- The Performers
- The Ultimate Ultimate Guide to Creative Testing
The Ultimate Ultimate Guide to Creative Testing
If creative is the biggest lever to pull, then we need to understand this in more detail.
Did you know: Around 56% of achieving success with Meta Ads is determined by the quality of your creative content (although when I say it out loud, it should be higher).
This fact is quite remarkable, and I believe that this percentage will continue to rise in the future due to the increasing role of AI in optimizing and automating media buying processes.
If creative is the biggest lever to pull, then we need to understand this in more detail.
I have 45+ top-performance marketers in my paid ads community, so I wanted to collect everyone’s thought process and share one resource that you can recommend to anyone.
Note: This guide assumes that you already have a good understanding of Meta Ads and want to refine your ads roadmap for better success.
If not, you can check these resources first:
Okay! So, now that’s clear. Let’s hop on to the topic.
Step # 1 – Focus on two types of campaigns only (simpler account structure)
You should only have two campaigns to keep the account structure simple. One should be the main prospecting campaign, and the other should be the creative testing campaign.
The job of the main prospecting campaign is to scale the winning ads.
Creative testing’s job is to find the winning ads and move them to the main campaign.
Note: Main campaign could be your automated/advantage shopping campaign. However, to be on the safe side, you should run an automated/advantage + ad set level campaign (ABO).
Main folks run the scaling campaign as campaign budget optimization and ad set budget optimization. There is no right or wrong way as long as you see the ads are running profitability. However, you should always try a test and see what works for you.
The key mental model here is: Keep some level of control but let Facebook do most of the figuring out which ads are winning.
Disclaimer: Retarget is the third type of campaign some folks run. Many specialists say that advantage campaigns or automated campaigns do the retargeting for you. But if you have a high average order value product, there’s no harm. I have seen retargeting working specially for ad set level campaigns.
Here’s how the campaign structure looks like for my ad account:
Step # 2 – The creative testing campaign
Let’s talk about how many tests you should be running. The answer depends on your budget and planning. But assuming you are around $30K-$100K then you should be running at least 2 creative concept tests and 6-12 different ads every week. If you are averaging $100K-$250K/month – this stage requires a lot more creative testing. Probably 3-4 creative tests per week.
The next question is – What should you be testing first? Assuming you know roughly what messaging works and what ad works, you can start testing the hooks first. This could be one video concept, 3 different hooks and everything stays the same such as the copy, the body of the video, and the CTA.
Once you find the winning hook & creative asset then you move that asset to the main campaign.
Step # 3 - The budget allocation
This might be slightly controversial but I happen to agree with some performers that you do not need 50 conversions to find the winning ad. So, how do you allocate the budget?
I spend 20-30% of my entire ad budget on creative testing.
Cody Plofker, who came to our mastermind live session shared that he spends 40% of his ad budget on creative testing.
Everyone has their own opinion, but as long as you find 20-30 conversions with the cost per action that makes sense for you, you can allocate that amount of the budget and work backward from there.
Dara Denny, who also came to our mastermind said that the “learning phase” and “50 conversions per week” is Meta’s way of making you spend more.
Don’t fall for that.
I learned this from Dara and she is having a webinar on a similar topic.
Join Dara Denney and Motion for 'Make Ads That Convert'—Dara has spent $100M in paid social ads and is spilling her secrets on how to produce high-performing ads in four sessions from May 30-July 11.
Join here sponsored (I attend almost all virtual series from Motion and I’ve personally learned a lot from Dara)
Okay, let’s back to creative testing..
Step # 4 – Post-launch analysis
You could start analyzing the creative ads based on the cost per action. Here are three scenarios:
Results are good > You found two to three good creatives, scale the ad set in the creative campaign up to 50% to 100%. Why? You need to make sure that the creative can stand the test of budget. Once you are confident, say two weeks later, move the winners to the main campaign.
Results are average > Nothing stands out, well then can you iterate to find the winners? Did you learn something from this test? Was perhaps the hook good but retention bad?
Results are bad > If the CPA is 2x of the average CPA. Turn it off.
Note: Don’t turn off an ad set that’s giving good results. Keep running the creative winning adset as long as the results are good and the main campaign ad set too.
Step # 5 – What metrics do you use to analyze these ads
Cost per action (purchase, add to cart or lead) is the main lever to see if the creatives are good.
Here are some I keep always look at too:
Clickthrough rate (CTR)
This shows how well your ads are performing.
If your ads are above 1%, your ads are doing well.
