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Dear Saint Google 2017

November 7th, 2017
by Bob Dumouchel

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the net not a disk drive was spinning, not even in the cloud.

The ads were hung by the SERP with care in hopes that conversions soon would be there.

The Keywords nestled all snug in their ad groups while visions of eligibility danced in their heads.

When out on the net there arose such a clatter I sprang from my Surface to see what was the matter.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear but Saint Google and eight AdWords Engineers….

The Engineers sprang to AdWords and opened the code exposing the luster of embedded objects below.

The code flew with such fury that smoke arose from the CPU as new features flowed from alpha to beta to production release.

Saint Google sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they flew, but I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Since 2008 we have written an open letter to Saint Google and we believe that Saint Google reads our blog because we get lots of things that have been on our lists. Regardless, we find this to be a fun tradition for a company that eats, lives, and breathes AdWords.

AdWords is a very robust system with lots of functionality so coming up with new things is harder than you would think but here goes. Please feel free to add to the list by commenting on this blog.

Negative Search Query

This has been on our list for a very long time and we are stunned that it has not been done yet because the upside benefits Google financially. Maybe one of these days Ruth Porat, Google’s CFO,  will read our blog and realize that Google is leaving billions on the table. The idea is simple – as most great ideas are. When an AdWords Account drops a search because of a negative keyword it would go on to the Negative Search Query list with the query, keyword match, negative keyword, and source level (MCC, Account, Campaign, Ad Group, or List). Advertisers would then review this and find ways to pick up traffic that they now exclude by mistake. Negative keywords are a powerful feature of AdWords but with great power comes great risk. Negative keywords can be a silent killer of traffic because you never see what you are excluding. I will bet Ms. Porat, that this change could result in over a billion dollars in Google revenue and I would like just a small percent (Think Tiny Tim’s voice from A Christmas Carol – please sir may I have some more). The surprising part of this is that Google benefits and the hook is already in the code. Right where the negative keyword is applied to the eligibility test, can you see it? We can! Save that data and let the cash registers ring in the new year!

Regex Keywords

Keywords are the core power of AdWords but they can often be difficult to control. What we would like are keywords with better control. Today we have broad, modified broad, phrase, and exact but we want more. We would like to see a keyword where we can specify some parts  broad with others as phrase or exact. We would like to see coding that would allow us to extend words with plurals, stems, and full broad matching. We also want the ability to extend this with keyword lists so we can stop putting the same keyword into the keyword list multiple times. Here is an example of what we want:

*Qualifiers [Plumbers] *Locations

In the qualifier list we could put things like emergency, 24 hour, etc… and in locations we could put all the local cities and from this one keyword we would get all of these keywords. In the keyword lists as in the keywords we would have broad, modified broad, phrase, and exact controls. In the above example the * is followed by the name of the list.

Give us back Phrase and Exact Keywords

In the past ‘exact and phrase’ actually were ‘exact and phrase’ and we would like this back. There is a difference in some cases between single and plural. Since strict matching application is a minority of the cases this could  be a flag on the keyword. We will forgive Saint Google for regifting.  

Better Distribution Control over Responsive Ad Format

Responsive ads are great but did you notice that with them Google took away an important control? It was kind of sneaky so if you missed it that might have been by design. In the olden days you could create image ads and run them separate from text so you could bid differently. The reason that we liked this ability is that the text listings are much lower value to many clients, so mixing text and image has always been against our internal best practice. We would like control over which formats run so we can turn off text and run them separately.  

Full Visual Disclosure of Responsive Ads

Responsive ads get rendered into many formats but the preview tools only show a few examples. This results in us finding formats out in the market that are not up to our standards. We need the ability to turn the different formats on or off while reviewing all possible formats.  

Data Patching

Within AdWords we would like to patch data to fix known errors and to remove misleading data from the analysis. Errors come in all shapes and sizes a common one is a conversion code installed on all pages of a website resulting in a huge number of conversions. We would like to be able to fix this with a data patch. Ideally this would be applied at the most detailed level and then rolled up by the system. Ask any Data Scientist and they will tell you that patching data is one of the first things they have to do for almost any project and they spend more time doing this than any other process. Patches have to support averaging, replacing, and time removal. When viewing data in graphs it will be important to know that a patch is being applied to the data.

