Fighting Ad Fatigue: To The Victor Go the Spoils

by Aug 21, 2017

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.