Facebook ad testing would be so much easier if we lived in a fairytale world.
When creating new ad campaign, we’d go to our magic PPC mirror.
And ask : “Mirror mirror on the wall, who will convert the highest of them all?”
The room would change dark and there’s be a ghostly voice whispering: “The second ad design from your left.”
Now that would be a slippery slope (You know what happened to the malicious queen in the story of Snow White…)
So here we are, left with the good old Facebook ad tests to discover what works and what doesn’t.
But you know what? Ad testing can be a powerful tool when handled with care. That’s why we thought that it’s time to present you our favorite Facebook split testing tips, ideas, and best practices.
Wanna get better ad results? Let’s show you how to A/B test the right way.
Why You Need Facebook A/B Testing
Unless you can see into your Facebook target audience’s minds, it’s impossible to tell what they think or like.
Do people prefer light or dark images? Should you formulate your ad headline as a question or a regular sentence? What’s your best-performing value offer?
Or are you even targeting the right ad audience and have optimized your ad delivery the most efficient way possible?
Split tests can answer all these questions and help to stop your gut feeling from getting too big a say during the ad creation process.
Instead of one team member saying “We should go with a photo ad” and this being the end of discussion, marketers can set up multi-variate tests to see what works best in action.
Facebook A/B tests can reveal some pretty exciting stuff.
For example, SaaS startup Scoro conducted a split test to see whether emojis help to increase Facebook ad click-through rates.
They discovered that a Facebook ad headline that included an emoji had 241% higher click-through rate than the ad with no emoji.
That’s not bad for a Facebook ad tip if you’re planning to spend thousands of advertising dollars on similar campaigns.
The main reason for conducting Facebook ad A/B tests is to discover new effective ways to spend your advertising budget while getting the maximum result. There’s also another incentive — the testing process can be awesomely fun.
How Facebook Split Testing Works
Facebook A/B testing starts with the setup process where you create multiple variations of an ad or ad set.
After you’ve set up a testing campaign, Facebook will show your ads to the target audience — and after some time, you’ll be able to draw conclusions based on the Facebook ad testing results.
When using the new Facebook Split Testing feature, you can only test one variable at a time.
For example, if you test two different audiences against each other, you can’t also test two delivery optimizations simultaneously because you wouldn’t know for sure which change affected the performance.
However, you can use tools such as AdEspresso or Facebook Power Editor to set up multi-variate A/B tests, or set up a split test manually in the Ads Manager (we’ll talk about that later).
In addition to ad elements (image and ad copy), you can also test other important aspects such as different audience types, ad placements or delivery optimization settings.
An oversimplified version of Facebook A/B testing goes along the lines of: You decide on what to test, set up a test, and collect the results.
In reality, it’s not that simple. Mastering each of these processes takes some trial and error. However, it’s completely doable (And I’m going to show you how).
Facebook Ad Testing Campaign Structure
Facebook ads have three levels: Campaign, Ad Set, and Ads. Each of these levels comes with different split testing opportunities.
On the Campaign level, you can choose between various campaign objectives:
Your Facebook campaign objective determines what ad template, delivery optimization, and bidding options your ad sets will have.
For example, the campaign objective Conversions will let you optimize your ad delivery for:
- Link Clicks
- Daily Unique Reach
Tip: It’s best to stick to the campaign objective that’s closest to your advertising goal, as it’s the optimal way to maximize your Facebook bidding strategy.
However, if you’re unsure which campaign objective to use, you can create two identical campaigns with one important difference: the campaign objective.
Usually, Facebook A/B tests are not conducted on the campaign level as there are more substantial testing options on the Ad Set and Ads level.
So, it might make more sense to test various ad elements within a single campaign and avoid split testing two campaigns.
