PPC ppc

Maximize Your Dealership’s PPC Campaigns with A/B Testing


The SEM world has seen a lot of changes over the past year; new betas, ad extensions, and editor tools just to name a few.  Now more than ever, it’s important for businesses to keep up-to-date on the changing times.

A tried and true technique that still holds its own today is the art of A/B testing.  A staple for any PPC manager, A/B testing works like a scientific study – an experiment with two variants (control and treatment) in a controlled environment using statistical hypothesis testing  (thanks Wikipedia).  The notion of A/B testing is a core element of any successful PPC campaign – continuous improvement over time to drive success.

I’ve been A/B testing automotive PPC accounts for over 2.5 years.  Due to compliance and regulations, there are certain things you can control and others you can’t.  Here are my four tips to help you steer the landscape of automotive A/B testing.

Know Your OEM’s Compliance Guidelines

Before you begin the process of A/B testing ad copy, one must bow to the compliance gods.  Each manufacturer has their own compliance standards and they often change at least once a year.  Knowing those standards inside and out should be your first step in your A/B testing process.

This is even more important if your advertising campaign’s goal is to be 100% coop compliant.  If you don’t have the right mix of keywords and ad copy, you could be missing out on some free advertising dollars.  Most OEM’s make it easy to submit your ad copy for pre-approval and the turnaround is usually within 24 hours.

Ad Copy Goals

Before you start A/B testing with ad copy, first you must figure out what exactly your goals are for that particular ad group.  This can easily vary throughout your account.  Brand ad groups may want to increase are directions, page visits and phone calls.  New vehicle ad groups may want to decrease cost per VDP view.

Whatever your goals may be, you’ll want to make sure you’re testing the metrics that matter most.

For ease of analysis, most standard A/B tests usually focus on a single variable.  If you have the statistical data and tools to support multivariate testing that is fantastic, but most retail automotive accounts don’t have enough statistical data over the course of a month to test in this manner.  Focus on one aspect at a time (e.g. “Call for Directions” vs. “Call for a Test Drive”).

On-page A/B Testing

Going beyond your ad copy, just as important is your on-page A/B testing.  Many times, the opportunities you have within your website all depend on which platform your website is hosted on.

As you are probably aware, some platforms are more “flexible” than others.  When A/B testing landing pages, much like ad copy, it is important to test one element at a time if possible. Testing an “ePrice” vs “Discount Price” button on a VDP or perhaps testing conversion rates by sending traffic to a specials page vs an SRP are some standard examples.

Whatever you test, it is imperative to make sure all your statistics and goals are appropriately being reported in your analytics platform prior to launch.  Nothing like kicking off a 4 week landing page test when your phone numbers aren’t being tracked!!

Using Ad Extensions to Your Advantage

The last 2 items mentioned are pretty standard fair when it comes to PPC optimization.  If you’ve run the course of A/B testing both ad copy and landing pages and are looking to kick it up a notch, Ad Extensions are your next step.

The two Extensions I recommend testing, mostly because you have the most control over them, are Sitelink and Callouts.  These 2 extensions not only help to increase your screen real estate, but can also help increase CTRs and conversion rates.

We at Stream have seen a huge uptick in Callout extensions receiving a lot of impressions, so this is a quick area to address (Sitelinks we have seen drop off in impressions, being reserved usually for brand and first position ads).

These are just a few ways to get more out of your automotive PPC campaigns. For more on PPC and how to take your campaigns to the level for your dealership, download your copy of the complimentary eBook, PPC & SEO: Understanding How They Work Together To Maximize Results.


Brock Clauser is the Director of Paid Search at Stream Companies, a Philadelphia area advertising agency.