Test, test, test your ad copy

To run an effective advertising campaign online, the marketers who get the best results are the ones who test, adjust, and test again. By constantly testing an ad campaign’s effectiveness, you get more insight into what sort of ad copy is working best with your desired audience. This leads to an increase in your ads’ click through rate, which in turn can drive down the cost per click – a win-win for sure! Testing also leverages one of the great strengths of online advertising, namely the ability to measure the activity and results and make changes fast! Older media like TV and print don’t have that flexibility or responsiveness.

There are three basic components to test in a paid search (aka PPC or pay-per-click) campaign: the ad copy, the landing page, and the offer itself. We will focus here on the ad copy testing. For more about landing pages and testing, check out our free eBook, The Marketing Hero QuickStart.

Testing Text Ads

Here is a screenshot from a search on Bing. My search for ‘medical software’ returned four ads at the top of the page.
Testing text ads

Let’s take a closer look.
Testing text ads closer look

Key Takeaway #1: Test Using Numbers

The phone number in this ad does two things; first, it might prompt some people to phone without even clicking on the ad, which would save the advertiser money, although I would guess it is highly unlikely that anyone would phone the number based on the ad alone; second, research has shown that breaking up text with numbers can have a positive impact on people noticing the ad and the impression it makes. The disruption to the pattern of letters can be eye catching. Sometimes pricing in an ad has that benefit as well, in addition to possibly providing incentive to click because of a tempting value offer.

Key Takeaway #2: Test the Call to Action

Using the same example, a test for this advertiser could be to try the ad with and without the phone number. This ad includes a strong call to action (Call Today!), which could also be tested with other calls to action (e.g. See How It Works). What is the action they want someone to take; do they really want me to phone them, or are they trying to get me to click on the ad and learn more? When I clicked on their ad, the page I landed on does not show that phone number, or any phone number at all. The highlight of the landing page seems to be a video demonstration of their solution. You have to click on their Contact button for their phone information. They could try something like ‘Watch Demo Video Now’ as a call to action which will keep the landing page content more closely aligned to the intent of the searcher.

Key Takeaway #3: Test the Placement of the Call to Action

Here is the second ad:
Test the placement

This is the same company as the first ad, and like the first ad it links to a home page. I am conducting my search from British Columbia (BC), Canada. The first ad is a BC version of the home page, but both pages look identical. This second ad hits both of my search keywords. The ad copy could be tested a number of ways; for example, what happens if a call to action is at the end or at the beginning? Example: Medical Record Software Solutions. Fast, Secure. Learn More – or – Learn More About Our Secure Medical Records Solutions.

Key Takeaway #4: Test the Ad Placement

Another factor to test is ad placement. What would happen if they lowered their bidding and moved down the list of ads shown, or moved over to the right rail instead of across the top? Mediative has done a lot of eye tracking studies, and we know that the top ad position typically does best, but once an ad has been refined through testing, it might be worthwhile to see what happens if it gets a different placement on the page. Does it change the quality of the click-throughs? Do you get better qualified leads from people who are more ready to purchase if they have to scan the search results page more thoroughly to find your ad? We could expect the volume to clicks to drop, but it might be offset by the gain in quality and resulting changes in the cost-per-click.

Key Takeaway #5: Test J&A, or Jargon and Acronyms

The third ad is an interesting example.
Test jargon acronym

In terms of my search for ‘medical software’, this ad might or might not be speaking to me, because of the jargon and the acronym. I didn’t figure out right away that CABS stood for carrier access billing system, although it is quickly apparent if you click through (or if you are already familiar with that terminology, I guess). The page they link to continues the acronyms and jargon-speak that will quickly lose the uninitiated. What would you test if you were running CDG’s campaign?

The fourth ad has a promising title, highlighting both of my search keywords, but the URL made me think that maybe this wasn’t what I was looking for.
Test jargon acronym

The ad copy, too, seems a little vague, as though if I click through I will still have to sort through a number of options. Now granted, the search term ‘medical software’ is also a bit vague, so it would be hard for a search engine algorithm to know if I was looking to manage medical records, or medical billing, or some other aspect of medical software. The ad links to a landing page that does a pretty good job of making a clear offer to help me find the right medical billing solution. What would you test with this ad copy?

They are using dynamic keyword insertion, as you can see from these two other search results, for ‘billing software’ and ‘accounting software’.

Test jargon acronymTest jargon acronym

Each of these ads from findaccountingsoftware.com goes to a landing page designed expressly to match that ad’s message, which is a great start to optimizing an ad campaign.

Summary: Ad Factors to Test

1. Numbers and text. It may not always be appropriate or possible to include some numbers in your ad copy, but if you can, test it and see if it makes a difference. We’ve seen that it can have a positive impact.
2. The call to action. Words like free, demo, try now, buy now, download, sign up, and so on need to be tested to see which words entice people to click on your ad.
3. Placing the call to action. Does it work best for you at the beginning of the ad, at the end, or in the middle?
4. Ad place on the search results page. Does your ad have to be in the #1 top spot to be effective? It depends on what you are trying to achieve, but if you are constantly paying a premium to be in the #1 spot, consider testing what happens when you place elsewhere. The volume of clicks may drop, but you just might find the quality goes up – but you won’t know for sure unless you test.
5. Language. Are you thinking about the ad from the customer’s point of view or your business’s point of view? If you are using acronyms and industry jargon, be sure that the audience you want to attract already knows what you mean and uses the same language themselves.

Do you have any examples of ad copy tests that have really paid off for your paid search marketing efforts? Share your comments below.