Google's Ad Variations are Officially Here

Blog | 15 Feb, 2018

In a marketplace saturated with third-party ad testing platforms that range in price and capabilities, it can be difficult to find the right ad copy testing solution for clients that is both cost efficient and effective. Fortunately, Google recently rolled out a new feature that will make the job of paid search managers much easier.


Google’s ad variations tool allows advertisers to continuously improve and tailor their messaging to all users in the background without the involvement of third parties. Jellyfish had an opportunity to participate in beta testing for this tool with ForRent.Our overall goal was to improve certain ad metrics without needing to contract a third party. Here’s what we learned.


What are ad variations?

Google’s free solution to ad copy testing, ad variations are  now out of beta and available to all AdWords advertisers in the new AdWords UI. Ad variations have several benefits, but the largest is the ability to test different ad copy without actually creating new ads. Generally speaking, ad variations are most beneficial for large accounts whose goal in testing is to experiment within different areas of the account quickly and simultaneously. 

Our Paid Search team had the opportunity to participate in the ad variations beta program starting in June 2017. After testing several copy variations to over 35,000 ads, our team and ForRent gathered valuable insights on which phrases and word combinations drove the strongest performance.

The process:

Ad variations live within the new AdWords UI under the “Drafts & Experiments” tab. They work through a filtering system that finds ads within the account that fit the given criteria and specifications entered by a manager. Any ads that match the filter(s) selected will be eligible to receive the variation.

Many variation options are available, including: Find and Replace, Update Text, and Swap Headlines.

After filters are selected, a start and end date must be set before the variation can run. It’s worth noting that the option for an experiment split is listed--this controls what percent of users get served the variation--and is set to 50% as the default.

After creating the test itself, monitoring results proves to be even easier through the descriptive ad variation interface, which reports on all metrics for the variation ad (compared to the control). The interface even reports on statistical significance for you.


  • Completely free, also with AdWords support
  • Easy to test changes in ad copy at scale, big or small
  • Mobile and audience traffic filters
  • If the variation wins, you have the option to generate bulk sheet to apply variation copy to all existing control ads
  • No need to create new ads for testing purposes, the variation simply changes the copy that users will be served in an existing ad


  • Only supports expanded text ads (no dynamic search ads)
  • When choosing to test in certain areas of the account, you are limited to 100 campaigns or fewer
  • Achieving statistical significance can take up to several weeks, depending on the volume of traffic to selected campaigns

While Google continues to offer automated alternatives to third-party paid search optimization platforms, the introduction of this free tool means that paid search managers can explore a broader range of tools for their clients. More importantly, they can deliver solutions that are more tailored to each client’s unique needs, budget, and goals.

Ultimately, ad variations offer a chance for more creative paid search campaigns. Gone are the days of having to create new ads in order to test copy. Thanks to this free tool, account teams can experiment with new ideas and test out copy that otherwise might be too risky to add to their clients’ accounts.

For inquiries about or help with free testing, reach out to your Jellyfish Account Director today or contact us to get started.


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