Ad Testing Made Easy: Best Practices

This is the first installment of our Ad Testing Made Easy series for this month. For the purpose of today’s post, we will discuss our list of ad testing best practices that can be applied to your own accounts.

Ad Testing

Ad testing can be a tricky process to master. It requires both time and money, both of which are oftentimes difficult to come by as busy paid search managers. However, paying close attention to your ad testing efforts can ultimately lead to reduced click costs, enhanced click-through rates and more qualified traffic as a whole.

The staff here at PPC Hero is always looking for ways to help our readers understand and develop their accounts further, so we decided to focus our first blog series of the New Year on ad testing and how to get the most value from your efforts. So without further ado, here are some of our best practices you should consider using when testing your own ads!


Abide by the basics.

Are your keywords in the ad headline and/or description? If the answer is no, you should probably consider revisiting your ad text and find a way to include your keyword(s). Aside from contributing to higher Quality Scores, keywords placed in the ad copy itself can help your ad stand out from the rest because they appear in bold after a user’s search query triggers the ad on the SERPs. This can be a great way to boost your click-through rates.


Create a benchmark.

Before diving into an ad test, it is important to create a data benchmark. These will come in handy as you start testing more variations down the road. Documenting your testing efforts might seem overly meticulous, but it can be worthwhile in the long run because you’ll then have detailed access to the ads that worked and those that didn’t.


Be creative.

Ad testing is a great way for PPC managers to flex their creative muscles because the combinations are nearly endless. Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it is particularly important to keep this in mind: you’re competing against several other companies that offer the same products/services. As a result, part of your focus should include coming up with creative means to reach your audience. For example, you could try mentioning prestigious awards your company has received that demonstrate exceptional customer service. The possibilities are endless!


Keep the interfaces in mind.

In order to set up your ad test correctly, you need to be aware of which interface you are using. This is important because the ad rotation is treated differently in Google AdWords compared to Microsoft adCenter. In AdWords, advertisers have the ability to choose from three different ad rotation settings. However, in adCenter, the system will automatically deliver the best performing ad as they accrue data over time. To avoid running into this issue, it is best practice to create new ads to test against each other (create a new control ad to test against your experiment ad). This way, the historical performance of your control ad won’t affect the test itself and ultimately gives you a better set of data to work with. Felicia and Sarah will cover this concept in more detail later this week, so stay tuned.


Utilize statistical significance when making decisions.

One variation of the phrase describes statistical significance as the amount of evidence required to accept that an event is unlikely to have arisen by chance. In other words, the data will speak for itself when testing two or more things. Of course we can all have opinions as to which ads work better than others, but opinions alone can’t pinpoint a true winner. This is why it is important to use statistical significance to determine your best performing ads since the data is the only thing taken into account, free of bias.


Test only one element at a time.

Deciding which element to test can be a tricky situation because the combinations are nearly endless. This is why it becomes important to focus in on one element only for each test. Here are some elements all advertisers should be testing: headlines, descriptions, display URLs, punctuation and capitalization. For example, I could compare two different headlines against each other or two variations of a display URL. The sky is the limit here, just be sure to focus on one element with each test and leave the other components of the ad constant.


Use traffic flow to determine a healthy timeframe.

Traffic patterns vary from industry-to-industry and client-to-client. This is why it is important to determine what will be considered a sufficient timeframe or data set before launching your test. As a general rule of thumb, I use 200/1000 of a predetermined metric (typically clicks or impressions) to indicate the timeframe. If traffic tends to move slowly in my account, I would lean more towards the 200 mark. However, if traffic tends to move quickly, I would use a higher value (such as 1000) for my testing timeframe instead. Essentially, it all comes down to how long it takes the account to collect a sufficient data set, so choose wisely!


Never stop testing.

Always be on the lookout for new ideas to test because the combinations are nearly endless. If you’re having trouble finding new ideas to test in your ad copy, you can start tying in textual variations from your landing pages. You could also try doing some reconnaissance to find out what your competitors are highlighting/offering for additional ideas. So what are you waiting for? Test, test and test some more!


Be sure to tune in tomorrow for Felicia’s post on how to set up ad tests in Google and Bing! Thanks again for reading and feel free to leave any additional commentary/experiences below!