How to write PPC ads that arouse intense interest

In this blog post, I’m going to share a key lesson about ad writing – and one that’s particularly relevant to SaaS PPC.

It’s based on a book written 54 years ago.

That book is Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz, and it’s been described as a “PhD course in copywriting.”

It’s the book that introduced the concepts of “stages of awareness” and “stages of sophistication” – two of the most important ideas in marketing.

And I’m going to take the first of those – “stages of awareness” – and show how it applies to Google Ad writing.

(If you want to know about states of sophistication – another key idea – you can get a copy of the book. As I write this, there’s a second hand copy available for $250 on Amazon.)

Stages of awareness explained

According to Schwartz, there are 5 stages of awareness:

  1. The Most Aware: Your prospect knows your product, desires it, and only needs to know “the deal.”
  2. Product-Aware: Your prospect knows what you sell, but isn’t sure it’s right for him.
  3. Solution-Aware: Your prospect knows the result he wants, but not that your product provides it.
  4. Problem-Aware: Your prospect senses he has a problem, but doesn’t know there’s a solution.
  5. Completely Unaware: No knowledge of anything except, perhaps, his own identity or opinion.

The thin line between indifference and intense interest

And – and this is the most important thing to understand – Schwartz writes:

“Each of these stages is separated from the others by a psychological wall. On one side of that wall is indifference; on the other, intense interest

A headline that will work wonders in the first stage- for example, “Dial Soap- 90c a cake” – will fail completely when addressed to a third-stage market where your prospect doesn’t even realize that soaps can be made with built-in deodorants.” 

(Remember, Gene was writing this in 1966.)

So, when writing PPC ads – and landing pages – it’s vital that you understand your prospect’s state of awareness – and how that varies by keyword.

An example

Let’s say your company is called ForestSeller and you offer Amazon seller software. 

So this is software to help Amazon sellers get more traffic to their listings and make more sales.

Let’s look at some of the keywords you might bid on in Google…

Keyword: “ForestSeller discount code”

Stage of awareness: stage 1. They want your software and they’re looking for the best deal.

Your ad should be either about a discount, a special offer, or emphasise low price.

Keyword: “ForestSeller reviews”

Stage 2. They know about your software, but they’re not sure it’s right for them.

Your ad could invite the prospect to read testimonials. Or, alternatively, offer to show them a feature-by-feature comparison between you and your competitors.  

Keyword: “Amazon seller software”

Probably stage 3. They know there is Amazon seller software, but they don’t know which one they’re interested in.

However, it could be stage 2: They could know about you, but do not believe you’re right for them.

Given this is your “bullseye keyword” – the one that best describes what you do – you can just write a “standard” USP-driven ad that shows him why he should click through to your website, rather than your competitors’.

Keyword: “Jungle scout”

Again probably stage 3. Jungle Scout is one of your competitors. So your prospect knows there are SaaS solutions, but probably doesn’t know about your product.

But, again, it could be stage 2: They could know about you, but do not believe you’re right for them.

Your ad should either offer them a comparison between you and Junglescout, or position you as similar to Jungle Scout but superior in some way. 

Keyword: “how to sell more on Amazon”

This is stage 4. The prospect knows they have a problem – they want to sell more. But they’re not looking for a specific type of solution.

Your ad should promise to show them how to sell more on Amazon. 

These examples should give you an idea of how to identify a keyword’s stage of awareness and how to align your ad writing with that.

One last thing…

You may have noticed my examples didn’t have any stage 5 keywords.

That’s because they’re really hard to make work in Google search. 

But an example of stage 5 might be to go after a keyword like “Tim Ferriss” and connect the idea of selling on Amazon with the ideas in Tim’s book, The 4 Hour Workweek.

It’s not something I’d normally recommend – unless there was a huge untapped market and you could get really cheap traffic.

But it’s an example of how to connect your product to someone’s identity.

(In this case, Tim’s fans.)


Being oblivious to the prospect’s stage of awareness is one of the biggest PPC mistakes I see SaaS companies make.

And fixing that problem – in both your ads and your landing pages – can get you an immediate boost in clickrates, quality scores and conversion rates.

All the best,

Steve Gibson