Ad Variations in AdWords: A New Tool for Ad Testing


Even as PPC managers are hesitant to embrace the new AdWords experience, Google continues to release features only available in the new interface. Ad Variations, recently rolled out to accounts, offers a new approach to ad testing. You can define variants you want to test in ad elements, easily apply them on a large scale, and view results as the test runs.

Starting an Ad Variations Test in AdWords

To access Ad Variations, open your desired account in the new interface and scroll down to “Drafts & Experiments” from the left sidebar. Next, choose “Ad Variations” from the screen that appears.


Click the “plus” symbol to create your first variation.

Now, you can choose to apply a variation to the whole account or only within particular campaigns. You can also filter by specific elements within ads. For instance, you may want to choose all ads that have a particular headline you’d like to test.

Creating Your Ad Variation

In the next step, you’ll create your ad variation, choosing from three possible options.

First, “Find & Replace” allows you to replace text within a specific ad element or the entire ad copy. For instance, you may want to test replacing “Save $50” with “$50 Discount” to determine which messaging better entices users to purchase.

Next, “Update Text” allows you to define new copy for any element of the ad, from a single headline to the entire ad. For instance, you may want to test a headline mentioning a discount vs. a more generic headline touting the product’s benefits. Or you could test adding URL paths to ads that didn’t originally include them.

Finally, “Swap Headlines” will alternate the order of Headline 1 and Headline 2 when ads are served.

Set Variation Details

In this last step, you can give your variation a name and define the timeframe when it will run. Note that you can manually select an end date or let the variation continue until you choose to stop it.

Finally, in the “Experiment split” field, you’ll define what percentage of the budget to allocate to the variation. Note that a 50% split does not necessarily mean that your variation will receive exactly half of the impressions your original ad receives. Ultimately, this number determines the percentage of auctions your ad will participate in, but actual impression share can vary based on competition at the time, quality score, and other factors.

Once you’ve worked through these steps, select “Create Variation” to begin. AdWords will be rotating ads once the variations are approved or once the start date arrives.

Viewing Results

Once your Variation has started running, you can view stats broken down for the original version vs. the variation. Use the Columns icon to apply additional metrics that don’t initially appear (no conversion-related metrics showed up by default for us).

Note that at the time of running we hadn’t gotten the opportunity to accumulate data to show in the screenshot, but ultimately data for both versions will appear here. You can click any individual variation to see more performance metrics and configuration details, along with options to pause or apply the variation right away in your account. You’ll also see performance for individual ads.

Benefits of Ad Variations

The Ad Variations feature offers potential both to save time in deploying ad variant tests across accounts and to improve efficiency in reviewing data. A cross-campaign headline test that previously entailed pulling data into Excel for analysis can now be reviewed at a high level in the interface.

Read more in Google’s support section for Ad Variations.

Have you tested Ad Variations yet? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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