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Last month, Brad Geddes, Co-founder, AdAlysis led a discussion with host Frances Donegan-Ryan during the podcast series presented by Bing Ads. The topic of discussion was understanding the importance of ad testing. To listen to the podcast click here.


Here is the transcript of the podcast:




Frances: Welcome everybody to the Bing Ads SEM Insider Insights Podcast Series. We are delighted that you’ve joined us. I’m even more excited to have Brad Geddes join us. I’m sure most of you already know Brad. He has been such a strong influencer and pillar of our SEM community for many years. For those of you that don’t know, he is the founder of Certified Knowledge, which helps agencies and individuals and brands really enhance their Paid Search campaigns. He is also the Co-founder of Adalysis which is a tool that you should all be using to help test your ads and the effectiveness of them.

And he is also the author of Advanced Google AdWords which, I think, is probably something that every search engine marketing pro has on their book shelf. And today, we’re going to be talking about the importance of Ad Testing, and how important it is as part of your job. We’re going to come at it from a slightly different angle than you might have heard before and really want to help those of you who are already professionals in Paid Search, or those of you that are working hard to get there as professionals. So Brad, welcome, and say ‘hi’ to our audience.

Brad: Oh, welcome, and thank you for having me, Frances.

Frances: Of course. So let’s jump right into it. I really want to get your insight and opinion on how important testing is, do you think that a lot of people are already testing, or more people need to stand up and start testing more, and just the overall value of it.

Brad: Sure. So yeah, ad testing is incredibly important. And of course, everything in paid search is, you can say, is incredibly important. But when we think about ads, ads are the only parts of the account a user actually see. So it’s the reason it’s called Bing Ads, and Ad Groups. And so, you’re really testing to see what message resonates with people, you know, searching for your products and services. And so if you’re not testing, you’re not really understanding, (a) – How do we influence the user, and (b) Pulling insights out of your data to really help you understand, “Oh, this is what people really care about. We should think about this in our messaging,” which can of course go well beyond ads to, you know, e-mails or landing pages as well.

Frances: Yeah. Do you think sometimes those of us, you know, who have a ton of experience and call ourselves, you know, Paid Search professional, I think sometimes we might get too focused on the data and too into the mechanics and the features of the platforms that we’re using and sometimes forget, you know, who is the shopper, who is the person seeing our ad, how do they think, what words do they use, and the context of the search that they’re doing and… Sometimes I’ve to take a step back and be like, “But what ad would I click on if I was really looking to, you know, book my next vacation?”

Brad: Exactly, right? It’s so easy to look at an impression and think it’s an impression. But if you said, “One person clicked our ad out of 300 people who saw it,” that makes you think about the data if only just by re-positioning, you know, basic metrics to be, you know, user-centric as opposed to being an Excel-centric.

Frances: Yeah, yeah. And that’s an advice that, you know, I’ve given in presentations, and Purna has given in presentations, that starting your ad copy [raising [03:57] should not be started in Excel. Like, take it out of that, be super-creative, you know, do it on a white board, do it handwritten on paper, and then go back and edit, you know, obviously because there are restrictions, but don’t limit yourself in your first writing.

Brad: Exactly, exactly. It’s a good advice regarding this, right? Creative side, it’s free-flow brain storming. It’s not math.

Frances: Yes, exactly. And I just mentioned Purna… That’s Purna Virji, who works for us as well on the Academy and Training team. So Brad, I want to jump into, if we’re testing and, you know, we’re here to encourage everybody to start testing, what are some of those resources that you can really use to help you start testing from more of that creative side than, you know, may be just looking at your data and metrics?

Brad: Sure. I mean, you know, obviously, brainstorming is a great way of doing things – taking a look at search queries, serving your customers and so forth are great places. If you’re looking for that high-level insight or…you need a starting place, because a lot of people are more math-centric than they’re creative-centric. The Bing Ads Research has just fantastic resources which look at an industry and say, “This is the change, the expenditure in the industry.” That gives you an idea of what your growth is going to be. This is what people in the industry are looking for; this is how they’re looking for that information.

And even, in some cases, put together heatmaps and say, “These are what THE most common words are, that exist in ads.” And so, I would encourage anyone who’s really trying to think through how consumers interact to start by taking a look at the Bing Ads Research and finding the white papers for your industry that, you know, have already been written and ideas already exist there, just sitting for you to use.

Frances: Yeah, we love sharing research. You know, we actually have multiple teams on the Bing Ads team who…their whole job is looking at insights, doing research, trying to uncover those… you know, those gems amidst all of the number data, and be able to get that out to our customers. We, you know, definitely, I would say our philosophy is share, share, share that data and be really open and transparent with it because if, you know, if you, as our users and our customers, aren’t successful, then there’s no way we can be successful. So the more we can share… And, you know, if you’re jumping into that data or that research in the white papers, if you want to see a different industry, if you want a different angle of the data, you know, we’re all ears.

