last Updated 19 May 2020

How to Use Split Testing to Boost Your Google Ads Performance

If you've read any of my blogs or guides about setting up Google Ads then you'll know that I always recommend having at least two ads in each of your ad groups so as you can split-test different ad variations.

This week I thought I'd share a couple of examples of how running split-tests (or A/B tests as they are also known) has enabled me to get big performance boosts for a client's Google Ads campaigns. Both examples come from the same client - an IFA who's using Google Ads to generate leads for protection policies.

What is Split-testing?

In Google Ads, an ad group is a container for one or more adverts plus one of more keywords. The idea is that if one of the keywords in a particular ad group gets triggered by a user's search then Google will show them one of the ads from that ad group.

If you have two (or more) ads in the ad group then you can tell Google to alternate between them so as each ad gets shown roughly the same number of times.

After a while you should have enough data to compare the click through rate (CTR) of advert A against advert B and see if one of them is a clear winner.

You can then keep the winning ad running, pause the losing one, and write a new ad to start the testing process all over again. By doing this you are always moving closer and closer towards finding the elusive "perfect" ad copy.

The First Test

In the first of my two tests, I took one of the ads that the client had written before I got involved and compared it with one that I wrote myself.

Over a 90 day testing period, the losing ad had a CTR of 15.17%, which is not to be sniffed at.

However, the winning ad's CTR was a whopping 28.2%. 

That means it performed 86% better than the losing ad!

Here are the two ads:

Google Ads Split Testing Example

Three Headlines v Two Headlines

The biggest difference between these two ads is that the winning one (which I'm pleased to say is the one I wrote!) uses the optional third headline and second description line that Google introduced in the second half of last year.

That means the ad is physically larger and so is more likely to catch someone's eye on the search results page. Hence it is likely to develop a better CTR.


The larger ad also provides more scope to talk about the benefits and unique selling points that this IFA offers.

And, as I'm sure you know, it is benefits rather than features which sell a product or service. Things like: best cover, 1-2-1 advice, and guaranteed low premiums are all things which help differentiate this IFA's advert from the competition.

This Time It's Personal

One of the other things that's different about the winning ad is that it is more personal. By saying "Get the Cover You Really Need"  and "Protect Your Family" it is talking directly to the reader and making the messaging all about them.

This phrase also reinforces the fact that they really need this life insurance, which heightens the sense of urgency.

Generally speaking, ads which use words like "you" and "your" get a better CTR, as do ones which hit on the reader's current pain-point.

The Second Test

In this test the differences between the two ads were far more subtle:

Google Ads Split Testing

Both these ads were already running before I started working with this client. And, as you can see, neither of them takes advantage of the option to have an additional headline and description.

You'll also notice that the headlines on both ads are identical, so it is only in the description where the ads differ from each other.

With less of a difference between the ads, the difference in their click through rates was smaller. But it was still significant.

Over a 90 day testing period, the winning ad's CTR was 10.32%.

The losing ad had a CTR of 7.41%.

That means the winning ad performed 39% better than the losing ad!

There are three main reasons why the first ad performed better:

  1. It makes a bolder claim about rates. Instead of just offering low rates, it offers the best rates. This is a more powerful statement.
  2. By mentioning the 100% free service, the first ad is talking about a benefit which will have a strong appeal for the reader. And it is a benefit which other advertisers might not be offering.
  3. The winning ad's call to action "Make an Online Enquiry Today!" is softer than the "Speak to Our Experts Now!" call to action which appears in the losing ad. Making an online enquiry sounds like less of a commitment than speaking to an expert. Also, whilst some people might be attracted by the IFA's expertise, others may find the idea of talking to a self-proclaimed expert a bit intimidating.

In Conclusion

As we've seen with these two example A/B tests, there are definite gains to be had if you always have multiple ads running in each ad group.

It's also clear that, all other things being equal, you are likely to improve your Google Ads results if you upgrade your ads to the new larger format that Google rolled out in 2018. 

And finally, I hope you can see from the second example that you don't necessarily have to make big changes to your ad copy in order to see a significant uplift in your CTR.

About the author 

David Miles

As a digital marketing consultant, author and trainer, I specialise in helping businesses in the financial services sector use the internet to get more enquiries and increase profits.

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