The battle for attention and clicks on the search engine results pages is heating up. For desktop users on Google, the battle is more acute with the removal of right-side ads, pitting ads and organic listings against each other in a single column, like smartphone pages.
If you’re using pay-per-click ads, the ad copy must be “armed,” to win the battle for the click.
Human beings are emotional. We try to be rational, carefully weighing the costs and benefits of our decisions. But in practice that’s hard to do, for a couple of reasons. First, we face so many decisions daily that we don’t have the time or resources to carefully weigh each one. Second, the difference between options is frequently not material enough to compensate for time spent on the decision.
Thus, people often make decisions based on emotion. They want to feel included or popular so they make the same choice as those that they respect, trust, and admire. They might choose based on their childhood or history.
In this post, I’ll address how to use emotion in pay-per-click ad copy to win the click.
Focus on Adjectives
To evoke emotion in your ad copy, focus on adjectives. Adjectives modify or describe a noun. An adjective specifies whether a dog was fast, slow, black, white, or brown. Adjectives are also powerful, as they prompt emotion.
For example, consider the difference between a “wicked stepmother” versus “loving parents.” “Stepmother” and “parents” both describe a family relation. However, by adding either “wicked” or “loving,” the writer assigns a much different meaning. That is what ad copy should do.
5 Adjective Categories
The dictionary is full of adjectives. To choose the adjectives for your ads, consider these five categories suggested by Roger Dooley in his book Brainfluence, which uses a florist and flowers as examples.
- Vivid. Using a term like “freshly-picked roses” is much more vivid than “fresh flowers.”
- Sensory. Here we want to use adjectives that engage the senses. A florist might consider words such as “aromatic daisies” or “sun-kissed carnations.”
- Emotional and nostalgic. Using terms like “old-fashioned” or “rustic” to describe an arrangement can bring to mind an idyllic past, instead of the current reality.
- Specific. This is more nuanced. The florist could describe her roses as “old English roses” to help people think of well-manicured English gardens where their rose was gently plucked — instead of a field in the U.S., where it was cut with hundreds of other roses.
- Branded. In this scenario, you describe something with another brand to associate that brand’s qualities with your product. With roses, there is a brand named David Austin that produces exceptional hybrid tea roses. So saying that a wedding bouquet has “David Austin type roses” helps associate that brand with the florist’s product.
The good news for PPC advertisers is that most ads do not use emotion. Most ads are informational — which is good — but they don’t use emotion or imagery that could make them better.
For example, I searched for “Italian restaurant in Las Vegas.” There are, presumably, many Italian food options in Las Vegas. Italian food frequently has an emotional connection with family and get-togethers that should lend to descriptive ads. But I was disappointed.
I saw just one ad on my desktop browser. The meager effort from Sergio’s Italian Gardens to promote its “authentic” Italian restaurant does not create emotion. Moreover, the ad lacks a call to action.
For another example, I searched for “auto insurance” — a notoriously competitive industry with high costs per click.
GEICO is pitching cost savings (an indirect emotional appeal). State Farm stresses free insurance quotes. Progressive is all about comparing rates and AmFam describes protecting your car and dreams (some emotion there). However, there are no descriptive words like “affordable” or “care-free.” Just more dry, informational ad copy.
I started this article by comparing pay-per-click advertising to a battle. That was deliberate. I hoped to prompt emotions associated with war — fear, panic, chaos. Similarly, use descriptive adjectives to prompt emotion with your PPC text. Your ads will stand out, to get clicks and customers.