The Logical Progression - CPC Testing on Offer-Based Ads

After running a CPC-based ad campaign for some period of time, know that "testing" is the logical progression - a next step, if you will, for those demanding ever-greater performance from their campaigns. Only through testing is it possible to consistently generate "better" results (more revenue or awareness). But as you might imagine, it's not as easy as flipping a switch.

Understanding what can be tested is a significant hurdle for many advertisers as the potential is nearly limitless -from the use of exclamation points to the inclusion of trademark symbols. The savviest advertisers understand, however, that the most powerful motivator is almost always the "offer" and the possible variety and scope makes them worthy of a closer examination.

When testing the performance of CPC ads that include offers (e.g. price discounts, premiums, guarantees or giveaways) it is essential to first determine the sustainability. Often, advertisers reduce or eliminate their potential return from ad spend by underestimating the value of what it is they are offering. As CPC ad prices continue to increase, knowing your exact customer acquisition cost will provide an opportunity to effectively flex creative muscles without draining your ad budget.

Setting up and running CPC tests is a whole lot simpler than it used to be. In fact, the search engines and ad networks, where promotional dollars are most commonly spent, actually encourage testing and provide split-testing features (see sidebar) for their advertisers. But in the end, you still need something to test. Here are a few offer ideas for inspiration.

Introductory Discount: There's something in the human conscious that conditions us to seek out bargains. And, fortunately for advertisers, it's a powerful motivator in consumer purchasing decisions. An introductory discount can be at any rate and can apply to high- and low-priced products. Make sure to have add-ons and up-sells ready, as these provide an opportunity to increase the average spend per visit.

Optimum Price: Consumers remain as price conscious as ever. If your products or services have a better price, and competitors are using price as an incentive for site visits, definitely include price within your ads. Consider testing these offers in relation to the click-through rate (CTR) received in the campaign and at the keyword level, making sure to keep track of the impact on the acquired customers' assumed lifetime value.

Provide a Guarantee: Providing the confidence necessary for a user to click-through is no easy task in a text-based advertisement, but a guarantee might be the incentive a user needs to ultimately convert. For that reason, offering up a guarantee (whether free shipping, 24-hour support, etc.) within ads demands an advertiser's consideration. Ensure that the guarantee made within the ad is mirrored or replicated on your landing page to keep quality scores high and consumer expectations in check.

Offer Premiums: In much the same way that guarantees work, the use of premiums - added on tangible benefits - can and should be tested through CPC campaigns. The reason that including premiums works so well is because they increase the potential customers' perception of a product or service's value. Take care when offering premiums (as mentioned before) to not offer a premium that is worth more than you are able to spend. Google's Enhanced Sitelinks provide a powerful opportunity to offer premiums, which can range in scope and breadth. Plus, it takes little in the way of work to activate them on the SERPs.

Keep in mind that offer testing does not necessarily need to be exclusive to keyword-based text advertisements, but can be used in display formats as well. In many cases, making an offer with supporting visual creative assets will likely yield a higher click-through than without.

Offer testing is not limited to CPC but that model can provide an immediate indicator of performance. Testing is the next logical progression down the virtual road toward digital advertising success. Test different types of offers and variances in them, and you'll be positioned for greater success.