A wiser man (or woman) than I coined the quintessential acronym of paid search. Rather than the ABCs of sales (Always Be Closing), savvy paid search managers live and die by ABT — Always Be Testing.
In a session presented recently at SMX East, three of the brightest in the industry shared their tiers of testing strategies, successes and failures. “Perfect Your SEM Testing: How & Why To Evaluate Everything” featured insights from Ted Ives, owner of Ted Ives Consulting,; Jake Pinocchio, a digital marketing associate at Red Ventures; and Susan Waldes, president of Fivemill.
Perfect Your SEM Testing — Ted Ives
Ted Ives kicked the panel off with a focus on data collection. He asserted that the first thing an advertiser or agency should do is to step back and assess the data you need to measure. He stressed that his ultimate goal when he tests is to maximize profit for his clients.
Ives’ testing philosophy is contrarian to my Always Be Testing mantra expressed earlier. It’s important to remember that testing 100 percent means at least 50 percent of it will be underperforming. Instead, Ives recommends evaluating potential negative impact and testers’ workload before structuring a test.
The most prominent test that Ives explored centered around landing pages. He assessed value of a product page relative to specific landing pages. He found the strongest surface-level performer (the gated form) led to less engaged customers and less revenue. He suspected content in a walled garden was a friction point, forcing customers to convert before they were ready.
He believed that many potential customers were actually coming in via a phone call. Echoing the theme of measurement first, he implemented a call-tracking suite to measure impact.
To conclude, Ives reminded us that measuring success often has to go deeper than surface metrics and relies on significant data. While there are a myriad of statistical significance testing tools, they aren’t always correct. His favorite tool for evaluating significance is the tool built by Cardinal Path .
Perfect Your SEM Testing: Step Back and Look at What You Should Be Measuring By Ted Ives from Search Marketing Expo – SMX
How To Be A Full Funnel Marketer — Jake Pinocchio
Jake Pinocchio was next up. He does testing at Red Ventures, a truly full-service firm that handles leads through every aspect of the sales funnel. So Pinocchio has the opportunity to test every aspect of the marketing funnel to maximize the value of every lead. He walked the audience through four tests, each exploring different parts of a conversion path.
His first example was testing different product tiers for a credit card company. There were two different products available. Product A was simple to get approved for and yielded higher numbers of total users, but at a lower lifetime value. Product B was a premier product that had lower volume but a better long-term customer. Pinocchio found that while the premier product had lower volume, the value per conversion was much higher.
Pinocchio’s second test sought to compare whether a lead form or a call center would better convert potential cable customers. He hypothesized that driving customers to an IVR system would be more efficient than forcing them through forms. Using click-to-call instead of a traditional campaign, he was able to manipulate the conversion path. He was able to shift the proportion of conversions toward the IVR system. While the total number of conversions remained flat, the proportion of calls increased by over 50 percent. The end result was a 20X increase in net profit.
His third test supported a theory that I’ve often wanted to explore. Pinocchio theorized an “Extension Tax,” whereby you wind up paying more for having larger extensions. He theorized that a call extension on desktop ads led to fewer ad clicks, decreasing CTR and punishing quality score.