Write Better PPC Ad Copy Using These Psychology Principles
You don’t have to be a master of mental manipulation to create effective PPC ads — but it certainly helps. After all, the entire field of psychology is a gift for marketers. The more you know about how people think (in particular, how they make decisions), the more you can devise a sales funnel that does all the right things to win them over.
Certain principles of the human thought process are more relevant than others, of course, so you can’t necessarily draw practical benefit from every last nugget of psychological insight. What you need is a stripped-down set of principles to help you write better PPC ad copy and max out your ROAS — and you’re in the right place for that. Let’s begin.
Method 1: Dual process
We like to think we’re rational creatures, carefully weighing up relevant factors and making the best decisions we can given the available data — but that doesn’t explain many of our actions. We’re also heavily influenced by our subconscious drives, often leading to snap determinations. This is where gut instinct comes from.
This is the dual process principle. It identifies two distinct decision-making processes: the long-form conscious contemplation that’s best suited to making big decisions, and the fast subconscious intuition that forms our first impressions of the people we meet.
How to use it:
- Think carefully about how someone might make a decision about the type of product you’re offering. Is it a low-cost buy, or something more serious?
- If it’s something viable for a quick purchase, lean into that with your copy. Focus more on emotion and indulgence. Tempt the reader to click and act now.
- If it’s something that’ll need a longer process, don’t push too hard with your copy, because it’ll likely irritate the reader. Instead, lay out a smart case for why they should learn more, then point them towards a landing page with more information.
Method 2: Least effort
It isn’t quite fair to say we’re all fundamentally lazy, but it’s true that we’re psychologically economical — which is to say that we don’t put more energy towards thought than we feel we need to. It makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint. The more efficient the mind, the better.
This is the least effort principle. If you want evidence of it, look to how we develop habits. How much of your day do you plan on the fly, and how much of it feels automatic? The reason it’s so hard to radically overhaul your behaviour is that it requires you to deviate from a comfortable neural pathway and start trying to plot a fresh route.
How to use it:
- Don’t ask for too much from the reader. For example, don’t mention anything about filling in a form, because they won’t want to do that. Offer them something they can achieve in just one click, and they’ll be much more likely to go for it.
- Emphasise the ease of whatever you’re suggesting. Openly state that it’s easy, simple, and fast — and place a lot of focus on what it will achieve for them, because they’ll be weighing the reward against the up-front effort cost of doing something unusual.
Method 3: Social proof
Imagine that you’ve just entered a completely new culture and you have no idea what to do. How do you manage? It’s fairly obvious: you look to the people around you for guidance. What do they suggest? How do they talk? What can you spot about their body language? You study their actions and do your best to infer the right way to proceed.
This is the social proof principle. When in doubt, we look to others to point us in the right direction, always desiring to act in ways that will help us fit in. Naturally, social proof is vital for ecommerce, because people who are shopping online have plenty of doubts (particularly since they can’t physically inspect products).
How to use it:
- Social proof comes in many forms, and you should use as many as you can fit into the format of whichever PPC platform you’re using in any given scenario.
- Aggregate review ratings are vitally important in Google Ads, because they show that other customers have had positive experiences.
- Expert testimonials make for strong social media ad copy, because you can easily include a suitable picture for visual proof.
- You can also work general statements along the lines of “Find out why everyone loves it” or “See what all the fuss is about into your copy” to suggest popularity.
Method 4: Overchoice
It’s a hot day, and you decide you’d quite enjoy some ice cream, so you head down to the nearest scoop shop — but you discover that the menu has changed radically since last time. Instead of having 20 flavours, it now has 200. Worse, there are a lot of very similar options (e.g. peanut chocolate and chocolate peanut butter), so you just stand there, struggling to pick.
This is the overchoice principle. We like options, but not too many of a similar type (that drives us to distraction). We want to make the right choices, but when there are countless similar choices, we can get stuck trying to figure out which ones are worthy of being selected.
How to use it:
- Use each PPC ad to advertise a single product or service. Don’t try to advertise an entire range, because it’ll water down the impact and lead people to anticipate confusion.
- If you want to add variety for a service ad, concentrate on different tiers up to a maximum of three — such as a free tier, a cheap paid tier, and a more expensive paid tier that’s largely there to make the other paid tier seem like better value.
- Stick to just one action. Go here, go there, do this, or do that. Don’t throw in several suggestions about sharing content and following on social media. A PPC ad is a precision-made tool with one goal.
Method 5: Loss aversion
Which would you rather do: win something, or avoid losing something? Psychologically, you likely lean towards the latter, and will more readily contribute something (whether it’s your money or your time) to retain ownership of what you already have. The pain of loss feels more significant to us than the thrill of victory.
This is the loss aversion principle. It may well stem from the primacy of pain: foraging for food is vital for survival, but so is avoiding a broken leg, and you can probably wait a while to find food, whereas a broken leg could easily be a death sentence in times before modern civilisation.
How to use it:
- Instead of talking up what the reader will gain, stress what your product or service will help them keep. More often than not, it’s going to be their time and/or money.
- Introduce the concept that they can’t afford not to consider your suggestion — that if they don’t embrace the opportunity you’re providing, it will cause them difficulty down the line in some frustrating way.
We haven’t come close to bringing up all the principles in the psychology world that can serve as inspiration to forward-thinking marketers, but these principles in particular have near-universal applicability. When you’re trying to compose your ads, think deeply about each of them, and try to cater your content accordingly. It should prove significantly beneficial.