So letting us know those things helps us understand how to create more… And I will just say really quickly that if you’re looking for this research, one of the best places to start is that will show audience data based on ‘Industry’, and then once you click down into the ‘Industries’ and ‘Sub-industries’, you’ll find the white papers and other research and power-points and presentations. So, jumping back into, sort of, why the research is super powerful, what are some of the things you’ve leant when you’ve taken research and heatmaps and some of your data obviously, but come at it from the more creative side rather than the math side, like you mentioned earlier.

Brad: Sure. So, I’m one who looks at this and says, “Alright, this is industry-based research,” which means it’s averages of a lot of people. And some people are better than average, some are worse than average, right? So it’s not, “You should do this.” You should read this as, “These are things to try.” So I usually… You know, I take a look at this, and I look for actually 3 things, right? Number one, I look for what is just so overused and so boring that nobody cares?

Frances: [Laughter]

Brad: I mean, a cheap flight… You know what every freaking ad says, “Cheap flights to [insert city name].” You know what? That’s the word we shouldn’t use, right? So number one is, like, axing our current ads because they’re just that boring, compare the boring that exists, right?

Frances: Yeah.

Brad: And I think that’s an important one, right? We keep a list of them – Black List Adjectives. Just, you can’t use that, sorry. And then, number two is what is not working well for most people, right? So that’s again saying, “Hey, do we have a promotion that exists right now that’s failing for most people? Because if we’re running this and we don’t have data, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ yet, and it’s trending downwards,” and you look, we probably, “I don’t want to skip this.” right? And so, in many ways, you’ve got all these ideas and those first two help eliminate some of your ideas to help you focus then on the third bucket, the good one – what’s working really well for people? And this is the part, then, that you’ve gotten down to… May be there 50 ideas… Now you’re at, like, 8, right? This is… Eight’s a manageable number.

Frances: Yeah.

Brad: And so, now, we are going to think about, “Here’s our 8 ideas.” The biggest problems with most ads is they try to stuff too much into it, right? Focus. What’s the main USP, what’s that main benefit you really want to drive to a user? So now we’re down to, you know, 6 to 8 ideas, and that are the basis for what the ad should communicate at the end. And that’s how I kind of, use this research, and then, you know, beyond that, right, we look to see, “Is the trend going up or down? Are there certain months that are much better or worse,” right? ”So how does the budget get allocated? When is the deadline that we need to have these ideas in by because that’s when the uptake happens, like, get it done, you know, 2 to 4 weeks before the uptake happens, and things like that. But it’s, you know, it’s used from an elimination and a focus. And I think that’s a very important point when it comes to ads is, you know, focus – both on ideas and then the final message.

Frances: Yeah, that’s great. I think people listening can…That’s going to challenge them to sit down, particularly, the one, the tip that I loved the most, that you just mentioned was “boring.” You know, why “Is boring”? I think, you know, so many of us in the PPC world… our industry changes weekly, the tools that we need to use, the features that, you know, people like us, and Google, and Facebook, are constantly updating… You can get a little bit wrapped up in all of that work, and it’s, you know, frankly, it’s hard to keep up with the times, and if you’re not keeping up, then you’re going to get into real trouble. But I love this idea of stepping back and saying, “Oh, my God, what is just really boring, and never going to entice?” you know. It’s not just enough to throw an ad campaign up there. If no one…if it’s just boring as hell, then you‘re wasting your time. [Laughter]

Brad: And it’s not as fun, right? I mean, ultimately, right, you get into this industry because it’s new and different; you stay in it because you realize how challenging and exciting it is. And I’ve been doing this for… This is my 19th year, which is crazy to think about. And I still love it, right? And it’s because you don’t work on the boring, right? You work on what’s fun, and by finding the fun ideas, all of a sudden, like, it keeps you sort of inspired to say, “What can we do next, while still really enjoying this?”

Frances: Yeah. I love that. And so, once you have, you know, all of this research that you’ve done, you’ve used all the resources available to you from us, you’ve figured out what’s boring, what’s not working, you’ve focused down, are there steps after that that you want to share with the listeners on…? Okay, you’ve done all of that work, now what’s next?

Brad: Sure. So the next is thinking about scale. So are you really doing this research for, you know, 10 ad groups or for 10,000 ad groups, right? The next is really scale. So if you’re doing it for a few, great. Go to the ad groups, write them out. Not a problem. If you’re doing this for a hundreds or thousands, then you think scale. And so, while you can be personal to a user at scale with in-time efficiencies, if you think about, “Alright, our Headline is our keyword basis and our Description lines are going to be focused around this message,” but because it applies to a lot of different ads in different ad groups, we can test this across ad groups, so one is, right, to achieve scale of testing.

