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The Science of Emotions: What’s Behind PPC Ad Copy ?>
The Science of Emotions: What’s Behind PPC Ad Copy

The Science of Emotions: What’s Behind PPC Ad Copy

The majority of PPC ad copy you see on the web today suffers from the same problem: It’s boring. 

Unlike display or video ads, PPC ads are inherently restricted — because there’s little space to deliver a message, most advertisers fail to get creative with their PPC ad copy.

Alternatively, taking the time and effort create a PPC message that resonates with emotions can have a huge impact on advertising performance. Emotional messages stand out from competing ads, capture audience attention, and get more clicks, leading to a higher Quality Score, while paving the way for your PPC ads to rank well in search results.

Here’s a breakdown of emotional science behind PPC ad copy, and how to use it to improve your ad performance:

The Emotions that Drive PPC Ad Copy

Perhaps the most effective way to connect with your target audience is by eliciting emotional responses. The most common emotional triggers, both negative and positive, include fear, guilt, trust, value, community, pleasure, inspiration and affirmation — all of which can be infused into your PPC ad copy.


Instead of trying to convince your audience how great your products and services are, invoke fear by suggesting the consequences of not clicking through to learn more.

  • Don’t get caught without a prenup! — Marriage law attorneys.
  • What if it isn’t benign? — Same-day cancer screening.

While fear is often considered a negative emotion that many brands want to avoid, it’s long been a powerful trigger for consumers who worry about the negative consequences of either doing something or not doing something.

That said, it is possible to use fear to drive positive action in your audience. “Detect it early, beat it quickly” is an example of an alternative headline that still uses fear to drive clicks, but for a positive outcome.


As with fear, PPC ad copy that evokes feelings of guilt sheds light on what happens when people don’t take action. For example:

  • For a charity: Only a dollar a day could save their lives
  • For insurance: You’re wasting money on car insurance
  • For retirement planning: Save for your child’s future

Essentially this PPC ad copy focuses on pain points that bother people. The message subtly underscores to users that by ignoring the ad, they are complacent and don’t want to improve their situation from their current reality. So what drives them to click? If they don’t click through on the ad, nothing about that pain point will change.


Trust is another powerful emotion that brands need to invoke if they’re going to convert their audiences into paying customers. Many brands do this by highlighting social proof:

  • Over 10,000 happy customers!
  • Winner of the 2017 XYZ Award!
  • Trusted by top brands across the world.

Google Ads actually makes it easier to illuminate social proof by including Google business ratings alongside your PPC ad copy. Thus, if you have hundreds of 5 star Google reviews, potential customers have a clear indication that you’re a quality and trustworthy business.


Value is a powerful emotional trigger that can drive people to click and buy without initial purchase intent if they feel they are getting a good deal or something that no one else has.  You can illustrate value by highlighting special sales and promotions, creating package services, and highlighting your value proposition.

Here’s an example of a great PPC ad that illustrates value through packaged services: 1&1 Website Hosting from .99 — Free Domain and SSL Included

Your value proposition can also show audiences what they can get from your business that they can’t find anywhere else.


If you have an interest, a hobby or a close group of friends, you know that the feeling of community is a strong emotional trigger. And businesses that have products or services that offer some sense of community should capitalize on this in their advertising message.

For example: It’s time to join the family — Make the switch to XYZ today.

Community can also invoke a sense of exclusivity that make people feel special by joining. This PPC ad from Upwork calls this out: Upwork: Hire the Best — Trust Your Job to True Experts

At its core, the ad implies that the best freelancers are a part of the Upwork community, and that if you look for help elsewhere, you might not find the best options. With the Upwork community, however, you have guaranteed quality.


Lots of people derive pleasure and gratification from shopping online, and advertisers can encourage and facilitate this with their marketing message to drive more clicks and sales.

How can your PPC ads invoke the pleasure emotion? By delivering exactly what people want and expect. This PPC ad for women’s activewear invokes pleasure by speaking directly to the user’s search intent. It’s the New Year and they want to make new fitness goals. Lululemon reaffirms their assumption that activewear will help them stay on track.

Another way to invoke pleasure is through instant gratification, showing your audience they can get what they want right now if they click through and make a purchase.

For example:

  • Download your copy now
  • Get a quote instantly
  • 24 hour shipping

When people shop for pleasure, your ad copy can reaffirm that by clicking on your ad or purchasing your product, they’ll experience instant gratification by getting what they want and getting it quickly.


Inspiration is a powerful emotion that capitalizes on peoples’ need to achieve, accomplish and fulfill dreams. Needless to say, businesses can use it to drive their audience to action.

