How Adding a Direct Donation Ask Affects Revenue for a Google Ads Brand Campaign Experiment ID: #19687

The Heritage Foundation

Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.

Experiment Summary

Timeframe: 1/3/2020 - 1/26/2020

The Heritage Foundation had been running long-standing control messages in Google Ads, and in an attempt to look at ways of decreasing costs, while maximizing revenue and ad clicks for donor conversion, they wanted to experiment with the ad copy to see how it would impact giving from visitors who clicked ads. Heritage decided to experiment with ad copy that “pre-qualified” the click, by creating more of a direct ask in the ad copy, which has historically produced fewer clicks, but increased donor conversion rates in other areas of experimentation.

Research Question

Will writing ad copy with more of a direct ask increase donor conversion rates?


C: Control
T1: Treatment #1
T2: Treatment #2


Treatment Name Revenue per Visitor Relative Difference Confidence Average Gift
C: Control $1.60 $82.93
T1: Treatment #1 $9.43 488.9% 100.0% $145.19
T2: Treatment #2 $0.73 -54.3% 99.7% $53.73

This experiment was validated using 3rd party testing tools. Based upon those calculations, a significant level of confidence was met so these experiment results are valid.

Flux Metrics Affected

The Flux Metrics analyze the three primary metrics that affect revenue (traffic, conversion rate, and average gift). This experiment produced the following results:

    0% increase in traffic
× 236.4% increase in conversion rate
× 75.1% increase in average gift
488.9% increase in revenue

Key Learnings

There are a few things to take into consideration:

Treatment #1:

  1. If one were to optimize off of Cost per click or Click thru rate – the control would’ve won. However, if you look at revenue, return on ad spend, and average order value Treatment #1 wins.
  2. The click thru rate was lower. -37.5% less than control.  This could be due to the messaging in Headline 2 which states “Give Your Tax-Deductible Gift”. Headline 2 served as a pre-qualification for directing search traffic to the right destination – Ex. donation/membership page vs a potential misconception that this was a homepage.
  3. The Cost per click was +85% higher than control.  However, at the same time the overall cost was -53% lower than control. This serves as a reminder that optimizing for the cheapest click doesn’t necessarily mean the lowest cost or highest return.


Treatment #2:

  1. Similar to the control, treatment #2 led with strong value proposition with a fresh creative.
  2. The direct donation ask was in the description but not in the headlines.
  3. Upon analysis, the messaging in treatment #2 doesn’t have the same clarity that you see in the control and treatment #1.



  1. The control has been the winning variant for some time now, over a year.
  2. This is a responsive search ad that adapts the ad content to more closely match potential donor search terms. Google Ads automatically tests different combinations and learns which combinations perform best.
  3. As stated earlier, the ad(s) lead with a strong emphasis on values and membership to defend values.



Ultimately, Treatment #1 beat the lowest cost per donor acquisition on Google Ads for the lifetime of the account. Further testing of responsive search ads that include a direct donation ask would be key learning for this account.

Experiment Documented by...

Eddie Laing

Eddie is a Media Buyer at Nextafter. If you have any questions about this experiment or would like additional details not discussed above, please feel free to contact them directly.