Have you ever run a social ad campaign with many different ads, only to have most of them perform poorly – with maybe one ad in the bunch that takes off like a rocket? What about when you tried to replicate the results of that great performing campaign, and you were left disappointed when your new ads didn’t perform as well? How about when you achieved pretty good campaign performance, but you couldn’t figure out what caused the results because your ads manager is so disorganized?

If this sounds like your company’s current ad campaign experience, then this technical guide on how to A/B test your social ad campaigns is for you.

Why Should You A/B Test Your Ad Campaigns?

A/B testing allows you to systematically test and optimize your ad campaigns so your marketing investment delivers more value (leads, traffic, follows, etc) for your dollar. If you are not testing your ad funnels, you’re wasting precious time and money on poor performing campaigns.

The ROI difference between a well-optimized ad campaign and a poorly performing campaign can make or break a company’s marketing budget. That’s why the top industry market leaders are using A/B testing to get consistently better marketing ROI – because it helps their bottom line.

How Does Social Ad A/B Testing Work?

An A/B test is the process of testing two or more variables against one other to determine which performs better for reaching your desired goal. Sounds easy, right? Well, it actually can be if organized properly!

Let’s imagine that you are trying to get more social media followers for your interior product firm. You might run two ads that are exactly the same, other than they each have a unique headline. One has a headline that says “Follow ABC Interior Product Co for The Latest Interior Products” and the other says “For The Latest Interior Products Follow ABC Interior Product Co”.

Notice closely that the headlines essentially say the exact same thing, but even that small change in word order has shown a significant difference in results in many of our client campaigns. Add some image testing, copy testing, audience testing, placement testing, and landing page testing on top of this – and you start to amass a ton of variables and different ad sets to keep up with. This is where the powerful methodology of the Bizop Media A/B Testing Process comes into play.

The Bizop Media A/B Testing Methodology

Through using this A/B testing method we’ve seen up to 5000% improvement in client ad campaigns within the course of a few months. In just a few test iterations clients have gone from a budget-wasting $5 cost per click and a paltry 0.5% click-through rate to an amazingly affordable $0.10 cost per click with a 5% click-through rate.

The results are consistent because they are driven by a very precise methodology that eliminates the guesswork. No longer will you be left wondering how to create the best campaign – you’ll know exactly what is driving the results.

Step 1: Preparing for your campaign

Define your primary campaign goal

First, we need to determine what the ultimate goal of the campaign will be. Is it to build your email list, generate sales, get in contact with leads, get more traffic to your blog, more follows on your social page, increase your brand awareness, something else? Defining this will narrow down our campaign type options later one when we build out the campaign and give a clear direction for the entire funnel.

Define your campaign budget & schedule

Next, we need to calculate your total campaign budget and the desired timeline to run the campaign. If you are unsure of what the campaign budget should be, feel free to copy our Ad Conversion Calculator Template to ensure accurate estimations when calculating your advertising costs.

Keep in mind you can accelerate the testing timeline by increasing your budget. You can generally choose between lifetime campaign cost, meaning you will never spend more than X amount for the whole campaign, or max daily budget, which caps your campaign at the max daily spend.

Define your ideal target audience

Once you’ve set your campaign goal, got a budget approved, and a timeline in place, it’s time to define who exactly we are trying to target with this campaign. The more persona traits we can gather here the better. What does your ideal target look like? How old are they? What publications do they read? Where do they live? These questions and more are all characteristics that need to be researched and identified.

Some common audience identifiers include: interests, age, gender, demographic, location, job title, frequented platforms, problems, favorite publications, etc.

Define your potential offer

What’s in it for me? That’s what your potential customer is going to ask themselves subconsciously when they see your ad. That’s also what they are going to be asking themselves throughout the entire funnel.

We need to clearly define what you are offering and why they should care. Whether it be a free download that will help them solve a problem or a contest to win a trip to BDNY (looking at you Samuelson Furniture) – you must communicate why it’s in their best interest to proceed with what you’re asking.

Keep in mind people are skeptical on the internet, so be sure to stick true to your brand, keep it human, and always deliver value.

