Fighting Ad Fatigue: To The Victor Go the Spoils

What makes you click on an ad on a search engine results page? Maybe it’s the catchy domain name ( Uh, yes please!). Or perhaps the main headline caught your eye. Or is it simply because it’s the top one listed (aka: too lazy to scroll)? Either way, we know that an ad’s placement in the search results matters, but what gives it that Special Sauce?

Trying to determine what makes one ad more clickable than another, is a problem we’ve seen a lot. You try and come up with headers that will draw people in but sometimes, still end up with a dud ad that’s just not getting the clicks. By implementing certain testing and optimization methods, you can consistently determine what works and what doesn’t for each campaign or ad group.

Search Discovery took on a large real estate client that was having this very issue. Our objective was simple: continuously fight ad fatigue by refreshing ads at scale, while identifying features that drive better performance. To achieve this goal, we executed two types of tests: contest optimizations and single variable A/B tests.

Contest Optimizations

Within a specific Ad Group, we tested the target (lowest performing ad) against the challenger (newly created copy). Text varied across all of the ad’s elements (headline 1, headline 2, description, and display URL):

We declared a winner if the test indicated a significant improvement in performance by one of the two ads after 14 days. Much like placing your quarters on the edge of a pool table to say “I’ve got winner”, if the target won, we paused the challenger and replaced it with a new one. If the challenger won, it replaced the target and we selected a new challenger.

Then, we selected new target and challenger ads and another round of testing began.

So what did all that mean in terms of results? Well, with over 400 pieces of content tested using that increased click-through-rate (CTR) by 20%, conversions-per-impression (CPI) by 25%, and lowered cost-per-click (CPC) by 1.7%, and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) by 21%! Not too shabby.

Through this type of testing, we not only helped ad fatigue but optimized ads at scale and sent all ad copy through a continuous testing cycle. Go us!

Single Variable Tests

Unlike the previous tests, the single variable tests only changed one element in the ad copy. We ran five of them at a grand scale, which provided theories on how to best communicate with our audience.

An example of one of the five tests was branded Display URL ( We tested branded Display URL against the same URL with an extension indicating a location ( The results from our first test indicated that ads with a Display URL with no location attached to it performed better.

There are two potential explanations for why people preferred the branded URL without a relevant term. Either the branded URL alone is strong enough in terms of brand loyalty and awareness or people prefer cleaner, shorter URLs to longer ones. In either case, additional specific testing would need to be performed in order to find out if the above hypotheses are valid. But one thing is clear, testing and optimization set our client on the right path to better understanding their audience’s behavior and preferences.

The Long Game

It’s important to note that these results won’t necessarily hold up over time. People’s preferences might shift as trends come and go. Technology updates may change consumer behavior. And considering marketers tend to depend on proven successful tactics, audiences may get annoyed when they see the same features in every ad.

Testing and optimization should be a consistent, iterative process—not a one-off project. It’s worth your while to invest in a program that fights ad fatigue long-term.

At Search Discovery, we understand the power of testing and optimization. Our team takes the lab mind-set into the real world, complementing our advertising expertise with hands-on knowledge. Drop us a line if your organization is hungry for data-driven insights that can positively impact its bottom line.

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