By Owen Fay . Posted on March 7, 2022

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker (1838-1922)

This quote was originally said by John Wanamaker, an American department store merchant. Although the quote was written long ago, it’s still true in today’s world of digital marketing where companies are constantly trying to adapt their ads to better appeal to audiences.

There are many steps involved in usability A/B testing advertisements, all of the steps can be done on your own with little help. This article will cover usability A/B testing for both PPC ads as well as organic results that lead users toward a specific page or conversion goal.

Usability A/B testing your ads is a crucial step in the advertising process because it tells you if your ads are good before spending tons of money and time waiting for performance numbers to come in. It will allow you to test your hypothesis, validate your assumptions and find out if the ad designs and copy you are planning to advertise resonates with people before investing resources into it. Additionally, testing ads can help with search engine optimization and all advertising.

Imagine deploying your ads on Google or Facebook and running them for days or weeks only to realize that they aren’t getting any results. Is your target audience ignoring the ads? Is the copy optimized for performance? Would your target audience trust these ads?

The best part is that although usability A/B testing can be used for many types of projects, companies, or marketers, today I’m going to show you how easy it is to do it in less than 60 mins without having any technical knowledge.

What’s great about Poll the People is that it’s easy to use. You don’t need any coding or design expertise to get started – just upload your ad designs and you will start collecting feedback within minutes. We even have some great examples to help you understand how you can use our platform to test your ads.

But first: What is usability A/B testing you ask?

What Is Usability Testing For Ads

Usability A/B testing for ads is the process of getting your ads evaluated by a target audience before you deploy them to Google, Facebook, or other distribution channels.

Allowing you to understand customers’ opinions and willingness to engage with the ads is important before you launch your campaign. There are a few ways to test your ads we’re going to focus on the most effective one; Usability A/B Testing.

The parts of your ads you test can be a number of different things. It could be something as big as the CTA (call-to-action) or the ad copy or even the color of the ads. Some of the questions a usability test can answer include:

Does The Ad Meet Customers Needs?

Does the ad you are looking to launch create engagement? Do they understand the copy? Do they find it appealing? Does it fill a need? These questions are all very important to answer as your ad won’t be as effective if it can’t meet customer needs.

Usability A/B testing with the right questions will help you understand if you’re launching campaigns that give value to the users. Make sure to ask about appeal, how likely they are to engage, and anything else you want to know about the ads.

How Does The Ad Compare To Competitors?

The success of an Ad depends on a lot of factors, how that Ad compares to competitors is an important one. Answering some questions about your ad versus your competitors will help create a successful Ad.

Questions like: How does your Ad fit with your competitors? Does it match your brand? What sites are the ads placed on?

Ask users to choose between two ads side-by-side and have them explain why they prefer one over the other.

For example: If you advertise on Google search, you can run a usability test of your ad versus your competitor. This will help you understand what users are thinking and help your Google Search Ads quality score and performance.

Luckily, we make it easy to compare your ads with competitors, just take the ad that you want to test and take one of the competitors. Create a test and upload both then ask your customers which one is better. You’ll get valuable feedback about both and know if yours need improvement or are ready to go.

Do You Need To Make Changes?

How can your Ad get better? Are there any changes that would improve the Ad design and copy? Is there anything missing?

Testing with an audience can give you valuable feedback that will answer all of these questions. A usability A/B test will allow you to tweak your Ad to optimize before it goes live.

Usability A/B testing for Ads isn’t a one size fits all process, several methods and test designs can be used to understand and fit the demand of the consumers.

So why do it anyway? What are the benefits of testing your ads?

Benefits Of Usability A/B Testing Your Ads

There are some huge benefits to usability testing your Ads before launch – especially in terms of optimizing performance metrics like CTR and CPA.

By getting ahead of your competition, you can lower your CPA and optimize your campaign budget.

Optimize for performance metrics before launch

Optimizing your ads through usability A/B testing can help improve click-through rates, lower costs-per-click, and increase conversions. Testing can be accomplished in as little as 60 minutes, making it an easy and efficient way to optimize your advertising campaigns.

In addition, usability testing allows you to test different ad variants against each other to see which one performs better. This type of testing can help you make data-driven decisions about which ads to keep running and which ones to retire.

For example: Imagine you have a test budget to test your ad campaign on Facebook. If you launch directly without testing, it could take days or weeks to understand what is working and what is not. A lot of the pain around CTR and CPA can be mitigated by optimizing the ads before launch.

