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Structuring the Testing phase in Facebook Ads

Why is the Testing phase important in Facebook Ads?

Testing is a tool that allows us to discover what works best in our ad strategy, so that we can repeat it on future occasions to generate more revenue, increase the number of potential customers and get better results at a lower cost.

To give an example of the effectiveness of testing, several Rocket Digital client accounts saw their CPA (cost per acquisition) reduced by up to 75%; all thanks to the prior implementation of testing.

Often, when we think Facebook ads are not working, the problem is simply not having tested enough variables (or, at least, not the right variables) to determine precisely what is working correctly and what, on the other hand, needs to be improved.

A common mistake is to change too many things at once, or to lose sight of the specific adjustment that could make the biggest difference in the results.

In either case, it is a fact that the testing phase helps us to be strategic and systematic when testing our Facebook Ads strategy.

Creating a Testing Framework

The goal we pursue when implementing this technique is to create a testing and analysis framework that is consistent with our objectives.

To create a testing system, we have to think about testing:

  1. Target, by making assumptions and then validating them.

  2. Creativity, through an ex-ante analysis, where we make an in-depth analysis of the buyer persona, and an ex-post, reasoning in a data-driven way.

Before starting to create a testing system, the guidelines are:

Prepare many creatives

  1. Create and study several audiences

  2. Include testing campaigns in the Media Plan.

  3. Use automatic rules in the testing campaigns,

  4. Choose the winning Assets and include them in the Scaling campaigns.

A/B Testing means to create different alternatives at campaign, adset or ad level, put them in opposition to each other and finally evaluate which option has obtained better results.

We use the term A/B because the choice is usually made between a stable base and an alternative, although Facebook allows us to test with more variables easily.

We can do Testing in Facebook Ads in two ways:

  • Technical, taking advantage of the platform in a statistically perfect way.

  • Manual, faster, less accurate, but equally useful.

1. How to implement a Technical A/B Test

There are several ways to create A/B tests in Facebook, depending on the variable you want to test and from where you start creating the A/B Test.

To create an A/B Test we have to go to the Ads Manager toolbar, which uses an existing ad campaign or an existing ad group as a template to run the test.

Next, we will explain how to use this toolbar:

  1. Go to Ad Manager.

  2. Check the box to the left of the campaign(s) or ad set you want to use for the A/B Test. In the toolbar at the top, click on A/B Test.

After logging in, a window will appear in which you will have to choose whether you want to create a test on existing campaigns, or create variables for a single campaign.

The variables in this case can be:

  1. Image: Try different images in creativity, as well as different focus angles.

  2. Video: Test different videos in the creative.

  3. Ad text: Change the ad text in an ad campaign, but keep the image, audience and ad placements.

  4. Age and gender: Set up audiences with similar interests, but different age or gender groups to compare performance by demographic.

  5. Saved Audience: Compare a saved custom audience to see the effectiveness of ads in reaching various demographics.

There are other methods for creating A/B tests in the Business Manager, which can be found in Facebook's official guide.

All A/B tests are based on the same technology to compare different creatives, different audiences or positioning and determine the winners. At the end of the test, you will find the results in Experiments, in the right column of the Business Manager.

Pros and cons of Technical A/B Testing

Pros: It gives us statistically significant results because we will limit overlapping between audiences.

Cons: It takes a lot of budget to have a real value and, above all, it takes a lot of time.

2. How to create a Manual A/B Test

In addition to using Facebook's official systems, there is another method for testing creativity and audience, less precise but no less effective. It is an empirical method, so you need experience to be able to apply it, but it is a faster alternative to the previously explained technical test.

The method consists of 3 levels:

  1. Creativity

  2. Audience

  3. Target

Creativity Testing

The first test to be performed is related to creativity. For this, the following guidelines will be followed:

  1. Load very different creatives within the same adset (3-5, different formats, optimized for each placement).

  2. Expect between 5 and 8000 impressions

  3. Evaluate which creative will be the most driven by Facebook, and evaluate the main KPIs

  4. Turn off all other non-winning creatives

  5. Duplicate the set of creatives (excluding the winning one) to evaluate other potential winners

  6. Wait for another 5-8000 impressions

  7. Evaluate which of the creatives is performing best at the moment and keep it. If the results are not clear, extend the test.

Audience Testing

Once you have identified a set of creatives with valid KPIs (e.g. ctr or CPA), you can test different audiences while continuing to test the creative in other campaigns.

In this case the guidelines to follow are as follows:

  1. Select different target audiences.

  2. Insert the best performing creatives within all of them.

  3. Expect at least 5 to 8000 impressions for each creative.

  4. Choose the best audiences and turn off the others.

  5. When the creatives stop working, add more.

  6. Repeat the same method constantly to avoid Ad Blindness.

Objectives Testing

Once you have tested your creative and audience, you should also consider testing different objectives or optimizations:

  1. Use a campaign that is performing well.

  2. Duplicate the campaign by changing the objective or optimization (for example, change from Conversion Add to Cart to Purchase).

  3. Wait until it reaches a sufficient number of impressions (depends on the business, but never less than 8000 impressions).

  4. Deactivate the lowest performing campaigns at the aggregate level.

Pros and cons of Manual A/B Testing

Pros: Provides results in a short time and is suitable for businesses with limited budgets.

Cons: It is important to set up the automatic rules correctly (will be explained below) and requires experience.

How to optimize the manual testing phase

While at the AdSet level it is possible to define a budget for each experiment, and thus ensure that each experiment receives a fairly uniform amount of impressions, this is not possible at the ad level.

This often results in an uneven budget distribution where some experiments will receive a lot of impressions and consume most of the budget, leaving others with fewer impressions.

To make the manual-level testing phase more accurate, without relying solely on Facebook's machine learning, Facebook's automated rules can be used.

Let's take the example of wanting to test creatives on a broad audience to give the Facebook algorithm freedom to show the creative to the right target, knowing that this will drive one creative over another.

In this case, you will not have accurate and balanced data, because the results will be influenced by the number of impressions for each creative. Therefore, Facebook's automatic rules will be helpful in this case. One suggestion would be to try to insert a rule that deactivates the creatives once they reach 5/8000 impressions, and then evaluate the metrics in a balanced way.

To create this rule, go to the top toolbar, click on "Rules" and then "Create a new rule". The following window will appear:

After naming the rule, you must choose to which creatives the rule will be applied. To do this, select the "Turn Off Ads" option under "Action".

The next step is to set the condition, i.e. the creatives will be turned off when this condition is met.

Therefore, select "Impressions" "is greater than", and in the third box enter the number of impressions that once reached will turn off the ads.

The last thing will be to choose the reference time range on which we will base to check the number of impressions.

In this case, if you have just created a campaign, the easiest step is to choose "Lifetime".

If the campaign and the creatives already have previous data, you should try to choose a period of time that allows you to quickly reach 8,000 impressions, while taking into account the daily budget.

In conclusion, the model explained in this article is totally flexible, and should be adapted to the reality, strategy and capabilities of each business.

what's most important is to have a clear and structured reference model, which can be followed to test the different factors that influence the performance of Facebook Ads campaigns.

If you believe that our team of specialists can help you consolidate or improve the digital strategy of your business, do not hesitate to contact us!


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