Data Annotation

Closely related to Data Patching, annotations should work just like they do in Google Analytics. We should be able to put a note at any level and across any time frame. When displaying data in graphs it would be great to see indicators of the notes.

Organic on Page

We would like to know that when an ad got an impression when the domain was also in the organic results. This would be a separate counter in the database and dividing this by the impressions would give you your organic support percent. It would be amazing if they also gave us the organic click but lets save that for next year. We would not want Saint Google do think we are greedy.

Competitive Threat by Keyword

Part of this is already in the Insights but this would extend insights to the keyword level.  What we would like is to be able to code competitor domains with a ranking from don’t care to we hate them (think 0-5). Then have the system aggregate the competitor level in the keyword. Since it would be aggregate data it would not disclose the specific competitors but the advertiser would be able to change the weight.

Exclude Competitor Clicks

Allow exclusion of traffic known to be advertisers on the same words. We would like to be able to put in a domain and exclude any person known to be associated with that domain. AdWords accounts are associated with domains by the URL of the ads and with that association are email accounts that maintain that AdWords account. If that person searches we want to exclude our ad from showing. If it is not excluded we would want the fraud filter to pick this up and remove any clicks from that source.   

Repeat Clicks

Repeat clicks and impressions are when the same user clicks on an ad more than once. We all know that searchers perform similar searches and return to websites more than once often through ads. This would be similar to the new visitor data tracked by Google Analytics but broken down by keyword, ad group, ads, and campaigns.

Improve Quality Score History

Quality score history is a newer feature and it’s a nice start but we want more. We want quality score reported with the same history detail and dimensions as clicks or impressions. It would be great to see how Quality Score tracks as we make other changes to content and ads.

Quality Score please talk to Data Studio

Here at SMS we’ve been diving into Data Studio to better report back to our clients on the performance of their account. It’s amazing all the data we can report on in Data Studio but for some reason we cannot get Quality Score to report. Now that Google has recently launched Quality Score history, we would be able to see long term trends in that data.

Voice Search in SQR

In the last year or so, voice search has becoming much more important to marketing strategy. Starting with Siri and followed by Alexa, Google, and Cortana, voice search is everywhere and becoming more common with every new version of home assistants. We would like to see voice broken out by dimension like mobile, tablet, and desktop as well as detailed in the search query reporting.

Saint Google is REAL and we believe!

Like most omnipresent beings it takes some faith to believe in Saint Google but here at SMS we believe and we hope Saint Google is reading. Nobody knows if Saint Google is male or female or what race, creed, or color but faith gives us the ability to look beyond what is easy to prove. As a group we proclaim that “We Believe”.

Don’t Let Your AdWords Be Eclipsed By The Eclipse

August 18th, 2017
by Ryan

The nation’s attention is focused on the Solar Eclipse. This disruption, not only to the familiar patterns of the Sun, Earth and the Moon, also disrupts AdWords performance.

For those that have keywords that match ‘eclipse’ but are unrelated to the event, we would expect a spike in Eclipse based searches. This creates a spike in impressions (but not an increase in Conversions). Examples include Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eclipse software, etc.

While the Solar Eclipse happens occasionally, events outside your AdWords data is something that needs to be accounted for constantly. We are experts at maintaining AdWords performance despite events and news headlines that you cannot control.

Check out the trends for eclipse searches on google:

Eclipse and Search Volume

Display Network Do’s & Don’ts

February 20th, 2017
by Ryan

Display Network Do's & Don'ts

The dictionary defines a double edged sword as “something that has or can have both favorable and unfavorable consequences.”

Depending on how it’s utilized, the same could be said of the Display Network based on the settings that are in place. Today’s tip involves some do’s and don’ts to help give you the benefits of Display Network advertising while avoiding the unfavorable end of the double edged sword.

