April 28, 2016 · Meisha Bochicchio

Everything You Need To Know About PPC Ad Testing

Welcome to the exciting world of pay per click (PPC) advertising! Whether you are a newbie or a weathered industry expert, you should be at least familiar with the concept of ad testing. We’ll touch on just about every single thing you could ever need to know about PPC Ad Testing and then some in this article. We will also approach testing from a travel and tourism perspective, though the information included is certainly relevant to other industries. So – let’s get to it!

What Is Testing?

Testing, also called “A/B Testing” or “Split Testing”, is the process of isolating a single variable and running different versions of that variable to determine which variation performs better based on a predetermined KPI (key performance indicator). It is important to discuss goals up front, like what KPI you are optimizing for, and what variable you are going to test before you get started.

Why Test?

The process of testing is incredibly valuable to advertisers as it allows one to continually improve campaign metrics and therefore performance metrics. From a PPC perspective, testing allows one to try different ad copy and ad features to ensure the best possible ads are running at all times.

Things To Test

Now that you are familiar with the testing basics it is time to decide on exactly what you want to test when it comes to your ppc ads. The options are essentially limitless, though you will want to be sure to only test one thing at a time.

Ad Copy – Target KPI = CTR

 Ad Copy is one of the first things that comes to mind when PPC testing is brought up. Specific ad copy elements that can be tested include:

  • Offer – $ amount versus % amount; different deals / specials, etc.
  • Sense of Urgency – “Limited Time Offer”, “Only x Rooms Left”, etc.
  • DKI Dynamic Keyword Insertion inserts a searched keyword into your ad and can be a handy way to connect with a searcher
  • CTAs – Experiment with different calls to action like “book now”, “call now for details”, etc.

Keep in mind that you can test the title of your ad as well as the two lines of copy that will appear below the title. You can also experiment with different Display URLs, which is also customizable in the main ad copy area.

Ad Extensions– Target KPI = CTR

Ad extensions are a way to display additional information about your product or service and come in several formats:
App Extension – Show a link below your ad that will send people to download your app.
Call Extension – Give searchers the options to click-to-call with a call extension.
Callout Extension – Add a short, descriptive statement to help your ad stand out with a callout extension.
Consumer Rating – Highlight what customers care about with automated survey data.
Dynamic Structured Snippets – Dynamic structured snippets show additional landing page details within your ad.
Location Extension – Showcase your exact location and address with a location extension.
Previous Visits – This handy extension will show a user how many times they have visited a site in the past and the last time the site was visited. 
Review Extension – Showcase positive reviews through reputable sources with the review extension.
Seller Rating – The seller rating extension is a great way to showcase your online business rating.
SitelinksSitelinks appear below your ad and can help your ad take up more room on the SERP. Additionally, they can help searchers to go a more specific portion of your website. For hotels, this might be an amenities page, accommodations page, or deals page.

hotel ppc ad with sitelinks
In this example, Hilton has sitelinks that go to four specific pages on their site, including a booking engine link and a link to their direct booking campaign.

Not every single extension is right for every single business. However, you might not know until you try! Begin by simply testing whether running an extension is beneficial to your ad performance and then move into testing different variations against each other to optimize your KPIs.
We’ve personally seen success in the travel and tourism industry by testing and optimizing different sitelinks, call extensions, and callout extensions.

Final URL – Target KPI = Conversion Rate or Conversion Metrics (Sales, Revenue, etc.)

conversion rate optimizationThe final URL is where people are directed once they click on your ad. There are two different ways to approach a final URL test. The first is to experiment with different landing pages like the homepage, specials page, or booking engine / purchase page to see which page performs better. The second approach involves testing an individual feature on a single page, like a call to action, images, or copy and sending ads to two different versions of the one page. Both versions are useful for different situations.

Testing Best Practices

There are several things to keep in mind when completing a PPC A/B Test. 
1.) Test only ONE element at a time. Yes, multi-variable testing (testing more than one variable at a time) does exist but can get quite complicated and is better for more complex situations. PPC Testing is pretty simple, so stick to the basics and only test out one element at a time. This means that everything else remains the same, except for the one single element that you are going to test.
2.) Test variations simultaneously. Though you can run one version of your ads and then follow up with another version of the ad, it is a much better practice to test variations simultaneously to minimize any time-based factors that might throw off the results.
3.) Start with a clean slate. To ensure statistically accurate information, pause all other ads in your ad group during the time you are completing an ad test. Also, create all new ads for the test as to not skew the results with existing ad data. Additionally, make sure the settings with your campaign are NOT set to self optimize, as this will skew your results.4.) Give it time. Though the time that it will take to accrue enough data to ensure statistical significance will vary, be sure to give your ad test enough time to run and gather enough data to determine a winner.
5.) Document everything. Whether you use a PPC platform that automates testing or are running tests the old fashioned way, be sure that you are documenting every change you make and the results or outcome of each test. Having a history will help you make smarter decisions in the future.
6.) Adjust & repeat. After your test is complete and your results are documented, make the necessary adjustments to your campaign based on the data you received and then start planning your next round of tests.

Additional Resources

Want to learn even more? Check out some of these helpful resources:
WordStream has compiled a great list of AB Testing success stories.
Familiarize yourself with Google AdWords best practices.
PPC Hero also has comprehensive guides for ad testing.

Hotel PPC Made Easy – As hotel marketing experts, Fuel can implement a variety of pay per click campaigns to boost your direct bookings. Drop us a line to see how we can help your hotel in the pay per click advertising space.

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