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There are many ways you can spend your time optimizing your Adwords account in 2012. One of best ways to impact performance on your account is by ad testing. Not only can you increase click through rate but click through rate is the primary factor behind quality score. Improving your quality scores can decrease your costs, increase your impressions and improve your cost per acquisition. Over the years of writing and testing ads in Adwords these are lessons I’ve learned and rules I need to remind myself of to have an effective ad testing process. Start 2012 off right and stop or start doing the following things:

DO NOT pause or remove ads without statistically significant data

Avoid conversations with this guy about PPC ads. At my first paid search job I would frequently get in arguments about what ads were “better” and what people liked. That is a subjective argument you will never win. Enter your best friend in PPC, data and testing. You no longer have to have these discussions with anybody once an ad shows a statistically significant higher click through or conversion rate compared to the other ad or ads in rotation. There are multiple tools available to plug your data into and determine which ad has a statistically significantly higher click through rate or conversion rate. I prefer this tool from Web Share. Adwords also is making progress in the area of testing within their platform. Seer Interactive offers a great tutorial on how to implement ad testing within Adwords. Let data and performance make these decisions for you.

DO NOT track more than one ad element at a time

This is a VERY difficult one to practice. I will be writing ads and have multiple new elements I want to test. Once you add multiple variables to test your results become difficult to analyze. Elements in paid search usually are one of these:

  • headline
  • description line
  • display URL
  • punctuation
  • capitalization

There are multiple elements to test but PPC ads have a limited number of characters to work with. If you are testing only one element at a time it simplifies the process of telling what’s working and what’s not. These learnings can better inform writing ads in the future to improve results.

DO NOT have more ads in an ad group than allows you to get testing results in a reasonable amount of time

A good rule of thumb is your ad group should receive a minimum of 200 clicks a month for rotating two ads in the ad group. So, if your ad group gets 300 clicks it’s OK to rotate three ads. Most of our clients do not have the volume for more than two ads per ad group in rotation. It’s important to ensure ad groups have enough volume for you to reach statistical significance in your testing. If you have too many ads in an ad group based on the volume you are unable to make data informed decisions with your ads.

DO document learnings (winners, losers, and detailed notes)

Keep some type of testing document or spreadsheet. Keeping detailed documentation of your ads allows two things:

  1. You know what is working and you can expand those ads to other campaigns and ad groups
  2. You also know what is NOT working and you can learn to not repeat that ad copy in the future

After pausing or removing ads I try and do a summary and analysis of what I think was working and what was not. I prefer to have a spreadsheet with two tabs. One with new ads along with the published date. The other tab includes removed or paused ads. Each tab follows the standard columns in Adwords with-headline, description line 1, description line 2, display URL, and destination URL. Here’s a screen shot of one of the tabs:

After determining winning and losing ads I will update the new ads tab by highlighting the winning ads in green and the losing ads in red. I also will have a column for notes where I will add comments of what the conclusion of the test ad was. I’m sure there a many ways to do this process but what’s important is you document it and have a system to learn and optimize your PPC ads.

DO Set up a document or place for brainstorming and stage future ad tests

Writing ads is one of the more creative areas of paid search. Many times when I’m writing ads I will have many good ideas but then have to go back to my earlier resolution of only testing one element at a time. Take all these great ideas and place them in a document to use next time you have to write ads. I’d also suggest you provide detailed notes on the logic behind the element. I’ve documented ideas only to come back to them later and don’t understand my cryptic notes or vague references. Putting all of these ideas in one place also allows you to have an area to stage and prioritize future tests and elements. Because we collaborate in a team environment we typically use either a Google Doc or Basecamp for this document.

What tips do you have to share about an effective PPC ad testing process? Share in the comments.

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Ryan Campbell

About Ryan Campbell

Ryan is an Account Director with Add3. When Ryan is not geeking out over PPC he enjoys watching football and basketball. And then trying to avoid serious injury on his mountain bike, skiiing(when he has the time), and spending time with his family.

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