How to Conduct Ad Tests in Enhanced Campaigns

8:30 am in Mobile, PPC Marketing Blog by brad

Enhanced campaigns have brought about a lot of changes to Bing & AdWords. One of the largest changes that is under-discussed is the fact that your ad testing methods need to change.

One of the “features” of enhanced campaigns is that your campaign can now run on desktops and mobile devices with difference CPCs that are controlled by bid modifiers. However, since your ads can be run on multiple devices at once, you need to test your ad metrics by device.

This can easily be accomplished with device preference and Excel filters. First let’s discuss why this change needs to occur, and then how to control the ad serving to ensure you are testing your enhanced campaign ads properly.

Why the Testing Change?

Let’s say we’re testing two ads and that we’re running both ads on all devices (desktops/tablets and mobile devices). What happens is after a while we check our metrics and we see data that looks like this chart:


If you just used this data; you would assume that ad 1 is the best ad overall and go with that ad.

However, averages hide all the useful data. You need to segment your data to see the true story of what is happening. If you were to segment these two ads by device type; the data looks much different:


In reality, ad 1 is not the best ad; it is the best ad on mobile devices. The best ad on desktop devices is ad 2.

Therefore, you’d want to control which ad shows on which device; which can be accomplished with device preferences.

Device Preferences

When  you create a text ad, you can specify the device preference:


Please note, that this applies to both Google & Bing. In Bing, you also have the option to specify a mobile preferred ad and use mobile bid adjustments at the ad group or campaign level.


If a campaign is set to show on all devices, and you have not set a preference by ad, your ads will be shown on all devices.

If a campaign is set to show on all devices, and all your ad preferences are set to mobile, your ads will be shown on all devices.

To control the ad serving by device, you need both a mobile preferred ad and a non-mobile preferred ad in each ad group. To test ads by devices, then you need at least two mobile preferred ads and two non-mobile preferred ads in each ad group.

Image Ad Preferences

In ‘legacy’ AdWords campaigns, most sophisticated accounts would segment their display advertising from their search ads; and their mobile display campaigns from their desktop display campaigns. Because these campaigns were already segmented by device, most marketers would just upload ‘mobile’ ads to their mobile campaigns and desktop sizes to their desktop campaigns based upon Google’s sizes:


However, several of the sizes that are not traditionally considered mobile ad sizes can be shown on mobile devices:


Therefore, you will also want to specify the mobile preference of an image ad so that you can test your image ads by devices as well as your text ads.

Easy Way to Determine Ad Types by Device

In both the Google & Bing interface, it is not easy to see if you have a mobile and non-mobile preferred ad in each ad group. The easiest way to see this data is to use a pivot table and conditional formatting.

In this case, a simple pivot table was used to show the number of ads by device preference in each ad group; and then conditional formatting was applied to highlight any cell that was less than 1.


Therefore, any cell that is colored red, we’re not controlling our ads appropriately by device.

If you wanted to make sure you were testing in each ad group; you could also highlight all cells with less than 2 ads using conditional formatting so you knew which ad groups needed ads created so you can test them.

Run your Statistical Confidence Numbers As Normal

Once you have the ads setup and running by device. Then when you do your statistical confidence calculations and pick your winner, just make sure to segment the information by device.

Only use your mobile information to test your mobile ads and pick winners.

Only use your desktop information to test your desktop ads and pick winners.

Once the data is segmented by device, the way you run your numbers and pick winners will not change with enhanced campaigns.

A ‘Cheater’s’ Way of Testing

Creating thousands of new ads can be a daunting task. So there is a shortcut you can use. However, please note that with any shortcuts comes some underlying weaknesses.

Instead of creating ads for every device type, if your landing pages have the same content (such as responsive design) and and overall conversion actions by device are the same; then, you can start with just ads on ‘all’ devices. Then, you can segment the data by device type and run your statistical confidence by device.

Once you have a winning ad by device, then you can change the ad’s preference type of mobile if it’s a mobile winner and leave the desktop winners as all devices.

There are a few inherit weaknesses with this approach.

  • You cannot customize the call to action by device
  • When you ‘edit’ your winning mobile ad, it must go back under review and the stats are ‘reset’ for the ad

This isn’t an ideal long term solution; but if you are trying to transition many campaigns and thousands of ads to mobile devices, it can be a way to start ad testing.

However, with a ‘good’ transition; you will keep your mobile ads in your enhanced campaign by moving the mobile ads to your desktop campaigns (or vice versa) and using ad preference to keep them segmented.

Dedicated Device Campaigns

I’m still a fan of creating campaigns that are only used on a single device. Often mobile keywords are shorter in length than desktop ones, so you’ll find keywords change profitability by device. In addition, for mobile devices, you often want to focus on the call where the desktop your focus might be a contact form.

In AdWords, you no longer have the ability to create mobile or tablet specific campaigns.

Bing still gives you this option; so as Bing’s overall traffic increases, it is worth doing some of your mobile testing on Bing since you can guarantee this traffic is only shown on mobile devices.

Here’s some data from some recent tests we ran that were focused on CTR over other metrics that helps to illustrate some simple examples of why you should test your ads by device type:


The simple fact that when the term ‘Call Us’ appeared in a mobile ad instead of ‘Contact Us’ the CTR was almost 3x higher. In desktops, Contact us did better than Call Us. Now, these are results for just a few companies, so you should do your own testing; but by simply making these basic changes to some accounts, we increased the CTRs while the conversion rates remained static.

New Ad Testing Software

There is new software on the market that can help test ads by device (as well as a lot of other options). The best one is AdAlysis (disclaimer: I’m a co-founder of this company).


AdAlysis has the notion of ‘effective device’ where it is easy to see ad results by device based upon your mobile preference and then you can see your confidence data for a specific ad group or even for a string used across several ad groups at once.  Please note, AdAlysis is in limited beta. If you’d like to learn more or request an invite, feel free to request an invite on the site.


Enhanced campaigns are a major change to managing AdWords. However, they do not change the underlying principles of ad testing. You must test ads, and a good ad test will not just examine the differences in multiple ads, it will also take into account segmented data – such as the device where the ad was displayed.

By ensuring you are controlling your ads display by device type; you can be confident in your ad tests and ensure that you are keeping the best ad for your account.

Even with device segmentation, many of the previous columns on ad testing are still true – they just require a previous step – device ad control. You can still Easily Manage & Test Millions Of Ads and use Cross ad group testing principles. 

If you’re still trying to think through your marketing strategy, the next Market Nirvana show (airing on January 2nd), is all about mobile marketing with Lisa Raehsler.

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