5 Ad copy testing methods to increase engagement (and why they work)

Creating the perfect piece of copy is a challenge, even for seasoned copywriters.

You can never fully guess how your audience will react to your copy—and you shouldn’t. What you should do is test your copy with your target market. You can test ads and copy variations, and see how different versions perform for different audience segments.

With copy testing, you remove the guesswork and measure the effectiveness of your carefully chosen words and learn how you can adjust your copy to maximize its impact—whether that’s increasing conversions or raising brand awareness.

In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into copy testing. It’s a must-do for every business that wants its copy to have an effect, and who doesn’t? Let’s start with the basics of what copy testing is and work our way down to a step-by-step guide for you to start testing ads and other pieces of copy.

Some questions to ask when copy testing are:

  • Based on what you just read, how much do you like or dislike the following taglines?
  • Knowing that these are taglines for a [X category business], how relevant or irrelevant does each tagline feel?
  • How likely or unlikely would you be to find out more about what [X brand] does after reading this tagline?

What is copy testing?

Copy testing is the art and science of evaluating the effectiveness of advertising copy. It involves assessing how well an advertisement or piece of copy communicates a message, engages the target audience, and achieves its intended objectives.

Those objectives can be anything from getting people to click on a social ad, to helping them remember your brand when they’re looking to purchase in the future.

Here’s a list of goals that copy testing can help you achieve:

  • Increased conversion rate on landing pages—finding the perfect CTA that your target audience can’t help but follow up on.
  • Increasing click-through rates on ads (and ultimately boost actual sales) for PPC ads, social media ads and other forms of measurable promotions.
  • To make your ad memorable—with copy testing, you can grow brand awareness among your target audience by creating unforgettable copy that matches your brand.
  • Evaluating brand fit—feel like experimenting? Copy testing can help you make sure you don’t stray too far from your brand identity.
  • Identifying strengths and weaknesses—learning what resonates with your audience can help your copywriters hit the nail on the head faster over time.

Publish copy that lands with your target customers

Make sure your copy assets turn your audience into customers! Test your ideas with Attest—you get fast, reliable results AND designated advice from our research experts as standard.

Test your copy ideas!

5 Ad copy testing methods to validate your messaging

Copy resting isn’t sending over a Google Doc link to people and asking them to leave comments (or even worse, suggestions!).

Here are some structured approaches to use for your copy test.

1. Conduct copy testing using surveys

Surveys are an ideal way to do copy testing, because you can gather both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Online surveys allow you to reach very specific audiences, and ask them very specific questions, but at a large scale. With Attest, you get access to 125 million people in 59 countries—plenty to get some super valuable insight into how your copy performs. And our platform is perfect for creative testing, allowing you to show respondents all your ideas, and for you to interrogate the results in a clear and user-friendly way.

If you want to have clear results on what creative ideas have the most impact, try our creative testing survey templates to see how easy and powerful it is.

Copy testing survey questions

Wrote so much copy you’re lost for words on survey questions? Try these questions for your copy tests (we’re using taglines for this example, but you could switch that for whatever copy asset you’re testing):

  1. Based on what you just read, how much do you like or dislike the following taglines?
  2. Knowing that these are taglines for a [X category business], how relevant or irrelevant does each tagline feel?
  3. Please rank the following taglines from most to least favorite.
  4. To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: ‘This tagline gives me a clear understanding of what [X brand] does’?
  5. How likely or unlikely would you be to find out more about what [X brand] does after reading this tagline?
  6. What words would you use to describe how this tagline makes you feel? Please be as descriptive as possible.

Get answers to your copy questions

Put these survey questions to work and get answers with Attest! Our platform makes it quick and easy to set up and gather copy testing insights—get started today!

Get started!

2. Ad copy testing in focus groups

Gather some critical thinkers and lay your copy ideas out in front of them. Focus groups can be a great way to test the emotional impact of your copy ideas, and to get really in-depth, nuanced, qualitative data.

3. Use eye tracking in ad copy testing

You might think: what’s the point, we’re just reading from left to right, right?

Wrong! Tracking eye movements is a great way to determine what copy attracts attention first and how people read your assets. This is an interesting tool to use when you’re creating visual ads. However, it’s pricier and can’t be done at a large scale without taking a lot of time, so it’s really only for special projects or to supplement wider quantitative or qualitative market research.

4. Copy testing using biometric testing

We all know the feeling of our heart rate increasing when reading a specific text, or how we get sweaty hands when seeing a subject line that means you’ll be working late today.

People physically react to what they see and read, and with biometric testing you can find out what your copy is doing to people. But, like eye tracking, this is hard to do at a larger scale. Data about heart rates and sweat drops might also not give your copywriters the insights they need to make specific improvements.

5. Copy testing with usability research tools

You can use specific usability research tools to test whether your copy is charming or off-putting. They’re often more design focused, but that goes hand in hand with copy, so if you create good examples, you can use these tools for your copy testing needs too.

Business colleagues running consumer research in a lobby

How to test your ad copy

Can’t wait to run your great ideas by your audience? Here’s how to take it step by step for optimal success.

1. Define your copy’s purpose

If you want to know whether your ad copy is effective, you need to determine what the desired effect is. Is it click-through rates? Is it increased brand awareness? Is it making people cry? This will help you create laser-focused survey questions to get the most out of your copy testing survey.