It can sometimes take days or months to get performance metrics like CTR and CPA on Google and Facebook campaigns. As a lot of you might know you can run A/B tests on live Google and Facebook campaigns (this is sometimes even recommended).

However, wouldn’t it be nice if the campaign gets launched pre-optimized? This not only saves time and money but also gives your campaign a better shot at being better than the competition.

Reduce Overall Risk of campaign non-performance

Have you ever launched an ad campaign thinking it will perform great – only to realize severe non-performance? We’ve all been there.

Sometimes, the reasons for non-performance are beyond our control. But sometimes, it’s factors that could have been caught much before launching the campaign just by asking a panel of usability testers.

Worst case: You launch your ad campaign which ends up offending your customers. In our opinion some of the Super Bowl ads this year were downright bad, an issue that could have been fixed before they aired.

Issues like this are best handled by usability A/B testing the ads, taking the risk out of launching ads that are just bad.

Identify the best ad copy

By usability testing your ads, you can quickly determine any issues with how they are written, formatted, or structured.

In as little as 60 minutes, you can test a new ad against an existing one to see if there is any difference in user response.

For example, A lot of the performance associated with Facebook Ads is around the ad copy. Since users are browsing in a social environment, the ad copy of Facebook Ads is critical.

By testing two Facebook ad designs against each other, you can test for various questions like Which ad is more engaging? Which ad would users trust?

A great way to understand how you stack up against the competition is by testing your Facebook Ad against your competitors and seeing how you compare on various factors like trust, credibility, CTA, value proposition, etc.

Eliminate individual bias

In psychology, individual bias is a bias that occurs when individuals make judgments about other people or situations. The term encompasses both systematic biases (e.g., the halo effect) and irrational preferences (e.g., the sunk cost fallacy).

Individual bias can distort our perceptions, judgments, and decision-making. For example, we might have a preconceived notion about what a good ad design should look like (e.g. colors, fonts, iconography, etc.). But this could be drastically different from what a larger audience might prefer.

We might also make decisions based on emotions rather than reason, or ignore important information because it doesn’t fit with our first impression. To avoid this, it’s important to usability A/B test your ad designs.

By testing your ads with real users, you can eliminate any individual bias and get a clear idea of how well they will perform with a larger audience.

The results from the usability A/B tests can be incredibly valuable in helping you create better ads that convert more customers.

Validate ad design and copy before launch

If you are an agency or marketer, wouldn’t it be nice to tell your boss or customer that your ad design and ad copy was tested before you present them to the customer?

For example, in a recent case, a marketing agency worked weeks on creating a compelling ad design and ad copy for their customer. When they presented their work to the customer, the CEO hated the designs, washing away weeks of hard work.

If only the agency had usability A/B tested the ads before showing them to the boss or CEO, they could have made adjustments. Or even better, presented the ad designs along with the usability testing results.

This way, you prevent conflict with the customer, even before you present the results. It’s like walking in with proof to back up what you’re saying.

Ready to get going? Here is a step-by-step guide. You don’t need any coding or design expertise to get started.

Let’s dive in!

How To Usability Test Your Ads

The entire setup process should take you just a few minutes, and your usability test should be completed in less than 60 mins.

Step 1: Pick A Usability Testing Platform

We will be using Poll the People. Poll the People is a new fast self-service platform that lets any company deploy a usability A/B test within minutes. The usability tests are designed as quick 1-question A/B test surveys and completed in less than 60 minutes.

With a self-service system and a free signup, users can get started and deploy their first test within minutes. There is no need to design your own survey. Just use one of the expert-built templates and your responses will be rolling in within minutes.

You can watch the feedback responses to your test rolling in real-time in a Facebook-style news feed.

Step 2: Pick A Usability Testing Template

The best way to test your ads is to narrow your designs to two choices. Modern psychology research has shown why this method is preferred in usability testing.

Once you have two choices (A and B), you pick an expert-built template from the list of available templates.

For usability testing ads, we will use the “Image” template. All you need is your two ad designs (A and B)


  1. Two variations of your Google or Facebook Ads
  2. A screenshot of your ad and then use the 2nd screenshot of your competitor.
  3. A question to ask.


  1. What ad do you prefer?
  2. Which of these two ads would your trust?
  3. Which of these two companies would you pick?

