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Split Testing in PPC Advertising

by Brian Colling - June 26, 2013

A/B split testing is fairly commonplace in pay-per-click advertising (PPC). Most PPC advertisers are already conducting some form of A/B split testing within their campaigns. The idea of comparing two variations of an ad to determine which one is getting the highest click-thru rates is nothing new.

However, what many marketers fail to realize is that A/B split testing can do much more than simply telling you ad A outperforms ad B. When done correctly split testing can give you new insights into your target audience and provide you with a lot of clarity for your PPC campaigns.

Why A/B Split Testing?

The answer is simple really. If you don’t test you’re essentially gambling on the outcome of your campaign. What works for one campaign won’t always work for others. Just because you’ve had success with an email newsletter or radio spot doesn’t mean those results will carry over to PPC. Why throw money down the drain guessing what works. If you want higher conversions and better ROI split testing is a necessity.

What Elements Should I Be Split Testing?

The first (and most common) element of your PPC advertising campaign you should test is the ad copy. When it comes to pay-per-click the title and the body of the ad copy are the two most important factors to creating killer pay-per-click outcomes or missing the mark entirely. In other words, you have to get the copyright.

But that doesn’t mean you want to run out and split test to completely different advertisements against each other. Sure, in some cases it works, but for most PPC campaigns you want to start by breaking your tests into individual elements. Split testing two variations of headlines with the same ad body copy will help you determine which headline peaks your audience’s attention more. Running a few headlines A/B split tests should give you plenty of insight into those words and messages that are most important to your audience.

Once you’ve refined your headlines simply move on to the ad copy contained in the three lines below. The call to action contained in the copy body is the most important element to developing a successful campaign and you’ll need to spend time split testing and reworking your ad copy if you plan on getting the most out of your PPC advertising campaign. Creating a compelling call to action in three lines or less is no simple task and it’s usually a good idea to work closely with a professional internet advertising company with experienced copywriters to create the perfect hook for your customers.

Another element of your pay-per-click ad you’ll want to split test is the destination URL. Canonical URLs (addresses comprised of descriptive words and not random input) perform much better in PPC advertising. Research has shown that search engine users are far more likely to click on a link when they feel comfortable that they know what content they can expect on the page. Don’t use URLs like www.example.com/663rl/ref-1636A and instead opt for clean semantic URLs like www.examples.com/products/kayaks; you’ll see much greater success from your PPC efforts.

Most marketers stop after A/B testing the elements contained within the ad. But if you really want to get the biggest impact from your pay-per-click marketing campaign there are a number of other external elements that need testing. For example, does your ad perform better at certain times of day, or certain weeks of the month? Understanding when your customers are more likely to follow your ad can help you to ensure you PPC advertisements reach them and the optimal time. Also, split test what position your ad performs best in. First is not always best; sometimes the highest clicks come from PPC ads occupying the second and even third position in the results.

Lastly, don’t forget to split test your landing page. As professional pay-per-click marketers, we’ve managed countless PPC campaigns and the ones that perform the best always direct traffic to targeted and specific landing pages. What works for your organic visitors doesn’t always work for your paid traffic and vice versa. Make sure you’re giving your PPC ad the best chance to convert by directing your PPC traffic to a targeted and optimized landing page that compels them to act further and complete that sale.

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