DO

Make Remarketing Part of Your Strategy

The reality is that amongst visitors going to your website for the first time, the vast majority will leave the first time without doing business. Remarketing is an excellent way to re-engage these visitors and has been proven to be an excellent and cost-effective source of traffic. The cost of this traffic is typically much lower (25%-50%) than regular search traffic and is highly effective in engaging past website visitors and helping to build brand name recognition.

DON’T

Over Advertise

While Remarketing is an excellent way to engage visitors, you don’t want to alienate these people by forcing your ads down their throat. The good news is that there is a way to easily control this.

– Go to Your Remarketing Campaign
– Select Settings
– Scroll down and find Advanced settings
– Select Ad delivery: Ad rotation, frequency capping

Display Network Advanced Settings

– Click Edit next to the section that says Frequency capping

Display Network Impression Capping

Typically, the balance we find that works best between helping businesses build brand name recognition versus people getting tired of seeing your ads is to have the frequency capping in the 3-5 range. This in turn helps us control how often each individual user is seeing your ads

DO

Check which websites your ads are showing on

It is good to know what sites your Display Network ads are showing for quality control purposes. For example, if you are running a Remarketing Campaign, this will show you the other websites that are visited by people who have been to your website. One example of how this could be utilized is that you could set up a Managed Placement Campaign based on the websites being visited from these people. One example of this is if you run a carwash, there is additional value in local news & weather websites.
Another critical area to look at is the traffic volume coming from visitors who arrived from Mobile Apps. This is an area that is very capable of undermining Display Network Performance which leads us to our next point.

DON’T

Let Mobile Apps Destroy Your Budget

One pitfall you will want to avoid is letting the Display network burn through most of your money on mobile apps. Display Network traffic from apps has a track record of poor performance. Thankfully, this traffic is easily excluded by doing the following:

– Choose the campaign you want to work on
– Go to the Display Network tab
– Click on Placements

Display Network Placements Tab

– Go to bottom of the screen where it says Campaign Placement Exclusions
– Click the +Exclusions button
– In the box labeled “Enter one placement per line”, enter adsenseformobileapps.com
– Click Add placements

This will help ensure that your Display ads are showing on other websites and helps avoid the issue of being wasted on mobile apps.

Agree to Disagree

February 6th, 2017
by Bob Dumouchel

monsters-prospective

Digital Marketing is often more art than science and reasonable professionals can disagree when looking at the same set of data. Based on this it should be no surprise that we do not agree with every “Best Practice” published by Google. I recently ran into one of these conflicts and I thought I would share it.

Google has a best practice that includes having 3 or more ads for each ad group and they claim that it improves CTR by 5%. This is followed by another best practice that ad groups should be set to optimize by clicks. The claim here is that this improves CTR by 5% and I accept that this is what they believe and there is no attempt to deceive anyone. It should be noted that I would propose that both of these are the same 5% because you need both of these setting to get the effect. I do not question their data only their conclusion. As you might have guessed I do not agree with this “Best Practice” and here is why.

CTR is a measure of performance that is important to Google because that is how they make their money. Google makes impressions but they sell clicks and the effectiveness of that conversion is expressed in the CTR. The challenge is that for my clients CTR is not the key metric. Their metric is always some form of conversion where business value is created for them. CTR is a measurement on the way to the value creation but it is not the creation itself. This fundamental difference is part of what causes us to look at the data from a different perspective.

Let’s look at the multiple ad copy recommendation first. The reason they get the result they want with multiple ad copy is because they get to pick the rotation method and as they say in Vegas – the house always wins. Odds of finding an ad that increases the CTR increases with the number of ads they have to give the clicks to. The downside to this is that it destroys the AB test that advertisers should be running to find the best copy. The Google algorithm is very fast to pick a winner, much faster than any professional recommendation we have seen on split testing. There is no doubt that at a Big Data level this is a winning process for Google but at the small business level that is not so sure. We believe that our goal should be the best copy not just the best CTR. Good ad copy is designed to get clicks from the right people not just the most people.  Remember most people – good for Google; right people – good for advertiser.

