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A Guide to Ad Variations in Google Ads – Explained

Are you looking to refine your Google Ads campaigns for better performance? Iterative testing is key. With Google Ads’ ad variations feature, you can set up clean A/B tests and gather valuable insights to optimize your campaigns.

However, as AI takes on more testing responsibilities, understanding what works becomes trickier. This guide will walk you through setting up ad variations, running effective tests, and leveraging results for high-impact changes.

Understanding Ad Variations in Google Ads

Ad variations in Google Ads allow you to modify and test different elements of your ads across a campaign or multiple campaigns. Unlike standard Google Ads experiments, which can be cumbersome to set up, ad variations offer a simpler, more streamlined approach.

This feature helps ensure that a specific subset of users sees one ad version while another subset sees a different version, facilitating clear comparisons and actionable insights.

Setting Up an Ad Variation

To begin, navigate to the Campaigns section in Google Ads, then select Experiments from the left-hand menu. Within this section, choose Ad variations. You’ll see a table displaying any active and completed variations. To create a new variation, click the blue “+” symbol above the table.

Defining Test Parameters

Next, define the parameters for the campaigns and ads you want to test. You can choose to include all campaigns or select specific ones. Utilize the Filter ads option to narrow down which ads to involve based on criteria like headlines, descriptions, paths, or URLs.

For example, to test ads mentioning a coupon, filter for headlines containing “coupon.” Multiple filters can be applied to refine your selection further.

Types of Ad Variations

Google Ads offers three types of variations you can set up:

  1. Find and replace: Swap out specific words or phrases.
  2. Update URLs: Change the final URL, display path, or both.
  3. Update text: Add, remove, or modify headlines or descriptions, and pin or unpin assets.

Configuring Variation Details

Once you’ve chosen your variation type, configure the details:

  • Name: Give your variation a clear, descriptive name.
  • Start and end dates: Define the duration, which must be 84 days or fewer.
  • Experiment split: Determine what percentage of your budget and auctions will go to the variation.

Launching Your Ad Variation

Before launching, double-check your setup since modifications are not allowed post-launch (except pausing or applying the variation). Once satisfied, click Create variation. The variation will go live after Google’s review and your specified start date. Although you can technically launch a variation immediately, starting the next day often yields cleaner data.

Viewing Performance Data

As your variation runs, performance data will accumulate in the performance table. Customize the columns to display metrics of interest. When the difference between the control and test versions becomes statistically significant, you’ll see percentages and confidence intervals. Clicking on the variation name provides detailed metrics for both original and modified ads.

Analyzing Test Results

Focus on key metrics to gauge the success of your ad variations:

  • Conversion tracking: Ensure it’s set up correctly to measure accurate results.
  • Conversion rate and cost per conversion: These are crucial for understanding efficiency.
  • Return on ad spend (ROAS): If you have conversion values, this metric is vital.
  • Click-through rate (CTR): While useful, remember that changes might reduce CTR if they filter out less relevant clicks.

Making Decisions Based on Data

Once you have enough data, decide whether to implement the changes from your variation. If successful, you can apply the changes directly or manually update your ads. After the test concludes, you can review the results alongside other historical tests.

Ad Variation Ideas

Here are some practical suggestions for using ad variations in your campaigns:

Wording Changes in Ad Copy

Try different wording to see what resonates best with your audience. For instance, test “coupon” vs. “offer” or various calls-to-action (CTAs) like “Call” vs. “Schedule Online.”

Location-Specific vs. Generic Ad Copy

Compare performance between location-specific messaging and more generic copy to understand regional preferences.

Seasonal vs. Evergreen Messaging

During special sale periods, test seasonal messaging against your usual copy to measure the impact of time-sensitive promotions.

Product or Service Name Changes

If you’re considering rebranding, test the new name in a portion of your ads to gauge customer response before making a full switch.

Pinning Assets and Headlines

Testing Different Headline Orders

Experiment with different headline positions. For example, compare the performance of a “Save 25%” offer in the first headline slot vs. the second.

Pinning vs. Not Pinning Assets

Assess whether pinning specific assets affects your ad’s performance compared to letting Google dynamically choose the best combination.

Testing Landing Pages

Use the “Update URLs” option to direct traffic to different landing pages and see which one performs better. This is particularly useful for A/B testing page designs or content.

Experimenting with Display Paths

Test changes to your ad’s display path to see how it impacts user engagement. Tailor the path to match keywords or highlight offers (e.g., example.com/widgettype vs. example.com/save$100).

Assessing the Impact of Descriptions

Evaluate the importance of ad descriptions by testing various versions and measuring performance changes.


Ad variations in Google Ads are a powerful tool for optimizing your PPC campaigns. By setting up and running clean A/B tests, you can gather actionable insights and make data-driven decisions to improve your ad performance continuously.

Keep experimenting with different elements and learn from the results to stay ahead in the competitive advertising landscape.

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