This is the 8th post in our ‘Ad Text Optimization With the Pros’ interview series. Be sure to check out the other featured interviews for even more Ad Text insight!
Crystal Anderson spearheads the Paid Search division at SEER Interactive; a Philadelphia based Search Agency. She began her PPC career in 2006 and has managed PPC accounts across multiple platforms, internationally and with monthly budgets from four to six figures. You can follow her on Twitter at @CrystalA .
The subject of statistical significance in ad testing is a really interesting one for me because I perceive PPC ad copywriting to be a great example of traditional marketing meeting a more Web and data centric means of reaching customers. In other words: its ad copy, its ad creative, but tests and refinements tend to be data driven. So my question is this: if I give you two PPC account managers who are going to focus on nothing but ad text: one is very creative and great at creating copy that resonates with searchers, but very weak on data analysis. The other is a data wonk and religious tester but not much of a copywriter. If we leave them both to their own devices and come back in 12 months, whose ad text would you bet on to be more effective?
That’s a great question…and a tricky one. If they were working by themselves and could not use any outside resources, then I would probably say the creative persona. While the data wonk would know for certain that ad A outperformed ad B, the actual level of performance with “weaker” ads may never reach the performance of the “stronger” ads the creative persona would have.
What advice would you have for the first persona to help them create a process for optimization that would be manageable for them given their weakness in data analysis?
To really know what is working and what isn’t, stick to testing one variable at a time. For example, test the same headlines, but different CTAs or different UVPS. Take the guess work out. By that I mean use a tool that gives you the statistical significance. Some of my personal favorites:
- http://www.websharedesign.com/tools/ppc-ad-split-testing-tool/ (my absolute favorite)
Keep track of when you launch ad tests. It’s easy to launch and forget, so set reminders on a calendar, a sticky note on your computer J or whatever it takes to keep a schedule so you can check back in and ensure that you are optimizing for the best ad copy.
Make sure you set ads to Rotate. Otherwise ads with a higher CTR will be served more often or ads with expected higher Conversions will be served more often; neither of which takes into account the benefit of both worlds (CTR x Conversion Rate) and will leave your tests skewed as ads will not be served equally.
What advice would you have for the second persona given that they aren’t a strong copywriter (besides signing up for Boost and letting us do the writing for them)?
Know and focus on the “best practices” – create a scent from keyword to ad copy to landing page, include keywords in the ad copy, focus on benefits and UVPS, ensure you have a clear CTA.
Use all possible resources to ensure you have a clear understanding of the product/service and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box on where you can get inspiration. A few of my favorite resources when I’m having writer’s block: check out website/landing pages, evaluate competitor ad copy, watch any available demos/videos, read any pertinent whitepapers, ask the CLIENT! Clients are an incredible source for ad copy – they can tap into their marketing teams, sales teams, customers, etc. to provide insight!
All right now I think it would be really helpful for our audience to learn more about your process for optimizing ads for multiple clients. First off: how often are you jumping into the account and tweaking ad text, setting up new ad tests, etc. (this could either be on a per-client basis or generally “I write every day, week, etc.”)?
It definitely depends on the client for the interval of how often I’m optimizing copy. For clients who have larger budgets and get more volume, I can optimize copy more often than lower volume clients as I reach a statistically significant set of data much quicker. Across all clients, I’m generally working on some form of ad optimization on a weekly basis.
When you do dig in and start to optimize ads, how do you decide where to go first? Is it a function of other diagnoses (i.e. you see that a group’s CTR has dropped and start to drill down) or do you have a process for identifying which ads need help (i.e. do you look for ads that have high volume and low CTR?)
I tend to have a schedule for each client based on the volume they drive on how often I’m checking results of ad testing. I tend to filter and sort ad reports in excel for ad groups with the most volume and that have enough data to make a statistical decision on. That said there are definitely times that it’s important to deviate from a “normal” schedule – when a particular campaign or ad group has a noticeably low CTR or Conversion rate or if there were outside press that could positively influence ad copy.
