BA 850
Sustainability Driven Innovation

Tactics of Microtesting


Brief Introduction to Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising

For the purposes of all of our discussions and to avoid having to address the nuances of multiple ad platforms, "PPC" will refer to Google AdWords, as it controls about 70% of the PPC advertising market.

One of the most useful byproducts of our use of PPC for microtesting is that there is a stunning amount of information and tutorials available for all levels of experience, and essentially anything you need to accomplish. You will quickly see as you microtest that there are many, many PPC consultants and experts out there who do nothing but test and refine campaigns for ecommerce conversion and sales. While our application is a bit different, know that if you use this technique for testing, external resources are ample and easily engaged.

So, please know that there is a pretty significant difference between riding a bike and riding in the Tour de France in regard to the art and science of PPC... but for our purposes, I hope to demonstrate that someone with little experience will be able to set up initial microtesting quite quickly. Please watch the following 3:53 video.

Video: What is AdWords? (3:53)

Credit: Google Ads. "What is AdWords?." YouTube. July 20, 2011.
Click here for a transcript of the What is AdWords? video.

So what is Adwords? Put simply, AdWords is Google's online advertising platform that can help you drive interested people to your website. AdWords allows you to take advantage of the millions of searches conducted on Google each day. You create ads for your business and choose when you want them to appear on Google above or next to relevant search results. The concept is simple you enter words that are relevant to your products or services, and then AdWords shows your ad on Google when someone searches for that or related words.

So how does AdWords work? Say you search for window repair Google comes through billions of web pages, blogs, and other listings to find the ones most relevant to window repair. These are your search results looks familiar right, but wait there are thousands of search results here. Many of them are other businesses also providing window repair, but not all businesses may be listed among the top results. AdWords gives your business visibility even if your website is not in the top results. AdWords can help get your business to appear on Google in front of many potential customers. They searched they find your business, they click, they could become your customers.

Let's take a look at another example of how AdWords can help you grow your business. Say you want to attract customers in your local area. AdWords lets you pick when and where you want your ads to show. That is you can target your ads so that whenever people in your state, region, city, or neighborhood search for businesses like yours your ads show up next to their search results.

With AdWords you can also display your ad on thousands of sites across the web. Your ads will show up when potential customers are visiting sites related to the products and services you offer. For example, let's say you sell fitness apparel. Your ads might appear on sites that discuss fitness workouts, healthy living, and related topics anyone browsing the web for new workout gear and learning about the latest Fitness trend may be interested in buying from your site.

Lastly, every day millions of people access the internet from their mobile devices. They research products and services, search for local businesses, and click on your ad from their mobile phones to call you directly for more information. Your potential clients are on the move and with AdWords your business can be wherever your customers are. As you can see AdWords can help you attract new customers and grow your business online. In addition to helping you create ads that target the people most likely to buy your products and services at the time they're most ready, it also helps you manage and control your advertising spend. With Adwords you select the maximum amount that you are willing to spend and you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and visits your site.

So what is AdWords? Well, it can be a key part to marketing and growing your business online. It allows potential customers to find you on Google and many other websites. You only pay when potential customers click on your ad and then actually visit your website. It lets potential clients know you're open for business online. It's the smart way to attract customers on the go. It's a handy way to attract potential from near or far. Take your online marketing to the next level and set up your AdWords account today.

A Note on AdWords Keyword Tool

There are myriad short, step-by-step videos on how to get started in setting up a Google AdWords account when you are ready. It takes about three minutes to get started.

While we will be seeing quite a bit of AdWords and we will be mocking up keywords and test designs for this week's assignment, we will not be setting up live AdWords accounts in class.

Here's why:

The AdWords Keyword Tool and other research tools used to be freely available online, until Google required you to create an account to access them. That is usually no problem, but Google no longer allows you to create that account without entering a valid Credit Card. Although you can set the account to not make any charges, I am not comfortable asking you to do so for class.

Happily, for our discussion, we can emulate about 90% of the core function of the Keyword Tool (and more) with SEMRush, an excellent package of research tools with fantastic analytics and trend data to help in decision making. Most importantly, it also offers a freely accessible trial. So while it will not provide the direct tap into Google ad pricing and search volumes AdWords would, it is more than ample for our purposes.

I just wanted to be clear there about the disconnect of talking about AdWords, but using SEMRush for research. We will each set up trial accounts for this week's assignment, but the Pro trial is only active for 24 hours, so you will want to delay setting that up until you are ready to begin your assignment.

