There are many reasons that I love digital marketing, but at the top of that list is the data-driven insights that it can provide. Marketers no longer have to rely on a “best guess” of consumer behavior but can follow their actual behaviors through measurable actions.

But measurement only provides part of the story. Once testing enters the picture… the deep insights (and fun) really begin.

Why does testing matter so much?

In her TedxNewYork talk, social scientist Emily Balcetis talks about how we all see life differently by using our life experiences as the baseline for perception. What does this have to do with digital marketing? Well that same bias applies to all actions that we take, including interactions with digital ads. While one message may appeal to me, someone else may not engage with it at all.

Testing ensures that the message(s) used will resonate and elicit action. When you apply this strategy for a business, even a small increase in interaction can have a major impact on the bottom line.

What should I test?

When it comes to testing, the questions that you need to ask yourself are, how quickly do I want to gather data and what level of statistical confidence do I want?

Smaller changes tend to have a smaller impact that takes longer to reach that statistical confidence threshold. These changes include:

  • Location of the call-to-action (CTA)
  • Color of the button
  • Image used in background
  • Color of text
  • Headline copy

In the example below, we tested slight variations in the copy. Preliminary results indicated that asking potential visitors to “start planning” performed better than to “call us.” We were then able to utilize that information for additional copy changes and tests.

Ad Copy  examplead1  examplead2
Results Ad was shown 31.36% of the time and had a click-thru-rate of 0.68%. Ad was shown 62.14% of the time and had a click-thru-rate of 1.84%.


Larger changes usually mean testing two very different ads. This method can provide more rapid results but often leaves out details of what made the champion ad successful. These types of tests often include:

  • Testing different offers (i.e. “free shipping” versus “20% off”)
  • Changing the flow of an ad or landing page
  • Audience segmentation

For example, say you have a product that you sell for $25. Testing a 40% off discount versus a $10 off price cut allows you to better understand the motivators of your end customer. In reality, the value of the promotion is the same, but consumers will respond differently and it is important to test the variations to determine what resonates best with your different audience segments.

When am I “done” testing?

While you will want to set parameters for what constitutes a successful test, the reality is that you should never stop testing. Like it or not, the effectiveness of any one strategy will wear off over time. Consistent testing will help you evolve quickly to any changes in the marketplace and gain momentum over your competition.