Rotation is an area where Google and Advertisers have had conflict in the past. There was a time when Google went beyond recommending rotation and removed the option forcing advertisers to do it their way. The push back from advertisers was so strong that Google backed off and put the option back and made it a best practice not to use it. Not their finest moment but it shows how valuable Google thinks this option is. The reason that we commonly run this with forced rotation is because we are running split tests and we want to make the call as to who the winner is. Google calls a winner much faster than we would recommend. We normally want to see a confidence level over 80% on an AB test before we decide which ad is the winner.

Google believes that CTR is the way to measure performance but they will do conversions, if you have enough data. The problem is that they are not considering all the other variables that are important to your data. We propose that AdWords is a conduit for demand and not a demand generator so the results are subject to outside influences. This is why it takes time to test. It is demand in the mind of the searcher that starts the process and nothing in AdWords Search influences. The best example of this was the Snow Removal Client who tried everything to get his conversions flowing but nothing worked until a huge snow storm hit. Trust me when I tell you there is no “Start A Snow Storm” feature in AdWords.

Testing is a complex process and it is never as easy as a single number. Test results are impacted by many variables and we have seen many conflicting test results. This is where “A” won the first test but lost the second. We often run margin of error tests with exactly the same ads at the same time and we get different results. In margin of error tests, we have found on CTR that a range of plus or minus 10% is common so when someone tells me that something is 5% better; I want to see how big the data are. If your normal CTR is 5% then the real CTR is somewhere between 4.5%-5.5% and anything in that range is too close to call.

Does this mean that Google’s approach is wrong – NO! It just means that there can be different right answers. Google’s method has some strengths and for some accounts it could be the best answer. The key here is to understand the strengths and weakness of each option and then apply the process that is a best fit for your specific situation. In a very broad sense Google Best Practices work best for large high volume accounts but are not always a great fit for small businesses with highly constrained budgets.

Smart professionals with good intent and the same data can come to very different conclusions. This is what makes marketing such an exciting occupation.

Improve Your Click through Rate & Quality Score Part 2

November 29th, 2016
by Ryan

Last week, we explored improving the Click through Rate (CTR) to drive the Quality Score with a focus on reducing impressions. The other way to approach this is to increase the amount of clicks coming in through AdWords. There are many theories on how to increase the clicks, but only one that almost everyone agrees on.

The concept is simple and straight forward but complicated to implement. Make the headline about the search query and think of this as a conversation. The search query is what the person asked, your ad headline, and to a lesser extent the body of the ads is what you say in response. The search query is simply the words formulated by the person and submitted to the search engine. It is “in their words” what “they are interested in”. If you want a person to respond to your ad or page content the golden rule is to talk about what they are interested in. This may seem easy but trust me it’s not!

Applying this concept starts with separating keywords into smaller Ad Groups. By doing this, the number of variables connecting to your ads is smaller. The goal of this process is a one word to one ad relationship, but the maintenance cost of that can get out of hand quickly. Once you throw in the complications arising from broad match keywords and quality score, variations place a complicated problem on your hands. This is made even more complicated when you consider the matching changes that Google made for close variants.

The common-sense answer to this is to break the keywords into very tight groups of keywords where the variation in keywords will not impact the response to the search. In other words, we want keyword groups that you would write the exact same ad for. This creates more ad groups resulting in different challenges. For example, split tests will lack the volume needed to get meaningful results, so a different testing strategy must be formulated but that is for another tip.

In this process, start with your highest value keywords that have the lowest quality scores, and you will get the maximum return on your time investment.

Improve Your Click through Rate & Quality Score

November 21st, 2016
by Ryan

Quality Score and money are the same thing so it is worth paying attention to this number. The bid in AdWords is money times quality score so quality score really is your money. The single biggest attribute in the quality score is the CTR (Click Through Rate) so it’s worth paying attention – assuming you like your money in your bank account rather than Google’s.

CTR is clicks divided by impressions so to move this number you need to increase clicks or reduce impressions. More your CTR and your quality score will follow. Impressions are the number of times your ad showed in the search results. The CTR is how Google converts the billions of impressions they make each day into cash that they enjoy. They make impressions but they sell clicks and the CTR is their efficiency rating; it’s easy to understand why they think this is important. Pay attention to what Google thinks is important and they will reward your account with lower cost and more traffic.