Framing the Experiment

For the sake of this example, let's imagine that we have decided to explore one of the more straightforward strategic paths we proposed in Chapter 9, "The Lean Operation." Here is how we defined that path:

As in previous lesson, the following attributes are highlighted: mow less, no fertilizer, native, slow growing

In this case, our goal is to understand if we can dip our net into the stream of people interested in and currently searching related topics/keywords to see what our conversion model could look like. In essence, in this microtest, our first step is to see if the market is interested in our most simplified proposition, and part of the beauty of microtesting is that we may have many tests of different executions on the same path and different paths running simultaneously.

The PPC Ad: Our initial "Escalator Pitch" to Test the Proposition

If you have ever heard of crafting a 30-second "elevator pitch" to effectively pitch a new offering to a prospect, you could think of what we are creating as closer to an "escalator pitch." Having 30 seconds to lay out our proposition on the web is a luxury we do not have, and we are realistically closer to the time we would have to talk to someone passing us on the down escalator while we were riding the up escalator.

At the highest level, we have to condense the most important "hook" of the strategic path into an ad totaling 130 characters. 35 characters of that is the URL you are linking to, so, as for usable message space, we are looking at a scant 95 characters to depict our proposition.

This may sound intimidating, but here are a few elements playing significantly into your favor:

  1. When your ad displays, people are already searching for information on a related topic, so they are already primed.
  2. You do not have to get it even close to "right" the first time, which is part of our testing.
  3. Because it is not an old media "Launch," you can change the ad in 30 seconds, 24x7x365.
  4. There are no high cost/risk factors.
  5. 95 characters is more than you think.

For the sake of testing "The Lean Operation" strategic path, let us suppose we want to test the initial viability of three test propositions.

Test Proposition 1: "Tired of Mowing?" In this test, we will actively pursue people shopping for more conventional lawn supplies and attempt to "intercept" them and gauge interest around the "Grass grows slowly" and "I mow less" concepts in the path.

Test Proposition 2: "Savings/spend calculator" In this test, we will again intercept those searching for more conventional lawn supplies. This time, we will call out how much the average home spends on lawn products annually, and what they can save by converting to Native Seed X. We will personalize the message by creating a calculator that will allow the homeowner to enter some basic inputs and get a realistic savings number. This proposition is centered around "No fertilizer needed" and "I mow less."

Test Proposition 3: "Better seed" As a bit of a control, instead of intercepting those with "conventional lawn" interests, in this proposition, we will attempt to sell the prospects of Native Seed X to those already actively searching for native seed. We could consider this as a bit of a counter-strategy to the other two, as the size of the market actively searching for native lawn seed is likely minuscule as compared to conventional lawn products (we will be able to quantify this in a moment). This proposition is centered around "Native seed."

From here, we would go about writing the actual PPC ads for each of the three test propositions in AdWords. Now, of course, we are not going to be the only advertiser in the space, which is also exactly what we desire for the test: to gauge how our proposition performs not in a lab setting, but in the real world, alongside competition.

Defining Keywords

The ads themselves are static, and so we must select those keywords which are related to the content of our ads to determine when they will appear. Almost in the sense of the Cognitive Map itself, we want our ads to essentially parallel when someone is searching for information related to the selected path (i.e., staying on our strategy). This, in essence, is what provides the revealed preference testing. We are not performing a mall intercept survey, or asking random groups of people online... we are placing our proposition in front of those who are actively engaging in the topic and who may be actively looking to purchase products with *real* money.

We would select our keywords based on both our learnings through research and tools to help us make informed keyword decisions in regard to quality and traffic, which we will examine in the next topic.

For "Tired of Mowing," our keywords could be centered around high traffic terms we would want to intercept like "lawn fertilizer," and perhaps we would test lower traffic terms like "mow less" or "low growth lawn."

The keywords for "Savings/spend calculator" could also be similar, but could also perhaps extend to "lawn savings" or "fertilizer coupon" to try to appeal to those who already show a desire to spend less on lawn products.

"Better seed" keywords could be more closely related to the seed itself, as this test is for those already searching for native seeds. "Native lawn seed," "North American grasses," and the like would be our keywords here.

Creating the Landing Page

A landing page, by definition, is the page someone "lands" on after taking an action. Overwhelmingly, that action is clicking on an ad.

The goal of the landing page is to "continue the thought" of the ad, and to quickly express the proposition and urge the visitor to take the desired action. If the PPC ad itself was the "escalator proposition," the landing page is the "elevator proposition," as we may be designing for 30 seconds of attention as opposed to 6 seconds.

Landing page design and high-level optimization is, in and of itself, a science. There are literally thousands of people who do nothing but shift elements of a webpage around, test colors, and revise messages to gauge how it may change response and purchase behavior. In our case, because we are simply looking for "signs of life" in our propositions and to begin to understand which may rise to the top, we do not need stunning levels of landing page refinement like an Amazon would.

