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How Should You Choose the Best Ad Copy? By Using your Competitors, of Course!

Kerin Foster

Choosing the best ad copy is no easy feat. If we are an online retailer and want to write our own text, where could we start? Simple: by looking at the ad texts of our competition! We don’t want to guess about what might or might not work when it comes to ad copy, rather we want to have a solid reason behind our decision. Of course, you likely want to select copy that will pull the customer in, make them want to visit and ultimately, purchase something from your website. There are many ways to decide on your ad copy, but one of the best methods you can use is to analyze the ads of your competition.

As we all know, there are many online ‘giants’ out there in the Internet realm. For instance, we’ve all seen the semi-annoying commercials for ‘the O’, also known as overstock.com, which is an online discount retailer that sells a range of products such as clothing, mattresses, and jewelry. Comparing these ads to that of a similar website such as amazon.com will give us a good idea of what types of ad copy they are using with what keywords, and from there we will be able decide what types of ads we should run.

Our goal is to create successful ad copy, so we’re going to check what our competition is doing so that we can select text that is appropriate and effective. For the purposes of this example, we are going to look at the ad copy of overstock.com and amazon.com to see what ad copy might work for us if we were a competitor.


Ad Copy Article 1

By using current SEMrush data, we can see which ads are being run and use that to our advantage in creating our own. Overstock is putting a lot of focus on free shipping within their ad copy. Naturally consumers want to save money, so this is a great strategy by Overstock and any competitor. Overstock is also putting a lot of emphasis on promoting furniture. Their ad copy has keywords such as free, fast, save, and easy. Why does this matter? Because they are words that pull consumers in, and that’s exactly what we want to do. Saving money is important to consumers and these ads would probably generate a click, so this is something we should consider in our own copy. We might also want to consider that our competitors tend to use their own name within the text (repetition can be vital in advertising), so we should think about that, too!

Ad Copy Article 2

Jumping back a bit historically allows us to see how our competition’s texts may have changed during a different time of the year. In November of 2012, Overstock is still advertising furniture and mattresses but they are also focusing on things such as cars and coupons. However, they are sticking to the same keywords such as savings, free shipping, save, and free. Obviously, Overstock’s ad copy is plain, simple, to the point, and focus remains on keywords that buyers will appreciate (who doesn’t like the sound of the word free? I know I do!) Based on this, we can come to the conclusion that Overstock is employing more than one strategy at a time: advertising many products while still using money-saving keywords. This approach would also help us to sell the items that that we want to by pulling the customer in with attention-grabbing keywords.

Ad Copy Article 3

Finally, by analyzing Overstock’s copy for 6 months back, we can see if they made any changes to their text. In July, August, and September of 2012, they used the same ad copy, which stated “save big on name brands every day. Order today for $2.95 shipping.” October of 2012 was different in that they used similar copy, but the specifics were different in that “orders over $50 ship free.” In November, shipping became free (probably in preparation for the holiday rush), and finally in December they used a holiday-themed ad copy but didn’t offer free shipping; maybe they figured that people would order anyway? So what conclusion can we come to? Since Overstock used many of the same ad texts and keywords for a long time, changed only the slightest bit, they must be working! Following suit with our own ads would probably prove to be successful based on Overstock's strategy.


Ad Copy Article 4

Now to look at good ole’ Amazon.com. By comparing these two we can study the similarities and differences in their ad copy to see if they are using any of the same approaches (then we would know that they definitely work!) The ads in December 2012 show that they promoted different items (many of which Overstock also sells – surprise, surprise!) Amazon also uses the keyword free in basically all of their ads (so once again, we definitely want to consider this), but they also use other various keywords such as zumba, Louis Vuitton, nexxus 7 (which is actually spelled incorrectly – interesting fact), cyber Monday, iPad 3, books, etc. With Amazon’s approach to ad copy, they are probably hoping to spark the interest of many different types of shoppers, but they are still using those money-saving keywords! In realizing that both Overstock and Amazon do this, we can come to the conclusion that it is a fruitful method of ad copy that we would also benefit from.

Ad Copy Article 5

So once again let’s travel back in time and take a look at the SEMrush historical ad data for Amazon.com. In November of 2012, something remained the same with Amazon’s ad texts: the use of the keywords free and savings. They were also promoting other money-saving keywords such as coupon codes (remember, Overstock also used ad text promoting coupons – another method for the shopper to save money), hunger games, monster high, kind fire, and pampered chef. Amazon tends to advertise the items that are most popular at that time and looking at these ads tells us that Amazon and Overstock have similar approaches to their text, so they must be successful.

Ad Copy Article 6

For the keyword amazon for July through December of 2012, the ad copy did not change at all. This likely means that the ad copy worked well from them since the text remained unchanged. Therefore, it is obvious we should also use ad copy that contains money-saving keywords (which I think we were beginning to realize at this point).


Our goal in this article was to decide what types of ad texts to create, and by looking at the copy of our competitors, we are able to discover what types of texts may be successful for us. In analyzing the ad copy of Overstock and Amazon, we were able to see that they both use of money-saving keywords that will grab the attention of the buyer.

So now you ask: what does this mean for me if I am a competitor of Overstock and Amazon and don’t know what ad copy to use? Simple! It means that you can follow whatever trend they may have used in their ad. If an ad was used multiple times it most likely worked and would probably be something that you would want to duplicate. Of course you would also want to use those common, money-saving keywords and alter the ads depending on what you want to sell at the time. Overall, we never want to try to predict the outcome of a business decision, but rather base it on data. Looking at your competition’s ads gives you a meaningful look into what ad copy is the most effective, and can help you to create your own based upon their successes. It’s a win-win!

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