How To A/B Test Google PPC Ads

Daniel Wade

by

Daniel Wade

 / 

May 11, 2020

Pay per click (PPC) advertising is one of the most efficient digital marketing tools to increase traffic and increase the chances of conversions. However, if not done correctly, it can also prove to be very costly.

If you want to succeed in PPC advertising, you need to understand one thing: differently-formulated ads targeting the same product or service can bring different results in terms of clicks and conversions. One ad may bring higher clicks and/or conversions than another. Therefore, you should strive to understand the factors making one ad better and take advantage of them to increase the effectiveness of your campaign.

How can you know these elements making one ad better than the other? Conduct A/B split testing! We're going to look at what A/B testing is, its importance, and how to ab test PPC ads to boost a campaign's chances of success.

Table of contents

What is A/B Testing or A/B Split Testing?

We'll be interchanging the terms A/B, AB, and split testing in this context because they basically mean the same. This is a test involving two variations A and B, and hence the name. What happens is that these two variations of the same factor are tested against each other to determine the one performing better. While conducting the test, all other factors are kept constant.

If one factor variation performs better than another, then it's the most suitable choice for the campaign. Let's take an example to help you understand better.

Ad version A:

Award-Winning PPC Agency | Quality Optimization

Flexible Pricing Options from $500 PM

Guaranteed Results

Yoursite.com

Ad version B:

No.1 PPC Company | The Best Digital Marketing Agency

Flexible Pricing Options from $500 PM

Guaranteed Results

Yoursite.com

The above are just simple examples meant to help you understand what is AB testing. The information displayed on these ads is the same, but it's presented in a slightly different way. You can run these ads for several days to see which one performs better. Next, you can change another element to see which variation performs better.

Why Should You Be Concerned About A/B Split Testing?

While PPC advertising is an effective form of marketing, it's also an area where you can spend a lot of money unnecessarily. It's wise to make sure you're getting the best ROI for the money you're spending: maximum profits and fewer losses. By integrating A/B split testing into your campaign, you can determine which factors are working better than others and capitalize on those. You can make various changes to increase your CTR and conversion rate, both of which are crucial factors in boosting your ROI.

How to A/B test Google PPC Ads

Determine Your Goals and Which Metrics to Use for Measuring

You want to create effective ads, but what do you want those ads to achieve for you? Do you want to increase brand recognition, get visitors to sign up for something, or drive a sale? That is what defining your goals is all about. If you simply want to get your brand out there so that more people can know it, then the most appropriate metric to use when split testing PPC ads is the click-through-rate (CTR). If your aim is generating leads or sales, the conversion rate is what you need to focus on. These are not the only metrics; there are others you can use depending on your goals.

  • CPC (Cost-per-click) - CPC is vital because it's the number that will determine how much the whole campaign will cost and whether it will be successful. Since your campaign's overall ROI is determined by the quality of traffic you're receiving from the money you have invested in clicks, you may want to identify and target valuable but less costly clicks.
  • Cost per Conversion - This is the total cost used to convert one visitor into a buyer, calculated by dividing the total cost of traffic to the total number of conversions. This metric is crucial to help you manage your ad budget.
  • Unique visitors - It helps you determine your ad campaign's success in targeting new visitors and potential customers.

Your chosen metrics will depend on what you want to achieve in the end. If a metric increases, then you will know the element you're testing is responsible for that increase, and you'll adjust as necessary.

Know Which Factors to Test

Several factors play a part in creating an effective ad: The headline, body, keywords, and display URL. You can test one or more elements to know how best to optimize them for better results.

  • Ad headline - Generating a compelling headline that entices web visitors to click is crucial. That's why during A/B testing, you should create ads with different headline variations to determine which one is attracting more viewers to click. You can see the results by viewing the impressions you're getting from the number of clicks of receiving. This is your standard CTR. The more catchy and impressive your ad headline is, the more it entices web visitors to click on your ad.
  • Ad description - The description is a perfect chance to stand out from your competitors. However, it's also an area where many people fail. They check their competitors' ads and copy their descriptions. As you split test PPC ads, be creative, and include positive selling points in your ad's body that set you apart from others. However, don't promise anything you can't deliver. That will end up in wasted money because the user will leave your site once they realize your deal wasn't real.
  • Keywords - Keywords are the ones that will determine whether your ad will be displayed when a user is searching for a product or service. Therefore, you should AB test PPC ads with multiple, well-researched keywords. If particular keywords bring more conversions, concentrate on those for the best results. Think about which phrases your customer would use while searching for the product or service you provide, note them down, and test them to know which ones work best.
  • The display URL - Where does the URL you've included in your ad lead to? If your ad is aimed at selling a product, make sure the URL points to the product page. While directing users to your home page may be a good decision to let them know more about you, some may be impatient and maybe looking to buy your product and leave.

