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A key element of any successful advertising campaign is the ability to make data-driven strategy decisions. If you’re not using proven performance data to inform optimizations, odds are your search campaigns are not running as efficiently and effectively as they could be. That’s where A/B testing comes in.
What Is A/B Testing?
A/B testing, also known as split testing, is the process of comparing two variations of an ad component and concluding which is more effective. The beauty of this type of paid search testing is that nearly every element of a paid search text ad is testable—headline, ad description, display URL, even the landing page. Everything can be tested, and each individual piece will provide valuable information that can benefit your business.
Why You Should Use A/B Testing
Think of A/B testing as an online focus group for your business. Split testing is one of the best ways to learn about what messaging resonates with your audience. Do they respond to “Call Now” or “Get a Quote”? Do they prefer messaging that calls out quality or messaging that calls out a large selection?
Once you have clear winners, you can implement changes not only in your paid search campaigns, but it can also inform messaging on other marketing materials—landing pages, emails, etc. A/B testing allows you to learn about your audience while providing you with actionable results. “Actionable” being the keyword there.
Another benefit of A/B testing is that, as you hone in on messaging that works with your audience, your CTR will inevitably rise. When CTR rises, so does quality score. And when quality score rises, CPCs drop. Guess what that means? You get to serve even more paid ads! More paid advertising means more tests and more valuable information that can help you learn about your audience and drive more business!
How to Get Started with Paid Ad Tests
If you’re in the midst of putting together a new paid search campaign, it would be in your best interest to do some A/B testing. But where do you start? As you build out your campaign and are looking for ways to ensure your tests go well, keep these tips in mind as you go.
Test One Element at a Time
When beginning A/B tests, don’t try to test too many items at once. Focus on one item at a time and be sure that you keep all other elements over your ads the same. When you test multiple elements at once, you lose visibility into which levers you pulled that are producing results and which are not. On top of that, by focusing on single elements, you give your business the chance to truly hone in on what works for your audience, allowing you to make small changes over time that are in line with what you’ve seen be successful over time.
Wait to Determine Results
Just like trying to test too many things at once, jumping to conclusions quickly when running A/B tests can be equally as detrimental. The better test results come from waiting until you have served enough impressions for your findings to be statistically significant (i.e., at least 1,000+ impressions). By saying a different CTA led to better click-through rates after only a few hundred impressions when your typical ad will usually pull in tens of thousands, you could be setting yourself up for failure. Let your A/B tests run their course and make more informed decisions at the end.
Keep an Eye on Valuable Metrics
With each test that you run, you’ll be able to compile some valuable metrics on items like bounce rate, exit rate, link clicks, form completions, total engagements, and more. These can end up showing you what your audience is responding to or not, and you can then use these metrics to optimize your campaigns further. From there, you can expand on your success and tinker with the things that aren’t working. But you won’t know what these poor performing elements are without the metrics from testing. Split testing exposes the poor performing elements and allows you to stop wasting money on strategies that don’t work.
Don’t Stop Testing
Even as you determine winning tactics, keep testing! Paid search is not a “set it and forget it” area of digital marketing. If you’re not continuously optimizing, you’re missing out on potential business. Customers change over time. That’s why it’s important to have paid ad strategies agile enough to adapt to that.
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