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Behavioural Marketing

6 Behavioural Biases To Empower Your Google Ads Campaign

Google Ads Campaign Behavioural Behavioural Biases


A lot of research has been done, and many publications produced about our psychological biases when making purchase decisions, choosing a service provider, evaluating options and more.


But not much has been written about how these biases can be beneficial to a search marketer using pay per click (PPC) advertising in their Google Ads campaign.


However, Google recently has conducted some insightful research into behavioural economic biases and their ‘Messy Middle’ buyer model is a result of that research. You can read more about it here 


So, as an advertiser it’s important to familiarise yourself with these biases and implement them in your Google Ads campaign to improve performance.

1. Category heuristics

Category heuristics are key to achieving great ad performance in your Google Ads campaign. These are shortcuts that help searchers make quick decisions within specific categories. These usually relate to features that can be found in a product or service, for example how many gigabytes (GB) are in a PCs hard drive or turnaround time for a local locksmith business



These heuristics help searchers to examine fewer pieces of information and make quick decisions. This simplifies the weighting of information and moves your visitors quicker down the purchase funnel to becoming customers. Overall, your prospects have fewer alternatives to choose from and that has a big impact on the effectiveness of your PPC campaigns.


However, it’s important to use the best heuristics and not use up the limited space to include things that are not important to your visitors. Instead of features, aim to include benefits . A benefit is a description of how your product or service helps your customer, whereas a feature is what the product is. Benefits answer your customer’s question: “Why should I care about your product?”


Where you use these heuristics is important too. Before searchers can visit your website, they need to be convinced by the ads that you show them.


There are multiple options in your ad which I will cover below:


Headlines – there are three headlines in your expanded text ads and up to 15 headlines in a responsive search ad. And with each headline you have up to 30 character spaces to promote your product or service.


Responsive Search Ads Headlines


The headlines are where you need to place your most important category heuristics, mainly because that is the most visible part of the ad and what people are most likely to click on.


Headline 1 is actually the most important but should usually be reserved for the keyword that the person used to search with. People are more likely to click an ad when they see the keyword they have used.


And you can use Headlines 2 and 3 for your most powerful heuristics, especially things like ‘a free download’ or ‘free delivery’ which are very effective at getting a response.


Because the headlines are the only clickable part of your main ad, you’ll see much better click through rates with the right heuristics.


However, you may struggle to know which benefits and features to add, so responsive search ads can be helpful here. With up to 15 headlines, you can add many combinations of the heuristics and allow Google’s machine learning system to automate performance.


Like most advertisers, you probably have no experience running experiments in your Google Ads campaign, so it’s best to leave this to the Google machine learning technology to optimise the ads.


Description lines – your expanded text ads have two description lines with each having up to 90 character spaces – which is three times more space than the headlines. This is sufficient to add sentence descriptions that describe benefits and features about your products or services.


However the descriptions are not as prominent as the headlines in the search result and so you don’t want to put your most important heuristics here because they won’t be as visible.


Responsive Search Ads Descriptions


While the headlines are clickable, the description lines are not and many searchers don’t actually read them. So, you can use the description to add secondary information about your product or service or expand on the info in the headline.


People tend to scan the descriptions looking for relevant info that will entice them to click the ad. So, including some relevant features that are important to your customers will aid them in making quick and satisfactory decisions.


Sitelinks – sitelinks are Ad extensions and are optional but very important. Besides helping to direct people to the right pages on your website, they help to improve your Quality Scores and boost your ad positions.


Besides the main landing page which is linked to the main part of your ad, the sitelinks direct visitors to other pages on your website. The reason for sitelinks is that they direct people to pages that they find relevant to what they actually need, especially if they are returning visitors.


Google Ads Sitelinks


The sitelinks should help your visitors to make a quick decision about what you offer. Instead of visiting a competitor’s website, you can use category heuristics to encourage action.


The sitelink ‘descriptions’ are not required but they are very important. However they only appear when your ad is in the absolute top position of the search auction result. It also helps to boost your Quality Scores and ad rank positions and will lead to higher click through rates.



Callouts – callouts are the best Ad extensions for category heuristics. You can use pithy text that will encourage action from your prospects. In a word or two you can highlight key features and benefits that you haven’t added in the main part of your ad


Google Ads Callouts



Try to add as many as possible and the Google machine learning system will rotate them and then give more prominence to the best performers. Just be aware that any callouts that are already mentioned in the main ad will not be shown.


A local service business like a locksmiths can add callouts relating to turnaround times, how long they have been in business, certifications, whether they offer a free callout and many others. However, as mentioned earlier, the most important heuristic should be in the main part of your ad, like the headline.


One of the downsides though is that you have a 25 character space limit with callouts. So this is less than what you get with the headlines which have a 30 character  limit.


Callouts are also not clickable. Their role is to callout some key features of your products or services.


