Improve Your PPC Ads: Avoid Too Many Choices

The Technique

It’s been well-documented in marketing psychology books like Brainfluence and others that offering too many choices to your customers can create frustration and a mental paralysis that leads to lower rates of people taking action.  This New York Times article dives more deeply into the psychology behind it.  But basically, when the number of choices presented to us makes us feel overwhelmed about making the right choice, we’re more likely to make no decision at all.  Whether or not we’ll feel overwhelmed can be attributed to the context within which we’re making the choice, but the general principle still stands.

This gets amplified on the web of course because it’s even easier to abandon a buyer journey with the click of a mouse than it is to walk out of a store or away from a salesman.

Given this information, we can improve our PPC ads by looking for situations where we may be communicating to our customers in a way that has this effect on them.  While we may be thinking we’re communicating to them a feature of our website or business (we have SO MANY CHOICES and you can’t go wrong by doing business with us!), we may actually be turning people off as they go hunt for another website that will deliver to them a better user experience and/or more precise results for what they’re looking for.

The Test

Here were the attributes of the test…



When I came across the top ad below, I of course knew right away that this principle needed to be tested.  Headline 2 in the ad falls right into the trap of thinking that “Explore Thousands of Products” comes across to the searcher as desirable.  The hypothesis here was that searchers don’t search because they desire to explore thousands of products.  They search because they want to quickly and easily find their part.  Because of that, we should have more searchers click through and purchase from our ad.

So that’s exactly what I decided to communicate in the 2nd challenger ad here…

The Results

Here’s what happened in this test…

Click to enlarge

The hypothesis turned out to be TRUE.  We saw CTR improve by +39% and Revenue Per Impression improve by +12%.  Overall, the winning ad drove +81% more Revenue than the incumbent during the test.

So, if you ever have the temptation to communicate to your customers about all the options you have available, make sure you test this principle out first before you start costing yourself sales.