Prepare your A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet

Now that you’ve got the high-level campaign details laid out, it’s time to write them down and make them official. Feel free to copy our A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet Template to save time and document your campaign goal, budget, timeline, and variables moving forward.

Campaign planning pro-tip:

The key to optimizing ad campaigns successfully over time is good organization. If you don’t analyze and document what you’ve learned during these tests, it can’t be applied in the future.

Step 2: Designing your ad campaign (DISPATCH Method)

At this point you have the high-level campaign strategy put together and documented in the A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet, so now we focus on designing the actual campaign specifics and creating content.

Feel free to create these ad variations in whichever order you prefer; the DISPATCH acronym is just there to remember all of the potential testing variables available to us when we’re creating campaigns. The Bizop team starts with the high-level channel sources, campaign type, audiences, and destination offer and moves down to the ad specifics as we go forward.

Choose your landing page destinations (D)

Define the landing page you would like to direct visitors to if applicable. This landing page should match the ad offers exactly in branding and messaging to create consistency and flow. If a landing page is used, it’s very important to make sure it loads quickly and has an engaging message with the benefits and next steps clearly conveyed. Try testing different landing page versions and compare by the offer, message, copy, visuals, layout, colors, page length to name a few.

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To continue reading, download the full whitepaper here:

Whitepaper - AB Testing Your Social Ad Campaigns - DL Image

Create your ad imagery (I)

Design the necessary visual imagery needed for the ad. Try to test different ad imagery versions and compare them by a static image, carousel, video, GIF, visual of product/service, visual of the target audience, high quality, user-generated quality, etc. You can also test different perspectives and image angles as this can have a drastic effect on the outcome of your campaigns as well.

See the different ad image variables listed in the ad name (the Bizop team sometimes uses V for visual & C for copy if focused only on ad creative testing)

Choose your ad channel sources (S)

Each ad platform has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some are better for brand awareness, others are better for lead gen, some are great for educational content – you get the idea. It’s important to pair your primary campaign goal with the right platform, but you should always be testing to be certain.

You’ll also find that each certain audience and age group uses different platforms, so we may need to find the right channel for your particular campaign goals. Choose different ad channel sources to test and compare by platform sources such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc.

Choose your ad placements (P)

Placement testing is very important for your ads to perform optimally, especially if your offer is mobile-based. For example, if you are trying to promote downloads of your new mobile app, focusing on desktop ads may not be the right placement for that campaign. Or contrarily, if you are offering a 200-page ebook – maybe you hypothesis that mobile isn’t the place for that. Find out where people prefer to engage with your ad by testing different placements and comparing them by mobile feed, desktop feed, stories, sidebar feed, etc.

Create your ad audiences (A)

Define the exact audience variables you’d like to test for each platform you are testing. Choose different audience versions and compare by age, interests, keywords searched, location, gender, persona, demographics, job title, remarket status, page connection type, and more. Each social platform has its own flavor to targeting, but the idea is the same for all – pick an audience variable and A/B test.

Create your ad text variations (T)

Write the ad copy variations to describe the offer you are presenting to the user. Create different ad text versions and compare by short length, long length, testimonial vs none, call to action type, etc. You can also test copy that differentiates by being benefit-focused, or fear focused, gain focused, or something else entirely.

Choose your ad campaign types (C)

Determine your campaign type for your campaign. For each platform, we can try testing different ad types such as landing page views, post engagement, traffic, leads, conversions, brand awareness, lead forms, etc. 

“Traffic Campaign” type ads vs “Post Campaign” type ads test

Create your ad headline variations (H)

The headline is arguably one of the most important variables to test. This one sentence should entice your reader into taking the next step and should fill a need they have been searching for. Try testing different ad headline versions and compare by gain focused, fear of loss focused, immediate benefit, deeper benefit, etc. Also, try to reverse the word order such as “SEO Audit for Interior Designers” vs “Interior Design SEO Audit” – the change can have substantial results.

See the different ad headline variables listed in the ad name

Ad campaign design pro-tip:

Keep in mind you don’t have to test variations for EACH testing point for EVERY campaign, as the more variations you create the more total ads you will have to run and test. We’ve found the best campaign results when only focused on only one or two variables at a time, and iterate rounds to test more variables if needed.

