How Message-Match Confusion Can Destroy PPC Campaigns

Last updated on by Brittany Berger in Advertising, Conversion Optimization

Never underestimate how a person’s buying behavior can be influenced by their feelings. So always keep in mind how you’re making someone feel – whether you’re talking to them directly, or they’re reading your landing page copy.

And one thing you never want to make your customer feel is confused, since confusion can lead to feeling stupid. Would you buy from a sales rep that spoke down to you and made you feel like an idiot? I wouldn’t.

That’s why message match is crucial to a successful PPC campaign.

What is message match?

Message match is how much consistency two pieces of a PPC (or any marketing) campaign have. From here on out, we’ll talk about it specifically in the context of a pay-per-click campaign.

A PPC campaign with strong message match would have a lot of consistency between the actual PPC copy and the landing page that it leads to. That consistency can come in several forms: matching headlines and text, calling attention to parts of the landing page copy that are mentioned in the ad, and using matching images (if your ad campaign includes them).

Why message match matters: a real life example

There was this store that I’d passed by dozens of times, but I’d never paid attention to anything besides the name: it had the word “hardware” in it. Naturally, I assumed it was a hardware store, until my mom came to visit and returned from a walk, excited over the store nearby that’s “like a mini Bed, Bath, & Beyond!”

Guess what store it was? Yup, that same “hardware” store.

There was poor message match between the store name and what was actually inside. And since the store name was the first thing I noticed, and it didn’t seem to be relevant to me, I ignored everything else.

Let’s say this “hardware” store was a PPC campaign.

A PPC campaign with similar message match might go something like this: I’m feeling hungry, and it’s raining so I want to order in. I Google “NYC pizza free delivery,” and see this:

Now let’s say I click on Fat Sal’s ad (which now costs him whatever it’s CPC is). What would I do if I see something on the landing page about a $1.99 delivery fee? I could either shrug and pay the extra fee, or click the back button and order pizza from one of the several other places offering free delivery. And I’ll order from somewhere that actually has free delivery.

And your PPC audience will do the same thing. They clicked on your ad because of something they saw in the copy – free delivery, premium products, low prices. If they don’t actually see that something when they click through, they’ll go back and find someone who can give them what they’re looking for.

But guess what? You still paid for that click. In terms of organic traffic, your message match impacts your website’s time on site, pages per visit, and bounce rate, to name a few metrics. The stakes for paid traffic are much higher. Poor PPC message match will lower your conversion rate and increase your cost per conversion.

Ultimately, it costs you more money and hurts your campaign’s ROI.

How to write PPC copy with strong message match

1. Use matching headlines

If your ad’s headline is, “B2B Marketing – Turn Leads Into Sales,” like Marketo’s is here:

What would someone expect to see on the landing page from having read that? I’m definitely going to look for words like “B2B,” “leads,” and “sales.” What do we actually see?

The main headline is “The Definitive Guide to Lead Generation.” Not bad…the word “lead” is in there. However, how do I know this is for B2B marketers instead of B2C? A searcher might be looking for something really specific, and move along when they don’t see anything about B2B on this page. I don’t want to take the time to read the rest of the page – I want B2B lead gen advice as soon as possible, so I click the “back” button. A stronger headline would be something along the lines of “The Definitive Guide to B2B Lead Generation.”

2. Highlight keywords and terms from ad copy

Two things the main text of your landing page should have are:

And not only should they be there, they need to stand out. The reader needs to notice them on the page before other elements, and recognize them from the ad to reinforce that they’ve landed in the right place.

Try bolding these terms, placing them in headings or images, or otherwise pulling them out from the rest of the landing page copy. That way, the visitor doesn’t need to read every word of the landing page (because let’s face it, they probably won’t) in order to notice and recognize them.

Let’s play hypotheticals with the above landing page. If Marketo had the term “B2B marketing” somewhere in the main text of the page, they would definitely want it bolded, italicized, colored, or otherwise formatted so I’d notice it and make the connection back to the ad copy.

3. If applicable: use connected images

If you’re running a PPC campaign with a picture or graphic, image message match is even more important than the rest of your campaign copy. Eyes are drawn to images before text, so campaign images are going to be the first thing to make an impression on the visitor.

There needs to be strong message match there, too. Some kind of connection between the images.

For example, take this Facebook ad I was recently shown:

Here’s the corresponding landing page:

There’s not much of a connection between the ad’s image and the landing page image, is there? I was expecting another image of this girl on her laptop, or someone else hanging out in that well-lit room on the comfy looking couch.

When using ads and landing pages with images, you want to make sure that the images have similarities. You could use the same image in both places, or use a cropped version or close-up of the landing page image for the ad. If you’re using different images entirely, try to have similarities in colors, lighting, objects, etc. Make it easy for your visitor’s brain to connect the two.


You never, ever want to confuse potential customers with something like poor message match. Feeling stupid because of sales reps is the kind of everyday thing Jerry Seinfeld would write a bit about. Ad campaigns have the power to do just as much damage, but on an even larger scale. Do you want to be responsible for that?

Brittany Berger is the content and PR manager at Mention, the best way to see what’s being said about you online. Find her on Twitter here.

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