If you sell digital cameras you can include details of how many megapixels are in the particular model you sell.



Structured Snippets – these ad extensions are similar to callouts but they help you promote specific aspects of your products and services in your Google Ads campaign. So, a hotelier for example can promote the amenities that are on offer and can add up to 9 for each product or service type


Google Ads Structured Snippet Extensions


You can’t of course be as creative here, but these can help searchers make quick decisions about what is on offer. But like the callouts these cannot be clicked and only the headline and sitelinks are clickable as mentioned earlier.



It’s important to also know that category heuristics also work hand in hand with the other six biases for maximum effect. In fact, this is one of the most important biases as it covers all others in its implementation.


For example, the ‘Power of free’ bias can be a powerful category heuristic when it is a major benefit to your customers. Free shipping is one powerful example and especially now during pandemics and COVID lockdowns when we are shopping online more.


2. Power of now

As humans we tend to want things now rather than later and we find it hard to resist our instant gratification tendencies. We are hard wired to live in the present and we struggle to plan and save for the future.


We want instant downloads, quick delivery, 24hr shopping and more, and ads that include this bias achieve high click through rates and high click volumes.


So, you should make sure this is very visible in the ads and ad extensions. And the landing pages should provide more detail to encourage immediate action.


Marketers use this bias to get us to take action now. However this can lead to cognitive dissonance (buyer’s remorse) later and feelings of regret and dissatisfaction to the whole buying process if not handled properly.



3. Power of free


We discussed some of the benefits of ‘free’ earlier but this is worth mentioning again because of the big impact of this behavioural bias. As customers we want free shipping, free samples, free quotes, free advice, free white papers and countless other free products and services. And there is something special about the price of zero.


The Covid pandemic has greatly impacted how we shop and now we are looking for more free shipping services from our retailers as the trend below shows


Google Trends - Free Shipping



4. Authority bias

Authority bias is one of the more difficult behavioural biases to demonstrate in a Google Ads text ad. This bias explains how we alter our behaviours to match someone we consider to be an authority in a subject or industry.


We tend to follow the lead and advice of people we consider to be experts and therefore use an authority view as a mental shortcut. So, this can shorten the decision making process and therefore spend less time researching a product or service, by following the expert endorsement.


However, as an advertiser it’s important to use credible experts to endorse your product or service. If this is not available, your own credibility should be highlighted using a number of awards, accolades, skills, endorsements and so on in your ads and landing pages.


5. Social proof

This bias was posited by psychologist Robert Cialdini and describes how we tend to copy the behaviour of other people during periods of uncertainty. On the web, social proof can be observed in reviews and recommendations and this makes it easier for searchers to make a decision and save time.


Many times, customers are not aware of this, and without thinking will click on an Ad that has a four or five star rating because it appears to be the best choice.


Products that do well on sites like Amazon have high review counts and many positive reviews.


6. Scarcity bias

This bias is based on the premise that rare or limited products are more desirable. People are willing to spend more for scarce products and this principle trades on our weakness for shortcuts.


The scarcity bias takes one of three forms and can be tailored to your Google Ads campaign for maximum effect:


Time limited – using the Ad headline or description lines you can set a time limited offer to encourage action. There are multiple ways you can do this, but using a ‘Countdown Timer’ to countdown to the event or end of an offer is the most effective. For example, you can offer a discount on a product or service that is available for a 3 day period and countdown till the end of the offer.


Google Ads Countdown Timer


As the image below shows you can use a syntax to create the countdown. It takes a few seconds to set up one like this and all you need to do is add the headline with the offer and then add the expiry date of the offer.


Google Ads Countdown Timing


Quantity limited – this bias can get people acting quickly, as a rare product supply can be seen as a threat to freedom of choice. This triggers a reaction to fight this scarcity threat to maintain their access to the product.


Your website or landing page is important here because you can demonstrate stock quantities and availability. Update this in real time and show it in your Google Shopping campaign listings too.


But the ads are important too. As this is what searchers see first, you want to introduce the quantity scarcity to get higher click throughs. As mentioned, the product listings are the best ads to do this and when your product feed is updated in real time you’re likely to experience a better Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).



Access limited – exclusivity always makes people feel special and limited access to features like information, groups and spaces can have a big impact. This can work for both business and personal customers and exclusive offers on products like credit cards can do very well.



Using all six biases in your Google Ads campaign and website could make a big difference to your campaign performance. However it’s important that you use these biases ethically and don’t manipulate your customers because that could have negative consequences.


When used well, you can expect to see an improvement in key metrics such as click through rate, conversion rate, bounce rate and more. You will see better engagement and better sales or leads for your business.

I'm a Certified Google Ads Expert and Marketing Author and in this blog I share my latest tips and secrets on how to promote your business successfully on the web and increase customer loyalty, retention and advocacy on Google Ads.

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