Always be testing. That should be every digital marketer’s motto. After all, almost every part of digital marketing can be tested, from A/B testing landing pages to ad copy to the way you structure accounts and bid on keywords. And, with new tools and techniques, as well as the rise of automation in paid search, there are endless possibilities to be tested. AdWords Drafts and Experiments are a way to start testing.
How did paid search testing work before AdWords Drafts and Experiments?
In the old days, or pre-2016, an advertiser would come up with an idea and split the advertising money and volume going to the original version, or the control, and the new version 50/50. The resulting metrics and results would be carefully monitored and compared over a period of time that would allow for statistically significant results and then the best option would be chosen.
These steps took a lot of time to determine results and compare performance. The most difficult part was how to split campaigns 50/50 and direct the amount of traffic and advertising money equally to each version, especially when testing high-level concepts like account structure and bidding.
Enter, AdWords Drafts and Experiments.
What is the Drafts and Experiments tool all about?
In early 2016, Google AdWords rolled out its new Drafts and Experiments tool. This tool does the heavy lifting of dividing up money and qualified traffic evenly (or at any percentage the advertiser enters), within the same campaign.
This allows advertisers to direct money and traffic to the exact same ad groups, ads, and keywords without competing against each other in bidding at a 50/50 split without any extra work. AdWords also keeps track of the comparative metrics and even shows statistical significance on each level of the campaign, from keyword performance to location and devices.
All the advertiser has to do is copy a current campaign as a draft, make the one or more changes that she wanted to test, and set up a time frame and percentage split. AdWords takes care of the rest.
What are the drawbacks of the tool?
This tool, like all tools, has some limitations and drawbacks. For one, to see results in a shorter timeframe, the account needs to drive at least a moderate amount of traffic and conversions to get statistically significant results. During the experiment, you are dividing the campaign budget 50/50, meaning that your campaigns are only getting 50% of the budget and volume that they normally get, which may impact how long it takes to get results.
If you are testing a new bid strategy or automation, which takes AdWords time to learn, you could see a dramatic drop in conversions or rise in the cost per conversion in the first few weeks of the experiment until the machine learning catches up.
AdWords also dismisses all device bid adjustments during the experiment, which could impact results if your business experiences a strong consumer preference for either computers or mobile phones for purchases.
Plus, once the end date for the experiment has passed, it cannot be restarted. The draft will be saved but the new experiment will not be connected with the results of the last experiment. So, for instance, if you realize after the experiment shuts off that the results are not statistically significant yet and you would like to run it longer for more traffic, you must start back at square one.
Still, the AdWords Drafts and Experiments tool is useful. It can be a valuable tool for advertisers if the limitations are taken into account and experiments are closely monitored by a manager who knows the account well.
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