Why Do We Test PPC Ads?

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

Novels have been written regarding the art of ad testing. Whether it involves the creation of persona-based ad copy or a re-evaluation of your core testing metrics, there are countless posts educating us on how to make the most of our ads. But while there might be a lot of information out there about how we should test our ads, there aren’t many that try to explain why.

This topic is pretty self-evident to those of us with years of experience. “Of course we should test our ads”, you may say, “it’s a best practice!” The problem is that we often take the reasoning behind this task for granted. It’s incredibly time-intensive, so there’s some real value in educating (or reminding) folks of the benefits of consistent, programmatic ad testing.

So why do we do it?

1. It’s How We Grow Our Accounts

There are three ways we can grow our accounts. They are:

  • Targeting new things (new keywords, platforms, devices, campaign types)
  • Getting better at turning your impressions in to clicks (by ad testing).
  • Getting better at turning your clicks in to conversions (by Conversion Rate Optimization- covered by Sam Owen later this week).

Of the three, adding new targeting methods can be the most problematic. While you can (and should) experiment with new keywords and platforms, at some point you will be limited by the number of relevant impressions that are available. The solution, then, is to do a better job of utilizing the relevant impressions that you already have.

A pie chart
Imagine that those are impressions being captured rather than banana cream pie being eaten.

This is a simple argument, but let’s use the following account metrics as an example:

Hence why you should test your ads.
Hence why you should test your ads.

Absolutely nothing changes in this example save for our Click-Through Rate. By increasing our CTR from 1.41% to 1.55%, we see a domino effect throughout the rest of our metrics: clicks, conversions, and cost all increase accordingly. While a 10% jump in CTR is a lot- especially for one test- it’s not unrealistic to see this kind of improvement over several test cycles.

It’s simply worth your time to pursue ad testing because it allows you to make the most of your best keywords. Capturing more of the available pie of impressions, if you will.

(See what I did there?)

2. A Higher CTR = a Higher Quality Score

It’s been well established that your ad’s expected Click-Through Rate factors heavily in to Quality Score. In fact, it’s likely given the most weight of any part of the whole calculation.

The benefits of a higher quality score are numerous and well documented. But suffice it to say: a higher CTR = a higher Quality Score = a better-performing account. That higher CTR starts with your ad, so test it!

3. We Can Control Our Messaging And Test Things Others Cannot

One of my biggest pet peeves in recent memory relates to an article I wrote last year, The 15 Ad Networks to Use Instead of AdWords. I put a lot of work in to it, especially in making sure that all of the SEO data was correct. So what do I see these days when I look at the results page for that post?

I literally don't even remember writing this part of the post.
I literally don’t even remember writing this part of the post.

Are you kidding me? This is what Google has selected as the most relevant snippet to show alongside this post? I have zero control over my messaging there, and it’s impossible to tell what the post is actually about. It’s incredibly frustrating.

This is an egomaniacal example to be sure, but let’s use a real life ad to compare the differences. I’ll go with Comcast- they’re top-of-mind for me right now since I’m about to yell at them because of my cable bill:

Prepare yourself for my wrath, Comcast.

There’s a pretty big difference between the two here. It can be an ordeal to update the organic listing (and I would know, see my slighted post above), but updating the copy of that ad is a much simpler process. They have the capability to pitch new deals (the new $79.99/month price point), new calls to action (No Contract Today), and new features/benefits (50 Mbps… allegedly) with relative ease.

They can also test the accompanying sitelinks, providing easy access to the most effective pages within their site. In addition, the flexibility of the ad copy (and the AdWords system behind it) can also allow for easy device & landing page tests. But this message control allows for a greater benefit:

4. It Tells Us What Features, Benefits & CTAs Are Effective

For instance: when I refresh that exact same Comcast ad, I get one of two price points. One is at $79.99/month, the other at $59.99. This is a basic test, but just as valid as a wholesale copy swap. Which one of these two price points will be more effective for them and their goals? While the $59.99 may have a higher CTR, it may have a lower Conversion Rate, or a lower visitor lifetime value.

Their bottom line may be better with the higher price point featured full-time… but they’ll never know unless they test it first.

There is one other benefit to our extensive testing: we get a ton of statistically significant/valid data, and there’s no need to be greedy with it.

5. You Can Share What You’ve Learned With Other Marketing Channels

I’ve had several clients make use of our ad copy findings in use with their social, email, and direct mail marketing channels. When you have 12,000,000 impressions per month backing up your conclusion that your rebate promotion beats the stuffing out of your free accessory promotion… that tends to get attention. Comcast might be finding the same thing with their price point promotion, and I guarantee that that information will be shared elsewhere.

The conclusions you can draw from a well-run ad test can be incredibly valuable to you and/or your clients. Don’t hoard it!

These are only a few of the myriad benefits of ad testing, but they’re certainly my favorite. If you have others that we haven’t mentioned, or want to extol the virtues of measuring ads with a multi-faceted metric like Impressions Until Conversion, let us know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading!

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