Jason Puckett

October 15, 2015

3 Steps for Building a Paid Acquisition A/B Testing Plan

A Tester's Mentality: Do You Yearn?

Are you a paid acquisition manager dying to know the secrets of conversion rate optimization? Do you yearn for learning? Do you desire to unlock the creative combinations that perform best for your brand or the brands you manage? We know the pain, and testing is your solution.

Do You Ever Yearn

The AdBasis team is here to help. This article is designed to help you start thinking like a tester. Even if you’ve been testing your ads previously, good optimization fundamentals are always important. Here are two key points to remember before we get started:

Don’t Isolate Ad Copy & Landing Page Tests

One mistake often made by acquisition marketers is to run landing page and ad copy tests independently. This inherently violates the principles of multivariate ad testing. When running a multivariate test, results may only be correct in the context of other variables. Meaning certain ads may only work well when being sent to certain landing pages, certain landing pages may only work well when ads are being served to specific keyword sets, etc. For more information on these theories, please read about Understanding Conversion Layers.


Testing is a Continuous Process

The diagram below illustrates the ideal process for ad optimization as a whole. Create tests, deploy them, collect data, make decisions & learn. The most important thing is that once you’ve learned something, leverage this learning to drive a new experiment. Optimization is a process that never ends.

Continuous Testing

But before you execute an ad test, here’s how to ensure that you’re approaching it correctly.

1. Identify Ad Testing Opportunities

Even before you create, there is a need for research. Identifying metrics that you would like to improve upon and associating these KPIs to the needs and buying stage of your searchers is imperative.

Where should you look for opportunities?

Your AdWords Account

You have ads running. You have fixed budgets for particular campaigns or product lines. Collectively, this is called your "ad environment". Here are some potential areas to evaluate:

  • Optimize ad copy by device - This is probably the easiest way to see an improvement in the first 30 days. Content is digested differently via mobile, if you have an awesome mobile experience, speak to that in your ad copy.

  • Don’t be afraid to run tests in your high volume campaigns - You may not chose to start with these campaigns, but once you’ve created some successful tests, applying these learnings to your high volume campaigns can impact ROI greatly.

  • Optimize landing pages by device - Certain landing pages may only work on certain devices, if you have multiple options for Final URL, use them.

  • Identify commonalities within the account - If you have multiple campaigns that use similar ad language, consider running the same test across multiple campaigns in order to collect data more quickly.

  • Identify 5 ads with your lowest ROI - Even if these ad groups have been historically low performing, the reason may be due to lack of test efforts.

It’s great to run tests on “evergreen” campaigns, as they can give an initial KPI boost to almost any ad environment. Evaluating these metrics and including qualitative knowledge about your business will help prioritize experiments.

Your Marketing Calendar

Your marketing calendar will tell you what you need to do. If you have a new product coming out, test the advertisements prior to the launch. If you have a busy season that begins at the end of January, start ad testing beforehand. Understand what the key metrics are before the demand spike and hit the ground optimal.

Marketing Calendar

2. Understand Which Elements Are Testable

Before we can build an ad testing plan, we have to know which variables (or “elements”) are testable within your paid acquisition funnel.

Targeting Variables - At the very top of the funnel, things can be changed. Who the ads are being served to, stage in the buying cycle and which devices the ads are being presented on. Each change made to targeting will require individual experiments.

Geography Keyword Sets
Campaigns / Ad Groups Remarketing (RLSA)
Device (Desktop vs. Mobile) Scheduling (Time / Day of Week)

Ad Copy Variables (Search Ads)

Headline Display URL
Description 1 Description 2

Ad Design Variables (Image Ads)

Background Images & Colors Headlines
Button Colors Subtext
Button Calls to Action Fonts / Placements / Font Color

Landing Page Variables

If you have a designer or web team that has provided you with multiple landing pages that make sense for a particular ad set, use them in your acquisition testing. Test these landing pages for each “purchasing scenario”.

3. Structure Your Ad Testing Plan Based on “Purchasing Scenarios” That Make Sense for Your Brand

Pick what you would like to learn, and work backwards. Remember, the purpose of ad experimentation is to find conclusions upon which you can rely. Begin your experiments by thinking "I'd like to know _____" or “I’d like to have the optimal ad for _____ situation”.

Examples of this include:

  • “I’d like to know if including ‘Buy From Your Phone Today’ as my Description 2 will increase conversion rate for my mobile ads in the United States”

  • “I’d like to find the optimal ad creative and landing page combination for our branded keywords”

  • “I’d like to understand which ad creative and landing page combination are optimal for selling Product X in the United States”

  • “I’d like to know if including geographic information in my ad copy and landing page increase CTR for Product Y”

Create an outline of your marketing calendar and identify what you’d like to know and areas you’d like to be optimal for.

Getting Started With Implementation

Once you’ve identified your testing opportunities, extracted the elements you’d like to test, and set your goals, you are now ready to test.

We know that testing can be a cumbersome process! It takes work to set up experiments, distribute tests, collect data and run calculations. If you’re looking for a great tool to help automate this process, please feel free to sign up for AdBasis here. Sorry for the shameless plug, but we really can help. = )

Have a question for us? We'd love to hear from you!

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