When creating a new PPC campaign or ad group, there’s an important choice to make with your text ads. Should you set text ads to rotate evenly, or optimize their distribution according to what the search engine thinks is best? Before you choose, you should think about how each distribution is calculated, and how it will affect your data collection for optimization purposes.
First off, you should always be running two to three text ads per ad group. That way, you can test different value propositions in your ads to see which one works best. After a month or two goes by, you can then compare the total conversions, conversion rate, and click-through rates of your ads to find the top performer. If your ad groups tend to get a lot of traffic, run three ads to test multiple factors at once. If your ad groups are low-traffic niche groups, you may need to run only two ads at a time to ensure you collect enough data for a reliable sample.
Choosing rotated or optimized ads will also affect your data collection. Rotating ads is pretty straightforward – each ad gets equal exposure. Optimized ad serving is where it gets a little trickier. By setting your ads to optimized serving, you allow the search engines to choose which ad gets the most exposure, since they will choose the “best” ad after a certain amount of data is gathered, then allow that ad to run the majority of the time.
This may sound good on the surface, but you also need to keep in mind that the search engines will choose the “best” ad based on their own criteria. This probably means that they will choose the ad with the highest click-through rate, since more clicks equals more money for Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft. This may not be in your best interest. The ad with the highest CTR may also have the lowest conversion rate. You could be racking up click costs without seeing conversion results if you trust search engines to “optimize” your ad distribution.
Of course, this is not always the case. Sometimes optimization is on the mark, and you can have a decent performing ad group without the hassle of constantly rotating ads yourself. For advertisers that just want a “set it and forget it” solution, you’ll probably be okay with optimized ad serving. But, if you are a serious PPC marketer, you will need to run evenly-rotated ads for two reasons. First, having even rotation ensures that you will have a valid statistical sample at the end of your text ad experiment, since all ads in the group will have an equal chance to succeed. And second, choosing not to rely on the search engines lets you choose your own success metric. If you want to optimize for conversion rate, you can do that. If you want to optimize for CTR, that’s okay too. You don’t have to rely on a third party to tell you what your “best” ad is, since you will have a much better idea of what is successful for your own business.
Most of the time, I choose to set my new ad groups to rotate evenly. But then again, I’m a huge PPC geek who loves to split-test things. Think carefully about what optimizing or rotating your text ads means for your business before you make a commitment. Don’t blindly rely on a search engine to automatically do your PPC campaign optimization for you.