Ad Set Level
On the Ad Set level, marketers can test:
- Ad delivery optimization methods
- Ad placements
- Bidding tactics
- Target audiences
If you want to test different ad set elements, make sure that each of these ad sets contains similar ads. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get relevant Facebook ad testing results as you’ll have no idea which element contributed to one ad set’s superiority over the other.
AdEspresso analyzed over $3 million in ad spend and discovered the ad elements that affected customer campaign performance the most:
- Precise Interests
- Mobile OS
- Age Ranges
- Relationship Status
- Landing Page
- Interested in
Many of these audience targeting factors and ad set elements can be A/B tested by creating multiple Facebook ad sets, each containing a varied version of the tested element.
On the Ad level, you can test pretty much everything that will be visible to a person seeing your ad.
- Ad type
- Ad image or video
- Ad text
- Link description
Here’s the Golden Rule of Facebook ad testing:
If you intend to test something on the Ad level, keep your Ad Set and Campaign variables unchanged.
If you test too many things at once, here’s what will happen:
Another problem that you might run into is Facebook’s auto-optimization.
This means that Facebook will soon start to deliver the ads that have the highest click-through rates and lowest CPC across your ad set. However, sometimes Facebook makes the decision too quickly, leaving you with now relevant A/B testing results.
To get the auto-optimization out of your way, create separate ad sets for each ad variation, and let them run simultaneously.
However, you may then meet another problem — audience overlap — meaning that the same person will see both of your ads throughout the campaign period. However, that’s usually the lesser evil of Facebook split testing problems.
Facebook A/B Testing Best Practices
We know how difficult it is not to jump straight to the Ads Manager and create a new test right NOW. But bear with us for a little longer in exchange for high-quality split testing results.
One of the biggest Facebook ad mistakes rookie (and seasoned) marketers make is testing everything at once.
Here’s bad news — it doesn’t work that way.
Let’s say you wanted to test three different target audiences, two ad headlines, and four ad images.
As a result, you’ll get three ad sets with eight ads in each. You’ll either need to spend thousands of dollars worth of budgets or you’ll get statistically insignificant results.
The more ad variations you’ve got, the more impressions you need to gather for the results to be statistically significant.
Instead of website visits, enter the number of impressions on your ad or ad set.
Instead of website conversions, enter either the total number of ad clicks or the number of campaign conversions per each ad or ad set.
Tip: Wait at least 24 hours after publishing before evaluating your split test results. This gives Facebook algorithms time to optimize your campaign (You’ll probably need to wait for longer anyways to collect enough results).
Facebook has said that:
“It takes our ad delivery system 24 hours to adjust the performance level for your ad. It can take longer when you edit your ad frequently. To fix it, let your ad run for at least 24 hours before you edit it again.“
There is no firm rule about the number of Facebook campaign results required for reporting, but I’d say it makes sense to collect at least 300-500 clicks per variation and reach at least 10,000 campaign impressions before drawing any conclusions.
Analyzing A/B Test Results
The goal of your Facebook A/B tests should be to discover at least 20% gains regarding the cost-per-result, but the difference between two variations can go as high as over 300%.
Define the most important ad metrics that have an effect on your Facebook ad testing campaign results and ultimately lead to sales — the end goal of most ad campaigns.
For example, this split testing campaign by AdEspresso had the goal of attracting sales. So it makes sense for them to measure the Cost Per Sale.
You can amuse yourself with other vanity metrics such as CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost per 1000 impressions), but take these with a grain of salt as they’re not indicating how much it cost to get a conversions.
There are also times when cost-per-mile is your go-to metric (e.g. when conducting a brand awareness campaign with the goal of getting the maximum amount of ad impressions)
The A/B test reporting rule goes like this: Measure the cost of your ultimate campaign goal.
Facebook Split Testing Budgets
Another question we get asked a lot is “What’s the right budget for A/B testing on Facebook?”
Like with many things in life, the answer is “It depends.”
You can create large multivariate A/B tests with extensive budgets… Or you can spend your limited advertising dollars on the quest to a single (but powerful) Facebook ad hack.