And so that way, you know, if you’re in flight [inaudible 13:00], you know, Destination versus a percentage off… If you are, you know, in…I don’t know, Shoes, right? Is it that they’re a luxury, is it that they’re cheap, are they comfortable, are they, you know, what not…

And you’re testing on those focused ideas which, you know, is, for me, is Excel plus the Editor. And I can…you know, you eventually get back into Excel, you create your ad to scale with Excel, use the Editor in there, and that way you can, you know, mass import, you know, thousands of ads at once while still achieving a focused message ad scale.

And I think that’s a good run from ads, is you think it takes a few minutes to write each one, and if you’re writing 2000… Well, that’s just several weeks of work, right? No, no, no, you can still write, you can still do them formulaically if you’ve thought about the messaging first, and how that messaging and customizers have scales, right? The [params] is great across everything.

Frances: Yeah. Is there one pitfall or, kind of, warning you want to share when you’re doing this work?

Brad: Yeah. So, a) – do all of your spell-checking with Excel. Spell-check is terrible, right? Excel doesn’t have a Spell-check. Put into Microsoft Word, hit F7, double check your grammar, your character links. I use the Link function as well on Excel to really double check. And then make sure amount…to make a thousand ads to get rejected and, you know, we’re full of rejection notices, right?

Number two is consistency in naming conventions. I can’t count the times I’ve seen someone make a brand new account and… where campaign name is called, ‘A Campaign’ and their ads are called ‘Campaigns’ and that single letter difference means, “Alright, these ad groups have ads and these other ad groups have keywords, and nothing’s actually active.”

Frances: Right.

Brad: That consistency… And it’s taking that extra 5 or 10 minutes, right, to just to make sure everything’s lined out, you’re within character limits, you didn’t fat finger and move a decimal point to make something $10,000 instead of a $1000, right? Something important… especially when it gets to bids…

Frances: Yeah.

Brad: Really important distinction there, right? And that extra 5 or 10 minutes, while it seems annoying at the time, can save hours and hours of fixing it actually. It saves you more time than it wastes in totality.

Frances: Yeah, that’s great. So I think we’ve thrown a lot of information out here to our listeners. I want to wrap up. I’m going to repeat what I think were your top points, then you let me know if I hit that or add anything you want to. So, I think the number one things I’ve learned from you are: Start from the creative angle because you’re speaking to real people who are making, you know, regular life decisions. So really start from that creative angle rather than, you know, like you mentioned the math side.

But then, you know, don’t forget that we are in an industry where scale is incredibly important and most of us are working on, you know, huge accounts, and so then, don’t forget to use the tools that you have there – Excel, Editor – to really enhance and grow and scale those campaigns once you’ve done the creative work.

Brad: I think that was a amazing, amazingly good sum-up. Perfect.

Frances: And then, I think the last thing I mentioned that I know you love, because you asked me for them all the time, are really use the data and resources that Bing is sharing – whether it’s the whitepapers or the deep dives in the industry or the heatmaps that sort of [inaudible16:50] and check your work.

Brad: That is true. And the [radar 16:55], Frances is telling the absolute truth. I’ve been doing this a long time, 90% of my e-mails to Frances are actually about industry data, 5% are probably about the API and 5% are about the next change in digital, right? That’s about all we talk about, those 3 things, that industry research is by far my number one.

Frances: Yeah. And like I mentioned, you know, reach out to us. Brad, I’m going to share your Twitter handle, hope you don’t mind.

Brad: Go for it.

Frances: So Brad is #bgtheory, I’m #francesdr, you can always reach out to @bingads of course, and we’re here, we’re listening, I want to thank Brad so much for jumping on this podcast with us and look forward to people, you know, shooting us texts about how amazingly helpful this was.

Brad: Excellent. Thank you, Frances.

Frances: Thanks. And just a quick note out to our listeners – make sure that you check in for our new podcasts and give us some feedback. And you should go ahead and download our latest e-book. This e-book is called “Making the case for Bing Ads: SEM Pros embrace a new world of Audience and Opportunity.” We’ve worked really closely with leaders in the Paid Search community to put together this e-book for you that’s going to give you the latest tips and tricks, things that you should and shouldn’t be doing and just to generate new ideas on how you can greatly improve your Paid Search campaigns, whether they’re on Bing or Google or Facebook, and also give some really great insights on the difference between the audience that comes from Microsoft and Bing. And you won’t want to miss that. Make sure you go ahead and download that on Thanks everyone, thanks again Brad.

Brad: Thank you.

Frances: Until next time.


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