How to Test IF / Default AdWords Ads

By Brad


Ad Testing, Ads

AdWords recently launched a way for you to create specific marketing messages for devices or audiences without having to use ad customizers.

These are sometimes called IF ads and other times called Default ads.

The advantage of these ads over ad customizers is that since they have ‘default text’ in them; text that shows to a user if a condition is not met; then you don’t need to have other ads in the ad group. With ad customizers, since there is not a ‘default text’ that shows to a user if a condition is not met; then you must always have another ad without customizers in it within the ad group for your ad customizer ads to show.

IF/Default Syntax

These ads are built based upon a very simple formula:

  • The condition to be met for the custom text to show. This can be a device or an audience
  • If that condition is not met, what is displayed to the user

For instance, if we create the line: {=IF(device=mobile,Mobile Special Trial):Start Your Free Trial}

Then the user will see a different line by device:

  • Mobile (condition device=mobile is met): Mobile Special Trial
  • Other devices (condition is not met): Start Your Free Trial

Creating IF/Default Ads

These ads are easy to create. In the AdWords interface, just type the brace (also known as the curly bracket): {

Typing the brace will bring up the customizer options and the formatting; and just follow the instructions:


Testing If/Default Ads

With ad customizers and IF/Default ads; especially by device – most people’s first inclination is to segment the data by device to see how the customized ad is doing by device. While that is interesting information; there’s nothing you can do with it.

Your stats already vary by device; so, you don’t want to compare device ad data except for the purpose of bidding or thinking about how to position a message.

What you really want to do is compare that ad data to another ad to see how each type of message varies as a whole, because that is something you can take action upon.

For instance, if you have an IF/Default ad and find that it’s doing better on mobile than desktop, what do you do? You change the bids at most because you can’t compare that to another ad.

There’s two good ways to start testing IF/Default ad messages.

Testing IF/Default Against Non-IF/Default Ads

As creating If/Default ads takes more time than just writing ads; often the first step is to determine if these ads do better than the other ads you are creating.

In this case, you can create 2 ads. One that is your standard text and one that is your default ad; such as:

  • Ad 1: {=IF(device=mobile, ”Quick, Easy, Mobile Booking“):”Best price guarantee“}
  • Ad 2: Best price guarantee

This test result will show you if the specific mobile message created is preforming better than your standard text.

You can do this for a single ad group to see how the messages work within an ad group; or use multi-ad group testing (testing patterns or ideas across ad groups) to see if this works as an entire idea for campaigns or your account.

Testing the IF/Default Message against other IF Messages

In other cases, you will want to test the IF message against another IF message. This will show you which of the IF messages is preforming best. For example, you might want to know for mobile users, should you say: Quick, Easy, Mobile Booking or Mobile Booking Specials.

To setup this test, you would use the same default message and just change the IF statement, such as these two lines:

  • {=IF(device=mobile, ”Quick, Easy, Mobile Booking“):”Best price guarantee“}
  • {=IF(device=mobile, ”Mobile Booking Specials“):”Best price guarantee“}

This test result will show you which IF message is doing best on mobile devices as the default text (shown to tablet and desktop users) is the same.

Testing the IF/Default Message against other IF Messages

Once you find the best IF message; you might want to test the default text. In that case, you will want to use the same IF message and then just vary the default text, such as this test:

  • {=IF(device=mobile, ”Quick, Easy, Mobile Booking“):”Best price guarantee“}
  • {=IF(device=mobile, ”Quick, Easy, Mobile Booking“):”100% Satisfaction Guaranteed“}

In this test, the mobile users see the same message; but the desktop/tablet users will see a different message. Therefore, the difference in your stats will be the desktop message.


While IF/Default ads are very useful in customizing the message for users based upon your audience data or the device; in most cases, you first want to make sure that the extra effort is bringing in better results; start by running a multi-ad group test of IF/Default text versus default text.

If your If/Default ads do win; then the next step is to determine the best message for those users. Use multi-ad group testing for your low volume ad groups and single ad group testing for your high volume and brand ad groups to determine the best message.

Finally, return to testing the default message to see which is best by going through the same steps.

The new If/Default ads are very nice to customize messages by device or audience without the need to create multiple campaigns. However, make sure that your messages are resonating with the proper users by testing the If/Default ads appropriately.

As always, if you want to automate how to get these results and to take swift action once you have results, take a look at how easy Adalysis can make the entire ad testing & insight process

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