70 Characters Count: Why You Should Always Be Testing Different Ad Copy

Anyone who’s run a paid digital campaign knows the pain of constantly adjusting levers. If you’re not trying to segment your audience by region or age, then you’re trying to draw them back based on their position in the funnel. It’s easy to get caught up in the quantitative aspects of your marketing, especially when you’re looking for a silver bullet to hit KPIs and sales goals. This is why so many analytically-minded marketers are at a loss when it comes to ad copy. If it doesn’t seem to be hurting the campaign, then why change it? And how would you even measure the impact if you did?

If you’re not looking at the right data, then you might not see the damage your weak ad copy is actually doing to your campaign. However, by giving it some love, you’ll start to see improvements in your overall campaign performance – and even apply your lessons to additional marketing channels.

Ad Content is Still Content

First, let’s take a breather. It’s understandable that anyone would forget about these small 70 characters, especially when the average marketer has thousands of words in their charge. Coming up with a two-line quip is seemingly unimportant after you’ve spent all day reviewing long-form copy and product descriptions for your site.

Unfortunately, no one will ever see those beautiful, well-written articles if they never click on your ad. Think of your ad copy as your first impression, inviting new visitors to your page and welcoming returning traffic home. As such, it needs to be combed through with as critical an eye as any content that actually lives on your website.

Today’s Ad Test is Tomorrow’s Rebranding

Does your ad copy match the call to action in your social campaigns and newsletters? Do you maintain your brand-voice from your blog and ecommerce pages in your ad copy? That’s wonderful! It sounds like you have a strong grasp of your brand and control of your voice. But what if you wanted to change that? What if you can’t afford a complete rebranding?

Let’s say an electrical company has always used its slogan in their ad copy. The slogan performs well in email and on social media, but they’re looking for something a little different. This company can test multiple new slogans to see what draws the most clicks and which leads to more calls or conversions.

If you’ve already budgeted for a paid campaign, then you might as well stretch a dollar by using your website traffic as a focus group. Use your campaigns to test logos, discounts, and new product offerings and then take the data to the rest of your marketing team. If your ad traffic preferred one slogan 70 percent more than another, resulting in a 10 percent bump in sales or leads, then your email traffic will probably see a bump too.

Improving One KPI can Dramatically Help the Rest

For the sake of efficiency, let’s use Google Adwords as our primary example of ad copy testing for paid search campaigns. Similar metrics can be used for different channels (like reach, impressions, and clicks on Facebook ads) but Google tends to set the standards that Bing, Gemini, and other ad platforms use.

When it comes to evaluating ad copy, there are a few overlooked metrics to start with. Reporting improvements in these numbers isn’t as exciting as a dramatic increase in clicks or revenue, but they create a strong foundation to improve return and conversion in the long run. Like so many ad channels, marketing success is a marathon, not a sprint.

Quality Score

Every ad is given a quality score that tells the search engine how helpful the ad is. Ads that take visitors to irrelevant landing pages resulting in high bounce rates or have low click-through rates are assigned low quality scores. Not only will your ad be served less because of it, but you’ll also have higher CPCs for it to be shown. If your ad copy is drawing clicks and interest, Google could start raising your quality score, and the account could see an increase in traffic for a lower cost.

Impression Share

Ad space is a pie that keeps getting smaller and smaller – especially if you’re targeting mobile traffic. Your impression share hides nothing and shows how often your ad could be shown but isn’t. While you might have 90-100 percent impression share for your brand terms, you might only have 5 percent for the term “marketing agency” because of the high competition from other bidders. Yes, you could bid for a higher position, but wouldn’t you rather improve your copy as a cheaper way to increase your quality score and take up more of the pie?

Cost Per Conversion

Instead of driving thousands of low quality clicks from the fourth position, or artificially boosting your ads to get in front of more faces, consider slowly building the quality of your copy to the point where it lands in front of decision-makers for cheaper than before. Over time, you should have to pay less to convert a customer, both because of the increased quality of traffic that you’re driving and through more conversions coming from those improved ads.

Execution Requires Minimal Effort

First: Acquire New Ad Copy

Depending on your number of ad groups, you can draft alternate ad copy yourself or outsource to a content agency to write it for you. Simply provide guidelines and the landing pages for each ad and others will do the work for you. Even if you have the time to write your own copy, letting a fresh set of eyes that has never encountered your brand before will help you come up with unique angles and words you hadn’t thought of before.

Next: Set Your KPIs

Go in knowing what you want to see from the data and when you will declare a winner. For example, you might say that after 2,000 clicks, if one ad has 10 percent more clicks and 5 percent more conversions over another, then it’s more effective and the new standard.

Then: Set Up the Test in Adwords

Most marketers set their ad copy to optimize for clicks, which means an ad that takes an early lead in the contest will be favored by Google and shown more. This can skew your data. Set your copy to rotate indefinitely, which will show all of your ad copy equally, allowing you to see which ones perform well and which ones suffer.

Finally: Analyze and Repeat

When you pick one ad over another, try to analyze what made it better, and then repeat the process. Create a fresh set of 70 characters to beat the latest “winner” and start the A/B test over again.

Your Last Test Data is Already Irrelevant

Managers: fear the employee who says you don’t need to retest because you already ran a test a while back. Whether your ad copy was last updated six weeks ago or six months ago, there’s a need to test again. Like many paid campaigns, you can never set-and-forget ad copy. You should always be hungry to increase your clicks, decrease your CPCs, and drive better traffic to your page.

Keep in mind that in almost any industry, your customer changes with the seasons. Consumer behavior in December is radically different than in July, and copy that fails in one month can thrive in another. Don’t be afraid to revisit failed copy months or even years after you test it to make sure your customer hasn’t changed or there wasn’t an outside force that caused you to reject that content. A marketer’s testing is never done.

Will an improvement in ad copy save your business? Probably not, but those 70 characters have a bigger impact on the customer than you realize, and if it’s used wisely, it can be used to help your marketing channels as a whole. Keep the hunger, and never be satisfied with your copy, KPIs, or positioning. There’s always more effective phrasing out there; it just hasn’t been written yet.

About the author

Amanda Dodge