Hope You Weren't Planning On Split Testing Your URLs

By Eric Couch | @ecouch11 | Account Manager at Bing Ads

Here at PPC Hero, we’re always game for a good round of split testing.  We split test lunch locations (let me tell you about Potbelly Sandwiches…), hairstyles, ad copy, landing pages, all kinds of things.  So when one of our recent meetings led us all to the conclusion to do some more split tests on Display URLs with additional and/or different text after the base URL, we were champing at the bit to get started.

Incidentally, you could also split test champing vs. chomping at the bit.  Talk amongst yourselves.

No sooner than you could make an obscure Sean Quadlin-esque reference, we started noticing a particularly infuriating bug in the latest release of the AdWords Editor 9.8.1 while trying to split test some shiny new Display URLs.  Well, at least we thought it was a bug at the time…

Here’s the problem:  When you go to upload an ad through the latest version of the editor, either via a .CSV file, or “Make Multiple Changes”, it won’t make a duplicate version of the ad with the different Display URL if the rest of the ad is identical.  Go ahead and give it a try.  I dare you.

See?  I thought so.

So what’s the deal?  We did a little digging, and here’s what we’ve found.  According to the Google Employee posting on the AdWords community forum here says, and I quote:


“A change was made in Editor 9.8.1 whereby, during CSV import (or Add Multiple), display and destination URLs are no longer considered “key” fields (that is, fields used to match rows from CSV text against actual ads present in the account). Text ads are only matched on headline, description 1 and description 2 now.

This change allows one to edit display and destination URLs on existing ads – a very popular request. Previously, it required jumping through some hoops.

Unfortunately, this change does make it impossible to import two ads that differ only in display and destination URLs, since they are now considered duplicates. If your use case is common, we may have to reconsider our design.”


Totally understandable, right?  Maybe so in the case of Destination URLs – as Google is probably looking for you to take advantage of the Content Experiments tool in Analytics when you split test your landing pages.  However, the Display URL is as much a part of your ad copy as the Headline or any other “key” field when it comes to messaging.  That’s what makes this change so confusing on our end, popular request or not.

So, here’s how to get around it.

If you find yourself needing to split test your Display URLs and/or Destination URLs in the immediate future, you’re going to have to get creative with Excel.  While coming up with your new display URL, be sure to add in some distinctive text to your headline.  You can be as flavorful as you want, just be sure you can remember it.  Like so:

Add some additional text to the headline to create your duplicate ad.
Not pretty, but functional.

When you go to upload your new ad copy, including the new URLs, the new text added to the headline creates a new ad for you to work with in the Editor interface.  Granted, the headline is probably a bit too long from your creative ASCII additions, but we’re about to remove it with every PPC professional’s favorite tool:  Find and Replace.

Use the Replace text option in the editor to remove your extraneous text.
Best. Friends. Forever.

Replace the newly added text in your headline (or in one of your description lines, we’re not too choosy) with a blank space, leaving you with a perfectly pristine duplicate ad ready to split test your Display and Destination URLs.

A simple enough tip maybe, but this little “bug” has been driving us a bit crazy these last few weeks until we stumbled across the answer from that helpful Google employee.  Thankfully, said employee posted in that very same thread just yesterday with an update stating that they expect to provide an option to revert to the old behavior in the next Editor release.

Until that day comes though, make use of this quick tip to keep your split testing dreams alive.  If you’ve had any other similar struggles with the Editor, and you were intrepid enough to find your own workarounds, don’t be stingy – share them below!