To calculate the anticipated cost of your Facebook split testing campaign, take a look at your other campaigns.
What’s the average cost-per-conversion across your existing campaigns? Use it as the basis for your calculations.
Let’s say you want to test three different target audiences and your average cost-per-conversion is $3.50.
As we previously explained, you need an average of 300-500 conversions per variation to get reliable test results. So you’ll need the campaign budget of 3 x $3.50 x 300 = $3150.
However, you can cheat a little and conclude your tests sooner if you see that one variations is clearly superior to others. Use the remaining budget for conducting another split test to affirm your results or test a new variable.
How to Set Up a Facebook A/B Test
If you want to test multiple target audiences, ad bidding methods or ad placements, you should create multiple ad sets, each with a single variation.
Using Facebook’s Split Testing Feature
Facebook recently added a new Split Testing Feature that let’s you create A/B tests inside the Ads Manager.
As you check the box before ”Create Split Test”, Facebook will conduct you through the entire process.
Here’s how the Facebook Split Testing Feature works:
Members of your audience are randomly divided into non-overlapping groups, and see ad sets with identical creative.
Each ad set has 1 distinct variable, no more.
Your test variable can either be: different audience types, ad placements, or different ad delivery optimization methods.
You can choose to split budget and reach evenly across ad sets, or weight one heavier than the others.
Facebook will measure the success of each of your ads sets and will announce the winner. After an initial Facebook ad testing round is complete, you’ll get a notification email containing the results.
Using the Facebook Ads Manager
If you’re using the Facebook Ads Manager to set up Facebook ad campaigns, start by creating regular campaign with a single ad set.
Then, duplicate your ad set and select a different target audience, ad placement or another ad set element.
For example, change your ad set’s targeting from a Saved audience to a Lookalike audience:
If you want to test various ad elements (image, ad copy, call-to-actions), create duplicate ad sets, and edit the ads inside each ad set to include a different variable.
Using Third-Party Tools
One of the most convenient ways to set up multivariate A/B tests is to use a Facebook ads manager tool like AdEspresso.
In AdEspresso, you can add multiple ad set or ad element variations during the campaign creation phase, so that there’s no need to mess with the duplication process later on.
In addition to your ad elements, you can also test multiple target audiences…
Or select additional Facebook ad testing ideas.
However, with all these tempting split testing options in front of you, remember that you can’t test everything at once.
When testing out AdEspresso, creating a Facebook A/B test with three ad images and two headline variations took me about 3 minutes. Now that’s what I call turbo-speed test setup.
If you don’t have huge testing budgets, Facebook’s campaign management options might do the job. You won’t need them all too often as it takes time to gather relevant test results.
Tip: You can run multiple A/B tests at once, just make sure there’s no overlap in terms of target audiences and offers. (e.g. run one extensive split test for finding the right target audience and another smaller blog promotion test to see which headlines work best).
Facebook A/B Testing Ideas
And now, ladies and gentlemen, in case your heads’ still aren’t packed with ideas, here’s more inspiration in the form of Facebook ad testing ideas.
We’ve listed the split test plans we’ve found the most useful over time, returning the highest ROI in terms of findings.
1) A/B Test Target Audiences
When analyzing the 2016 Q3 Facebook ads statistics, AdEspresso found that there could be more than a 1000% difference in the cost-per-click, depending on the audience you’re targeting.
So testing your way to the perfect target audiences makes sense. A lot of sense.
Facebook ad targeting comes with so many options that it can seem confusing at first: Saved audiences, Custom audiences, Lookalike audiences…
But with a wide variety of targeting options comes a huge advantage — you can create tens of highly relevant target audiences, depending on the nature of your campaign and offer.
For example, you can target people based on their demographics and location.
We’ve seen again and again that geographic specificity in the ads and landing pages leads to higher performance. So we recommend that you check out this targeting option.
