Creative Testing in Paid Search: Actionable Tips and Tricks

It’s clear that responsive ads are here to stay and optimizing their performance is an ongoing process of planning, testing, and iterating.

Below are best practices to help you achieve sustainable ROI during that process.

Problems with creative testing in Paid Search

Responsive ads are the largest and most flexible search ad format. Unlike traditional search ads, where you write your headlines and descriptions together to create one static ad text, a responsive search ad allows you to quickly create multiple headlines and descriptions. Arranging these headlines and descriptions in different combinations can produce nearly endless ad testing possibilities. But, responsive ads do have their problems…

Full automation testing

Search engines are striving for full automation with responsive ads that automatically mix headlines and descriptions to determine optimal combinations. A drawback to this is that the results of the automation lack insight. A search engine will continue to serve the ads that perform best according to their algorithms, which means you have to give up control of your testing.

Solution: target through your creative! Integrate actual creative strategy where your inputs – from user segments to proposition – are tagged in the assets themselves. This allows you to maximize insights while still working within a machine learning powered account setup.

Responsive ads are here to stay

Responsive ads will eventually be the only type of search engine format. This is good news if you are investing today in your marketing operations, which must include not just creative from an execution standpoint…but actual creative strategy. By using an automatic budget allocation, you don’t have to manually adjust, pause, or turn off underperforming ad sets. It’s all done for you without you lifting a finger. This is an awesome efficiency gain to help you focus more of your resources on other areas.

Creating ad groups/campaigns on YouTube

On YouTube, you can create lots of ad groups/campaigns with totally different targeting. An ad group is a way of organizing your ads around keywords, interests, topics, placement, custom affinity, or first-party data. You do this by first determining your ad groups.

To effectively create structured ad groups, you should base each one on a specific product type with descriptive, related keywords. As for successfully setting up your YouTube ad campaign, map out all the possible ad groups and keyword combinations. Continually hone this skill to improve your video ad campaigns. The only variable in the success or failure of your ad group’s campaign is effectively targeting and matching the message and creative to your audience.

Best practices for Paid Search

Quality of ads

When you’re creating ads, always try to add assets with at least ‘Good’ or ‘Excellent’ ad strength. Ad strength provides you with feedback to help you focus on providing the right messages to your customers. You can improve it by:

  • Adding as many unique, relevant headlines and descriptions as you can: If you provide too many redundant headlines and descriptions, you will restrict the system’s ability to assemble ad combinations.
  • Reusing existing content from your existing text ads: The same content that worked in your existing text ads will work well in your responsive search ads, which can help improve performance.
  • Adding relevant keywords to your headlines: Adding relevant keywords will increase the relevance of your ad combinations for search users, which can help improve the effectiveness of your responsive search ads.

Avoid ad fatigue

When your audience becomes overly familiar with your ads, they will get bored and stop paying attention. This will cause your ad campaigns to become less effective over time. How do you avoid this? Here are three ways that can help:

  • Change the background of your image ads: When you are exposed to the same visuals, you stop noticing them. By replacing your overused image ads with a new background, you will re-engage fatigued users.
  • Keep your ads fresh: Whether counting down to a one-time event, a recurring event or inserting location-specific details, you can take advantage of ad customizers to prevent ad fatigue.
  • Use an ad schedule to rotate your ads indefinitely: Using ad rotation options to optimize for clicks or conversions might be tempting, but it allows search engines to show the same ad to the same audience many times over a short period of time. You can combat that by choosing to rotate ads indefinitely.

Implement a data-driven creative strategy

Efficient, accurate, scalable creative testing is the single best competitive advantage any advertiser has. You can lose a big chunk of your budget simply by testing ads that do not perform as well as your control. This is where a data-driven creative strategy comes in. One valuable tool is Ladder’s interactive marketing calculator. This tool will help you know just how many ads you need to test to hit your growth goals.

Your opinion about ads doesn’t matter

When it comes to testing, your opinion doesn’t matter. Ads that don’t resonate at all with you might turn out to be very successful. You’ll never know until you try them. So, always assume nothing and test everything.

Test, test, and test again

The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. This means about 80% of the revenue on your account comes from roughly 20% of the ads. In order to hit an ad that turns out to be a gold mine, you will have to keep testing.

What’s coming next

In the next blog posts, we’ll focus on the two most popular search engines: Google and Bing, and we’ll take a look at how to structure your account on those platforms for creative testing.