2. Determine the target audience

Who are you writing for? That’s the first step of finding out what you will actually write. It can help you focus and point you in some direction. Identifying your target audience is crucial to ensure that the ad copy is relevant and appealing to them. Later on, when running the survey, you can do a quick test up front with some demographic questions, to cut the data and get hyper relevant results.

3. Create different versions of copy

The next step is to create the ad copy. Even if you have a general idea of what you want to write, try playing around with some nuances. Surveys can help you test different variations of your ad copy to determine which version is most effective in achieving its purpose.

4. Write a creative testing survey

Here’s where the fun begins. You can sit down to determine survey questions and zoom in on specific parts of your copy. If you need help, our creative testing survey template will lead the way—or our Customer Research Team is here to help you launch really great creative testing.

5. Test your ad copy

Time to run those tests! When you’re using the right tools, this means you can finally sit back and relax and recover from your writer’s block.

6. Adjust your ads accordingly

‘Write without fear, edit without mercy’, said someone once.

Great advice. And we’d add: never edit without feedback.

Once the results are in, you can fine-tune your copy. Don’t view the feedback you’ve received as criticism. Instead, see it as an opportunity to co-create effective copy with your target market.

It makes copywriting easier and eliminates the risk of ineffective campaigns later down the line.

Start testing your copy today!

Get started with your copy testing—you get reliable data fast with Attest, and designated research advice from our in-house experts!

Learn more

But wait, why is copy testing important?

Ultimately, both A/B testing and copy testing will help you create more effective ads and copy over time. However, with copy testing, you don’t waste money on running ads or publishing landing pages that aren’t performing well.

It can be more time consuming to create copy this way, but that will pay itself back in higher conversion rates from the get-go.

Here are more reasons you should start copy testing, preferably today.

Get a better ROI

By improving the effectiveness of your ad copy, you can achieve better results with the same or even lower advertising spend. While you fine-tune your targeting and even expand your ads to more channels, test to determine whether the copy you’re using is working. It’ll pay off, trust us.

Get A competitive advantage

By identifying what messaging works best with your target audience, you can become more effective in your marketing, and ultimately more successful. Just look at the success of brands like Thursday or Innocent Smoothies: Thursday has the same singles as other apps, and Innocent has the same fruits as other smoothies, but they still stand out. This way of testing and creating copy can help you launch ads that have an emotional impact on those who see them, helping you stay top of mind.

Create a data-driven decision-making process

Creative work doesn’t equal guesswork. Copy testing provides data-driven insights into the effectiveness of any type of copy. This will enable your team of creatives and marketers to make informed decisions about their next campaigns, based on more than just ‘style’.

Reduce the risk of failure

We all know a cringy example of companies that launched a campaign without testing the copy first. Whether it’s translations gone painfully wrong, or businesses trying to use the language of Gen Z completely wrong—it can all be prevented with a round of copy testing. But it goes beyond preventing reputational damage. You also reduce the risk of launching ineffective copy and ads into this world, making it the smart, cost-effective thing to do.

Copy testing vs A/B testing: what’s the difference?

You might think: but we’re already doing A/B testing, isn’t that the same thing? The short answer is no, it’s not.

Copy tests happen before a landing page or any type of marketing copy goes live. It’s a form of pre testing and getting consumer feedback on something that isn’t yet published. You’ll work with a consumer panel before it goes live, which will give you valuable insight into your creative campaign.

You can ask your target market questions like: does this ad impact your impression of brand X, or does this landing page make you want to buy product Z. And of course, you’ll gather quantitative data on the why behind their answers—don’t feed your copywriters only numbers (it scares them).

A/B testing, and split testing, in a way, happens when ad campaigns are already live. It’s ad testing on the go, and seeing the difference in results for different versions as the campaign runs. Your marketing team might test two landing pages to see which one converts better. Once the results are clear, you can opt for putting all your efforts on the best-performing version. You’re making crystal clear decisions based on what the quantitative data is telling you: from click rates to hard-earned cash.

But A/B testing rarely gathers qualitative data, which makes improving your copy over time challenging. Your copywriters will often have to make assumptions on why one ad performed better than the other, and launching a survey afterward might not provide feedback that is clear and relevant.

Creative and copy testing

Use copy testing best practices to improve your brand messaging

No, we’re not going to let you go without some final words of advice—and encouragement!

  1. Make sure your survey questions are unbiased and clear. Save the creative writing for your actual ads.
  2. Clearly define the objectives and goals of your copy testing project. Be ready and willing to make (drastic) changes to your copy if that’s what consumers tell you they want.
  3. Zoom in and be specific. Make sure your survey questions cover all aspects of ad copy, including messaging, visuals, and calls to action.
  4. Use a mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Creatives need both.
  5. Do it more than once. Analyze the data over time to identify patterns, trends, and key insights about changing consumer preferences. This will help you remain relevant.
    That’s all folks. Time to start testing. If you want to hit the ground running, you can start customizing our creative testing template.

The Complete Guide to Creative Testing

Check out our free Complete Guide to Creative Testing and discover how easy it is to start testing your creative assets before you release them into the wild.

Get your copy now!

Nikos Nikolaidis

Senior Customer Research Manager 

Nikos joined Attest in 2019, with a strong background in psychology and market research. As part of Customer Research Team, Nikos focuses on helping brands uncover insights to achieve their objectives and open new opportunities for growth.

See all articles by Nikos