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Why A/B testing for AdWords is a necessity

8th Jul 2015
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“What if” is a question that gets asked a lot in the day to day life. What if I had bought that? What if I hadn’t said that? What if I went there? What if, what if, what if?

That’s a lot of questions to have on your mind and there is always the dilemma of not knowing which option would have been the better one. However, thanks to A/B testing you don’t have to think “what if” when it comes to your pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.

What is A/B testing?

The premise itself is very simple, you run two campaigns alongside each other – campaign A and campaign B – and see which one works best. By setting this system up you give yourself an unparalleled view of which aspects of your AdWords campaigns work and which ones you need to get rid of ASAP.

How it works is that half your audience will see campaign A, while the other half is given campaign B. Both are aiming to convert the audience but are using different wording, pictures, landing pages etc. to do so. From this you will then get an overall percentage of how many people converted – typically one campaign will be higher than the other.

While the campaign with the higher conversion rate is generally the one you would opt for, you can then delve into the greater details like CTR, CPC and Bounce Rate to find out which aspects of each campaign worked best.

Taking the best of both

Split testing doesn’t stop here though. Instead of simply going with campaign A or B, you modify each slightly to improve on the factors you picked up on in the initial test. You’re essentially creating a hybrid between the two, using the best aspects of both campaigns in order to create a super campaign that your audience will respond well to.

I’m not going to lie, this can be a time consuming process and it really is never ending. There’s always something that can be improved on and tweaked, but taking the time to do it right can be incredibly beneficial.

It is advisable to only test one variable at time in order to give you the best understanding of what works, however the results gained from this test should be used in further testing to assess the most and least effective aspects of the ads.

Benefits of A/B testing

If seeing an increased conversion rate isn’t enough of a benefit for you, then perhaps a clear cut, black and white explanation will show just exactly why this type of testing is vital:

  • Increased profitability – you can tweak your ads to perfection, giving you low CPC and high conversion rates putting the overall costs higher into the profit margin.
  • Eliminate bounce clicks – without properly optimising your AdWords you could be wasting money producing ads that aren’t properly targeted to your audience. A/B Testing helps to eliminate this.
  • Boost your CTR – you’d be surprised by how much simple word choices can influence people to click on your adverts. A/B testing helps you find that sweet spot by testing a range of similarly worded ads.
  • Test new CTA buttons – similarly to the wording option above, a change of imagery in the call to action button can have a huge impact. By split testing you can find out just how big a difference there is between choosing a blue button and a red one.
  • Mobile vs desktop – this is a competition that’s constantly increasing and thanks to A/B testing you can find out exactly which type of adverts work best on each platform. You can even split test on specific platforms i.e. mobile ads to really narrow down your campaigns and maximise potential.

Whichever way you cut it there are a whole heap of benefits to A/B testing, helping you to tailor your ads to the audience, increase profitability and cut costs. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that this is something that’s definitely worth investing in, but how often should it be done?

When to A/B test?

This is the tricky bit, as it will change from campaign to campaign and will largely depend on your budget. If possible, test all the time – never stop testing. If you want the best ads then you have to constantly analyse, tweak and modify your content until it physically cannot work any better.

If this isn’t an option for you then your best bet is to test early on in your campaign to find out what works best and then check back every couple of days or weeks. Make sure that you don’t simply leave your campaigns to run on a long term basis without testing, as trends change and failure to react and adapt to these changes can cost you dearly.

Don’t be afraid to go against your gut feeling slightly. It is always surprising what works and what doesn’t and if you’re too close to the project then you can get wrapped up in terminology and the ‘correct’ way of doing things. With A/B testing you can put in variables that you wouldn’t expect to work – if they don’t then there’s no loss, but if they do then you could be on to a real winner!

Don’t lose out to competitors

PPC is a highly competitive industry, and if you aren’t A/B testing your ads regularly to make sure they’re still on point then you can bet your bottom dollar that your competitors will be doing just that! Don’t let them get the better of you.

Make sure you stay organised and keep on top of your AdWords. It may be time consuming and it can be tedious work, but what you will gain from it is invaluable. 

Rhys John is digital marketing executive at Thomas Design

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