Bing Ads Extreme Makeover: Four Worst Ad Copy Practices To Avoid

My last post here on the Bing Ads Blog focused on best practices to make your ad copy both eye-catching and effective. Now, we get to have a little fun with some of the worst-of-the-worst experiences. Note: "Contoso" is a fictional brand. While based on true stories, no advertisers were harmed during writing of this article.

Number 4: Placeholder

Writers always have moments when they can’t think of the perfect phrase and we need to move on, keep writing, and let inspiration come to us. Everyone has their own placeholder, “XXX,” “placeholder,” “asdf,” or whatever. Sometimes it’s for the right word, sometimes it’s for something you need to look up (do I use curly brackets for insertions?) Use it, but remember to search for it before sending your campaigns live.


Placeholder Ad Title

We have the best deals on Placeholder this holiday season!

I've seen many ads that look like this:

Test Account 1

Test account 1 for Black Friday sale.

Folks often put (or some other url) as a temporary measure that winds up getting pushed through for publication because they don't come back to fill in the placeholders before submitting them.

You don't want to waste time with editorial rejections, or worse, potentially money if your placeholders are relevant enough to your landing pages and the ads clear the editorial checks.  This mistake is eminently avoidable, so be vigilant to make sure you don't fall victim to it.

Number 3: Insert What Where?

Keyword or param insertions can create some undesired (and often funny) results. Maybe you sell posters and you’ve broadened out your keywords to include folks looking for free prints.

     Free Art Posters

     Looking for Free Art Posters? Save 30% today.

What is 30% off Free? Um, free? Or does the buyer get paid money?

Bing Ads offers many tools and options, including using dynamic text to change many ads simultaneously. Powerful, and with a little care, it can be used to great effect. On the other hand, a simple, take List A and pair it with List B can get odd ad text such as this List A of Departure Cites to List B of Arrival Cities:

     Fly Seattle to Seattle

     Cheapest air fares. Flights start at $59 each way.

What’s the travel time? I’ve always wondered.


And there are the very unfortunate insertions where folks have such a wide variety of products that they can (almost) load a phrase dictionary and have something to offer.

     Buy Illegal Items

     Get the best deal on Illegal Items. Free expedited shipping!


     Buy Flu Symptoms

     Up to 50% off. Best quality flu symptoms available.

In my 5 years with Microsoft Search Advertising, I have rejected ads for many inappropriate or illegal products or services. Some were funny, some puzzling, but the thing they all had in common was non-existent potential for a user to click-through.


Number 2: Who Are You? URL Clutter

Good ad copy has a simple, easily understood display URL that clearly shows your business name... and very little else:

     Omega-3 Eggs for Health

     Buy our eggs from happy chickens who live free-range lives.

More isn’t always better. Don’t confuse your reader.

“But,” you say, “My URL! I know Bing has rules about having an accurate Display URL!”

You’re right. Our policies require an accurate display URL, but we permit a shortened version as long as it shows the proper root and website destination. If the principal domain is, for example, “,” consider the following valid display URL options:

“” is much simpler and better.

“” shines the focus on your brand and is the best way to promote your identity along with the product.


Number 1: Free Means Lots of Terms and Conditions


I search for “Free Coffee” and find…

     Island Coconut Flavored Coffee

     Get a free 30-day supply of rich, flavorful coffee. You’ll love it!

Very cool, you have a great product and you’re offering a free trial. Better than I hoped! I click through, and…

  • You want me to complete 10 offers: 5 bronze, 3 silver, and 2 gold? I’m completing surveys, signing up for free trials, and buying junk I don’t need to get your free gizmo? I’m paying an awful lot for that free coffee.

Bing Policy: Not allowed. Because the ad says “Free” but, before I can qualify for my “free” product, I am required to perform a number of tasks, this is considered misleading and a poor user experience.

  • You make me pay $18.95 shipping and handling for a 1-pound trial bag? Hmmm, what’s the normal price for a pound of coffee?


  • I must buy a pound of coffee and my second pound is free.

If the ad copy states that a product is free, and does not disclose that there are other charges required, then it is considered misleading and not allowed.

  • I must download a toolbar, give you my email address, and then you send me a jpg image of a cup of coffee every day for 30 days.

Really? How could I have expected this from the ad? In the example above, the ad copy leads users to expect a physical product. There might be a market for people who want a virtual cup of coffee every day, but if that’s really what is being offered, then the above ad text is misleading.

It’s pretty simple: Free Means Free.


Ad Copy as a Promise

We think of the keywords that users enter into Bing as expressions of their desire, or intent, or a question that they want answered. Good ad copy tells the user how your company can fulfill their need. It’s a promise, a social contract. “Come visit our website and we will give you what you’re seeking.”

Questions? Comments? Leave them below!




Additional Resources:

Ad Content and Style Guidelines

Relevance and Quality Guidelines

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