To achieve this with your PPC ads, it’s all about wording. The Curtis Circulation Company compiled a list of the most common words used on best-selling magazine covers, which includes:

  • Extraordinary
  • Results
  • Improve
  • Discover
  • Powerful
  • Immediately
  • Win
  • You

You can also use words like these in your PPC ad copy to cultivate individual feelings of inspiration within your audience, which in turn will inspire clicks:

  • An extraordinary solution that delivers results
  • Discover the possibilities
  • A powerful way to improve XYZ
  • The only way you can win at XYZ


Affirmation is about helping your leads feel like the path they’re on is right and justified, while ensuring that they feel good about the choice they’re making to click on your ad and become a customer. The following is the most common way advertisers have achieved this:

Buy our product now, you deserve it!

The “You deserve it!” message has become pretty cliche so you’ll likely have to get more creative with your PPC ad copy to illustrate affirmation. Here’s a good example:

Men’s Big and Tall Store: Worry less about fitting your clothes and more about your clothes fitting you.

This message essentially says: Stop worrying about your size and wear what’s comfortable — a positive affirmation resonating for people who wear plus sizes.

Getting the Most Out of Emotional Ad Copy

Creating emotional copy is just the first part of optimizing your PPC ads. In order to get the most out of emotional ad copy, you need to take additional steps to provoke clicks and conversions. Here are a few key strategies you can use to make your emotional message even more powerful:

Use persuasive language

Your ad copy not only should elicit an emotional response from your audience, it should also encourage them to act on it. Once you’ve struck the right nerve and captured your audience’s attention, encouraging them to click is all about using persuasive language.

According to a wide variety of research studies, the five most persuasive words in the English language are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Instantly
  • New

But that’s far from the end of the list. Buffer compiled a helpful resource of more than 100 power words you can use to create a more persuasive marketing message. And beyond your headline, your call-to-action is probably the most important element in your ad for driving clicks, so don’t be afraid to use bold language here to compel your audience to act.

Create a sense of scarcity or urgency

“Fear of missing out” is a distinct strategy from using the “fear” emotion in your ad copy. This psychological trigger encourages leads to take action knowing that they might miss the same opportunity in the future.

The best way to do this is by creating a sense of scarcity or urgency:

  • Scarcity: 20% off the first 100 buyers!
  • Urgency: Free shipping if you order today!

You can also encourage action with the language you use:

  • Buy today!
  • Act now!
  • Limited time offer
  • Hurry, sale ends soon

You can also use scarcity or urgency alongside your emotional message. For example:

Men’s Big and Tall Store: Worry less about fitting your clothes and more about your clothes fitting you.

New Year’s Sale Ends Today!

Alleviate fear

One of the most important things your emotional ad copy needs to achieve is to alleviate fear. With that in mind, reassure your audience that there’s no real risk in clicking through and learning more about your business.

Here’s an example of a PPC ad that does this well: Injury Claims Lawyers – Claim with Confidence Today

The ad’s  “no win no fee guarantee” message both alleviates fear and reassures the audience that there’s no risk involved.

How you alleviate fear with your PPC ad copy depends on what product or service you offer. However in general, messages like “Satisfaction guaranteed,” “Full refund,” or “Try before you buy” are great ways to encourage audiences to click.

Experiment with your ad copy

While your headline is the primary vehicle for injecting emotional elements into your PPC ad copy, it’s possible to deliver an emotional message and address pain points using your description lines or site links. Google Ads recently rolled out a new expanded text ads type that gives you more real estate to target audiences with your marketing message. One of the biggest benefits is that it adds a third headline, a second ad description and uses up to 90 characters for each description.

In addition, different ad extensions are also available that might be relevant to your business, such as structured snippet extensions, dynamic site link extensions, message extensions, or review extensions — all of which represent additional opportunities to use emotional science to maximize ad relevance and increase click-through rate.

Whatever changes you make to your emotional PPC ads, be sure to create ad variants that you can repeatably test. And don’t be afraid to experiment with ad copy and monitor performance to see which strategies drive the most clicks for your ads.

Wrapping Up

Using emotional science to improve your PPC ad copy isn’t easy — largely because it’s so subjective and dependent on a slew of unpredictable variables. But putting in the effort comes with a lot of benefits that will go a long ways to capture audience attention, drive more clicks and conversions, improve Quality Score and have access to more affordable ad placements. At the end of the day, people are looking for connection, a shared experience that provides meaning, and to which they can relate on a personal level. Giving potential customers that connection, if only in your ad, will help show that you get them, while paving the way to ensure that they’ll come back again and again.