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Using AdWords as a Testing Ground for New Ideas

When companies consider trying out new ideas, there’s always an inherent built-in risk. For example, if they want to develop a new product, there’s a chance that customers will have no interest in it. If they want to raise prices, it’s possible they’ll experience a drop in sales that overshadow their increased profits. Even something as simple as tweaking a logo could potentially hurt a business.


When I started working with larger companies, I became frustrated with the pace at which they were able to execute on new ideas. This slowness is reflective of more than just internal company politics and bureaucracy. It’s also because large companies have more to lose when things go wrong and when mistakes are made. Also, changes take a lot of work to implement at large organizations, so they’re more cautious when they make decisions. Changing a logo, for example, can mean negatively altering the way customers perceive their brands. It also means replacing the signs around the office, changing their website and printing out all new business cards.

Enter PPC marketing; Before you go ahead and make a major change, consider testing things out before, or creating a proof of concept (POC) with search engine marketing. AdWords gives you access to target customers that have expressed exactly what’s on their minds. So you can test new ideas on a handful of users to gauge the response before taking the major risk of implementing it across the board. For example, you can create a new landing page with your new logo, pricing, messaging, company name, product, package, or pretty much anything else and see how users react when you point them to this page via a PPC campaign. Some elements can be tested with Google’s Campaign Experiments tool, which can really help you understand how much you can expect to gain or lose with this change. AdWords is the perfect testing ground for trying out new ideas before going “all in.”

One example I recently experienced was with a client that sells an expensive software product that includes over dozen very complicated features. Their approach had always been to educate customers as much as possible on their website so that those users that completed their lead forms would be more qualified to make a purchase. Then one month, they made a strategic decision to double the size of their sales team, and looked for ways to drastically increase the amount of leads they were generating on their website. One idea that was floated was toning down the educational content on their website and instead having the website content focus solely on getting as many people as possible to complete their lead form. The hope was that their skilled sales team would succeed in closing sales with even the least educated users. As more and more executives within the company started buying into this idea, the product team began to plan out how and when this shift would take place.

But before they went ahead and got to work, I suggested we run a test on AdWords to get a feel for how users would react. So we developed a landing page very similar to the existing page, except we left out a lot of the explanatory texts and made the lead form really stand out. We tested this against the old landing page on AdWords across the company’s largest campaign that included their most targeted keywords. Fast forward 4 weeks and the results were clear. Not only was there a drop in the quality of the leads, but also in the quantity. Once we removed the texts which explained what the product was all about, users did not understand enough about what was being offered to sign up. We then tested another version of this page just to be sure it wasn’t the design or layout that was the problem, and the results were the same. In the end, the client decided to make a bigger push in educating their users, and the effort more than paid off.

Bestselling business author, Jim Collins, calls this method “bullets before cannonballs.” Testing out new concepts on a small scale before making big decisions is not a novel concept, but doing so with PPC campaigns makes it so easy that organizations should be using it to test every half-reasonable idea that comes up. If AdWords testing becomes a required step in your company’s decision-making process, it can eliminate the bottleneck in executing on new ideas. This means moving faster on new ideas, which ultimately fosters a culture of innovation and creativity.

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