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10 Facebook Ad Testing Ideas To Crush Your Competition

Johnathan Dane
Johnathan Dane
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You’re a marketing manager who’s responsible for maximizing reach, leads, and/or sales from your company’s Facebook ads. Your current campaigns are producing decent results, but you know that with a couple of tweaks, you could really blow past your key performance indicators (KPIs).

So what should you change to improve your Facebook ads?

From creatives to audience targeting to placements, there are tons of small changes to consider.

With Facebook ad testing, you can find what works best for your audience so you can crush your competition. 

In this article, we’ll show you how to split-test Facebook ads and introduce you to 10 essential ideas you can implement now.

Why you need Facebook ad testing (AKA A/B testing)

Unless you can see into your Facebook target audience’s minds, it’s impossible to tell what they really 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?

Have you optimized your ad delivery in the most efficient way possible? Are you even targeting the right ad audience?

Split tests can answer all these questions and help stop your gut feelings from having too much input during the ad creation process.

Instead of one team member saying, “We should go with a photo ad” and ending the discussion there, marketers can set up multivariate tests to see what works best in action.

A/B tests can also help your team continue to improve on past results. That means you can stop stagnating and keep reaching higher and better goals.

Mailchimp Facebook ads
MailChimp tests ad images instead of simply guessing what works best for audiences

Take a look at Facebook ad testing in action

Facebook A/B tests can reveal some pretty exciting stuff.

For example, we worked with window tinting specialists, ClimatePro, to conduct audience research and design a split test. 

The goal?

To identify which combination of ad creatives and copy would maximize conversions.

ClimatePro Facebook ad A/B test
ClimatePro’s A/B test included ad copy and creatives

The split test allowed us to find the ideal audience, creative, copy, and landing page for ClimatePro. As a result, we skyrocketed conversions by 686% and decreased cost per acquisition (CPA) by 82%.

That’s not a bad Facebook ad tip, especially if you’re planning to spend thousands of advertising dollars on similar campaigns.

So how does split testing work? Let’s walk through the process, shall we?

How Facebook ad testing works

You can use tools like AdEspresso or Facebook Ads Manager to set up multivariate A/B tests. (We’ll talk about that later.)

In addition to ad elements like image and ad copy, you can test other important aspects such as different audience types, ad placements, or delivery optimization settings.

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.

An oversimplified version of Facebook A/B testing goes along the lines of: You decide 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.

But it’s completely doable. And we’re going to show you how.

The 3 different levels of Facebook A/B testing

Facebook ads have three levels: campaign, ad set, and ad. Each of these levels comes with different split testing opportunities.

Campaign level

At the campaign level, you can split test two different objectives against each other.

Facebook campaign objectives
Facebook has eleven campaign objectives

Your Facebook campaign objective determines what ad template, delivery optimization, and bidding options your ad sets will have. If you’re unsure which campaign objective to use, you can create two identical campaigns with different campaign objectives.

You can also split test a campaign using campaign budget optimization (CBO) against another without this option enabled. 

Can’t decide which Facebook bidding strategy to use? If you have CBO enabled, you can split test bidding strategies at the campaign level.

Ad set level

At the ad set level, marketers can test

Facebook ad placements
Each ad placement returns different results

If you want to test different ad set elements, make sure that each ad set contains similar ads. Otherwise, you won’t be able to get relevant Facebook ad testing results since you’ll have no idea which element contributed to one ad set’s superiority over the other.

It’s also essential to switch off CBO if you plan to split test ad sets using the native Facebook tool. If you have CBO enabled, you can only test at the campaign level.

You can A/B test many of these audience targeting factors and ad set elements by creating multiple Facebook ad sets, each containing a varied version of the tested element.

Ad level

At the ad level, you can test pretty much everything that will be visible to a person seeing your ad. This includes

  • ad type
  • images or video
  • ad text
  • headline
  • link description
  • call-to-action (CTA)
Avocado Green Mattress Facebook ad
Every part of this ad by Avocado Green Mattress is testable

The golden rule of Facebook Ad testing? If you intend to test something at the ad level, keep your ad set and campaign variables unchanged.

