April 18, 2014 | Sarah Danks

In the ever-so-competitive world of paid search, it’s not enough that you have custom landing pages. No. Just as you continually search for ways to improve the optimization of your website, so too should you be trying to constantly improve your PPC landing pages’ conversion rates.

There are two ways to test landing page components: A/B testing (also called split testing) and multivariate testing. Depending on a few factors, you can determine which type of testing works best for your clients’ goals and budget and your own capabilities.

That being said, you need to consider a few things before launching into a landing page test:

  1. How easy is it to make changes to a landing page? Do you have an on-site developer or are you going through the client’s webmaster for every change?
  2. How much management time do you have per month on this PPC account? Will a lot of testing (design, development, tracking, etc.) eat up too much of your monthly budget?
  3. How long is the PPC campaign running? Will it span enough time to gather data, implement changes and then run long enough to be beneficial?

What’s A/B Testing?

Here we’ll talk about A/B testing, since we typically start off any type of landing page testing with this method. Quite simply, an A/B test is one in which you pit two versions something against each other to determine a winner.

In regards to PPC, the same types of visitors use the same types of keywords, but the traffic is split between two versions of the same landing page. Once we get a “winner” from our split test, we can then move on to multivariate testing, to further hone the landing page’s performance.

Below is an example of an A/B test we did on a client’s PPC landing page. Here we focused on the contact form as our test subject.

As you can see, in our “A” test we had the form laid out on the right-hand side. For the “B” test we decided to not have the form so prominent; visitors had to click on “Request Info” to bring up a lightbox with the form in it:

landing page a/b test



In this case, it goes to show that having a prominent call-to-action/actionable item front-and-center on a PPC landing page pays off — the “A” landing page outperformed the “B” landing page by 106%!

Only Test One Thing at a Time

One thing to keep in mind while A/B testing: you must only test one item at a time. In the aforementioned example, while the design layout is different — to accommodate the form differences — the copy is the same. If you have separate copy, design, imagery, etc. you won’t know which of all the elements being tested are working best when you get the results from your split testing.

“Winner” Landing Page of A/B Test: Move it to Other Marketing

A/B testing your PPC landing pages to determine a winner can also help with other forms of marketing. Once you’ve discovered your highest-converting landing page via A/B test, you can then migrate that landing page over to other forms of marketing (direct marketing, email marketing, etc.).

Will every form of traffic act the exact same way your PPC traffic does? Maybe not…

…but at least you know you’ve got a good, proven layout for conversion on at least one platform.

Also, by knowing which keywords, ad language and landing page copy convert the best, you can massage your website to reflect the messaging that works the best. *Most* of the time, what works well for converting PPC traffic also works well with SEO traffic.

How Do You (Technically) Perform an A/B Test?

The technical aspects of A/B testing are fairly simple. In both Google AdWords and Bing Ads you can test manually by simply taking one set of ads and duplicating it. The duplicate set will of course point to Landing Page B (while the original goes to Landing Page A). Voilà.

We use Google Analytics (Experiment) to run our A/B tests. Using this method, you’d simply upload Landing Page A as your “control,” and then Landing Page B as the test. You tag each page (and their requisite “thank you” pages) accordingly, and then let Experiments do the rest.

Otherwise, you can use a third-party service (some are free; some aren’t) to run your split tests. Some other options for 3rd-party A/B testing are:

  • Unbounce
  • Optimizely
  • Visual Website Optimizer (VWO)
  • KISSmetrics
  • Crazy Egg

There are many, many options for A/B testing software; the aforementioned is just a short list of the elites (IMO).

Split testing is a simple but very important step in search marketing. Of course, just because you found a “winner” in an A/B test doesn’t mean you’re done testing. Testing should be a continual part of any PPC management campaign — whether it’s for keywords, ad copy, colors, lead generation forms or any other landing page components.

As Bryan Eisenberg and John Quarto-vonTivadar told us,

“Always be testing.”

So — go forth and test!



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