Split testing is the absolute best way to improve your advertisements. Nothing compares to testing an idea in the real world to find out exactly how it performs. Over time, this will give you the best advertisement with the greatest results possible.
If you need a refresher on split testing, sometimes called A/B testing, it’s simply running two different ads with identical placement and targeting to see which performs better.
For example, ad #1 may have the title “On Sale” while ad #2 has the title “Sale Ends Today” – but the ads are otherwise identical. Both ads are run at the same time on the same channels (for example split-testing ads on Facebook is really easy) so that the first user sees ad #1, second user sees ad #2, third user sees ad #1, and so on.
Why Split Testing Works
Split testing allows you to learn about your campaign quickly. You don’t need to wait until the end of the campaign to see what’s working, and what isn’t. You can see which ad is performing better, and adjust as needed.
If you bought 250,000 impressions to run in December, you can see after just a few thousand impressions (which may just be a matter of days or hours) that ad #2 gets twice as many clicks as ad #1, therefore ad #2 is better. Now instead of wasting the rest of the campaign on ad #1, you eliminate it and only run ad #2 to get the most bang for your advertising dollar for the rest of the campaign.
The challenge here is knowing at what point the split testing is complete. For example, are you certain that the result of a split test is complete and accurate after 10 impressions or 10,000? This is where statistics comes in to play. This is an important question to answer because advertising for 10 impressions is much less expensive than advertising for 10,000 impressions.
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The best part about the testing is that you’re using real-world scenarios to determine what works. There’s no focus groups or marketing meetings to pick the winner. The actual customers pick the winner by completing the desired action.
Using Time To Your Advantage
Split testing doesn’t stop there, the process then begins again. You create ad #3 to run along with ad #2 with a different set of changes. Perhaps it’s changing a headline, picture, sales copy, call-to-action, or even just the color. It’s just like evolution: Your ads evolve until the strongest ad survives, and over time, you get the best results.
The longer the campaign, the more changes you can test. If your first ad improved your click thru ratio by 4%, maybe your next ad improves it by 2% and the 3% and so on. The increases may get smaller over time, but they’re still increasing for the same dollar amount, so you should always be attempting to improve your ads.
Measure Everything When Split Testing
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. In the above examples we were just talking about clicks, but you’ll want to dig a little deeper than that for the best results. Although click-throughs are a great indicator, here are some metrics to pay attention to when looking for the results of split testing.
- Conversions. Ad #1 may get 1000 clicks, and 10 conversions, while ad #2 gets 800 clicks but 20 conversions. Sure, it’s less clicks, but they come with a better overall result. The reason for the difference could be that the second ad may be more targeted to a niche. This may generate fewer clicks, but those users are extremely high quality. (Conversions can be anything from a newsletter sign up, to a product purchase.)
- Bounce Rate. Getting a large number of visitors may affect your bounce rate negatively. You don’t want everyone, you just want everyone that’s likely to use your product or service. Making sure your ad is highly targeted through split testing will improve this stat.
- Time / Days / Weeks / Months. The ad that performs best on Monday’s may not be the one that performs best on Saturday’s. The same can be true about your ads that run at 9am vs. 3pm. Both Google and Facebook make it really easy to breakdown ad performance by hour.
Split Test Everything
If time is on your side for a long or indefinite campaign, you need to test everything. Changing even the littlest detail can affect your ad performance. Everything matters, from your color scheme to the photographs used – even your font choice can make a big difference!
Test everything, no matter how small the detail seems. Changing headlines, and sales copy may be obvious, but here are some not-so-obvious choices:
- Ad size
- Font size
- Ad location on page
- Button shape, size and color
- Visible URL
- Pricing / Free samples or Trials
- Length of copy (short or long?)
This list could fill an entire article. If it’s in your ad, you should change it and test it. Even the white background.
Split Test Your Landing Page
Lastly, don’t just focus on the advertisement itself. Your landing page is just as important. This is a whole different article, but the theory is the same. Test everything.
You’ll find that the same advertisement can have drastically different results depending on the landing page even if the ad and the offer are the same. Take all the above points and apply them to your landing page and you’ll get better results with each and every test.
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Remember, never stop testing. Consumer opinions, attitudes, and trends can change frequently. The ad that works today may not work as well next month. That’s how split testing over time can help make your advertisement work as hard as it possibly can for you!