You can also test several Facebook Custom audiences to see which landing page visitors convert at the highest rates and lowest costs.
Another reason to test target audiences is to see which audience matches best with your ad offer.
While cold audiences may be more interested in low-threat offers, the warmer remarketing audiences could turn more easily into paying customers.
Best practices for A/B testing Facebook audiences:
- Create at least 2 target audiences with little or no audience overlap.
- Use the EXCLUDE feature to exclude Custom audiences. (To avoid audience overlap)
- Keep each test audience large enough to deliver sufficient results. (A 1000-people audience might not be the best idea when split testing vs. a 400,000-people audience)
- Test with different audience types: Saved audiences, Custom audiences, Lookalike audiences
2) A/B Test Ad Placements
Facebook ad placement decides where your target audience sees your ads.
Facebook’s ad placements include:
- Facebook feeds (mobile and desktop)
- Facebook right-hand column
- Audience Network
- Instant Articles
- In-stream Video
Various ad placements can have a completely different ROI.
In a Facebook experiment, marketers at Scoro discovered that Desktop ads had a 534% higher Cost Per Click than the ads displayed on Mobile + Audience Network.
However, they also discovered that Desktop ads performed a lot better in terms of conversions (Which made all the cheap Mobile clicks kind of useless).
The main reason why there are often huge differences in cost-per-conversion is the ad placement and offer match — offers demanding more commitment and time might be dismissed on Mobile as too time-consuming and complex.
MOO has tested both:
Facebook News Feed ads:
And the Right-hand column ads.
You can set up a split test with various ad placements by using Facebook Split Testing. Simply select a different placement for both ad sets and you’re good to go.
If you’re unsure which ad placements to use, here’s what Facebook suggests:
- Brand awareness: Facebook and Instagram
- Engagement: Facebook and Instagram
- Video views: Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network
- App installs: Facebook, Instagram and Audience Network
- Traffic (for website clicks and app engagement): Facebook and Audience Network
- Product catalog sales: Facebook and Audience Network
- Conversions: Facebook and Audience Network
Best practices for A/B testing Facebook ad placements:
- Don’t let your ad placements overlap — each tested ad set should have a different placement.
- Mind that your ad copy will vary across different placements, News Feed ads containing the most text.
- Don’t mess up your test results by changing other ad elements.
- Use ad images that look good across all devices and placements (e.g. avoid on-image text in tiny font that’s illegible in small-size ads).
3) A/B Test Bidding Methods
Facebook ad bidding isn’t only about placing manual bids. It’s a mixture of budget setup, ad delivery optimization, payment options, and manual bidding.
And nobody knows how it really works.
Just kidding! If you haven’t yet read our ultimate Facebook bidding guide yet, here’s your chance.
Various ad delivery optimization settings can give your campaigns a staggeringly different reach and ROI.
For example, for a daily budget of €30, one could get reach 1,700 – 4,400 people out of 100,000 when optimizing ad delivery for Impressions.
Or reach 3,800 – 9,900 people when optimizing the ad delivery for Conversions.
A Facebook ad bidding experiment by AdEspresso tested four different bidding methods: Cost Per Click, Cost Per Mile, optimized Cost Per Mile, and Cost Per Acquisition.
The results were pretty staggering — There were over 3,000% differences in the ad groups’ reach, impression count, and CPC.
While this was only a small experiment with a fairly low budget, it illustrates the opportunities of experimenting with Facebook bidding.
Tips for A/B testing Facebook bidding:
- Create a separate ad set for each tested bidding method.
- Start by testing ad delivery options or experiment with manual bidding vs. automatic bidding.
- Before testing, set your wished Cost Per Conversion, so that you’ll have an anchor point for later analysis. (It may happen that neither bidding methods return the anticipated results)
4) A/B Test Ad Types
Facebook has tons of different ad types, each with a different display size, amount of ad copy, nature of ad image, ad placement, etc.
