You’ve probably heard the term A/B testing before. It gets thrown around the digital marketing space a whole lot — and for good reason.
A/B testing, also known as bucket testing and split testing, is a proven strategy that brands employ to test and improve things like display ads, email marketing campaigns, landing pages, and website design.
But how exactly does an A/B test work, you ask? We’ve got you covered.
What is A/B Testing?
A/B testing is a method of comparing two websites, apps, landing pages, headlines, images or any other element in order to see which iteration performs best.
Let’s take an example:
If you publish one version of a landing page, you can monitor that page to ascertain click through rates, conversion rates, bounce rates, time spent on the page and so forth. But if you had two versions of that same landing page — with differing titles and subheaders, for instance — and served each one to 50 percent of visitors, suddenly, you can compare the data to find out which iteration performs best. After a string of A/B tests, you’ll discover the optimum type of copy imagery, font and button color, and gain insight into how to tweak and optimize your page for maximum conversions.
More A/B Testing Examples
If a company is launching a new product, they may A/B split test different headlines to see which one converts best.
Using the data gathered, they can fine-tune their campaigns to create even more specialized pages that cater to their target audience. This provides a company with a lot of flexibility and can help them determine which headline resonates with their customer base.
Color plays a significant role in website design, email marketing and social media marketing. If a brand wishes to optimize their “sign up” button, for example, they might consider split testing (a/b testing) the button’s color.
By pitting red against blue — or better yet, by comparing three, four or even five colors — the brand will soon find the color that works best for them in the context of their broader website’s design. Now that’s a simple yet genius conversion rate hack.
- Website Design
Those are just a few ways a brand can approach A/B testing. If you’re looking for more ideas, HubSpot has more detailed A/B testing examples that you might find useful.
The most common forms of A/B testing analyze and optimize things like:
- Headlines and subheadlines
- Body copy
- Call to action body and button copy
- Link anchor text
- Email copy
- Social media posts
- Design elements like fonts, colors, position, and more
- Website designs and redesigns
Once you decide on the element or elements you want to test, the next step is to create a variant. So, you might start off with an email subject line that reads, “Hey there!”. The variant could be “Got a moment?”. In theory, these two distinct variations should garner distinct results.
When your variants are ready to test, you can send each one to 50 percent of your email list. If you’re testing four different subject lines, make it 25 percent each. You get the picture.
Each test should have the same duration and should have no other distinguishing features to ensure that differing levels of success can be directly linked to the subject lines. If, for example, you let one campaign run for a few weeks longer than another one, the results will be skewed.
Best Practices for A/B Testing
Like any form of marketing, there are several best practices you’ll want to keep in mind for A/B split testing. These rules are especially true if you want your A/B split testing to provide you with valuable data and improve your conversion rate.
Here are a few A/B testing best practices you’ll want to consider:
- Use Reliable Testing Tools: You’ll want to have a couple tools ready so you can properly analyze the data you’ll collect. Again, your WCMS should be equipped, but you’ll also want to leverage platforms like Zesty.io along with your current solution to get accurate data. Zesty.io integrates instantaneously with A/B testing softwares including: Optimizely, Split.io, Kissmetrics, and Google Analytics.
- Set Goals: From the very beginning, make it clear what you want to achieve. If you are running a new product ad, your goal may be to increase sales and reduce bounce rates.
- Test Your Assumptions: Put your assumptions to the test. See if using different fonts, colors, or sizes impacts the performance of your campaign. Track the performance of each variation, how long you are running a specific variation, and compare it to how the original version performed over the course of a similar time frame.
- Start Small: In the beginning, select one variable and test it extensively. You may test certain button colors, image variations, or something else. The goal here is to determine which one is more effective and worth pursuing. Once you are more familiar with the process, you can test multiple variations at once.
- Follow a Timeline: A/B testing is only effective if your tests are controlled. This means designing tests that are completed on the same timeline and with the same conditions. As mentioned above, if your tests are skewed, the results won’t be accurate.
- Always Check The Data: No matter what you are testing, you need to look at the data. When you make changes, look at how it impacts the performance of your campaign. This information is invaluable and the entire reason why you are A/B testing in the first place.
- Learn From Each Test, Then Make A Decision: Once you have collected enough data, it’s time to make a decision. Look at the data and draw conclusions. The numbers don’t lie, so if the numbers show that your customers prefer a certain color and font, use them.
Marketing Efficiency Starts with A/B Split Testing
If you want to get the most out of your marketing, you have to learn how to A/B test — and that’s the bottom line. The information you gain during these tests is invaluable, and will help your company make educated marketing decisions that boost conversions. In fact, a simple A/B test may help you understand your audience more than any survey or poll ever could.
A/B testing helps you validate campaign ideas in order to determine which ones actually work in practice. Plus, it’s a great way to see if a new idea (like a new website design) is actually an improvement in the eyes of your audience.
To get started with A/B testing today, check out how Zesty.io empowers A/B testing.
By Stuart Runyan
Developing web technologies is my passion! I'm focused on creating applications and experiences to solve the problems which today's digital marketers face. I believe in web standards, a mobile first approach, access for everyone, open source software and the democratization of information. My goal is to continue the Internet being pure awesome!