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Get the Most out of Beta Tests

Published: October 10, 2012

Author: Ian Lopuch

beta testing
If you’re in the corporate world of PPC, I highly recommend getting involved in beta tests. What exactly is a beta test? It’s the opportunity to test a brand new experimental feature on a search engine such as Google AdWords or Bing Ads. If you spend a lot of money and are a cutting-edge advertiser with a collaborative spirit, search engines may approach you to become a beta tester in their next big feature! Today’s post is all about getting the most out of beta tests.
Tip 1: Get Involved By Giving Back
Beta tests mark a stellar opportunity for all advertisers involved. You get to test a brand new feature before it hits the market. You may get a competitive advantage/edge and truly benefit from the early exposure. However, it’s a two-way street.
Want to get invited back to future beta tests? Simply want to do the right thing? It’s all about giving back! Make sure to record your experiences carefully. Share your data and feedback with the search engine. Try to connect with the PM team at Google or Bing in charge of the test. The more you give back, the more you will get.
Tip 2: Measure Your Beta Test Carefully
PPC is my favorite marketing channel because of its measurability. When testing new beta features, make sure to measure the impact carefully. Sometimes, search engines can help you with this. However, also remember to take matters into your own hands.
Let’s look at a simple example… Let’s say you were in the Google sitelinks beta test, way back before sitelinks were publically available in AdWords. Personally, I would recommend the following testing strategy:
a. Select test campaigns that represent at least 5-10% of your spend (but not too much). You want to test large enough campaigns to get statistically significant results, but not so large that you expose your account to risk.
b. Select control campaigns that are similar to the test campaigns in size and historical performance.
c. Launch the test and let it run a few weeks.
d. Select “before” period dates that are the same days of week as the test period dates.
e. Look at the percentage change in test campaign metrics and control campaign metrics when comparing the before period to the test period. It does not really matter if the test trends up or down. It’s all about how the test metrics trend (as a percentage delta) as compared to the same trends with the control campaigns. For example, let’s say your test conversions are down 5% comparing the test period to the before period. However, let’s say your control conversions are down 10% comparing the test period to the before period. Relatively speaking, the test is a winner in terms of conversions growth rate!
Tip 3: Know When To Say “No, Thank You”
These days, there are a lot of beta tests. If you’re a savvy beta tester who truly gives back, you will get invited to a lot of tests. However, not all tests will benefit your business. Some may be more appropriate for different verticals/business models. Kindly say “no thank you” to the tests that are not appropriate for your business so you can focus (and provide substantial feedback/value) on the ones that are.
Tip 4: Suggest Beta Tests
As you build clout at the search engines, you may want to suggest new features. Search engines are always looking for ways to improve. Make a suggestion, and it may become the next big feature!
Tip 5: Don’t Depend On Beta Tests Too Much
Despite how well a beta test may perform for your business, it may not make it to market. Some betas get “sunsetted” and go away forever. Don’t spend time rolling out a beta to your entire account and become overly dependent on it unless you have insights from your search engine reps that it’s here to stay.
Tip 6: Consider Participating In Case Studies
Successful beta tests get rolled out to everyone. Most new features were a beta test at one point or another. With any new feature rollout, the search engines will want a “go to market” marketing strategy. Part of that strategy includes case studies from beta testers. If your company allows you to share metrics, volunteer yourself for a case study or two. This is yet another way to give back and say “thank you” for inclusion in the beta tests. And, it’s a great way to get your company in the press. The more you give, the more you get!
Let’s say your SEM campaigns are managed by an agency. In your discussions with your agency, make sure to ask about beta tests! I hope this helps, and best of luck in your beta testing.

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