Depending on your offer, you may want to test various ad types. However, keep the ads’ style and tone of voice as close to the original as possible (You don’t want other parameters to affect your test results).
Newsfeed ads are usually the first choice of Facebook ad beginners — they’re simple to create and set up.
Right-Hand Column Ads
This is one of the most basic and first types of Facebook ads with a headline, description, and single image. You can only see these ads on your Desktop.
Facebook Lead Ads give people a quick way to opt into things like eBooks, newsletters, quotes, and offers straight from their mobile devices. You can usually recognize a lead ad by the “Download” call-to-action button.
Also known as Multi-Product Ads, this ad type allows to showcase up to ten images and links in a single ad.
Dynamic Product Ads / DPA
This type of remarketing ads target users based on their past actions on your site.
Page Like Ads
This Facebook ad type’s goal is to get more likes to your brand’s Facebook Page. If you’re after conversions, aim for other ad types.
Mobile-optimized and animated Canvas ads help to tell your brand’s story with eye-catching content.
Mobile App Install Ads
This ad type helps to promote your app and have people install it on mobile.
A few weeks ago, Facebook announced that advertisers can now add GIFs to video ads. Why not give it a try.
Tip: There’s the right time and place for each ad type. When considering different ad types, think about it this way: ”What’s the best ad format for catching my target audience’s attention and presenting my value offer?”
5) A/B Test the Ad Design
A study by Consumer Acquisition found that ad images are incredibly important — they’re responsible for 75%-90% of ad performance.
When unsure which ad design to use, test up to five exceedingly different ad images to find the right direction for future designs.
Research has found that people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products. About 62‐90% of their assessment is based on colors alone.
Creating more colorful ad images might help to get more people notice your ad, read it, and take your preferred action. Also, why not set up an A/B test with differently colored ad backgrounds?
Here’s another example of successful Facebook split testing:
Scoro split tested three various ad designs:
- Variation A featured a product screenshot along with integration logos
- Variation B featured a product on a light blue background
- Variation C featured a stock image with text on it
Based on this intro, which do you think won the competition?
It was the variation A (that was featuring a product screenshot), outperforming variation C (the one with a stock image) by 220% in terms of click-through rate and by 146% regarding the cost-per-click.
6 ideas for A/B testing your Facebook ad design:
- Test stock images vs. custom designs.
- Test ad images with various colour combinations.
- Test ads displaying your product vs. a general image.
- Test ads with text on image vs. no text on image.
- Test high-contrast vs. low-contrast ad designs.
- Test the reversed version of your ad image vs. the original.
For more Facebook ad design inspiration, check out the ultimate showdown of 32 top-notch Facebook ad examples.
6) A/B Test Images vs. Videos
Facebook videos are believed to have higher click-through rates and lower CPC than image ads — or could it be just a hype?
A report by Kinetic Social showed that video ads have the lowest eCPC, with an average eCPC of $0.18
But you can never tell for sure unless you’ve experimented with Facebook video ads or posts on your own.
Tip: When creating advertising videos, avoid the top four reasons for low video engagement, according to Social Media Examiner:
- Including an intro
- Using logos or credits at the beginning
- Trying to tell too much in the video
- Having a person talking to the camera without context
You can easily set up an A/B test of image vs. video in the Facebook Ads Manager, by replacing the image with video inside one of your ad set variation’s ad.
7) A/B Test the Ad Copy
Getting people notice your Facebook ad in their Newsfeeds is only the halfway success towards getting them to click.
The next challenge that you can take on in your Facebook ad testing will be convincing them with your ad copy.
Facebook allows advertisers to customize every part of the ad text. This means that you’ll have a chance to split test your ads’s main text, headline, and link description.
For example, DaPulse has experimented with different ad copies while maintaining the initial ad design:
Peter Koechley, Co-founder of Upworthy, has said that when testing headlines, they’ve seen 500% differences in results. As he told The Wired: “A really excellent headline can make something go viral.”
