Search ads are the bridge of relevance between the keyword query and the landing page. They are a key factor in your Quality Score, affect the traffic to your site and thus your spend and budgets. They set user expectations for the landing page and influence conversion. At OTTO Digital we’ve been working with clients for about 8 months doing multivariate tests on their Google ads (as well as Yahoo and MSN) measuring how each element in the ad (title, d1, d2 and url) influences engagement and conversion on the landing page.
I presented a bunch of the findings at SES Chicago on the Ad Testing Research and Findings session and I’m excited to present some new and interesting data next month at SES New York. Here are some of the high-level cross-client lessons collected after all these tests:
1) Ads Matter – Testing shows us that ad copy can have a huge influence on conversion rates. Lots of SEM time goes into keyword selection, campaign hierarchy, AdGroup creation and landing pages. Ads often are an afterthought. Search Ad copy is an art and I have met very few experts in it.
2) Every Line Counts – We’ve done tests where the title was the most important element of conversion but many times it’s the description lines or visible URL that have the greatest factor of influence. No consistency here so this begs for testing.
3) Strike a Balance with CTR & Conversion Rate – In almost every test the ad that had the highest CTR was not the ad that converted best. In some instances the difference was dramatic. It is incredibly important for advertisers to understand the dynamic the ad has on volume and CPA/CPL and optimize accordingly.
4) Competition Impacts Performance – On SERPs with lots of keyword insertion the description lines factored much greater. Makes sense but sometime this is an overlooked opportunity to optimize quality score and conversion. Your ad is one of many click option on the page. MVT designs on ads need to take these options and their messages into consideration.
5) Appending the URL with the Keyword – This trick has been around for a while and while it generally helps CTR it also seems to be a positive factor in conversion. Likely due to the tried and true strategy of kw reinforcement. Interestingly the keyword is not a clear factor in conversion in the title or the description lines. Sometimes is helps, many times it has no effect and often it hurts.
In the end ads are one part of what needs to be a holistic process to optimize from paid search. They are only as relevant as the AdGroup they display for and their role is really to gather attention and set expectations that ultimately need to be delivered on the landing page. Still, it is clear that setting these expectations, generating interest and messaging benefits play a crucial role in the process and one that can benefit tremendously from optimization.