I often hear the following from marketers: "I tested my ads six months ago and we learned that 'Free Shipping and Returns' works better than anything else." It isn't that surprising that all things being equal at that time, that the specific messaging component did perform better than any equal sized but less compelling reason to buy.
However, is this the best possible piece of ad copy that this advertiser could write for every consumer target at any time? Probably not, but without a well-ingrained, ongoing process for optimizing ads, you'll likely test once every six months as well and be resigned to the fate of the aforementioned marketer.
While we'd all like to be testing and iterating our ad copy all the time, if you don't implement a repeatable optimization process and structure within your organization, chances are that your testing plan will fall off the radar screen at some point.
To that end, the following optimization cycle offers a suggested timeline and recommended actions to take to ensure that the best possible ad is running on your behalf at any given point in time.
While the ultimate framework that you use may be different from this based on your industry, seasonality, account volume, or sales cycle, the bottom line is that the process should be a systematic one that is followed as religiously as regular reporting activities.
- Refresh any dynamic data that would render ads inaccurate if not updated (e.g., price points, inventory levels, promotions)
- Check the status of any ad tests currently running
- Stop any tests that have reached statistical significance and apply winning ads across those groups
- Introduce new ad concepts into rotation (e.g., Selection, Low Price, Competitive, Third Party Validation, etc.)
- Review promotional calendar for any active offers that could be implemented
- Review best sellers so that popular items can be promoted in ad copy
- Check your competitive landscape to inform new ad strategies
- Review query reports to determine any changes in consumer intent that would drive structural changes to account
- Create a set of hypotheses about ads that can be implemented over the next month
- Introduce seasonal promotions into ad rotation where possible
- Refresh how product inventory is implemented in ads to capture any major updates
- Test new core brand messaging in ad copy
- Revisit winners from previous year to ensure optimization roadmap is driving long term results
Any strong PPC account manager will tell you that there is no "best" ad, just ads that are a little better than the ones that came before it. Optimization is a continuous process whereby you should be disciplined in your pursuit to outperform your current winners.
At the outset of this type of roadmap, it isn't uncommon to see dramatic performance improvements as poor ads are cleared from rotation and core value propositions are identified. Over time those gains may become more incremental but what will start to emerge are critical insights that can drive messaging strategies, not just in search, but across the entire marketing landscape.