25 am

    Wow, as always excellent advise delivered in a clear, concise and easy to understand medium. Thanks again.

  23. Tabletki odchudzające Says:
    February 12th, 2009 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks for this information. I am working on a Polish site and they asked to take a look at there adwords. I am no expert in this field so applied your methods and had success. So thanks for that.

  24. Nicole Says:
    February 13th, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Thanks Dave. It’s very helpful. Interesting how these simple changes can create to your site.

  25. Michael J. Byers Says:
    February 14th, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for the great tip. I will be sure to use this advice in my next PPC campaign.

  26. wilhb81 Says:
    February 16th, 2009 at 6:27 am

    Believe it or not, most of the newcomers are paranoia, when they talking about the “CTR”. The truth is, we must try to understand it first, before we jump into any PPC campaign.

    By the way, I loved this post very much, as it shows us the effective ways to improve the CTR, Dave.

  27. Mal Says:
    February 16th, 2009 at 6:31 am

    The Trademark in the subdomain trick. We used to call that a “Niche site”. Google had to stop allowing advertisers to use trademarks in ad copy because they were sued. I am frequently wrong but I would guess sooner or later they will get successfully sued for the trademark in the url game as well. They have avoided it because they are making monstrous piles of money while advertisers continue to use the technique. Companies like Nike as Amber pointed out know their distributors may very well make a subdomain with their name as part of their organization. No big deal. It comes down to Google making a profit due to the unauthorized use of a trademark by another advertiser. Remember when Google claimed they had no control of the content in YouTube right after they bought it… until they got sued by the lawsuit kings of the world… the music industry. Would I make a few bucks using the old niche site in the url game – as long as it lasts. Regards,

  28. raleigh web design Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    First of all it’s great to see you back and some fresh tips. Second those are some great ideas for improving CTR. We are in the process of trying some of them for a couple of our clients campaigns. Thanks

  29. Ad Hustler Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    CTR is by far the most important factor nowadays on the search engines. Good post.

  30. simon Says:
    February 17th, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    From my time at Experian/Credit expert we got the most conversions from really garish ads with bright colours. In A/B testing red always came out on top. I thought it would scare people off.

    What you need is a good ctr but also a good signup rate, depending on the product.

  31. Travis Says:
    February 20th, 2009 at 9:46 pm

    Awesome advice. I’m just about to start deploying ads on a few sites and this is the kind of info I’ve been looking for. One question: What are the consequences of someone clicking the back button and google knowing?

  32. Joe Says:
    February 25th, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    >>Trademark Symbol/Registered Symbol [in the title of your ad]<<
    I find this rather hard to believe for search. The only way it work is if the user uses the trademark symbol in the search phrase. OTOH, perhaps the point is not search but rather content placement of an adwords ad. In that case, google is matching your ad with web page content in which case the ® or ™ signs would be relevant.

    Dave Davis Reply:February 26, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Joe, I think your missing the point. Using the TM symbol with a SPACE before it allows the keyword to be bolded AND for it to appear more “official”.

  33. Jeff Gregory Says:
    February 25th, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    Thanks, Dave. Again, glad I found your site. Price in headline should #1, imo. (Though, I don’t think you intended to rank them). I’ve found that it’s not just the price, per se, but the “$” that helps. In my experience, CTR for “$0” is about 20% greater than for same ads with “free” in copy.

    And, yes, use $ only if you’re cheapest or equal.

  34. Justice O. Omorodion Says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Brilliant ideas as always! You’ve got another great killer ideas about how to make maximum profit from ppc without even adding more cent into advertising. Just some few changes in ppc campaign, boom more click through. Marvelous post man!

  35. DNBOTS Says:
    February 26th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    wow.. I just learn something new here. I didn’t know that putting keyword/trademark on sub domain gets a point. thank you for sharing.

  36. kimmy san Says:
    March 1st, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    These are all great tips. This is like doing SEO on Adwords. I think using seasonal headlines is the best strategy of all. That’s how malls announce their sale (i.e christmas sale, midnight sale, halloween sale). It’s proven since people are just flocking in malls at these times. I never thought this concept is applicable online.

  37. Sheena Smart Says:
    March 4th, 2009 at 9:18 am

    Have been using Adwords now for just over a month and have really not done much experimenting with keywords. At the moment for certain keywords the CTR ranges from 3.89% to 6.45% and I am not sure if this is good or bad as I suspect a lot depends on how popular said keywords are, etc. I currently have a quality score of 9 which I have now discovered is quite good. Our January sales were up significantly so I am, all things considered pretty happy so far. I had however considered using the terms `Buy Now` as a prefix in the heading on some of my campaigns but am not certain if these words are proven to work in Adwords. Also I only have about 2 keywords per campaign – is that bad? Given the above CTR and quality score I am a little wary of interferring too much. I have read Jon Smith`s Adwords book which was quite entertaining but still a little baffled by the whole thing. On some forums I have seen people saying that they get 30% CTR – could this be true?

  38. jame Says:
    March 6th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    great I really appreciate these points.thanks foe giving these greate points.but the problem is that the quality of screen shorts are not good try to make it better.well thanks again.

  39. Bold Endeavours Says:
    March 26th, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Recently i came across an oppinion that one should be very careful with displaying the price of the product unless you are 100% sure your competitors don’t offer such discounts. for if a person finds high prise from the beginning he will not click to your site. though on the other hand this will bring you only people who are really interested.

  40. Sid Savage Auto Dealer Supply Forum Says:
    April 2nd, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks for these great tips, very well written.