If you test too many things at once, here’s what will happen:

Facebook ad variations
You may end up with 625 ad variations – source

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 (CTRs) and lowest cost per click (CPC) across your ad set. However, sometimes Facebook makes the decision too quickly, leaving you with no relevant A/B testing results.

To get the auto-optimization out of your way, create a new ad set for each ad variation, and let them run simultaneously.

Traffic campaign Facebook ad sets
Place each ad variation in a separate ad set

Facebook A/B testing best practices

We know how difficult it is not to jump straight to Ads Manager and create a new test RIGHT NOW.

But if you bear with us a little longer, we’ll help you get high-quality results from your split tests.

One of the biggest Facebook ad mistakes both rookie and seasoned marketers make is testing everything at once.

Why is this such a bad idea?

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. The more ad variations you have, the more total impressions you need to gather for the results to be statistically significant.

You’ll either need to spend thousands of dollars worth of budget or you might end up with statistically insignificant results.

Don’t go with your gut. Instead, take an A/B significance test to determine if your split testing results are valid.

A/B significance test
A/B significance tests help to evaluate your results

What metrics to look at when determining whether a Facebook A/B test is ready for evaluation

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 ad or ad set.

Tip: Wait at least 24 hours after publishing before evaluating your split test results. This gives the Facebook algorithm the time to optimize your campaign. (You’ll probably need to wait for longer anyways to collect enough results).

Facebook even says that it takes a few run-throughs to get your ad delivery right. Known as the learning phase, this process allows Facebook to gather the data it needs to optimize ad delivery.

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.

Alternatively, as we mentioned earlier, you can keep testing until you reach statistical significance.

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 be as much as—or more than—300%.

Define the most important ad metrics that affect 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.

Facebook ads cost per result
Measure the cost per result – source

You can check other vanity metrics such as CPC or CPM (cost per 1000 impressions), but take these with a grain of salt as they don’t indicate how much it costs to get a conversion.

There are also times when CPM is your go-to metric (e.g., when conducting a brand awareness campaign with the goal of getting the maximum number 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?”

Our answer?

It depends.

You can start by creating 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 variation 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.

Set up a split test within your campaign

Facebook's Ads Manager update makes it easier than ever to split test ads within your campaign.

You can start the A/B test process during the campaign creation process. Toggle the “Create A/B Test” switch at the campaign level. When you publish the campaign, Ads Manager will automatically prompt you to create the B version of the test.

Facebook ads A/B test
Facebook's Ads Manager makes it easy to split test ads within your campaign

Facebook will measure the success of each ad set and declare a winner. After the test is complete, you'll get a notification email containing the results. You can also view results in the Experiments section of Ads Manager.

Start a split test from your Ads Manager overview

You can also create an A/B test using any active campaign. In Ads Manager, select the campaign you want to test against and click the A/B Test button.

Facebook ads manager split test
You can split test at the campaign, ad set, or ad level

Choose whether you want to test two existing ads against each other or if you want to make a copy of the ad you selected. If you choose the former, you’ll need to select the campaigns or ad sets you want to test. You can choose up to five of each.

Facebook ads variable
Select the campaigns or ad sets for your test

Then choose the variable you want to test. Options include creative, audience, placement, and custom.

Facebook ads choose variable
Select which variable you want to test

Next, set a time frame of at least 24 hours for the test and choose the metric that you want to determine the winner. Opt for the metric that’s most closely aligned with your campaign goal. For example, if you’re using the sales objective, choose cost per purchase.

Facebook ads testing time frame and key metric
Establish a testing time frame and the key metric

Alternatively, select the campaign, ad set, or ad you want to test and click the “Duplicate your ad” button. Make the change to that duplicate object, select both objects you’ll be split testing, and click “New A/B test” in the toolbar to set up the test. 

