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#CZLNY: Smarter Ad Copy Testing: What Makes People Click?

  |  April 3, 2014   |  Comments

Building off the "Mastering the PPC Challenge" session at ClickZ Live New York, a look at what makes people click, big picture decisions that affect ad copy, and how to take action.

If you’ve ever worked with a personal trainer, you know they’re very good at giving you a framework for hitting your goals. Cut out sugar, take a spin class. Do this, don’t do that. If you stick with the framework, you’ll see the results you were hoping for. Without the framework, you’re taking shots in the dark – playing a guessing game that may or may not hit your target. This is exactly how we look at ad copy testing. You need a framework for it, a personal trainer who will tell you what to do and why.

Today we’re talking about a strategy for ad copy testing:

ClickZ Live New York was a blast, packed with fantastic sessions. On Wednesday during the "Mastering the PPC Challenge" session, I presented this framework along with case studies – hopefully you didn’t miss out!

What Makes People Click

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini details the key principles of influence, including "Commitment and Consistency." This principle says that if people commit orally or in writing, they are more likely to follow through on that commitment, even if the original incentive or motivation is removed. We do this because the idea or goal we committed to reflects our self-image.

Now think back to all the times you may have committed to an offer that was a "free trial," only to upgrade to the paid version later. This is the "Commitment and Consistency" principle at work! A company that designs and hosts websites noticed that the word "free website" in their search ad copy testing drove a huge volume of clicks. So they began offering free websites in their search ads, with an opportunity to upgrade to better templates, more technical support, broader bandwidth, and expanded services. Business went through the roof! Of course customers came for the free, but once committed they stayed for the paid upgrades.

Big Picture Decisions That Affect Ad Copy

Offering free websites isn’t a decision that an ad copywriter or search campaign manager can make – this is a big-picture decision that drives ad copy. To really test your ad copy, you need to involve the decision-makers who will understand that incentives, motivation, and friction all affect whether a searcher will click on an ad.

The folks at marketingexperiments.com developed a fantastic formula for the probability of conversions:


While search marketers cannot control the motivation of the user, we can make sure our value prop is clear ("highest quality"), we can offer incentives to take action ("limited-time offer"), we can remove friction ("free returns"), and minimize anxiety ("no fees").

Whether you’re advertising a product or service, take some time to think about what promotions, offers, or executive business decisions (only using PayPal for ease of payment, for example) can affect the probability of conversions from an ad that hits every point of persuasion.

Taking Action

Now that you can see the two key pieces that should drive ad copy testing, start putting it to work for your search campaigns. This chart below shows some specific ad copy phrases to try to meet specific tactical goals.


Vertical-Specific Ad Copy

Combine your new ad copy testing strategy with the rich data the Bing researchers uncovered and let us know what your results are. Find specifics for retail, travel, education, financial services, and diet and exercise right here on ClickZ.

Talk to Us

Do you have a framework for ad copy testing? We’d love to hear about it!

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!


John Gagnon

John Gagnon is a Bing Ads Evangelist (aka “search nerd”) at Microsoft. He has worked for both Bing Ads and Google AdWords, and is a frequent speaker at digital marketing conferences such as SES, SMX, and others. He has advised hundreds of clients ranging from Microsoft teams like Windows and Internet Explorer to small businesses like local garage door repair shops just getting started.

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