Regularly Conduct an STR

Start by looking at the searches that your keywords attracted and look for ones that probably do not create value for your business. You do this by running an STR (Search Terms Report), formerly known as Search Query Report (SQR), this is a detailed list of the searches that matched your keywords. This would probably be the end of this article if life was really that simple. The reality is that Google often gives you less than 10% of the searches and most of what they report are the ones that got clicks. At the bottom of these reports you will see a line that reads “Other Search Terms” and this loosely translates to the searches Google does not tell you about. The STR is a great source for negative keywords but hardly the end of this process.

str-page-example-11-21

Keyword Planner

The next valuable tool in this process is the keyword planner. This is a tool from Google to help you build out your keyword list but you can download the data and use it to expand your negatives. There are more than a few problems with this tool but it still good for negative keyword research. Just like the STR you download the list and look for patterns to improve your negatives. One of many problems with this is that the data is not really very accurate because it is rolled up to these keywords and the STR compared to this will show you how this really is two very different sources of data.

keyword-insights-11-21

Conduct Searches

Conducting Searches is old school but it still works and is probably the most accurate of the tools commonly available to everyone. In this you conduct a search for your major keywords and look for results that are not related to your business. Then look for patterns you can use to get rid of these pages. This helps push your thinking on the negative keyword list and that is the key to reducing the impressions.

Negative Keywords

You must be careful with negative keywords because they can be silent killers of your traffic. So, they can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Negative keywords are expressed as broad, phrase, and exact just like positive keywords but the match logic is not the same. Broad negative keywords will not jump to plurals, stems, and synonyms like a positive keyword. The only thing a broad keyword will jump to is a different word order. You see giving the negative the same attributes as a positive would negatively impact Google’s earnings and as they say in Vegas “The house always wins”. The phase and exact operate just like the positive keywords before Google got more liberal in the matching rules in 2015.

Our goal in tips is to be short, direct to the point, and immediately actionable; so, we are going to limit this to the discussion of reducing the impressions. If you get rid of impressions, you really do not want your CTR will make your money worth more. In another tip we will cover ideas for improving the click part of the calculation.

Add an Ad Extension Today

November 14th, 2016
by Ryan

There are several available additions to your ads beyond the 140 characters and spaces known as Ad Extensions. Ad Extensions can be used to supplement your ad copy and give you an extra opportunity to show extra information about your business to potential customers. The usage (or non-usage) of ad extensions is one of the factors Google takes into consideration as they determine your ad rank.

An ad extension gives your ad more prominence on the search results page, improves your visibility, and gives visitors more opportunities to reach your website. AdWords shows one or more of your extensions with your ad when it calculates that the extension will improve your performance, (however a specific extension is not guaranteed to show 100% of the time). You are charged as usual for clicks if the ad itself or one of the extensions is clicked on.

There are a few different objectives that having ad extensions can help you meet.

Drive Phone Calls

• Call Extensions: This is used primarily for mobile searches and gives people a button which will help drive phone calls. On a desktop device, the call extension will add your phone number to your AdWords ad.

buscot-v2

Find Your Business Location

• Location Extensions: This is used to help your customers find your nearest location. For Location Extensions to work, your Google My Business page needs to be linked to your AdWords account.

ice-cream-parlour-11-14-16

Spotlight Various Parts of Your Website

• Sitelink Extensions: These extensions add links to other pages on your site. The below ad shows an example of what these sitelink extensions look like.

sitelinks-11-14-16

Below is the documentation from Google themselves on the required steps for adding ad extensions to your AdWords account.

google-documentation-11-14-16

The implementation of ad extensions tend to lead towards higher click through rates, which presents you more favorably in Google’s eyes when Quality Score is calculated. In addition, the extensions will help give additional information in for your prospective customers.

No matter which of these extensions is applicable to your business, this is one quick step to make your ads stick out better today than they did yesterday.