Facebook ads duplicate your ad
Duplicate your ad and select “New A/B test”

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 set or element variations to your ads during the campaign creation phase, so 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.

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).

10 Facebook A/B testing ideas

Can’t decide where to start with your split test? Here are 10 Facebook ad testing ideas to inspire you.

We’ve listed the split test approaches we’ve found the most useful over time, delivering the highest return on investment (ROI).

1. A/B test target audiences

An AdEspresso analysis of Facebook ad statistics found that the audience you target can affect cost-per-click by more than 1000%.

Audience affects Facebook ad costs
Target audiences affect your Facebook ad costs in a huge way – source

So testing your way to the perfect target audience makes sense. A lot of sense.

Of course, once you get started, the multitude of Facebook ad targeting options can seem confusing at first. Should you focus on interest targeting, custom audiences, or lookalike audiences?

To answer that, consider the nature of your campaign and offer. For example, we often recommend first targeting people based on their demographics and location.

Facebook ads location
Facebook lets advertisers get quite granular

We’ve seen again and again that geographic specificity in ads and landing pages lead to higher performance. With that in mind, we highly recommend checking out this targeting option. (We did put it first, after all.)

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, warmer remarketing audiences could more easily turn into paying customers.

Offer and audience match
Look for the offer and audience match

Best practices for A/B testing Facebook audiences

  • Create at least two target audiences with little to no overlap.
  • Create test audiences large enough to deliver sufficient results (an audience of 1,000 might not be worth split testing, versus an audience of 400,000).
  • Test with different audience types (detailed targeting audiences, custom audiences, lookalike audiences).

2. A/B test ad placements

Facebook ad placement decides where your target audience sees your ads. And each ad placement can have a completely different ROI.

Ad placement options on Facebook

  • Facebook main feed (mobile and desktop)
  • Facebook right-hand column
  • Instagram
  • Audience Network
  • Instant Articles
  • In-stream Videos

Ad placement and offer match are the main reasons why costs per conversion can differ so much. Offers demanding more effort or commitment might be dismissed on mobile as they’re too time-consuming and complex.

Testing placements can give you even more insight into reaching your target audience. For example, Lusha ran ads using at least two placements, including the main feed:

Lusha Facebook ad
Loving the brightly colored ads by Lusha

And here's a right column ad:

Lusha Facebook right-column ad
Mini ad with a big impact

Facebook split testing has an option for setting up split tests with various ad placements. Simply select a different placement for each ad set, and you’re good to go.

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.
  • Keep in mind that your ad copy will vary across different placements, with feed ads showing the most text.
  • Don’t compromise 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-sized ads).

3. A/B test bidding methods (AKA how you pay for your ads)

Facebook ad bidding isn’t just about placing manual bids. It’s a mixture of budget setup, ad delivery optimization, payment options, and manual bidding.

Various ad delivery optimization settings can give your campaigns a staggeringly different reach and ROI.

For example, for a daily budget of $25, this ad could reach up to 5,200 people per day when optimizing for link clicks.

Facebook ads optimization and delivery
Every ad delivery option has a different estimated reach

When optimizing for impressions, it could reach up to 12,000 people per day.

Facebook ads optimization and delivery
Note the difference in the daily reach

An AdEspresso bidding experiment tested four different Facebook bidding methods: CPC, CPM (cost per thousand impressions), optimized CPM, and CPA.

The results were pretty staggering. There was more than a 3000% difference in the ad groups’ reach, impression count, and CPC.

AdEspresso’s ad bidding experiment
AdEspresso’s ad bidding experiment showed surprising results – source

Although this experiment is a bit older and bidding options have since changed, it still shows how changing your bidding options can affect the success of your ad in a major way.

