The 3 Stages Of A Campaign: Testing, Optimization, Maintenance

Whether you are starting out or have plenty of experience running performance marketing campaigns, there will always be 3 main stages of any campaign: the testing stage, where you get an idea of the current level of your funnel, the optimization stage, where you change certain elements and targeting in your campaign to make it profitable, and the maintenance stage, where you make sure your profitable campaign STAYS profitable, or in some cases even increases its ROI.

What I’ve seen most beginners do is think of the campaigns as being just one stage and you can probably call it “make money somehow” stage, meaning they don’t have a process behind how to run campaigns. It basically looks like throwing crap against the wall and hoping something sticks. We’ve all been there though, and that’s fine. Actually I did that very aggressively before the first profitable campaign, I wanted to go through anything that doesn’t work very quickly.

Over time, in order to be able to create a business you must be able to replicate profitable campaigns over and over again. These 3 stages are the pillars for this.


Whenever you start a new campaign you instantly go into the testing stage. This is meant to give you an idea of the potential of the offer or other elements of your funnel. Let me explain this by using the case study of my first profitable campaign.

I initially came up with angles for plenty of offers and just ran campaigns. There was close to no structure behind it because I didn’t know enough to plan for the next phase. And that’s fine to begin with.

Now what I would do is come up with angles for the offer(s) I want to test. For this, I firstly do some spying on AdPlexity, no point in trying out what has already been proven to NOT work.

Then I would make the landers and/or banners with these angles, probably a max of 5. AdPlexity can narrow it down significantly

So if I were to redo the case study campaign, I would have around 5 banners, all similar in design and all direct linking to compare the angles. If there’s data coming in and you can find the best angle, then you move towards creating a few landing page designs. AdPlexity comes in handy here too, and you can split test ~5 landing pages.

Once you found the best combo of banner + lander + offer, you can move to optimizing. Here’s the important thing: ROI in testing phase is ALMOST irrelevant. You can start with -90% and know you can make it work, or start with -50% and think it’s doomed. The ROI goal comes from experience. The newer you are, the LESS you should think of the getting profitable and focus, focus strongly, on process and improvement. If you don’t know what ROI should be your goal in this phase, then don’t have one aside from -90% or better, so as to have a sign that conversions are flowing in constantly. Conversions are the key to making decisions, without them you are just throwing money out the window.


Now you have your funnel roughly developed. It’s time to split test with the goal to optimize and improve your ROI from the testing stage. The testing phase told you what angle works for that offer type, now you can split test more scripts and designs, more offers in the same vertical, more affiliate networks, more traffic sources.

You can also start filtering traffic based on placement, OS version, device models, etc.

In this phase you can think of 2 big things:

1. Optimizing your funnel on the smaller details (which add up non-linearly to your ROI)

2. Targeting the right traffic.

You have to do this at the same time, but don’t be afraid to take a step back if you think you’ve made a mistake. Figuring out your process is the goal, and seeing ROI improvement. Not green or red, just be better than you were 10 split tests ago.

The newer you are, the longer it will take, and the fuzzier the process will seem. Everyone’s been there. It’s very important to be structured and TRACK your progress, because if you cannot see the progress you’ve made with your hard work in that week, you will get very discouraged. Once you see that your work does have an impact, and it’s slowly going where you want it, you will be able to push through the tough times too. No hit and miss; step by step tracked improvements.

Here are my rules for cutting placements. It’s no exact science but it’s what we use to cut placements and a few other variables that are comparable in granularity.

2x payout spent and -100% ROI

4x payout spent and <-67% ROI

6x payout spent and <-15% ROI

8x payout spent and <1% ROI

This is a reasonably aggressive strategy that works for quick optimization. You can come back and add some things you excluded in the next stage, once your funnel has also improved.


Once you made significant progress in your optimization phase and your campaign is consistently 40%+ ROI, you should consider going into the maintenance phase.

I like to describe this as a much less aggressive optimization phase. You don’t do any major split tests, and you no longer do them on 100% of your traffic. Your targeting and funnel should be great now and you just want to take out whatever crappy placements/models/OS versions come up. If you have ideas of angles, designs or anything, you can test them on 10-20% of your traffic. You can also add new offers that fit the funnel. If you are using banner traffic, I suggest reading this guide to get you started on fighting banner blindness. A well setup maintenance process is actually the key to scaling. You will be able to run many more campaigns if you know how to maintain them.

While this is not at all the full story behind how to create and recreate profitable campaigns, I felt that realizing these 3 stages exist and how they are separated was one of the things that helped me the most. That’s why I want to share it with my readers, and hopefully it will give some of you that “A-ha!” moment to go from red to green or from $xx/day to $xxx/day.

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Emanuel Cinca, aka Manu

My story starts in Lipova, Romania, a town of about 10,000 inhabitants, where I was born in a working class family. Growing up in a family that had a shaky financial base and relied solely on month to month wages, and sometimes on short term loans from friends, I knew that I a) didn’t want to get a regular job EVER, and b) I want to have true financial independence.

Fast forward to my high school days, I got admitted into the number one high school of Arad county, “Moise Nicoara” National College. Don’t ask me why they call it a college, that’s just the translation from Romanian. I had a passion for technology and computers, so it seemed natural that I wanted to get into the so called informatics class.

The 4 years here taught me that:

1. Where you come from has little to no impact on your ability to learn, your skills and their value

2. Being number one high school is overrated

3. In the standard educational system, you are not allowed to excel at something, until you have proven to be above average at everything else.

4. Grades are an extremely flawed measurement of someone’s skills

5. I know myself better than anyone else, so I should make my decisions, not anyone else, and I should be OK with the consequences.

These learnings will be reflected in some of my posts here.

After high school, I quit University after 2 months in… TWICE! One time I quit Computers and Information Technology, and the second time I quit Business Administration.

During these years I also developed a passion for poker. I was a content producer at the world’s biggest online poker school for 2 years, and I wrote a book with a Maths professor from Nottingham and TT, who also blogs here. The book is called The Education of a Modern Poker Player.

I moved to Vienna in 2013, at TT’s initiative, and had several failed ventures together, all leading up to what is now Adefy.

I have a keen interest in psychology and in data, which makes performance marketing such a great industry for me. I blog about these topics, sometimes adding education, personal development, and management to the mix.

Interested in: Psychology. Marketing. Management. Investing. Startups. Entrepreneurship.

Hobbies: Reading. Fitness. Football. Travelling.

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