These are the main factors that determine the effectiveness of an ad. Create a list of all the possibilities depending on the factors you want to test. If you want to test the headline and description with two variations each, then you will run four tests. The more the possibilities, the more the tests.

Be Creative When Developing Ad Variations

People are different when it comes to making decisions to purchase. Some look at the price, others look at the quality of service or product, and others look at the risk of purchasing from you. Include different variations of these to know what most of your potential customers are looking for. For instance, in your ad, you can include the offer your company has to attract people looking for your product or service on a budget.

To target people who may be risk-averse, you can include something like a money-back guarantee. Test with different offers and see which ones bring you the most clicks. However, as we mentioned earlier, don't promise something you can't deliver.

Determine the Variations to Test, and Which Ones to Discard

There are tens of headline variations. While researching, you may even come up with a list that includes 20+ headline variations. However, that doesn't mean you should test all of them to know which ones produce the best results. This is where prioritization comes into play. If you decide to test all the variations, it means you'll spend a lot of money, which may not suit your budget.

Therefore, sort your list and prioritize variations from ones with the highest likelihood to the lowest likelihood of improving the performance of your ad campaign. Test the variations with the highest likelihood first before you go to the others.

Run the Actual Test

Everything is now in order: the elements you want to test and their variations. It's time to run the actual test. One thing you should note at this stage is that you shouldn't stop the test once you start seeing results. A few days into the test, the results may be too small to analyze and that analysis may not form a good basis for your decisions. Therefore, you should run the test for at least a week to get a significant number of results. Several thousand impressions are a wise choice for an accurate analysis of the data and effective decisions.

Another thing you should note is that days of the week influence various people differently. Some people like purchasing stuff on weekdays while others prefer doing it on weekends when they're free. That's why professionals recommend running the test for at least a week.

Track and Analyze the Results

You have run several tests, it's time to track and analyze the results. Tracking and analyzing is all about comparing tests with each other to find the winning combination. Two main things you should focus on are the click rates and conversions. If a particular combination gives the highest number of click rates and conversions, that's the one you should implement in your ad campaign.

What should you do if your analysis has conflicting results? For instance, one combination may have the highest number of click through rates but a lesser conversion rate. Another combination may have has fewer click-throughs, but a better conversion rate. In such a case, you need to run additional tests. Alter the variations a little in each test until you find the most suitable combination.

Other Tips to Keep in Mind When Conducting A/B Split Testing

  • Conduct simultaneous variation testing - What this means is that if you have two headline variations, run them at the same time. If you do one variation test and the other later, the time you'll wait can influence one variation negative/positively and result in inconclusive results.
  • Test each element at a time - You have a list of headline variations and description variations. Don't test different variations of these two factors at the same time; first, focus on the headline and then proceed to the description. Doing this allows you to determine what exactly is affecting your ad campaign's performance and work on it.
  • Don't wait until you're too much into the campaign to test - The market for various products and services is ever-changing; test early into the campaign and test often to make sure your ads conform to market changes.
  • Test other factors such as demographics and geographical location. You may be focusing your ads on a particular local area, but your campaign can do better if you target a wider area. Test to find out.
  • Don't forget the landing pages. Include a landing page that gives users the information they're looking for based on their search phrase. In the end, you either want them to buy or sign up, and you should give them just that. You can take this a step further and set up multiple landing pages and determine which one is converting better for you.

Let a PPC Professional Handle the A/B Testing Process For You

As you've seen, A/B split testing for Google PPC ads is a process that involves a lot of work: Determining the factors to test, developing various ad variations, prioritizing, running the tests, and tracking and analyzing results. Is this a process you can handle? Let a professional do it so that you can concentrate on other crucial areas of your business. A PPC agency has the experience, time, and resources to test everything and determine what is working and what isn't. The experts here can then also develop solutions to increase the effectiveness of your ad campaign to give you the best ROI.

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