Another way to split test with bidding is to test various bidding strategies when using CBO. You can test

3 tips for A/B testing Facebook bidding

  • Create a separate ad set for each tested bidding method.
  • Start by testing ad delivery options or experimenting with CBO or manual bidding at the ad set level.
  • Before testing, set a preferred cost per conversion for reference, just in case both bidding methods return suboptimal results.

4. A/B test different ad types

You can choose from tons of different Facebook ad types. Each has unique display sizes, creative specs, and ad copy amounts.

Depending on your offer, you may want to test these various ad types (try your hand at carousel ads, GIF ads, the list goes on and on). Whatever you decide, you'll want to 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.

For example, ad types that are optimized for mobile users—such as Instant Experiences—tend to outperform static image ads. According to Instapage, this ad type has helped advertisers drive down CPC by as much as 73% and increase CTR by over 40%.

Tip: There’s a 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. In fact, they’re responsible for 75% – 90% of ad performance.

If you’re unsure which ad design to use, test up to five different ad images to find the right direction for future designs.

Asana ad image design
Asana ad image design
Test and improve your images like Asana

Research has found that people make up their minds within 90 seconds of their initial interactions with either people or products; 62% – 90% of their assessment is based on color alone.

Creating more colorful ad images might help get more people to notice your ad, read it, and take your preferred action. Why not set up an A/B test with differently colored ad backgrounds?

Later Facebook ad
What if Later’s ad had different background colors?

Six ideas for A/B testing your Facebook ad design

  1. Stock images vs. custom designs
  2. Ad images with various color combinations
  3. Product photography vs. a lifestyle image
  4. Text on image vs. no text on image
  5. High-contrast vs. low-contrast ad designs
  6. Reversed version of your ad image vs. the original

For more Facebook ad design inspiration, check out the ultimate showdown of top-notch Facebook ad examples.

6. A/B test images vs. videos

On Facebook, videos often outperform images. In fact, a test by Biteable resulted in 3x more leads and 480% more clicks for a video ad vs. an image ad.

Motion Facebook ad
This Motion ad leverages the power of video

But you won’t know what works for your audience until you specifically test Facebook video ads.

You can easily set up an A/B test of image vs. video in Facebook Ads Manager by replacing the image with video in one ad set variation.

Facebook ad setup
Split test videos vs. images

Tip: According to Social Media Examiner, you should avoid these top four reasons for low video engagement when creating ad videos

  1. including an intro
  2. using logos or credits at the beginning of the video
  3. trying to tell too much in the video
  4. having a person talking to the camera without any context

7. A/B test the ad copy

Getting people to notice your Facebook ad in the feed is just the first step toward reaching your goal. The next challenge is using your ad copy to inspire them to act.

Facebook allows advertisers to customize every part of the ad text. This means that you’ll have a chance to split test your ads’ primary text, headline, and description.

Facebook ad customize text placement
You can customize every text placement in a Facebook ad

For example, Monday has experimented with different ad copy while maintaining the initial ad design:

Monday Facebook ad copy
Same design, different copy

Peter Koechley, a co-founder of Upworthy, said that testing headlines have led to a 500% difference in results. As he told Wired: “A really excellent headline can make something go viral.”

Tip: We recommend that you A/B test your headlines early and often, as they’re the first lines of text that catch readers’ attention.

GetResponse Facebook ad
Capture people’s attention with your headline, like GetResponse

What to test in your ad copy

  • The length of your ad copy
  • Exclamation marks or question marks
  • Adding emojis to your ad copy
  • Product benefits and positioning
  • Limited-time offers or various prizes
  • Mentioning your product’s price inside the ad
  • Experiment with odd and even numbers when sharing list posts

Facebook ad copy testing can also help you find highly engaging headlines for your blog articles. Simply split test 3-5 different ad headlines to see what makes the most people click.

For even more insight into ad copywriting, take a look at our Facebook ad tips.

8. A/B test the value proposition

Your Facebook ad is like a candy wrapper. It tempts people to click on your ad to discover the sweet deal on the landing page.

