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Mission Control: Valuable marketing news, insights and info for industry leaders.

MISSION CONTROL AdWords Experiments: Display URL & Ad Headline Changes

Vol 2 | No 1 | Feb '11

by Jerrold Burke

Our philosophy is that iron sharpens iron, and that’s why we partner with winning businesses. We know that you have an edge in your business market. Our goal is to continually sharpen it.


uring any given month Google may experiment with hundreds of small variations of their search results page. They test everything from font sizes, colors, layouts, and spacing to dozens of other subtle variables. In the recent month or so, Google has taken a more aggressive approach to testing how their AdWords headlines and display URLs are displayed within search — specifically on searches.

These big changes affect some more than others, but nevertheless, are things all search marketers should be aware of. The first important adjustment, effective January 10th forces the domain portion of a display URL into all lowercase letters.

Amazon, or Target. This feature necessitates buying a domain that will read well in a paid search ad with the display URL in lowercase.

Longer Headlines for Certain Ads on Google Search The other big change you’ll see lately is how AdWords displays certain headlines. Traditionally, advertisers are only allowed to have an ad headline that consists of 25 characters; another stipulation prevents exclamation points in ad headlines. This new experiment attaches the 35 character Description 1 line to the end of the headline, separated by a dash, which forms a 60 character hybrid ad headline. BEFORE:


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Through testing Google found that standardizing the look of display URLs improved the averages of many user metrics, including ad clickthrough rates. This automatic change affects all AdWords advertisers, but only affects ads on the search network — NOT those on the display (formerly known as content) network. Furthermore, advertisers who use a subdirectory extension to their display URL will find that this change does not apply, as these extensions will remain capitalized. This feature most drastically affects multiple word brands whose domains are very hard to read in lowercase, like www. or It doesn’t really affect companies with popular, single word domains like Nike,


To automatically be opted into this new feature, simply include a period, exclamation point, or question mark at the end of your Description line 1.

The Results Are In Google’s constant testing of the search results page often leads to increased clickthrough rates, but do these changes make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for? So far we have seen a lot of good results — especially from the longer ad headlines — so I definitely suggest testing out that feature today. 

Mission Control • Rocket Clicks


N56 W13365 Silver Spring Road Menomonee Falls, WI 53051

David Ogilvy ringing me up. This is when I got to know him really well.

DRAYTON BIRD At Rocket Clicks we conduct an interview series that features a Q & A with entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers and leaders (i.e. really smart people). For this interview, we interviewed Drayton Bird, an industry leader, pioneer and innovator in direct marketing. In a nutshell, Drayton is a direct marketer, copywriter, speaker, author and "a man who knows more about direct advertising than anyone else in the world"— as declared by the Godfather of Advertising— David Ogilvy. Drayton has been in direct marketing for over 50 years, and wrote the critically acclaimed book on the subject— Commonsense Direct & Interactive Marketing, which is now in its 5th edition and out in "goodness knows" how many languages.


What drew you to direct marketing and how did you get involved with David Ogilvy?

I started out originally as a journalist, and was making no money whatsoever. Then a friend said, “well, you’d do well in advertising.” He obviously recognized a shallow mind when he met one. So, I whizzed off to the public library and read all the books I could find on the subject—and since there were only two, it didn’t take me very long. Next, I tried to see if I could get a job—couldn’t. When I did finally get a job, I noticed something very interesting, which encouraged me to no end: And that was that hardly anybody studied. Instead, a great many people in the advertising and marketing industries imagined they could get by with good looks, charm, bullshit, a bit of luck, and knowing the right people. Realizing that this was rubbish, I started studying like mad, and in my first job, I soon noticed that I had two types of clients: Those that measured everything because they had to (because they relied upon direct


