7 Ad Copy Tests That Will Improve Your PPC Performance

According to a PPC analysis by Oli Gardner from Unbounce, 98 percent of ads are a waste of money.

And yet, U.S digital advertising will hit $83 billion in 2017. That number is projected to reach $120 billion, by 2021.

Advertising is getting more pervasive, intrusive and obnoxious, no wonder in 2016 alone, ad block usage grew by 30%.

It’s true – most ads suck. Many accounts that I take over are wallowing in average or below average click-through rates. This can lead to increased costs and lost sales.  (You can check your own ad’s performance against WordStream’s benchmarks below)

If you’re managing an AdWords campaign you likely already know this. When you are able to boost your CTR, it will positively impact your Quality Score (QS). This will decrease your cost per click (CPC) and, provided your landing page conversion rate remains the same, your overall campaign profit will increase.

A solid ad copy testing methodology can drive both big and incremental improvements in performance – both CTR and conversion. Here are seven ad copy tests you could try out in order to improve your PPC performance.

But before we get into the tests, some ground rules.

Don’t Test for Testing’s Sake

As a starting point, it is essential to have a hypothesis of what you think will enhance your conversion rate and why – at all times.

Always have ample data when you’re running tests! Statistical significance should be your goal (in addition to that increased performance). A free A/B calculator can help.

Lastly, remember that tests shouldn’t be left running forever. Define a time frame to gain valuable data and stick to it.

Here’s the testing methodology my company follows:

1. Numerical Abbreviations vs. Full Numerical Values

It’s no secret that ads with numbers help quantify information, whether it’s your inventory, a discount, or the price of your products.

Using numbers makes your ads more attention-grabbing, and helps them cut through all the noise that other PPC ads are creating (more about that here). Numbers also show that you’re a brand worth taking seriously — after all, you have data to back up your claims, right?

So basically, numbers are good.

The question then becomes:

  • What do you think your targets will respond to?
  • Would it be numerical abbreviations, for example, 15M, or full numerical values, for example, 15,000,000?

When creating an ad copy, turns out that manipulation of numerical values is a great method of grabbing attention and differentiating ads.

2. Add, Modify, and Remove Pricing

Prices can be a double-edged sword when it comes to PPC ads. In fact, a recent analysis of top performing ads shows just 40 percent of top-performing branded ads and 37 percent of non-branded ads included numbers.


On one hand, being upfront with your pricing gives users the information they need to know and can subsequently help them make a faster purchase decision.

On the other hand, price can turn people off by reminding them that they need to spend money. This is especially true if your product and/or service isn’t the cheapest that’s showing up in the search engine results.

So how do you know which approach works? Testing.

We worked with a homebuilder client to test variations of price inclusion. After setting up a few tests, it became clear that by generalizing the number, we could increase CTRs across these communities.

You can also frame your price as a discount to make it more attractive to readers. And speaking of discounts…

3. Experiment When Quantifying Promotions

In PPC marketing, it’s a common practice to quantify promotions with numbers, usually in the form of discounts, conditional pricing, and other special offers. For example, instead of writing you have “cheap car accessories on sale,” you can write something more compelling, like “50% off on car accessories.”

But you can maximize your CTRs even further by changing the language you use in your promotions, as well as testing ads that feature percentages, actual pricing, and fully written offers.

Using our car example, here are three variations you could try.

4. Punctuation!?.

One of the easiest places to start with testing is around punctuation and, yet, few focus on tests this “simple.” An analysis of 612 top performing paid ads revealed that 42 percent of ads used exclamation points while just 11 percent used a question mark and even fewer used a dollar sign.

Based on our own testing, the use of an exclamation point makes sense:

That said, the opportunity to test the use of punctuation (question marks, percentages, etc.) are worth exploring and align well with the use of emotion to drive incremental performance.

5. Appeal to Emotion

Most ads are extremely similar. They’re boring. They’re all the same. See?

Ads that appeal to people on a more emotional level can result in big gains in click-through rate.

Determine what your customer’s emotions are.

  • What do they love/hate?
  • What’s the biggest problem they face?
  • How are you going to solve it?

Here are some emotions to target in your ad copy tests.

While traditionally reserved for content ideation, using a headline analyzer like this one or this one can also help with the application of emotional headlines for ad copy.

6. Test Your CTA

Let’s face it, different people have different reactions to ads.

A key ingredient in shaping people’s reactions to your ads is presentation — basically, the way you ask them to trust your brand or try your product or service.

This is where language comes in, and it’s especially important when writing your CTAs.

As trivial as it may sound, the first word of your CTA has the potential to create a positive or negative impression of the ad itself. The first word in your CTA could be the defining factor, so you need to test different first words (all of which should be verbs) in your CTA, and use the high converting copy.

For example, beginning with “Call us now,” instead of “Contact us today,” could lead to a noticeable difference in CTRs. Likewise, “Shop now,” instead of “Order now” could lead to different levels of audience reaction.

Here’s a mashup of potential calls to action variations for you to test:

  • Buy
  • Book
  • Order
  • Purchase
  • Get Started
  • Call
  • Request
  • Reserve
  • Make Reservation
  • Join
  • Try
  • Take
  • Download
  • Sign up
  • Learn
  • Subscribe
  • See
  • Find Out
  • Estimate
  • Start

7. Play Around with Your Landing Pages

Naturally, landing pages are a great marketing tool, because they give your target market a chance to decide whether they should interact further with the business.

As a result, testing your landing pages is a fundamental part of doing business online.

Within AdWords, there are a couple of landing page tests that you can easily do without making any changes to your website:

  • Link directly to the most popular product in a category you’re advertising
  • Link directly to the category page
  • Try out different sorting methods on your category pages:
    • Best selling first
    • Cheapest first
    • Newest first
    • Best reviewed first
    • Promotions first
    • Manual placement
  • Link to a search made for a particular brand, product or type of product
  • Link to your homepage (yes, it might work for you)

If your landing pages have been set at the individual ad level and you want to test two of them to determine which one converts better, you can actually use one ad for two destinations using the Experiments feature in Google Analytics.

When it comes to campaign optimization, you need to constantly be split testing like this and then analyzing your results. Otherwise, you’re doing your company – and your campaign – a huge disservice.

What Next?

Regularly testing your PPC ads will improve overall campaign performance, but for you to appreciate its full potential, you need to be ready to act quickly.

As soon as you see statistical significance achieved, you need to implement changes in your campaign ASAP so you can ride on this improved performance. And once you see that this winning variation is beginning to lose its momentum, you need to go back to the drawing board and start running other split tests.

Remember, A.B.T. Always. Be. Testing.

Image Credits
Featured Image: Created by author.
In-post Photo: WordStream
Screenshot by Jon Clark. Taken August 2017.
Screenshot by Jon Clark. Taken August 2017.
Screenshot by Jon Clark. Taken August 2017.
In-post Photo: Wordstream.
Screenshot by Jon Clark. Taken August 2017.
Screenshot by Jon Clark. Taken August 2017.
In-post Photo: Buzzsumo.
In-post Photo: Blast Analytics Marketing
In-post Photo: PPCHero.