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Split Testing in Adwords and Adcenter

Posted on 10.31.2012

Website Magazine’s December 2012 issue featured an article titled “The Logical Progression: CPC Testing on Offer-Based Ads” in which I wrote about the “what” of ad testing, meaning, what types of options were available to test within the ad creative. Specifically, readers found four suggestions including introductory discounts, optimum price, guarantee provisions and premiums.

The list of potential offer tests is obviously extensive, but at some point CPC ad managers will be required to actually run a split test to determine which of these offer types work most effectively for generating conversions (actual product sales for example).

The two largest CPC networks in Google (Adwords) and Microsoft (Bing-Ads) do offer variations on true split testing, but there are some key differences that are important to know. Let’s discover how advertisers will be running split test ads in an offer-based scenario.

Split Testing in Google

Google split testing options come in the form of the AdWords Campaign Experiments (ACE) tool, which allows advertisers to test and measure changes to seemingly everything – from keywords, bids, and ad groups, to ads, placements and more.

While the most common way (historically) to measure the impact of ad changes is through before-and-after analysis, Google suggests that it’s not the best method as analysis of that type can often be skewed by events (e.g. time events like holidays or behavior events like the weekend Web lull) that occur. ACE enables advertisers to test and measure changes in real-time by running an experimental campaign alongside the original campaign. By doing so, advertisers can discover which campaign change produced significantly different (or better) results.

On the whole, Google Adwords split testing options are far more robust than that of Bing Ads; but they support and encourage testing and have made tools available for performing these tests and experiments.

Split Testing in Bing Ads

Previously unable to advertisers until the past few months, advertisers running campaigns on Bing Ads are, just like their Google advertiser counterparts, able to test ad copy to see exact style of messages connect better with their audience. Bing Ads users are able to choose from two ad-rotation preferences - “Optimize for Clicks” or “Rotate Ads Evenly” - at the ad-group level.

Selecting to optimize for clicks (the default option) will predominantly show ads that have the highest click-through rate. Rotating ads evenly will rotate ads on a more equal basis. This functionality is particularly useful for testing new ad copy – like the offer based ads discussed. Advertiser can select their preferred ad-rotation settings when creating the ad group or from the ad group edit page under “Ad Rotation.”

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