Update Your Keyword Matching Settings

November 7th, 2016
by Ryan

Today, our focus is going to be on keyword matching settings. To get the most efficient performance out of your ads, you can choose various keyword matching options to get the ideal balance between the Quality and Quantity of Traffic. Adjustments to the keyword matching settings can help improve Conversion & Click through Rates which in turn can help improve the Return on Investment you are getting out of your AdWords account.

The order of keyword match types by highest to lowest volume is as follows:

Broad, Modified Broad, Phrase, Exact

However, there is also an inverse relationship between the highest volume of traffic by match type and the highest quality of traffic. The order from highest to lowest quality is as follows:

Exact, Phrase, Modified Broad, Broad

For example, let’s say you sell acoustic guitars and that you are running a Google AdWords account to help drive business. The default setting for any keyword options is Broad Match. While this has the highest volume, it also has looser matching which means that this is vulnerable to matching you up to lower quality searches. A broad match can jump from singular to plural, stems of the words, order of words, and synonyms. We have even seen it jump languages! For example, the broad keyword of Acoustic Guitar would match up with all of the below searches.

broad-match-11-7

By changing the keyword matching type to modified broad (+acoustic +guitar) it starts to refine which searches you are matched to. The + sign next to the words is a required to convert this to modified broad. For words with the + qualifier in front of it, that word must be in the search. However, the order in which they show up for is not yet relevant.

modified-broad-match-11-7

The next step for tightening your keyword matching settings would be to convert your keywords to a phrase match “acoustic guitar” as noted by the quotation marks. This requires that the word Acoustic Guitar is shown in this order however you can still have words before or after this within the search for your ads to show up.

phrase-match-11-7

The most qualified keyword matching version is exact match which is denoted with square brackets. However, this match type is also going to get you the lowest volume of traffic. In this case, the only time the Search Query will show is for a search for your keyword only.

exact-match-11-7

While this is a change that can be made very quickly, this has the poten
tial to have a very positive impact on the quality of traffic and overall performance of your AdWords account.

Are Your Ads Getting The Right Rotation?

October 28th, 2016
by Ryan

Today, let’s check in on your campaign’s ad rotation setting. Proper ad rotation is crucial to getting a valid split test from multiple ads in Google AdWords and the default value may not be in your best interest. If one of your ads is not getting a fair rotation in the test, it will not be clear how much it can contribute to your success. This is where the picking the right rotation setting becomes important.

From the Campaigns tab in your AdWords Account with a campaign selected:

Make sure that your campaign is set to All features (shown below):

AdWords Campaign Settings

Scroll down and find Advanced settings for Ad Delivery, Ad Rotation, and Frequency Capping:

Adwords Ad Rotation Settings

In most cases, our recommendation on this setting is the “Rotate indefinitely” setting but the other settings have their value as well, so we will discuss them all.

Optimize for clicks is the default that Google recommends and that makes perfect sense for Google or for the advertiser who does not want to spend the time to do the testing properly. For Google, this improves the click through rate and that optimizes Google’s revenue. For the advertiser that wants to save time, it does the test and moves on quickly. However, Google is very quick to move on this optimization and many, including us, believe that they move too quickly.

Optimize for conversions is a setting we are often fans of but only under certain conditions. You need to have enough conversions that the system can do this optimization and typically this is about 30 in a month. At the Ad Group level, few businesses have the volume required for this setting.

Rotate evenly is a lazy person setting that runs the test for 90 days and then optimizes the ads. This allows you to set up a test and it will automatically conclude and set the winner. While we are not huge fans of this, it is useful if AdWords is not something you work on all the time. By using this setting, if you fail to get back to the test after data is collected it will go to the optimized ad at 90 days.

Rotate indefinitely is our go to recommendation and clearly Google disagrees with us. Google’s recommendation on this setting is clear “Not recommended for most advertisers”. They never qualify why they do not recommend this setting but at one point they removed the option from the system. This action resulted in a huge protest from smart advertisers that resulted in Google bringing the feature back. We recommend this because it forces the test to run until we call a winner, not Google. In many small businesses, the data never reaches a valid level and this setting indefinitely gives us multiple ad delivery. We think that Google’s is thinking with their wallet not yours and clearly this is best for their revenue.

In closing, this is not an area that you need to visit frequently but it is a setting that all advertisers should understand.

