5 Things to Test for Better PPC Ad Performance, by Perry Marshall

July 23, 2018
Perry Marshall

One of my favorite examples of a successful PPC ad test is this one:

Version 1:

How to Write a Book, Fast

14 Days from Start to Finish

Unique, Step By Step Program


4.40% CTR

Version 2:

How to Write a Book Fast

14 Days from Start to Finish

Unique, Step By Step Program


4.12% CTR

I call it “The Little Comma that Could” because one comma increased response by 8% – which in this campaign was $500 a year.

However, this example is extremely misleading! That’s because it makes you think that optimizing Google ads is about testing stuff like commas. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s the truth about testing, which I learned from David Bullock:

  1. Forest
  2. Trees
  3. Branches
  4. Leaves

When you’re testing ads and new ideas, imagine that you’re parachuting into territory that’s pitch black. You’re hoping to land on the highest altitude spot on the terrain where you’re going to erect a radio antenna.

If you land on the side of some hill and find a nearby tree, maybe you can climb the tree and mount your antenna on the highest branch and you’re 30 feet higher than if you just stuck it on the ground.

But you could get 30 feet higher yet if you put it on top of the hill.

You could get 60 feet higher if you put it on a tree at the top of the hill.

And you could get it 500 feet higher if you found a different hill in a different forest.

Writing Google ads is a lot like that. And if you only test commas, you’ll never find the next hill, let alone the next forest. So with that in mind, here are five clever things I like to test. These ideas are taken from my Swiss Army Knife system for killer Google ads.

1. Towards vs. Away From

Today I consulted with a company that sells a new medical device. It’s capable of alerting loved ones that a health problem is imminent. So instead of someone having a seizure or collapsing, someone gets an early warning.

The client’s first idea was, “We’re selling peace of mind.”

True ... but in real life I think what he’s really selling is: “You will never, ever find Trevor passed out, laying on the floor with shallow breathing, as long as you use this heart monitor.”

Why does that have punch? Because that happened once before and it scared Trevor’s mom to death.

Towards means you’re selling the person something they want. Away from means you’re providing an escape from something they don’t want. Always be aware of whether you’re doing one – then test the other.

2. Rhythm

Most people hear a voice inside their head when they read. That voice has sound and rhythm. When you read copy (or even a blog post) out loud, parts of what you’ve written often sound tangled and awkward, because the rhythm and cadence isn’t sorted out.

This is the idea behind my own theory about why How to Write a Book, Fast outperforms How to Write a Book Fast. The former has good rhythm, the latter doesn’t. Pay attention to breaks between lines 2 and 3 in the ad. Whatever the current rhythm is, write an ad with a different rhythm.

A variation on the rhythm theme is Haiku. Haiku is a tiny poem in this format:

5 syllables

7 syllables

5 syllables

Now, Haiku all by itself does not make your ad better. (Trust me on that one.) However, Haiku may force you to say something you never would have thought of, and the new idea may very well test better.

For example:

How to Write a Book

14 Days Start to Finish:

Step by Step Program

I don’t know if this ad is better or not – it’s just one idea to test – but I never would’ve written this ad quite this way without the Haiku idea.

3. Go Kinesthetic

There’s lots of different kinds of verbs, but the ones with the most impact are ones that deal in physical sensations:

Drift, Drill, Drink, Drip, Droop, Drop, Duck, Dump, Dunk, Elbow, Elevate, Embrace, Empower, Encircle, Enclose, Enfold, Engage, Engrave, Engulf, Enshroud, Ensnare, Entangle, Envelop, Etch, Excavate, Exchange, Exclude, Exhale, Expand, Extend, Extract, Extricate, Fabricate, Faint, Fall, Fan, Fasten, Fence, Fend, Fetch...

Example of a Google ad with kinesthetic verbs:

When He Caresses Her

Do you feel sick on the inside?

Hope and healing here


If you’re a marriage therapist advertising on Google, and your prospect’s husband is caressing someone, this ad’s gonna make her come in and see you.

4. Names

Names are extremely powerful, as anyone who’s gotten away with using trademarks in their ads knows. But there are other kinds of names too:

  • Names of songs
  • Movies
  • Politicians (ancient and modern)
  • TV shows
  • Famous people (especially from long ago)
  • Idioms from books and movies (“Go ahead – make my day”).

5. Shame

Everyone’s ashamed of something. And to be completely honest, shame is the reason people buy all sorts of things. Short list of shame-drivers:

  • Legitimate moral guilt
  • False moral guilt
  • Opposite sex rejection
  • Business rejection
  • Failure
  • Defeat
  • Inferiority

Hint: Don’t use any of these words at all. Just tell the first hint of a story in your ad, and make ‘em click to get more.


Mix all these ideas together for a truly groovy stir-fry of split-testing fun.

Perry Marshall is the world’s most quoted authority on Google AdWords. You can get his special bulletin, “Marketing Secrets of TED: How to Sell to Thought Leaders and People Who Think They’re Really Smart,” at http://www.perrymarshall.com/marketing/ted/

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