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7 behavioural nudges to help increase PPC performance

Marketing is all about getting someone to do what you want. In the PPC world, that tends to be a click or conversion.

As market conditions fluctuate, CPCs rise and technology changes, one thing remains the same – consumers are predictably irrational.

While we’re all free-thinking individuals, behavioural economics affects every single decision we make.

Understanding consumer behaviour

Understanding and manipulating consumer behaviour can help increase PPC performance. This can be crucial when consumers contend with a huge amount of choice and information when shopping around.

By utilising the principles of nudge theory within ad copy, marketers can increase clickthrough and conversion rates. This is especially effective for challenger brands, who may need to use clever tricks to level the playing field and entice buyers away from the trusted option.

In PPC, we have a limited character count and timeframe to turn browsers into paying customers. Using these clever behavioural nudges can have a big impact. A/B testing is a great way to test how effective each nudge is for your brand.

Let’s take a look at some of the nudges that work particularly well within PPC advertising.

1. Social proof

As humans, we like to conform to group behaviour, and do what other people are doing. People feel reassured when they make the same choices as others.

Social proof is one of the most effective nudges you can use in your PPC ads. Using the seller ratings extension is a great way to harness social proof, especially if you’ve got a lot of positive customer reviews. Seller ratings can be used across both Search and Shopping ads.

You can also use social proof within your ad copy itself, reassuring potential customers that you’re a tried and trusted business.

compare the market google ad - social proof

In this example from Compare The Market, we can see that not only do CTM have a very high average review of 4.9, they’ve also been reviewed over 19 thousand times, making them a trusted option for anyone looking for the best deal on their insurance.

2. Framing 

People are greatly influenced by the way a choice is framed and presented. The framing effect is a cognitive bias where people decide on options based on whether the options are presented with positive or negative connotations. The same information can appear more or less attractive depending on which features are highlighted.

Changing the frame of reference can help people reconsider the value of a product or service. It’s even possible to frame a negative as a positive.

jet2 google ad - framing

In this Jet2 ad, the refund guarantee points out a potential negative – a holiday cancellation – but frames it as a positive, reassuring the traveller that should anything bad happen, at least they’ll receive a refund.

3. Scarcity

People instinctively value limited resources. If time is running out to claim an offer, or there are only a few items left in their size, they’re conditioned to want to make that purchase, and make it now.

If you want to encourage people to buy your products, making them think that they’re going to miss out is a great way to do so. If you’re running a sale, make sure that you highlight that it won’t last long.

‘Buy Now’, ‘Hurry’, and ‘Won’t Last Long’ are all examples of the scarcity effect within ad copy.

puregym google ad - scarcity

Here’s PureGym pretending that their offer ends Monday. Nice try. 

nfu mutual google ad - scarcity

NFU Mutual approaches scarcity from another angle in the above example, pointing out that they’re not found on comparison sites. This gives off the air of exclusivity, making consumers feel like they’re getting a special deal not available to the masses.

4. Anchoring 

Anchoring bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we’re given about a topic. When we are making a decision, we interpret newer information from the reference point of our anchor, instead of seeing it objectively.

For example, the initial price offered for a used car establishes a standard for the rest of the negotiations. This means that prices lower than the initial price seem more reasonable, even if those lower prices are more than what the car is worth.

‘Was xxx Now xxx’ is a classic example of anchoring. People naturally believe that they’re getting a great deal, as the now price is less than the first number they read.

anchoring google ad

If you only saw the ‘now’ price in these Google Shopping ads, you’d be left wondering whether it’s a good deal. With the previous price crossed out as a point of reference, you know what you’re saving.

5. Authority bias

Leveraging positive signals from recognised bodies or experts can increase trustworthiness. If you’ve got awards or accreditations under your belt, put them front and centre in your ad copy, and people will feel reassured by the authority. When products and services are backed by trusted sources, they stand out from the competition.

jet2 google ad - authority bias

Travel companies are always using authority bias in their ads. There’s no need to worry if Jet2 go out of business, because they’re ABTA protected, giving travellers peace of mind.

6. Power of free

People love free stuff. Offering free items, offers or vouchers can be very attractive to consumers looking for a win. Choosing a low-ticket item and offering it as a free gift with every purchase over a certain threshold is a great way to encourage customers to spend more. It’s also the reason why ‘free delivery over xxxx’ works so well.

cinch google ad - power of free

Cinch’s faff-free used cars come with free delivery and a free 90-day warranty. For keen bargain hunters, that’s a lot of value.

7. Power of now 

Humans are hard-wired to be biased towards the present, over-valuing offers that are available instantly. We simply hate waiting. If you can offer a product with next day delivery, or on the spot results, it’s likely to be a key driver when a consumer’s deciding between your brand and the next.

clothes2order google ad

This ad from Clothes2order reassures its potential customers by telling them that there’s 24-hour dispatch available, as well as next day delivery to the user’s location.

Pro tip: Whilst there are tonnes of behavioural nudges to use in your ads, it’s not a sensible idea to use them all at once! Split test your ad copy to see which biases have the greatest impact.

In conclusion, when it comes to PPC ad copy, it’s all about being creative (with that short character count!), whilst offering irresistible hooks to draw the consumer in. As usual, our advice is to adopt a test and learn approach as you try out these behavioural science techniques.

About the author: Bhavisha Panesar is the Head of PPC at CreativeRace, with 10 years of experience in PPC working across sectors such as retail, leisure, finance and property. She has worked on local and global brands including TK Maxx, Euro Car Parts, Topps Tiles, and Jabra.