How to Test Your Ads BEFORE They Are Published

Imagine what it would mean for your business if every piece of your advertising from yellow page and newspaper ads, to flyers and brochures were known to be a proven winner before they were even published.  How would it affect your advertising if you knew that your ad couldn’t fail?  Is this even possible?  Not only is it possible to do this, it’s easier than you think with this one, easy to implement strategy.

Better ads produce better results

I get it, advertising can be a big investment and one that you need to know will pay off.  More than the cost of the ad itself, the uncertainty of how well the advertisement will perform can be nerve-racking.  However, that nerve-racking uncertainty can be a thing of the past, once you know how to identify, and then discard, the losing headline in favor of the proven winner.

When a lot of businesses get an ad ready to go into the newspaper, yellow pages, magazine, newsletter, etc., they may spend a little extra time on the headline.  This is important because the headline is the most important part of the ad.  A good headline can make even a mediocre ad successful, but a mediocre headline can turn an otherwise great ad into a looser.

That extra time spent on the headline often comes down to little more than thinking about different headlines and guessing on which one will bring in the biggest response.  Perhaps a family member or friend is even asked “Which headline do you like better?” Getting input from other people is a step in the right direction, but unless they are representative of the audience you’re targeting, their input may not be that helpful. However, there is a better way to pick the best headline and it doesn’t involve flipping a coin or asking a bunch of people.

Testing Your Headline Ideas

Since the headline is so important to the success of the ad, it should be tested before publication.   This can be done very quickly and cost effectively by turning to the Internet and using pay-per-click (PPC) advertising to conduct a split test on several different headlines.

Split testing is a method of direct response advertising in which two versions of an advertisement are run instead of just one.  The goal is to determine which version of the ad produces a greater response rate.  For Internet PPC advertising, the “click rate” and “conversion rate” are compared between ad versions.  The winning ad is the version that achieves the highest response rate in a test.  Sometimes the results can be very dramatic with one ad outperforming another by a margin of 4 to 1.

By creating multiple PPC ads where the only difference between the different advertisements is the headline, the most powerfully compelling headline can be quickly identified.  A PPC ad campaign like this can be setup very quickly and takes the guesswork out of identifying which headline is the best.

Don’t let the simplicity of this fool you – the results can be quite dramatic and give you a big leg up on your competition, who may still be relying on guesswork and hunches.  This advanced ad strategy can multiply the response to your off-line advertising by allowing you to only use ads that have proven to be winners.

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  • Andrew Woo March 2, 2016, 1:00 pm

    Hi Charles,

    I have a few questions:

    1) Do we determine the winning headline w/the greatest click thru rate? I assume yes since we just wanna see which one attracts the most visitors

    2) Should we stress over the headline on the landing page matching the one in the ad? This can get quite messy over time. I assume we shouldn’t since we just wanna see which headlines work in the ads, and not really the conversion rate of the AD + Landing page.

    • Charles March 2, 2016, 1:19 pm

      Hi Andrew. The primary way of calculating the winning headline is to pick the one that has the highest click through rate. This is the best way most of the time. Another option, that is much more advanced and useful in some situations is to focus on the number of sales/signups/etc.

      Ideally the headline on the landing page matches or is very close to the one in the ad. The main thing here is to ensure that the person coming to the landing page from the ad knows instantly that they’ve come to the right place. You help them know this with the headline and with visual elements as well.

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