Put simply, the main goal of your Facebook ad’s copy and design should be to present your unique value proposition (UVP) in the most compelling way possible.

But what if you don’t know what your most compelling value proposition is?

A/B testing isn’t the answer to everything. However, it could be the answer to any confusion regarding your UVP.

Check out these examples from SendGrid:

SendGrid Facebook ad
SendGrid split tests UVPs

In the first ad, SendGrid’s UVP is: “[Y]ou can improve your email deliverability, track performance, and scale as you grow.” In the second ad, the UVP is more concise: “[Y]ou can quickly and easily send mail.”

Split testing multiple value offers can produce fascinating insights, such as

  • 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 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 CTAs

While “Learn More” is the most widely used call-to-action in Facebook ads, it isn’t always the best choice in terms of ROI.

Most popular Facebook CTAs
Most popular Facebook CTAs – source

Instead, an AdEspresso test revealed that “Download” generated the highest CTR and the lowest CPC.

Best Facebook ad CTAS
Best Facebook ad CTAS – source

A best practice is to use the CTA that simply best describes what action you want people to take. For example, if you want people to make a purchase, “Buy Tickets” or “Shop Now” is your best bet.

Facebook ad calls-to-action
Facebook ad calls-to-action

You can test CTAs at the ad level. Keep in mind that the campaign objective determines the available CTA options.

4 tips and ideas for split testing calls-to-action

  1. Test two to three CTAs that are closest to your desired action.
  2. Don’t limit yourself to the CTA button; test CTAs in ad headlines, too.
  3. Use action verbs to make your CTAs more actionable.
  4. Avoid calls-to-action 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? What if they fail to grasp the headline that seemed so clear and logical to you? What if your message match is off, with ad copy that doesn't align with the landing page copy?

And how can you tell whether to keep your landing page copy super short like Sumo’s?

SUMO landing page
Sumo’s landing page gets right to the point

Or animated like Typeform’s?

Typeform landing page
Typeform’s landing page uses animations

Even a slight change to a headline on a landing page can make a positive impact on website conversion rates. That's exactly what we did for Shulman Law. Here's the original page:

Shulman Law landing page
What can we add to really hone in our message?

And the updated page:

Shulman Law Toronto landing page
A location-focused headline with the addition of "Toronto's best family lawyers"

What exactly did that do, you might ask?

Headline copy test
This small change improved the conversion rate by a whopping 95%

These are the types of impact that A/B testing your landing pages can have. And just to prove that that wasn't a fluke, we did similar landing page optimizations for Soapbox and they saw similar results (read more about it in our case study.)

If you have a landing page that’s specific to your Facebook ad campaign, set up an A/B test to see what works. To set up a Facebook ad test with multiple landing pages, create separate ads and use different links for both, but keep the rest of the ad components the same.

(Note that if you want to test your landing pages, Facebook experiments alone won’t cut it. Instead, you’ll need more comprehensive usability testing tools.)

To set up a Facebook ad test with multiple landing pages, you can create several ad sets and change the in-ad links:

Facebook A/B test various website URLs
Facebook A/B test various website URLs

Quick wrap-up on Facebook ad testing

Ready to start testing your Facebook ads? Remember to test one variable at a time so you can identify exactly what works for your audience—and then use what you learned to optimize other ad sets and campaigns.

Want to drive even more conversions with your Facebook ads? 

Master Facebook retargeting so you can guide interested prospects and loyal customers alike toward valuable conversions.

Chapter 7:
Facebook Marketing Strategies

What You’ll Learn: Nail the correct Facebook marketing strategy so you can be more efficient with your campaigns.

Chapter 8:
Facebook Ads Tips

What You’ll Learn: Find unknown Facebook ad tips and tricks your competitors don’t know about yet, but wish they did.

Chapter 9:
Facebook Ads Optimization & Reporting

What You’ll Learn: Master optimization routines so that you can continuously improve the performance of your Facebook ads.