26/05: Digital Marketing News


A change this week from the normal Friday Briefing - a short 'How To' from our PPC expert Robert on Adwords IF functions. He's given us a step by step guide to getting it right, the value and the benefits for marketers and clients in delivering a more relevant experience. Enjoy!

AdWords IF functions: how and why you should be using them!

A new feature that launched in AdWords, around the same time as expanded text ads became mandatory earlier this year you may not have noticed, is IF functions for ads.

IF functions are a great way of customising ad text based on device or remarketing audience variables. For instance, if someone is being served an ad on a mobile device, you may wish to show them an ad with text which specifies that your site is mobile friendly or emphasises that sign up is quick and easy for mobile devices.

As with all shiny new ad tech, IF functions are useless unless they solve a business or communication problem, so here is a working example we set up for one of our paid search clients who sell public secter tender software to help you start thinking about how you could apply the logic to your business or client set.

The problem:

Company X has various touchpoints with potential customers on its website, including a registration form for a free demo of their software and a form for purchasing a 3 or 12-month subscription to the software.

The different touchpoints represent different stages in the customer journey to purchase, and different levels of awareness of what the value proposition of the software is.

In each of the touchpoints mentioned above, the key message that the client wanted to communicate to potential customers was the time-saving benefit of the software, but the call to action was to be modified to reflect the user’s interaction with the brand up until this point.

The solution:

So, for people who were new to the brand (or at least had not yet submitted a demo request form), the following ad text was to be served*:

  • Headline 1: Insert Company Name Here
  • Headline 2: Custom Tender Alert System
  • Description: Find New Business Fast With Tender Alerts On a 3-Month Insert Company Name Here Membership

*obviously, there is no way to italicise ad copy, this is a placeholder to hide the name of the real client


For users who had submitted the demo request form, the following ad text was to be served*:

  • Headline 1: Insert Company Name Here
  • Headline 2: Custom Tender Alert System
  • Description: Why Waste Time Finding Tenders? Get a Free Demo Of Insert Company Name Here Today


Until IF functions, this s solutiowould have involved setting up duplicate ad groups or campaigns with RLSA lists to achieve the desired result, however the use of IF functions streamlines this process by deciding which ad copy to serve dynamically, based on whether the user is a member of an audience set up to include all demo registrations for a period of 30 days.

The syntax of IF functions is as follows:

{=IF(Condition,insert text to be served if condition is true):default text to be served in case the condition is not true}

The two conditions available to work with at this time are user device, and user membership of remarketing audience. The way to specify criteria differs slightly depending on which of the conditions you want to include in your ad text.

Device (only mobile is currently supported)

Example:{=IF(device=mobile,Use our mobile app):Best price guarantee}

Audience (enter one or more audience names, separated by commas)

Example:{=IF(audience IN (Returning visitors,Basket abandoners),30%):25%}


In our working example, we served the two ad variants dependant on whether or not the user was a member of an audience called “Free Demo Sign-up Visitors - 30 Days - Search Campaign Link”, so our completed IF function ad description looked like the text below.

{=IF(audience IN(Free Demo Sign-up Visitors - 30 Days - Search Campaign Link),Find New Business Fast With Tender Alerts On a 3-Month Tenders Direct Membership):Why Waste Time Finding Tenders? Get a Free Demo Of Insert Company Name Here Today}

One important thing to remember 

If you are trying this ad technique for yourself (and not currently mentioned in the AdWords documentation!) it's important to remember that the syntax will be flagged as an error if you use ad text containing an apostrophe. The error message you will receive if you try to use an apostrophe seems to vary, from “ad contains an invalid input” to the even more misleading “you inserted an opening { bracket with its closing bracket. Please add a closing bracket.” We haven’t tried an exhaustive test of other non-alphabetical characters but there may be some similar error issues for dashes, percentages etc.

So there you have it, AdWords IF function inspiration and implementation in one handy guide! If you have any experiences of using this ad technique or would like more information about using it on your campaigns, let us know in the comments section below or by contacting me.