Best practices for managing paid search campaigns are full of commonly held assumptions, many of which are more myth than fact—especially when it comes to SEM ad copy. This Myth Busters series tackles these misconceptions one blog post at a time. In this installment, we dispel the myth that testing to gain creative insight hurts SEM performance.


The Myth

Direct response-focused search marketers often believe that SEM ad copy testing doesn’t yield helpful creative insights or that testing to gain insights leads to weaker performance. The idea is that findings can’t be applied beyond individual ad groups and that using limited characters to test new verbiage reduces textual relevance.


The Reality

If you design and manage testing properly, you get the best of both worlds: Actionable creative insights and stronger performance. Here are a few tricks to make this work:

  • Test at-scale. Testing only a few ad groups at a time will yield insights that only apply on an ad group-by-ad-group basis. To gain insights beyond the context of SEM, design tests at-scale.
  • Test hypotheses on a macro-level. Let’s say you want to understand whether or not “affordable” or “cheap” resonates better with customers. The traditional SEM ad testing model uses the same ad copy within a given ad group isolating “affordable” and “cheap” as the only variable between ads. To uncover insights that apply across broader contexts, write vastly different ads using the test words in conjunction with different elements.
  • Analyze results account-wide. What should you do when one element, for example, “cheap” performs best in aggregate, but delivers mixed results within individual ad groups? Conduct analyses and identify creative insights on the account-level data. Make decisions about which ads to run and which ones to pause at the individual ad group level. With this approach, insights apply beyond the context of individual ad groups, but you always have the best ad running.


The Opportunity

Ad creative testing can lead to dramatic boosts in SEM performance, but don’t forget you can also gain insights in the process.

Imagine being able to present your CMO or creative director with data-informed recommendations about messaging that can be applied to numerous marketing channels. SEM gives us a wealth of real-time data, collected via interactions with actual customers. With specialized test planning, analysis, and a little creativity, search engine marketers can extract the additional value of creative insights from this data, particularly when it comes to messaging.


Where to Go From Here

Test new ad creative on 20–40% of account spend. Don’t limit yourself to A/B testing ads with only one variable per ad group. Challenge yourself to test vastly different ads. Continue to declare individual ad winners at the ad group-level, but conduct analyses at the account level. Seek both creative insights and improved performance simultaneously when testing SEM ad copy.


About Boost Media

Boost Media increases advertiser profitability by using a combination of humans and a proprietary software platform to drive increased ad relevance at scale.

The Boost marketplace comprises over 1,000 expert copywriters and image optimizers who compete to provide a diverse array of perspectives. Boost’s proprietary software identifies opportunities for creative optimization and drives performance using a combination of workflow tools and algorithms. Headquartered in San Francisco, the Boost Media optimization platform provides fresh, performance-driven creative in 12 localized languages worldwide.