By presenting these two A/B choices and a question, you get into the minds of your customers.

That’s it. You are done. No complicated surveys to build.

Step 3: Pick The Number Of Responses

For usability testing ads, you will select the number of responses you want. For most tests, about 200 responses is a good number. This should give you sufficient statistical confidence and get enough consumer feedback. Also, the test should be completed quickly, within about 60 mins.

If you are short on budget, 100 responses would be fine too. But that would have a larger margin of error.

For most usability testing of Google or Facebook ads, picking 200 responses is recommended.

Step 4: Launch!

Review your choices and checkout. That’s it. You are done with the entire setup process in less than 5 minutes.

Now sit back and watch the responses come rolling in within minutes. No more waiting for hours, days, or sometimes weeks for results.

Step 5: Analyze The Results

As the responses come in, you can watch them in a live real-time feed. You can immediately start analyzing the responses. Or you can wait for less than an hour for the full test to complete.

The first thing to look at is: Who won? And by what margin?

The greater the margin, the greater your confidence in your choice.

Then look at the feedback from the responses. Each respondent has to provide a clear explanation as to why they made their choice. This is where you are getting into the minds of your customers.

Google metrics like CTR are great at giving you a high-level idea about the performance of your ads. However, they don’t tell you WHY the customer skipped over your ad. They won’t let you get into the minds of your customers or ordinary people.

The feedback from the responses does. You will sometimes see insightful comments about your questions and possibly have some new findings.

That’s it. You are done with your usability test in less than 60 mins.

3 Tips For Successful Usability A/B Testing For Ads

1. Set Clear Objectives

The beauty of usability A/B testing is that you know if the objective was met and gain confidence in decisions. One of the most important parts of ad campaign planning is setting a clear objective. Without it, you have no idea if the campaign will work or not.

Have clear objectives like:

  1. What design will improve my CTR?
  2. Do people understand my ad copy?
  3. Do people trust my service over my competitor?

What type of responses are you looking for? How will you use the data once you’ve gathered it? These are all questions you need answered to understand if you have good ads. The first step is always a defined objective.

2. Ask The Right Questions

Once your objective is defined, prepare the question you are going to ask the audience. Make sure the question lines up with the objective of the test, and make it detailed enough to help you understand the exact opinions of users.

A simple A or B question works the best, it eliminates the stress that comes with too many options and helps you achieve the ultimate goal of your usability test.

For example, use questions like:

  1. If you see these ads on Google, which one would you click on?
  2. Which of these two Facebook ads is easier to understand?
  3. Which of these two ads would you trust?

3. Always Test Two Choices

To do effective usability A/B testing, you need to have two variations of the ads to see the differences.

If you decide to test a Google Search Ad, you might have two completely different titles and description variations.

Or test against your competitor. This will give you a clear idea if your ads are getting beat by the competition due to the title, description, images, or links.

The usability A/B test asks users to choose between the two ads side-by-side and has them explain why they prefer one over the other.

Usability Testing FAQs

What Is Usability A/B Testing For Ads?

Usability A/B testing for ads is a research method where marketers ask customers questions about their ads and ad copy, and then use the feedback to optimize performance.

For example, usability test your Google Search Ads or your Facebook Social ads. You can even test your ads against your competitors to see where you can find ways to optimize.

Why Do Usability A/B Testing of Ads?

Short answer: To improve your expected performance before you launch your campaign, save time and money, and give your ad campaign its best chance against your competitors.

Long answer:

  1. Improve your chance of meeting your campaign goals (like CTR or CPA)
  2. Reduce the risk of severe campaign under-performance.
  3. Beat out the competition, even before your campaign launches.

Added bonus: Provide validation to your customer or boss with the usability test results.

How Long Does It Take To Run A Usability A/B Test?

Poll the People is one of the fastest usability testing platforms on the market. You can expect to see responses almost immediately with most tests finishing in under an hour, not days.

How much does this usability testing cost?

A standard usability test with 200 responses costs less than $100 and usually finishes in less than 60 mins. If your Google or Facebook ad campaign spend is in the thousands or more, this is certainly an effective optimization at a tiny price.

Ready to test?

Usability A/B testing your ads helps you improve your ad campaign performance, even before you launch. Using this quick process, you can test your ads with different variations, validate factors like ad design, ad copy, etc. and find out if what you are planning to launch resonates with people.

Follow the steps and tips we covered above to begin your ad test today.

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