AdWords Essentials – Split Testing

July 14th, 2016
by Bob Dumouchel

split-testSplit testing is an essential skill for an AdWords Expert professionally managing an account in today’s world. In this article we are going to explore some of the details that need to be considered to run a professional split test. We could write an entire book on this topic and still not cover it all, so for this article we are going to limit our scope to split tests conducted in the search network of Google AdWords using text ads.

First thing to consider is the goal of the split test; they can be designed to:

  • Learn something new
  • Experiment with a break through idea
  • Test the Margin of Error

Why do we bother with split tests?

Splits help us test what we think is true against what in reality is how our specific market is reacting. With over 20 years in this field I cannot tell you the number of times that market response has surprised a wide range of experts. One thing that we know for sure is that split test results are clues, not facts and it takes lots of tests to increase the probability that the item being tested and the results being seen are the same thing.

A/B Tests – Learning Something

Technically, all split tests that run 2 ads are an A/B test. For the purpose of this article, an A/B test is one that is testing a single variable. This results in ads that evolve in small steps because you can only change one thing at a time. To reiterate, CHANGE ONLY ONE THING per test. Using an A/B strategy requires a long term view and the will to stay the course. If you are part of the instant gratification society it is unlikely you will be successful with a true A/B approach.

Multi-variant – swinging for the fences!

When most people talk about split tests this is the type of test they mean. They write completely new ad copy and put it in competition with the current winner. The challenge is that when the new ad wins there are so many differences that you have to guess at what caused the result. This is not to mean that this does not have value because it does. If what you need is a breakthrough ad then this is the way to run that test, but you have to accept the fact that this the equivalent of swinging for the fences. If it works, it is a home run but it is also risky and likely to result in a strikeout. When you are trying to find the message that resonates with your audience, this is a valid strategy. As the account matures it might make less sense.

Cross Traffic Tests

Sometimes an account simply lacks the volume to do a test in a reasonable period of time but has enough traffic at an account level. In these cases you can sometimes engineer tests that tie all or most of the traffic together. The key to this, is creating ad copy that is generic enough to run the same headline or body in all the groups. The compromise here is that the more generic the copy the weaker the ad tends to be, so getting the test at all costs can sometimes be too much. While the headline is giving up too much the body text can be tested.

Margin of Error

A margin of error test is exactly what it sounds like. Everything in split testing is a clue not a fact and you have to understand the range of accuracy you are dealing with. In a margin of error test, you run two identical ads and run them against each other. This shows you how much the data might be off, based on no variables that are under your control. When this is done several times, a range of error will be visible that you can use to decide how probable the result will repeat. Over the years we have noticed that in most accounts this is about plus or minus 10% of the rate being evaluated. So an account with a normal 2% CTR could come in from 1.8% to 2.2% simply from the margin of error. If the result of a test is within this range then it is too close to call.

Common Mistake 1 – Confusing clues with facts

Clues are data that indicate support for a theory but are not proof. A fact proves that a theory is universally true. In marketing clues are common and facts are exceptionally rare. How rare you ask? Good question: in the last two decades in digital marketing, I have yet to find a fact. As you build the case for your decision the more clues, the more likely what you believe is true.

Common Mistake 2 – Not considering outside events

AdWords does not operate in a vacuum. The best example I can give to you is a snow removal business that wanted more sales leads. No matter how much they advertised and promoted the business, they just could not move the needle. Then a huge snow storm came and the phones lit up like a Christmas tree. The truth is that search marketing serves the demand but almost never creates demand. This is simple to understand when you stop and think about the first step in search, which starts with a need, then a search query, and finally the search engine results.

Common Mistake 3 – Thinking that the body text counts

In most cases the body text (two lines under the headline) simply do not change the results. We think the reason is that people do a search, see the headline they need, stop reading, and click on the ad. We have tested this many times and changes in the headline create meaningful change in the traffic but the body text does not. We often see people struggling for hours to create the best copy possible often for little or no return for their efforts. Invest your time and testing on the headline and write good informational copy for the percentage of the audience that do read those lines.

 

 

 

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