What we do need is a landing page which we believe expresses the proposition, and has a measurable call to action clearly on the page. Whether that call to action is a pre-order, a catalog request, a sample request, or an order of the product itself, we want the prospect to take some "next step." Ideally, the next step is indeed purchasing the product in question, but given that we may be in pre-release, an "email me when this product is available" may be a logical replacement.

The proposition itself may be expressed in video, image, text or a mix of all, or, in the case of a concept like the "Savings/spend calculator," a very simple and straightforward calculator. Again, all we are looking to do is to provide that 30 seconds of proposition and interest to engage the visitor and make them take the next step.

A Brief Example of How the Pieces Work Together

Please watch the following 6:02 video.

Video: The 5 Pillars of AdWords Success (6:02)

Credit: Google Ads. "The 5 Pillars of AdWords Success." YouTube. August 10, 2011.

Everyday your customers and millions of people search the web for products and services like yours. They're presented with thousands of options and make quick decisions about whether to click or pass. Marketing your business online with Adwords can help you have more potential customers discover your business and turn them into real customers. There are five key ingredients that will help you make your ads success. Structure your AdWords account, choose the right keywords, right attention-grabbing ads, select the right landing pages, and track who became your customers. A smartly organized account is the first ingredient that can help make your ad successful, so what does that mean? Simply put it is a good idea to make sure that your keywords or keyword lists are separated into categories or themes and then create ads that tie directly to the themes of those keywords. This helps to make sure that your ads will speak well to potential customers. For example let's say you offer flower bouquets and potted plants for special occasions. You can create one keyword list that refers to the flower bouquets you offer with an ad that talks about these bouquets and another list of keywords that talk about potted plants and an ad that talk specifically about those. The more tightly you group your list of keywords the easier it will be to create ads that speak to what your potential customers are searching for.

The next key ingredient is to choose keywords that are right for your business. Keywords are simply words or phrases that are relevant or related to your products or services. They're the words you think people will search for in order to find your business and the words AdWords will use to determine whether your ads will show to someone based on what he or she searched for. There are two key tips for choosing the keywords that are right for your business. Choose keywords that are two to three words long. Remember keywords can be made up of one word or can be a phrase that is a combination of words. The best keyword strike a balance between being too general and to specific. For example, if you sell flower bouquets the keyword bouquet maybe too generic and the key word organic pink flower bouquet for mother's day maybe too specific. Red roses bouquet maybe just right. Use the keyword tool to find relevant keywords. The keyword tool is a great tool it allows you to enter words or phrases that you consider relevant to your business and it will provide you with a list of related words and phrases that may also be relevant for your business. The results are based on words and phrases that people actually searched for on Google so it can be a great tool to find keywords that speak to potential customers.

Next up attention-grabbing ads. How do you create ads that speak to potential customers? A good ad should speak to what your potential customers looking for. Give him or her a small taste of what you've got in store. In other words why should he or she come and visit your website and include a call to action that is what do you want them to do next? Let's go back to our florist example if someone were to search for something related to flower bouquets such as red roses flower bouquets, tulip flower bouquet, or flower bouquets, your ad may read beautiful flower bouquets roses, tulips, lilies, and more. Buy now and get twenty percent off or if someone were to search for phrases related to potted plants such as mini bonsai tree white orchid or beautiful potted plant your ad may read beautiful potted plant bonsais, orchids, baskets, and more. Order now for next day delivery both add speak to what your potential customers are looking for, entices them by mentioning a wide selection, and invites them to purchase.

After creating enticing ads you have to ask yourself where do I want my potential customers to go to or which page in my website do I want my potential customer to land on after he or she clicks on my ads? Do you want your customer to land on your homepage or is there a page that may be better suited? The page that someone gets to after clicking on your ad is also referred to as the landing page. Your landing page can be any page on your website for example it could be your homepage or a product specific page however a good landing page is one that addresses whatever the potential customer was looking for. That is rather than making potential customers search your site to find what they want you can send them right to the page that's dedicated to the specific product or service that was highlighted in your ad. In our example, for the flower bouquets theme the ad should bring potential customers to a site that features a selection of flower bouquets and the landing page for potted plants should feature a variety of beautiful potted plants that the person can choose from.

The final key ingredient for AdWords is to track how your ads are doing. Log into your AdWords account to see how many people saw your ad and clicked on it. To visit your website and with more advanced tracking tools such as Google analytics you can see how much time people spent on your site after clicking on your ad and if they purchase something or made an inquiry. These insights will tell you which keywords, ads, or landing pages are working best for you and where there's room for improvement. Keep these five ingredients in mind when you create your add and manage your AdWords account. For more information check out the resources that discuss specifically each of the five sections.

Five word summary - Proposition testing in the real world