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sales), and those who just sort of relied on what their wives thought. I was intrigued by these people who wanted to know what results they got because I wanted to know what my work actually produced. Around this time, which would be about 1964, I wrote a book that was published and was very well reviewed, but not very well read (chuckle). That’s how I fell in love with it—direct marketing. I could see results. I could see the possibility of making money. In 1967, I wrote a letter to David Ogilvy to get a job, and I wish I’d kept it because I got an immediate reply. In short, I could have gone to work in New York, which had been my dream, but didn’t because I had a young family here and didn’t want to lose contact with my children. Anyway, that was my first contact with David, and I didn’t know him again until much later after I had started my own direct marketing agency, which I then sold to Ogilvy & Mather as a result of

After I sold my agency, I discovered that there was no clear definition of direct marketing. I thought if you can define something, you own it to a degree. So I wrote a book back in 1982, which has been a bestseller ever since, and it’s out in around 19 languages around the world. So at this point—I became an expert. I seriously recommend the book (chuckle). Try and become an expert in something nobody knows anything about, and cares less (chuckle).


American Express, Visa, Microsoft and Nestle are just a handful of internationally recognized brands you’ve worked with over the years. How has direct marketing changed with the advent of the internet?

Funny enough, I’ve never talked to anyone about this before; I wrote down those clients who were most likely to be interested in what was the emerging thing called direct marketing, and clearly they were the people who were already involved in direct marketing, mail order companies and so on. Right at the end of the list were those companies where direct marketing would’ve seemed to be completely illogical; the big packaged goods companies like you mentioned—Nestle. It’s interesting that that’s how we began, but within a very short period of time I changed my priorities, realizing that I should be going for the second category and then the third category because though these companies may not have known much about direct marketing, they had a hell of a lot of money.  continued…

For the full audio version, check out

The things that happen in business revolve around money, human behavior, and technology. Technology in particular made it possible for people to build large databases and manipulate them, extract information from them, and direct messages in a more accurate fashion. Money was important; not merely because it made that cheaper, but because old fashioned mass advertising operated on the premise that it was cheap to talk to a lot of people and that you could afford to advertise to the masses. For this reason, products were aimed at masses. Consumers, however, got pickier and marketers had to adapt to what they were doing to make the consumer happy. Communications had to adapt accordingly. The advent of the computerized database made it possible to do that. Those who have prepared minds, those who had been studying and thinking, and those who were watching what was going on with technology—were able to capitalize off this, which largely gave rise to direct marketing and what’s happened with the Internet. It’s very interesting to me, that in fact, nearly everything I do is on the Internet now.


You’ve discussed before that direct marketing is probably the best form of marketing for a recession. Can you expand on that a little bit?

What happens during periods of prosperity is that people stop trying. I have two sayings: First, nothing fails like success. Second, the road to success is paved with failure. What I mean by that is the minute people become successful. However, they make the fatal mistake of thinking it’s because they’re clever. Though they got something right, generally speaking, it’s only because they just happened to be a bit lucky so they fall back into slack habits, thus perpetuating the cycle. Circumstances force you into good habits, and that’s the number one thing. What happens in a recession is that the people who are bloody useless fail and go broke. The people who are doing the right thing, however, are rewarded. So that’s what happens. In a recession, business moves into measurable media and people are encouraged to do the right thing. They turn to direct marketing. They always do and they always will.


Drayton, is there anything else you’d like to add?

If anybody found this interesting, I’ve got something free for them. If you go to, you’ll see where you can register and get two things.

1. You will get a lot of powerful marketing ideas from me, one about every three days. They’re all very simple things, and they all read the way I talk, so if you didn't like this, well actually if you didn't like this you're not listening. 2. You will also get the best book ever written on advertising or marketing (which happens to be the shortest book–a nice combination), Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, written in 1926–I think. I don’t think anybody should work in marketing until they’ve read it several times, because it’s a staggeringly brilliant book.  @RCLeaderQuotes "A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."

– Margaret Mead

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Mission Control • Rocket Clicks



The Results Are In The other big change you’ll see lately is how AdWords displays certain headlines. Traditionally, advertisers are only all...

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