Tracking Ad Testing in Google AdWords



Ad testing is an integral part of improving PPC campaigns, but tracking ad tests can be challenging. At Obility we have tried a number of different methods including manual tracking in Excel, creating scripts in AdWords, bid management platforms, and SAAS options like BoostCTR, but all of these options have serious drawbacks. Manual tracking and writing/updating scripts are incredibly time consuming and automated options far too costly. The net result was that ad testing occurred but ad testing reporting was sporadic. We needed a better solution.

Our solution arose from working with a PPC savvy, data-centric client who challenged us to get a better system in place. She is a huge fan of the Dimensions tab in Excel and often pulls her reporting directly from it. Obility uses AdGroup labels to differentiate between Campaign category (e.g. Brand, Competitor, Display, Partner, Retargeting, Search, etc.), and our savvy client would compare performance across these groups using the Segment by Label option in AdWords (see below & click to enlarge).

AdGroup Performance by LabelLightbulb! Why not use this same approach to measure ad testing? Obility created 6 different ad testing labels to help differentiate the types of ad tests we run with our clients:

  • Original (to identify the control ad)
  • Ad Title
  • Ad Content
  • Ad Offer
  • Ad Landing Page
  • Ad Display URL

The great thing about this process is that each label has an inherent ad testing goal. For example, Ad Title, Ad Content, and Ad Display URL are most typically tied to improving CTR. Ad Landing Page is related to conversion rate (CVR). Ad Offer is a combination of CTR & CVR and is probably best measured by cost per acquisition (CPA). However, although each ad category has a “natural” tie to ad performance, your goal may be different. For example, if you are trying to improve lead quality through ad content, CTR is not a good metric for ad performance.

After labeling ads, Obility is able to provide ad testing reports quickly. We can pull aggregate data on all of our ad tests from the Dimensions tab, or we can analyze ad tests individually be Filtering by Labels in the Ads tab (see below & click to enlarge).

Example Ad TestThis process works well for our agency due to its simplicity. For each different test, we can quickly determine ad, landing page, and offer performance by ad group. For example, in the above screenshot, we are running an ad content test. Based on performance so far, we can quickly determine that the new ad content has improved CTR. Once the data is statistically significant, we can pause or delete the Original ad and run with the new ad.

**Note that you should remove labels before deleting ads as you cannot remove labels after deleting.

We can also readily export ad performance by label and create robust reports in Excel for our clients. The updated process is clear enough that we can present it directly to our clients without filtering through our SEM Managers for analysis. Since clarity and transparency of our processes are key to Obility’s success to date, our new ad testing process fits right in.

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About Mike Nierengarten

Mike Nierengarten is an internet marketing consultant and President of Obility where he helps his clients reach, engage, & acquire new customers through paid search, SEO, & conversion optimization. Learn more about Mike Nierengarten
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