Once you decide where to work on optimizing ads, how do you decide what to test? Do you have a standard formula or is it entirely variable based on the Ad Group, keywords, landing page, etc.?
I am always testing one variable so that I don’t have to spend a ton of time thinking of where to go, or what made ad A win over ad B. So generally I am testing headlines, benefits, features, CTAs/offers. However, if I’m testing one variable and I’m seeing an overall low CTR or Conversion Rate, sometimes that’s a red flag that you need to start back at square one and test an entirely new ad.
In choosing ads to optimize and thinking about what to change, how do you decide to “qualify” more in an ad? Is there a statistical threshold? (By qualify I just mean re-write the ad to better weed out irrelevant traffic that may be clicking but not converting.) If you do make this decision, is it something you’re faced with frequently?
Qualification in an ad can be vital in cutting wasteful spend. You can never tell a users intent simply by the terms they type in – IE: “hr software” can be someone looking for an out of the box solution, or could be someone looking for enterprise level software. It’s important to know your client’s customer profile to help weed out the bad traffic right away. If I’m the enterprise level software, I know that I do not want traffic for someone looking for a $199 solution. Including “Enterprise HR Software” or “HR Software for Fortune 500 Companies” are key call outs to include in copy.
Being agency-side you’re working on multiple campaigns: are you making use of ad text templates either within a campaign or cross-campaigns? If so, can you share your basic approach to creating an ad text template (we don’t need specific templates obviously but maybe just your approach to creating a template)? Also do you have any best practices around implementation (i.e. don’t use templates on your highest volume groups, use templates liberally as you launch a campaign but then go back and test, etc.)?
I use a “template” in some forms. For example, if I have found a particular message or offer to perform extremely well in one campaign, I may roll it out with slight variations across other campaigns/ad groups. If something is absolutely killing it, why not use what’s working for other groups! The key however, is to still tweak the ad to tie to each campaign/ad group.
How much of a priority is ad text optimization for you? If you could quantify it as a percentage of your optimization efforts roughly what do you think that would look like (5% of your time? 10%?) and how does that compare to activities like managing bids, testing different landing pages, etc.?
Ad optimization is a critical piece of your campaigns and one I think can be overlooked a lot. You can have all of the right keywords, all of the right match types and all of the right negatives but if your ad copy isn’t good and isn’t resonating with your potential customers, then all the great work you’ve done with your keywords may not mean as much! If I had to put a % to it, I’d say 25-30%.
How does your process for ads on the Content Network (particularly display ads) differ from that of the search network, if at all?
It is important to think a bit differently about Content vs. Search ads. With Search ads it’s more of a “pull” strategy – they are seeking your help. With Content ads it’s more of a “push” strategy – you are pushing your service/product on them. As such, it’s critical to write your ads with that in mind. Search ads can focus a bit more on benefits/features and Content ads need to be a bit more compelling/aggressive & focus a bit more on strong CTAS/offers, key selling points. It certainly depends on the client and their goals, but also taking the “pull” vs. “push” into consideration for the actual conversion can be helpful. For example, in Search ads a CTA of ‘Contact Us’ may not be as hard of a sell as with Content. A “softer” CTA for Content, such as “Free Whitepaper” or “Free Demo” may perform better in Content. It’s a “lower funnel” conversion so again, it is important to consider the quantity vs. quality factor as well!
Can you think of one ad text tweak that was just way more successful than you thought it would be?
Adding into the copy a “As seen on/Featured on” message. I thought it would be successful for a few weeks after the airing, but it’s been much, much longer! J
Can you give us an ad text “secret” that you find works for you? Maybe it’s not an actual secret, but something that’s not a commonly discussed best-practice that you find consistently improves results?
Use “pain points.” At the end of the day, nearly everyone is trying to overcome some challenge or problem that your solution/product/service will solve for them. Really getting to know your client and their customers will help you tap into an entirely new source for ads and allow you to connect on a different level with potential customers.