When pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns work, they can be powerful and cost-effective drivers of new business. But when they fail, they can be brutally expensive money pits. Continuously dumping unrecoverable funds into bad PPC campaigns can sink businesses that don’t have the capital to absorb the enormous hits that toxic campaigns are capable of delivering.
This means that you need to test new PPC campaigns for effectiveness — and test them early. Some PPC campaigns are going to go belly up — it is a fact of advertising. The trick is to use early monitoring to identify the duds and jettison the dead weight before it festers.
Conduct A/B Testing — and Conduct it Consistently
The secret is out that A/B testing improves your PPC bottom line overall. But it is especially crucial to run A/B tests consistently in the beginning. Sporadic A/B testing does not present a clear reflection of progress even when your campaign hits its stride, but if you’re trying to get out in front of early losses, consistent A/B testing is a must.
Consistently run A/B tests on the big 4:
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If you’re trying to track your highest-converting ads, be sure to track both click-throughs and conversions. Obviously, high numbers in both categories will translate into a good ROI. But resting on your laurels after testing reveals strong click-through numbers will not help you weed out window shoppers and information seekers if you don’t factor in conversions. A/B testing for click-throughs is a satisfactory measurement on its own only if the goal of your PPC campaign was to raise awareness.
Run Campaigns with Conversion Tracking
You can make all the preparations you want, but if you want to immediate knowledge on measurable benchmarks such as sales, clicks and conversions, Google makes it relatively simple with conversion tracking. It’s a free tool in AdWords, and unlike so many other tools designed to help you lay the groundwork before you drop the first domino on your PPC campaign, conversion tracking enables you to monitor progress after your ad has been clicked.
This is crucial if your goal is to monitor a new PPC campaign early to determine if it’s healthy, if it’s on life support or if you need to cut your losses and pull the plug.
When tracking PPC results, information is power, and conversion tracking arms you with the ability to track multiple variables, such as whether visitors made a purchase, downloaded your app or called from a mobile phone.
Consider the Context
Your goal is to monitor your PPC campaign from the very beginning — but this takes away the crucial element of context, which can only be provided by a length of time that is longer than you’re willing to spend waiting. One PPC expert summed it up by pointing out that single data points — such as the number of clicks and impressions in, say, a month — do not, in and of themselves, provide enough data. Context is needed.
Was the month in question just before Christmas or immediately after the holidays? Was it the same month that the release of a new product line followed a major social-media marketing blitz?
Resist the urge to assume that the numbers themselves tell the whole story. They almost never do. As discussed in the article “10 Ways to Improve Your Paid Campaigns,” successful PPC campaigns require testing, testing and more testing.
If you’re making an effort to track your ads from the very beginning, congratulations! You’re one of the prudent few who didn’t wait until a failed PPC campaign bled them dry. Use the tools that are available, like conversion tracking, and make sure you conduct A/B testing on a regular, consistent basis. Remember that early results must be measured against the context in which they occurred, and never be afraid to cut your losses on a campaign that is clearly going nowhere.