Want to Double Conversions in One Month? Split Those Ad Groups

I recently described a bidding strategy for non-text content ads, and theorized that isolating each non-text ad in its own ad group could be the best strategy. It turns out that frequently there’s a wide difference in performance among ads. One size banner ad may produce an unacceptably low ROI (i.e., high cost-per-conversion), while another in the same ad group might result in stellar ROI.

The main reason for isolating ad types into their own ad groups is that you can set separate max CPC bids for each one. Then you can optimize each ad group for maximum CTR and cost-per-conversion. There’s another side benefit: testing ad variations becomes easier to manage and track.

We’ve just finalized a test of the theory, and the results exceeded our expectations. We operated on a keyword-targeted content ad group that contained five different banner ads and one text ad. We split this into six new ad groups, one for each ad type. Here’s a graph of the growth in the number of conversions over the 30-day duration of the test:

And here’s a table summarizing the results:

Metric Mixed Split
CTR 0.18% 0.25%
Conversions 75 230
Conversion Rate 13% 26%
Cost per Conversion $1.46 $1.09

Would your boss be happy if your campaign conversion rates doubled in 30 days?

Sharp-eyed readers will notice those conversion rates are surprisingly high – most search campaigns don’t even perform that well. To be fair, this test was done for a client whose offers are “soft” (i.e., free), so ad groups convert well under any circumstances. But in our experience content campaigns can frequently convert as well as search campaigns. Follow the steps I’ve outlined in this series, and watch for some cool new techniques in upcoming installments, and you’ll be getting these kinds of results regularly.

Bonus tip: display URL wording can boost CTRs and conversion rates for non-text ads. Many of you know that an ad’s display URL can include extra characters &ndash for example, variations on the theme of your ad group.

Here’s an example I used in a previous column:

Outdoor Furniture
Durable Patio Beauty. See
Low Prices on Top Brands!

See the word “Outdoor” at the end of the display URL? It’s very likely that including that one word will increase the CTR of the ad – and possibly even improve conversion rate.

Key point: many advertisers are under the mistaken assumption that display URLs must refer to an actual page on their site — especially since Google tightened up their display URL policy recently. Truth is, only part of the display URL – the root domain – must match your site. You can use any characters before or after the domain name – as long as the full string adheres to the syntax of a “real” URL. So, for example, even this will fly – and possibly improve performance:

Outdoor Furniture
Durable Patio Beauty. See
Low Prices on Top Brands!

This works for text ads in both search and content networks. But can it be applied to non-text ads? We tested it, and the answer is: yes. Surprising, since the display URL is such a relatively insignificant part of the ad – here’s an example:

See the arrow pointing at the display URL? Here’s an enlargement:

Too small to matter, right? Well, our tests have proved that the text does matter – testing increased CTR and sometimes conversion rates.

The Babelgum folks probably used the display URL above because it matches the destination URL. Unfortunately, the word “boff” – though it refers to an actual directory, probably keyed to “Babelgum Online Film Festival” – may actually depress response (lower CTR) because at the least, it’s confusing, and at the worst, it has, uh, negative connotations.

They could probably get better results with any of these variations:

  • Babelgum.com/Download
  • SpikeLee.Babelgum.com
  • Babelgum.com/WinCannesTrip

By now, readers of this column might be asking, “This seems like a whole lot of work. Is it worth it?” The answer, to paraphrase the late, great John L. Harlan, is “Not only yes — but Hell, Yes!”

Too much work for you? Getting great results from these columns? E-mail me comments and questions or post them in the SEW Forum Content Advertising thread.

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