Step 3: Upload your campaign to your ads manager

Once you choose, create, and enter each of the above variables into your A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet you are ready to upload them to your desired ads manager as different ad variations. Here are some tips for that phase of the process.

Ad campaign naming convention:

Campaign name convention:
[ offer + campaign source (S) + campaign type (C) + round x ]
Example campaign name: “Free Design Checklist – S1C1 – Round 2”

Adset name convention: [ audience (A) + placement (P) ]
Example campaign name: “A1P1”

Ad name convention:
[ ad headline (H) + ad text (T) + ad imagery (I) + landing page destination (D) ]
Example campaign name: “H1T1I1D1”

This naming convention helps keep your ads manager tidy and logical. Just reference your A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet to see which ad corresponds to which variables to determine the winners. No more hunting for “Ad campaign free offer – copy – copy – copy” and hoping that was your best performing campaign.

Set Your campaign budget & timeline

Per the A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet, set your campaign budget and timeline in your ads manager. Don’t forget to copy our Ad Conversion Calculator Template to ensure accurate estimations when calculating your advertising costs.

Launch your campaign

Once you’ve double-checked all of your variables, ensured that your budget and timeline looks good, and when you’re sure everything else is right – launch the campaign!

Step 4: Ad campaign tracking & optimization

Upon the end of your campaign duration, or at a determined time to check-in, document the results in your A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet and determine the winning ad for your particular campaign KPIs. Once the results are logged, reason with your marketing team as to why the winning ad variable may have performed better (e.g. different image type, more benefit-focused text, etc) and document that reasoning in the notes section for that ad.

For example, we have seen the same ad image perform drastically different depending on the visual perspective and crop of that photo. We discussed and reasoned with the client to eventually determine that the close-up image did not give the user a good enough context of their product and how it was used. The small things sometimes cause big results – so document your thoughts and findings.

For ad creative testing you should test variations of the following variables:

Ad Headline (H)
Ad Text (T)
Ad Imagery (I)

For ad channel & placement testing you should test variations of the following variables:

Ad Channel Sources (S)
Ad Placements (P)

For audience testing you should test variations of the following variables:

Ad Audiences (A)

For landing page testing you should test variations of the following variables:

Ad Landing Page Destinations (D)

For goal & campaign type testing you should test variations of the following variables:

Ad Campaign Types (C)

KPI Metrics to focus on when testing your ad variables:

Cost Per Click (CPC)
Ad Impressions
Ad Clicks
Ad Click Through Rate (CTR)
Goal Conversions (Traffic, Leads, Sales, etc)
Goal Conversion Rate (CVR)

Ongoing ad optimization

Per your campaign goal and the learnings from your ad results, we can systematically improve your ad campaigns by continuing to use the best performer as your baseline and introducing new ads to compete against it. Documenting your past results well and always using the best performers as your basis to move forward is key here.

The basic process of A/B testing over time looks like this:

Round 1 – Ad A vs Ad B

B wins

Round 2 – Ad B vs Ad C

B Wins

Round 3 – Ad B vs Ad D

D Wins

Round 4 – Ad D vs Ad E

Notice that you never go under your baseline performance. If the new ad doesn’t work, stick with the old one that does until you find a better performer. One thing to note though: sometimes an ad platform will change its algorithms or the competition will increase in a certain season – this is why results aren’t always guaranteed, even with a well-tested ad campaign. Constant testing and optimization are both needed to stay ahead.

Conclusion

By using this A/B testing process you will systematically improve your ad campaigns and learn exactly what variables perform best, without the guesswork. A/B testing & optimization is not a one size fits all approach, but the closer you can get to a scientific methodology to your testing, the better. You’ll experience less stress with your campaigns, you’ll get actionable insight, and be a hundred steps ahead of the competition.

Feel free to download the A/B Test Tracking Spreadsheet as a starting point for developing your own ad campaign testing methodology. If you are interested in having a more advanced version of this implemented for your firm, feel free to get in touch with a Bizop Media rep.


Author: Nathan Wilbanks

Nathan is a full-stack digital marketer specializing in consultation and strategy development for Bizop Media.

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