A/B testing may sound intimidating to some marketers, but the truth is that it’s not actually that complex. That said, you should come at it with a clear strategy in mind, and defined goals certainly never hurt anyone either. The whole thing is fairly reminiscent of science, really – you should kick things off with a hypothesis: Which version of your content will perform the best?
Anytime some part of your marketing machine isn’t operating at peak capacity, an A/B test can help you determine which parts need fixing.
Basically, A/B testing refers to the process of creating additional versions of some marketing asset—landing page, CTA, promotional emails, etc.—and seeing which performs better under the same circumstances. It doesn’t have to be either “A” or “B” either – it can be A/B/C/D testing, or however many variants you want to make.
Done correctly, A/B testing is one of the most powerful methods of impacting your results. It takes a bit of time and patience, but the results will often speak for themselves. Here are 8 steps to follow as you A/B test your marketing assets to a new and improved performance.
#1 Pick Your Test Subject
Begin with just one thing that you’d like to test. The most important thing here is that the thing you choose to test is relevant to the metric you’re looking to boost. So for example, if you’re trying to garner a lot more organic traffic, you’ll want to fixate on some element that affects SEO, such as the length of your blog posts. In this case, in order to optimize your conversion rate, it might be a good idea to start with a video, a CTA, or the headline itself.
#2 Stick to a Single Goal
What are you hoping will come of this A/B test? Do you want to boost conversion rates? Are your sales currently subpar? Do you want visitor time spent on your landing page to shoot way up? Just start with that single metric of your choosing. Later, you can perform more A/B testing that hits other important metrics of your choosing. As with science (and A/B testing isn’t that far off, really), if you focus on one item at a time, your data will be way more informative. But if you change too many things at once, you won’t know which of the changes is really driving the results you record.
#3 Use Analytics Software
Scan through your current data with an analytical tool. Google Analytics is a reliable, effective choice here. What can the analysis inform you with regard to the metric you want to improve?
Consider this your hard point of origin. Through A/B testing, you’re looking for some isolated alteration you can perform that will effect the change you want and improve your selected metric.
#4 Pick a Strong Page
Kick things off with your most important page. This depends on your particular website – it could be your homepage, a key sales page for your product/service, or simply one of your landing pages with high traffic. Whatever this page happens to be, it should be a major player in how it affects your company’s bottom line. Don’t waste your time A/B testing some irrelevant or minor part of your website. The predicted outcome should be significant, and that means choosing an important page.
#5 Set Your Chosen Elements
Now you’ll pick which elements to A/B test on your “champion,” which is what you call the content that you’ll be slightly changing in order to monitor relevant metrics. Begin with the items you figure to have the highest likelihood of influencing the chosen metric.
#6 Make Your “B” Variant
Build a variant of your champion, altering only that element you chose in step #5. So if, for example, you’re changing a page’s CTA, you might alter the color of the background, the type of font, or the size of the button. Choose only one of these and leave everything else the same as the champion. Remember, changing too many things will make it unclear which alteration actually had the desired impact—so keep it clean and stick to one at a time.
#8 Sit Back and Relax
Time to settle in for the long wait! Define a set period of time during which to wait. It depends on what you’re testing, but a few weeks or a month might do for your purposes. Most testing tools allow you to peek at your test progress at any time throughout the process, and once the test finishes up, you’ll have data about how many people interacted with each version of the tested item, how they interacted with it, etc.