  41. Neill Richie Says:
    May 8th, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    Great, some good advice in plain english. I’ve just designed another PPC campaign in google to have most keywords disabled due to poor CTR. It is getting tougher to spot search keywords groupings without ads which drive up the CPC! The google help advice is impenetrable compared to this blog. Excellent work.

  42. Ecommerce Help - Tyrone Shum Says:
    May 18th, 2009 at 7:20 am

    This has been a very interesting read regarding on how you can increase your CTR. After all. almost all of these 5 tips are quite effective especially the price in headline since this would be the things people would usually look for before deciding to purchase something. It also makes your ad look professional yet interesting to click.

  43. dawn Says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 4:55 am

    Hi, what’s you opinion on www & non www versions of display URL, which one works better?

  44. william Says:
    July 7th, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Bravo, Dave. I spent over hundreds of dollars in the adwords, but the CTR is very suck (less than 0.5%). It looks like I’ve done it in the wrong ways!

    Thanks for the mind-provoking lesson, I’ve already bookmarked it.

  45. Dana Says:
    July 22nd, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Great post. Thank you for this great idea. I will apply this useful advice because I am sure that they will have to increase CTR and improve my work.

  46. Wine of Month Club Says:
    August 6th, 2009 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks for the info. What I’d love to see next is how to improve click through rates on places like ezine articles where you leave a author bio box etc.

    Thanks for always sharing your info, it is extremely helpful

  47. Dhir@Fastmoney Says:
    August 13th, 2009 at 1:50 pm


    You have pointed out good tips to improve CTR. I think the method “Price In Headline” is best for improve CTR of any ad.
    Thanks for your useful post.

  48. Internet Dollars - Brad Says:
    September 7th, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I agree. I have used the TM symbol in my Adword ads with good results. Good post.

  49. Compare iPod Speakers Says:
    November 1st, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Great tip on the trademark symbol.

    I’ve never come across this before, but it sounds like a lot of people use it and rate it.

    This is definitely going to get tested in my Christmas PPC campaign. Thanks

  50. Real wood blinds Says:
    November 16th, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Great article, any oppurtunity to increase CTR is a must and should bve implemented with immediate affect. Very helpful information here, thanks.

  51. Dean Says:
    November 26th, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I read your post at just the right time – thanks. Recently, we added the trademark symbol to our company logo, and I was looking for some differentiating factor for our ppc campaign too. This could be the perfect match. I’ve also been looking into dynamic keyword insertion and searched high and low for the maximum number of characters allowed in the title. I’ve seen ads that exceed the standard character limit – do you know what the max is?

  52. Dave Davis Says:
    November 26th, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Thanks for stopping by Dean.

    The limit is 25 chars. There used to be an exception to this rule by using dynamic keyword insertion but GOogle has only this week plugged that hole.

  53. Stephen Says:
    November 28th, 2009 at 2:27 am

    I’ve being using adwords for a while now, but never thought of using the seasonal headline, I’m amazed at how the Xmas one stands out when it’s put beside its no-seasonal equivalent! And it’s just the right time of year to start adding them to my campaigns :)

  54. Deborah Cohen Says:
    December 14th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks Dave! Really insightful work. And good proof demonstrating the difference that small changes can make. I also write some articles on SEM basics. If you want to read about PPC, paid listings, and Google Adwords basics you can read my articles.

    Keep the good work coming!

  55. PPV Traffic Says:
    January 19th, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    I really agree with this article. However for me SEO is just keeping my website fresh with new articles from my ghostwriter, backlink building and social bookmarking. I learned that there isn’t a secret code to doing SEO but I still can’t rank for terms, or how to earn a high page rank. I tried using PPC but it just ran up a huge drbt and didn’t make any sales.

  56. Maya at DJ T-shirts Says:
    March 21st, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Dave you are the men! I didn’t know that I can use trademarks in adWords. It will definitely help for my CTR and my brand. All 5 tips are great!
    Thanks a lot.

  57. Penny Says:
    June 23rd, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Hmm never thought of using the Trademark symbol in ads before. Simple, but very nice tip actually.

  58. tony Says:
    September 21st, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    How do you enter the trademark and registered symbols onto the ads?

    Dave Davis Reply:September 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    The same way you would type them into a text file or an email.

  59. billingwizard Says:
    December 7th, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    We recently set up an adword campain aimed at the brand names of the mobile phone operators in the UK. Needless to say we were unable to use the actual names in the advert due to copyright issues. However by implementing the trademark combined with similar keywords we managed to obtain a good CTR

  60. Ankush Kohli Says:
    January 19th, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    Agree with you, nice tips. I’m going to apply the same in adcenter as well!

  61. Howling Ser Says:
    May 19th, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    Very helpful tips, I really have to try them.. I hope that somehow it will help me to increase my CTR. Thanks a lot.

  62. rakesh kumar Says:
    July 18th, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I have read several articles on CTR and even collected best tips for improving CTR ,but your tips are amazing.

  63. medlaw Says:
    November 3rd, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    I was surprised by your tip about Trademark Symbol/Registered Symbol in the text add. I always thought less was better in adds unless the characters added something meaningful to the message. I can only guess trademark symbol adds a sense of authenticity to the reader.

  64. Penny Says:
    November 27th, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    I wouldn’t have thought about using special symbols before.. but placing the copyright symbol next to the ‘Xbox’ ad does make it look much more official. Might bolster confidence in clickers that you have official product and not knock offs.

  65. JoseGil Says:
    June 13th, 2012 at 2:41 am

    I think price in the headline will get more attention. very helpful article, I will try this on our adwords campaign now