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The Real Value of Split Testing Your Facebook Ads

Published: October 23, 2014

More than 80 years ago, legendary advertising copywriter John Caples said that if a business never stops testing its ads, its ads will never stop improving. What was true for the pioneers of print advertising is still true for today’s digital marketers.

Testing different approaches by placing your ads in the hands of the only people whose opinion really matters – your prospective customers – is the best insurance you can have that your marketing dollars are being well spent and will generate a positive return on your investment.

What is A/B Split Testing?
In essence, split testing compares two ads that are identical in every way except for the single element being tested. Each version is published to the target audience group, and the responses are tallied to determine which ad delivered the best results. Repeat the winning ad until you create another ad that performs even better. The most frequently tested Facebook ad elements are.

  • The graphic image
  • The ad title or headline
  • Ad details such as adding a color border around the image
  • The ad body copy
  • The target audience demographics

how to split test facebook ads

How to Setup an A/B Split Test for Your Facebook Ads
Open your Facebook Ads manager and click the green Create Campaign button in the upper right hand corner. A new window will open up where you can select one of eight possible ad objectives: Page Post Engagement, Page Likes, Clicks to Website, Website Conversions, App Installs, App Engagement, Event Responses, or Offer Claims. Click on the “Help: Choosing an Objective” link to view more information about each objective.

The next step is to choose one of three available bidding options – Cost per Click (CPC), Cost per 1,000 Impressions (CPM), or Optimized CPM. If you’re relatively new to Facebook advertising, you might consider testing a few ads with each bidding option to determine which works best for you; usually your budget and ad objectives will steer you toward the best option for your situation.

The first ad you create will be your “A” or “control” ad. This should be your ideal ad – the one that you feel will perform the best with your audience. Facebook has a “Create a Similar Ad” feature that can be accessed from your finished “A” ad. This will allow you to create your “B” or “treatment” ad. This should be identical to your “A” ad except for the one element that you wish to test for. Each test you conduct should focus on testing for one element at a time.

The 3 basic elements of a successful Facebook ad that you should be testing for, in order of importance, are:
The Image – This is what attracts people and draws them in to read your ad. You may not need to create separate ads to test different images since Facebook allows you to upload up to 6 different images for every ad.

The Copy – This includes the headline which appears directly below the image, the sub-header text which appears above the image, and the description which appears below the headline. Treat all three as a single element for the purposes of your A/B split testing.

The Audience – While you probably already have your target audience defined, you should be testing different segments of that audience group. For example, an accountant who is targeting small businesses might create one ad for small business owners who are presently handling their own basic accounting, another for those who are clients of another accountant but are interested in making a change, and still another for people who are in the process of starting a small business.