Tip: We recommend that you A/B test your headlines first as they’re the first lines of text catching the readers’ attention.
According to a study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59% of people actually never read more than the headline of a Facebook post before sharing or liking it.
What to test in your ad copy:
- Test the length of your ad copy
- Try including exclamation marks or questions
- Test adding emojis to your ad copy
- Split test listing various product benefits
- A/B test limited time offers or various prizes
- Test mentioning your product’s price inside the ad
- Experiment with odd and even numbers when sharing list posts
Facebook ad copy testing can also be used for finding highly engaging headlines for your blog articles — simply split test 3-5 different ad headlines to see what makes the most people click.
For tens of Facebook ad copywriting tips, take a look at 47 Facebook ad tips.
8) A/B Test the Value Proposition
Your Facebook ad is like a candy wrapper, tempting people to click on your ad and discover the sweet deal on the landing page.
In simple words, the highest purpose of your Facebook ad’s copy and design should be presenting your value proposition in the most compelling way possible.
But what if you’re unsure what your most compelling value proposition is?
A/B testing isn’t the answer to everything in life. However, it could be the answer to the confusion over your UVP (Unique Value Proposition).
Unsure how it’s done? Check out this example by CoPromote:
In the first ad, their unique value proposition is “Cross-promote with creators on Twitter, Tumblr, …” In the second ad, they use the UVP of “Reach 500 000 new people per month”.
Split testing multiple value offers can give several fascinating insights:
- Which offer is more compelling to the target audience, making them click on the ad.
- Which UVP has a higher ROI, leading by the number of conversions and sales.
Tip: The best place in ad to test your UVP is either in the headline or the main text – wherever the text is more prominent and seen by most people.
9) A/B Test Calls-to-Action
While “Learn More” is the most widely used Facebook ad call-to-action…
It’s not necessarily the best choice in terms of ROI.
By conducting an A/B test, Scoro found that while ads with the Learn More CTA had a higher CTR, it was the Sign Up CTA that had a 14.5% higher conversion rate.
The best practice is to use the call-to-action that best describes what action you want people to take (E.g. if your CTA is Download, almost nobody will expect to sign up for a service).
Call-to-actions can be tested on the Ad level, meaning that you can change the variations when editing specific ads.
Tips and ideas for split testing call-to-actions:
- Test 2-3 CTAs that are closest to your desired action.
- Don’t limit yourself to the CTA button, test CTAs in ad headlines.
- Use action verbs to make your CTAs more actionable.
- Avoid call-to-actions that do not match with your ad’s landing page offer.
10) A/B Test Landing Pages
Even after a person has clicked on your Facebook ad and started their journey onto your landing page, many things can go wrong.
What if they don’t like your landing page design or fail to grasp the headline that seemed so clear and logical to you?
Or how can you tell whether to keep your landing page copy super short like SUMO…
Or animated like Typeform…
Or aim to increase your website conversion rates by extending your landing pages with extra copy and images like Moz, increasing the sales of Moz’s PRO memberships by 51.83%.
If you have a landing page that’s specific to your Facebook ad campaign, set up an A/B test to see what works.
(If you want test your landing pages, not matter the traffic source, Facebook experiments are not going to cut it. In this case, you’ll need more comprehensive usability testing tools.)
To set up a Facebook ad test with multiple landing pages, create several ad sets and change the in-ad links.
Quick Wrap-Up on Facebook Ad Testing
Now that you’re full of the A/B testing magic, don’t let it fade away but make up your mind about what you’re going to test next.
Even if you forget the rest, remember these three key takeaways:
- Avoid overlapping tests and testing too many things at once.
- Assign your Facebook tests enough time and budgets to deliver relevant results.
- Avoid measuring vanity metrics and focus on the cost-per-result.
And if you’ve got some cool test results you’re itching to share… We want to hear about them!