Great marketing is all about meeting people’s expectations. Whether it’s a burger that looks like it did in the TV spot or a paid search ad that offers exactly what you were searching on Google for, we all want reality to match our expectations.

In pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, we refer to this as “message match”.

To put it simply, a good PPC ad matches the intent behind the search that triggers it. If you don’t get that right, people won’t click on your ads.

A great PPC ad, however, will also match the landing page it sends people to after they click.

When the messaging of your ads matches the messaging of your landing pages, people will feel like they’ve found the answer they were looking for. When it doesn’t, people will feel confused and frustrated.

To avoid frustrating the very people you’re paying to get onto your landing pages, let’s take a look at how to properly use message match in your PPC campaigns.

Message Match in Real Life

To show you how important message match is, let’s take a look at how message match works in the real world.

For example, say you are driving on the freeway one morning and you spot the following billboard:


All of a sudden, you remember that you didn’t eat breakfast before heading out and the “Best Pancakes in the World” sound pretty good right about now.

So, you pull off at the next exit and head over to Joey’s dinner. By the time you arrive, you can almost taste the buttery, syrupy goodness and you eagerly hop out of your car, pull open the door to Joey’s and…smell onion rings?

Something is very wrong.

Reeling from the cognitive dissonance between the pancakes you were promised and the onion rings you are smelling, you snag a menu. Yes, you’re in Joey’s Diner, but where are the pancakes?

To your dismay, there’s no sign of pancakes on the menu, either.

After this let-down, are you going to order onion rings? Not likely. You’re frustrated, angry and feel mislead. To make matters worse, you’re still craving pancakes, so you’re probably going to head out the door and search for a place that actually sells pancakes.

That’s it, you’re gonna bounce.

Now, here’s the thing. Was it the billboard’s fault that you had such a bad experience? Not by a long shot!

The billboard did a great job of grabbing your attention and getting you to Joey’s Diner. That’s exactly what an ad is supposed to do. Had Joey’s offered pancakes, you would have bought them.

The problem wasn’t with the billboard, it was that Joey’s didn’t make good on their advertising promise.

Message Match in Online Advertising

Whether you’re selling pancakes in a diner or marketing a SaaS product on AdWords, failing to meet the expectations set by your marketing is a recipe for disaster.

Nowhere is this more true than in PPC advertising.

When someone’s expectations aren’t met in a brick-and-mortar location, finding another option might be more work than simply making the best of an annoying situation.

Online, however, finding a better solution is just a click away.

So, if your landing page experience doesn’t match the expectations set by your advertising, you’ll end up paying for clicks that won’t ever turn into conversions or new revenue for your business.

Putting Message Match to Work

Like our billboard example, the easiest way to explain how online message matching works is to put things in practical terms. This time, let’s say that you are looking to adopt a dog.

After doing a little homework, you’ve fallen in love with pugs. You’re reading up on your new favorite animal on a pug blog and you see the following PPC ad:


How about that? Talk about great targeting! You’re in the market to adopt a pug…and here’s the perfect solution.

Eager to learn more, you click on the ad…only to end up on this page:

ugly cat

All of a sudden, you start having Joey’s Diner flashbacks. How did you end up here? Did you click on a cat ad by accident? Has your computer been hijacked by feline hackers?

Is your confusion the result of bad advertising? Not at all! The ad was great! You clicked on it because it was a perfect match for you and your needs.

The problem is, the landing page doesn’t match the messaging of the ad at all.

The ad featured a pug. The landing page features a cat. The ad headline talks about finding a pug. The landing page headline talks about adopting a cat. Even the calls-to-action (the orange buttons) don’t match.

For this landing page to be any more confusing, they’d need to be encouraging euthanasia!

Rather than stick around and try to figure out how you ended up on this distressingly wrong landing page, you’re gonna bounce.

And, just like Joey’s diner, this advertiser just lost out on a potential sale.

But, what if instead of landing on the cat landing page, you had found yourself on this page?

good adopt pet

Doesn’t that feel better? Between the consistent images and branding, this page doesn’t make you wonder, “what am I doing here?”

However, there are still some problems with mixed messaging.

In the ad you clicked, the copy was very specific to pugs. On the landing page, the copy talks about all sorts of pet adoptions.

To make things even better, this advertiser should make their landing page even more consistent with the messaging of their ads. Let’s change up the ad copy a bit more.

best pug ad

Odds are, if you ended up on this landing page after clicking on the pug ad, you’d stand a very good chance of converting.

The messaging is consistent. The images are consistent. The call-to-action is consistent. Everything about this landing page says, “You’re in the right place and you can feel comfortable converting.”

Now, instead of trying to figure out the landing page, all you have to do is click the CTA!

Obviously, not all landing pages need to match their associated ads perfectly, but if you want your PPC campaigns to succeed, every landing page needs to have the same messaging and feel as your ad.

If not, your potential customers will leave and all that money you just spent on their click will be completely wasted.


To put it simply, if you’re advertising pancakes—sell pancakes! If you advertise something in your PPC campaigns, your landing page needs to meet the expectations you set in your ads.

Message match is a critical part of PPC advertising. Your customers expect it. They’ll leave if you don’t have it.

To win at PPC, you need to create a consistent, compelling experience from click-to-close. And for that, you need message match.