Let’s Get That Ad Test Started Now!

By Diane Anselmo | @diane_anselmo | Associate Director of Services at Hanapin Marketing

Ad testing is a topic that comes up quite frequently in the PPC world and, quite frankly, years ago it used to make me cringe! Don’t get me wrong. Ad testing is not only a great practice for your accounts – it’s also a necessary task. Imagine a brand that ran the same TV commercial year after year without ever changing or a company that placed the same ad in the newspaper every week. We would definitely notice that their message seemed stale and outdated.


So why should PPC ads be any different? Remember, as PPC advertisers, our ads are our face to our audience. Poor ad copy can result in low CTR and poor overall performance. Therefore, we need to be diligent about taking the time to test and measure different variations of our ads.


The reason I say that ad copy used to make me cringe is because it always seemed like such a huge and tedious task, full of ambiguity. Add in the challenge that PPC advertisers only get a 25 character headline and 70 characters (spaces included) to say everything they want to say about their product or service.


I never quite knew where to start and I didn’t have a good plan on what elements of an ad should be tested. Like anything else, time and experience helped me arrive at a place where ad testing isn’t merely a task on my list. Rather, it’s a strategy that I can employ to help my clients improve performance and grow their accounts.


So Where DO You Start?


When embarking on the ad testing journey, a clear starting point might not always be obvious. Don’t let this hold up your progress. Just find a place you deem worthwhile and get started! Perhaps choose an ad group that gets a good amount of traffic so that you won’t have to wait too long to see the results of your test. As you know, you’ll need enough data behind your test to define a clear winner.


Once you’ve chosen your starting point, it’s time to start thinking about WHAT to test. Following are some ad tests that I’ve conducted in the past and have found to be successful. But, before you get started, my first recommendation is to take the time to perform searches on some of your keywords and look at what your competitors are doing. Look for common themes within your competitor’s ads and resolve to do something different. Your audience is more likely to notice your ad because it conveys a message different from the rest.




Let’s face it—your headline is most likely the first part of your ad that your audience will read. With a 25 character limit, sometimes your options can be limited. However, it is to your advantage to test out different headline options and look to stand out among the rest. Instead of placing your product price in the body of your ad, try putting it in the headline. If you have a brand name that is lengthy, try removing it from the headline and moving it into the description. That will open up opportunities to test other verbiage in the headline. In the images below, you can see that I tested placing the price in the headline against placing it in the description.


Image of price in headline
The product’s price is in the headline
Image of price in description
The product’s price is in the description




While you may believe that your call-to-action is perfect for your audience, you might be one verb away from increasing your CTR, but you won’t know until you test it. I once switched “Request More Information” to “Get More Information” and saw a significant rise in performance. Perhaps requesting something seems like a lot more work than getting something to people. Whatever the reason, calls-to-action are something you should regularly test in your ad copy.


Display URL


Though the domain has to stay the same, we do have the option of adding descriptive words to the end of our display URLs. So, instead of having www.xyz-resort.com, try www.xyz-resort.com/spadeals if your ad is specifically geared toward a resort’s special spa deal. Though the resort name alone might get brand recognition, adding in spa deals to the display URL may better capture someone’s attention.




Though it may sound like an insignificant thing, testing out different punctuation may result in a change in performance. I am particularly partial to testing ads that utilize question marks, as I’ve seen success here. Asking the users a question tends to engage the audience and capture their attention. Also, consider adding an exclamation point in your ad and monitor performance changes.


Competitive Advantage


Does your company have a competitive advantage that stands out above the rest? If so, make sure you incorporate it in your ad copy. Remember that half the battle is to have your ad stand out from a page full of similar ads that basically all say the same thing. Presenting a competitive advantage will help your ad pop out and catch the attention of your audience.


Benefits vs. Features


Test ads that highlight the benefits of your product or service against ads that highlight the features. Taking into consideration how deep into the funnel your audience is might help dictate which will perform best. If you’re able to identify that, you’ll be able to better understand whether a feature or benefit will resonate better with your audience.


Image of text ad
Highlighting benefits
Image of text ad
Highlighting features


Switching Description Lines


Another test where I’ve seen success is in switching the first description line with the second line. Though I’m typically used to placing my call-to-action at the end of an ad, it’s worth testing how that same call-to-action performs on the first description line.


Final Thoughts


The ideas above are some of my favorite tests to run, but are certainly not all-inclusive of the ad testing that you can run. While you may be excited to start testing your ads, something important to note is that remaining organized is key for successful ad testing. In order to truly understand what changes affected performance, you should only test one element at a time until your test has reached enough statistical significance to declare a winner. That way, you can clearly identify what element of your test worked. Once a test is completed, you can then advance to the next test. Hopefully, you’re all feeling motivated to jump into your accounts and start the testing process right now. Though there’s a bit of work behind it, it’s a process that can lead to increased account metrics and success.