Cost per 1000 impressions or Cost per Mile (CPM)
This tells you how well you are doing compared to overall competition.
Cost per Click (CPC)
If the CPC is higher, then this means that the ad isn't performing well.
Conversion rate (CVR)
Conversion rate tells you the effectiveness of ads and the platform.
Return on Ad Spend (ROAS)
You divide the revenue attributed to your ad campaign by the cost of that campaign.
It's critical to understand the profitability of our spending.
Hook rate is calculated as 3-second video views divided by impressions. It's a basic metric, but it helps us quickly see which ads are grabbing users' attention.
If you're achieving above 30% for your prospecting campaigns, you're nailing the creative.
HR tells you if the video was effective enough to make users watch till the end. It's about retention.
If you're achieving above 10% for your prospecting campaigns, you're nailing the creative.
Tip: Keep surprising or asking questions in the middle of the video.
Landing Page View Rate (custom metric)
Landing page views divide unique clickthrough rates.
How many folks who clicked on the ad actually went to the landing page?
My number is above 70%. This means that the ad is generating enough curiosity to take action.
Frequency and impressions
These go together.
Impression: How many people saw the ad?
Frequency: How often did they see it?
Frequency should be 1 to 3 per ad set.
So, that’s about it. But creative testing is more nuanced than a straightforward answer. Hence, I am going to answer the most common questions below:
The common creative testing questions
Do you use A/B testing feature of Meta for creative testing?
Normally, no. However, when you want to test a slight change and want to show the same ad then you can always try.
How do you use dynamic ads for creative testing?
I personally feel that dynamic ads are a disservice to the effort you’ve put into a good creative. It will only find you one winner. You can only analyze by the amount spent, not CTR, CPC, or CPMs.
However, when I want to find a good headline that resonates with single images. I use dynamic ads.
How do you decide to turn an ad off?
The Performers group members have different opinions but we all agree that if the cost of acquisition is 3x for the last 30 days, you can safely turn off that ad.
Once you find a winner, how do you iterate on the existing winning ad?
Testing the headlines or text layer over
Testing the hooks
Adding a review or more social proof
Testing the same creative with a different person
Testing the new “primary text” and “headlines”
Converting the image into a gif or short video
Testing new landing pages
Try new formats like green screen, transitions and other innovative formats with the same asset
What are some other high-leverage experiments I can run?
8 high-leverage Facebook Ads experiments you should run:
The pacing of the video ad
Single image vs carousels
30 seconds vs 60 seconds ads
Multiple headlines for message testing
Homepage vs Landing page
Goal conversion: Lead vs Purchase
Test different offers such as BOGO, bundles, dollar off, percent off, buy more, save more, gifts, discounts, free shipping, and more
What are some common mistakes have you seen with creative testing?
Forcing a creative. When Meta spends money on one ad and you try to create a new ad set to test that ad. I have always seen them lose.
Spending too much time in the ad account and making rash decisions in your creative testing campaigns. Give it time.
How to test primary text copy?
In order to test different copy, you need to decide what kind of copy will actually work.
There are different kinds of copy such as:
Review testimonial: Take a review or testimonial of your customer and put the exact copy on your ad. Always remember, your customers will say it better. Protip: Try different variations of it too.
If you are going with a review-testimonial copy, you should try multiple testimonials, one that highlights some value props, or different variations of it. And choose the most effective ones.
Bullet points copy with benefits: These are usually with emojis and they are easy to read.
However, such primary text copy does not appear well on Instagram.
Short form copy: When I use this copy, it usually goes well on Instagram. What I have observed is that primary text copy does not make or break creative but it is still good to test. Here’s an example of copy from my ads:
But how do you really test the primary text?
First, analyze which copy you’ve already tested and pick the one that resonated. Then, analyze the ones that didn’t work and why they didn’t work.
Pick your best creatives and only use one ad with multiple ad copies to really see the best results. Later on, check which got the most spending.
The most important thing here is to remember that the copy test should come after creatives and you should spend most of your energy on creative testing.
Key lessons I have learned from creative testing
Take your emotion out of the process and follow what the data says. Just because you think an ad should work, does not mean it will.
Spending more time on the concept, not shipping or executing
To get more creative testing ideas, do customer interview calls to find more angles and insights
Before testing, if you have a target persona in-house (in your company), you could always get some feedback to improve
Hope this was helpful. Here’s my parting thought:
If your creative testing ads didn’t work on your prospecting campaign, and if you run retargeting ads, do try those ads in retargeting. I’ve found some winners that work for retargeting.
Happy Growing with Paid Social,
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