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A/B Split Testing: A Beginner’s Guide

After countless hours of agonizing design work, image sourcing, and copywriting, your website is finally live and open for visitors. At this point, you may think you’ve done all you can do to make your website a success. But unless you have zero expectations for your website’s performance, your work is far from finished.

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It takes more than a good design or brilliant colors to create a successful website. If your site isn’t helping you to achieve your goals, you need to figure what’s not working and why, or risk becoming nothing more than digital real estate filler.

If you don’t know what you don’t know (and most of us don’t), A/B split testing can help you strengthen your website and start getting the results you expect.

What Exactly is A/B Split Testing?

Simply put, A/B split testing refers to testing two or more variations of something, such as a web page, to see which one gets the best results. Think of it as an experiment: you form an idea, craft an educated guess about the outcome of your idea, and collect data to conduct tests that will prove (or disprove) your hypothesis.

A/B testing helps you take the guesswork out of what’s working well on your website and which elements might need a boost to reach your goals. As a result, you get cold, hard data that ensure the changes you make will give you the best possible outcome.

4 Steps to Successful A/B Split Testing

Before you dive headfirst into changes and theories, it’s important to be methodical in your split testing approach. Changing random elements simply for the sake of testing won’t give you an accurate idea of your website’s true potential. Rather, you should carefully select elements that have a calculated impact on improving your web page or app. Here’s how:

1. Set Up Your Test

As with all good experiments, you need to have a benchmark to gauge your split test results. Otherwise, you can’t be sure how well your variation(s) are performing.

Most experts suggest you start small, such as a headline, image, or call-to-action copy or button color. Several case studies have shown success in simple changes to these types of elements, plus they give you an easy starting point.

During your test you’ll want to run two versions of the same page, testing only one change at a time. There are A/B split testing software providers, such as Optimizely, that can help you set up your tests and also provide analytics on your test’s results.

Limiting your test to only one change makes it easier to determine why your test was successful (or not). For example, if you decide to change the color of your CTA button, you’ll want one web page to use its existing color and one web page to feature your new color choice.

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2. Measure Your Results

After you set up your test, half of your web traffic will be shown your original version, while the other half is shown your “new and improved” variation. Their actions are logged to give you a clear comparison of which version performed better, leaving you to determine if you should change your button color to your tested choice, try another color in another A/B test, or leave the button color as is.

It’s also worth noting that many companies’ A/B tests fail because they don’t allow enough time for it to work. It’s a tricky balancing act: you want to give your content enough time to be seen, but you also want to know what’s working as soon as possible so you can make the appropriate adjustments.

Unfortunately, there is no magic number when it comes to the testing time period. It largely depends on what you’re testing, such as a one-time email versus a weeklong campaign on Facebook. It’s also dependent on the volume you receive during the testing phase. You’ll need to establish your baseline, such as how many clicks you usually get on your website in a given day or week, then develop a testing period from there.

3. Continue Split Testing to Achieve Maximum Results

If your first A/B split test was successful, congratulations! Not everyone gets it right on the first try, especially if you started out not sure about what you should test.

However, keep in mind that it’s advisable to continue testing elements to get the best results. It’s a simple yet powerful way to collect data on your user’s experience and gain deeper insight on the things that affect visitor behaviors. In continually testing, you are better able to provide the type of experience your audience desires – and ultimately drive conversions.

4. Combine Your Results for Better Insight

After testing a series of elements, such as images, headlines, landing page copy, CTAs, and colors, take a look at the wins each change brought.

For example, a monthly clothing subscription company using a landing page to promote their service might see a 20% conversion increase from a CTA button color change, then a 10% increase after changing the headline, then a 10% increase from changing the call-to-action copy.

If the company started with 1000 conversions per month prior to these changes, changing the button color increased their conversions to 1200, which then saw a boost to 1,440, which then jumped to 1,728 conversions.

Grand total? Nearly a 75% increase in conversions because of A/B split testing. Assign the dollar amount each of those conversions is worth to determine the value of your efforts.

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A/B Split Testing Isn’t Just for Websites

A/B split testing is commonly used to fortify websites, but you can use it for just about any component of your marketing machine:

  • Apps
  • Email Campaigns
  • Ads
  • Social Media Posts
  • Blog Content

Email services like MailChimp help you create multivariate email campaigns and will test them for you, ensuring that the majority of your audience receives the best performing email. You can also conduct your own A/B testing using insights from Google Analytics or your own website’s analytics, though this requires a bit more manual labor on your end.

Wrap Up

It’s easy to assume that because we think something is the best it can be, that everyone else will agree. However, when you let the audience be the judge, you’ll find that their engagement will speak for itself.

 

Shariq Toor is Content Strategist working with NoStop Blogging Services, a boutique writing agency focusing on helping small business clients take their websites to the next level. From social media topics to articles on niche industry issues, NoStop’s articles are written with style, attention to detail, and with the client’s audience in mind.

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