Paid Search Testing, March Madness Bracket Style

We talk all the time about testing in paid search. Testing ad copy, landing pages, keywords, bids, etc. We’re in constant optimization mode. In the midst of all this testing we too often forget the true purpose of our tests, and how to extract what we learned.

Here’s an idea. Since it’s NCAA March Madness time, create your own paid search bracket to help stay focused on tangible outcomes of your tests.

Write your ads with a specific focus on the outcome, and the proposition you’re testing. This approach can help you provide some structure for testing with purpose. Below are two different testing approaches you can use to determine winning creative.

Keep in mind that just like the real tournament, even if you win you aren’t the champion forever. Another team/ad will challenge for the top spot soon. You’re never done testing.



Once you’ve defined your testing structure and purpose behind your test you need to determine your success criteria.

When testing, often times people miss key insights needed to determine the best performing copy. Too many people focus on click-through rate, or conversion rate. The real answer lies in the combination of both.

The combination of CTR * CONV % enables you to forecast the true outcome of the best performing ad.


In the example above, ad A has a lower CTR, but higher conversion rate. If you think you would take the highest conversion rate you would be incorrect. Ad B actually has the best business outcome despite a lower conversion rate.

Testing is a critical piece to success in all aspects of digital marketing. Understanding the measurement plan, and goals of the test prior to testing anything is the key. If you haven’t structured your test, then you’re testing for testing sake. Friends don’t let friends test just for testing sake.

P.S.: I have no shot at winning the office pool this year since my bracket was busted about 2 hours into the tournament. However, congrats to Ohio University Bobcats, my alma matter, on their first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1964! Too bad they couldn’t pull the upset in an overtime game against UNC.

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