A/B testing is a way of comparing two versions of an app, webpage, ad, email copy and more in order to determine which one is better performing. In its essence, it’s an experiment where two or more variants of a page or copy are shown to people at random, and statistical analysis is performed to figure out which version performs better.
In the case of web pages, A/B testing will help you to narrow down a lot of things about your site. For instance, it can show you what currently works and what doesn’t in this ever-changing world that is the Internet. You will get a lot of valuable data from the tests that you will partake in. That data can be used to better improve your web pages.
Even though our focus today will mainly be on elements of web pages, like we have just mentioned above, A/B testing can also be used in other areas of digital marketing, such as emails, ad variations, and more.
And while it is inherently true that some aspects of website optimisation are merely guesswork, A/B testing isn’t. You can measure the impact of having a different variation of a webpage through tangible metrics such as views, conversions, and such.
So, what is A/B testing in digital marketing?
What is A/B testing in digital marketing: How does it work?
When performing an A/B test, you take a webpage from your website or your app, and you change a few things about it, basically creating an alternative version of it in the process. The changes that you can make can be as simple as having a different title or an entirely different-looking font, or it can be as big as an alternative design of the webpage.
Once you do this, you show half of your website’s or app’s traffic the original version (also known as the control) and the other half are presented with the edited version (also known as the variation).
Visitors of your website will then engage with the two versions in two distinct manners. Your job here is to collect data about their experiences and collect it then thoroughly analyse it. Once that’s done, you can then decide whether the variation has a positive, neutral, or negative impact on visitor behaviour.
A/B testing vs Split testing
The terms “A/B” testing and “Split testing” tend to be used interchangeably. However, they are different from one another.
A/B testing usually involves changing one element, such as the image on a page or the text. Split testing, on the other hand, is about the comparison of two distinctly different designs.
We prefer A/B testing simply because it shows us how much of an effect changing a single element can have.
What is A/B testing in digital marketing: How to perform A/B testing
You can use the following framework when A/B testing to ensure that everything goes smoothly:
Head to your analytics to get an idea of what needs optimising. It’s usually easier to go with areas in your site and app that already get a lot of traffic because data-gathering will be quicker. Focus on the web pages that have high bounce rates and little to no conversions.
You should have some metrics goals in mind in order to determine whether the variation is performing better or not. Your goals can be anything from a click of a button to purchase.
Once you have identified your goals, you can then start thinking of testing ideas and reasons for why you think a variation might perform better. You can then proceed to list these ideas based on importance and expected results.
Create the variations
You can use an A/B testing software or manually make the changes you have in mind to the element of your webpage or app. As we have mentioned before, this can be changing the colour of a text, the size of an image, a swap in the order of elements, and more.
Start your test and wait for people to come by. If everything goes according to plan, visitors of your website will be randomly directed to either the control or the variation. Each of their interactions with the page is carefully measured and accounted for.
Analyse the numbers
Once your test is done, it’s now time to analyse the results. Your A/B testing will provide you with the important data from the experiment, and it will show you the differences in performance between the two variations of your page.
If the variation is a clear winner, then congrats! You have basically upgraded your website for the better. You also get to learn a lot of things that you can apply to other pages to achieve similar results.
However, if the test doesn’t lead to a positive result, don’t panic. Instead, use this test as a lesson to help yourself to come up with a better hypothesis.
Which page elements should you A/B test?
Certain elements in a webpage contribute to conversions more than others. For example, changing a single keyword in a copy of an email won’t make as big of a difference as changing a CTA button.
Assuming you have a limited amount of time, you would surely want to focus all of your energy on the most important elements of a web page. Let’s take a look at five of the most effective elements of the A/B test.
Headlines and copywriting
The headline is usually the first thing that people see when they arrive on a web page. So, it should come as no surprise that if you have a weak headline, people are less likely to stick around.
There are other aspects of a webpage that can also decrease bounce rates. Those aspects include the amount of text you have, for example. You can also modify the tone of your text. That will help you see whether your audience prefers a hard sell or a somewhat soft approach.
Images, video, and audio
Content isn’t exclusively text. It also comes in the form of videos, images, podcasts, and more. If you happen to have a number of videos, for example, try testing videos against short infographics or written text.
Even if you don’t have a proprietary library of videos and images yet, you can still rely on stock images and perform A/B testing with them.
All the different variations that you can come up with will help you figure out what your audience cares about most.
Consumers are usually divided into two groups:
- Some prefer high-quality information that provides a brief explanation of a subject.
- Others want a much deeper, usually lengthier perspective about a certain thing.
In most cases, the majority of your consumer base will belong to one of the two, and A/B testing can help you to figure out which one it is.
Still, you have to keep in mind that the depth of your content significantly affects your SEO. As a result, your approach to A/B testing your content should be one of figuring out a balance between the two and not one that completely eliminates search engine optimisation or vice-versa.
Of course, when we say content, we are mainly referring to that of your landing pages and not the informative blog posts that you might have on your website. Those should be in-depth and informative since that’s the point of them in the first place.
We can’t really talk about digital marketing without talking about email marketing. Fortunately for you, A/B testing your marketing emails is much easier than a page or an app. You should send the control to 50% of your subscribers and the variation to the other 50%.
As mentioned, implementing the slightest change to your email assets can have an extraordinary effect on your metrics. For the sake of argument, let’s say you sent out a version to 10,000 people over the span of a month and an alternative version to another 10,000 subscribers. The latter version, the variation, performed better than the original by more than 50%. This can only mean one thing: whatever edit you made is more appreciated by people than the original version.
The main job of your landing page is to convert as many users as possible based on whatever offer you are presenting them with, especially if you have a one-page website. If they don’t perform whatever action they are supposed to on your landing page, chances are you got something wrong.
Nowadays, you can generate a heat map of where people are clicking more often on your landing page(s). Such data will help you to run more accurate A/B tests to highlight certain items that need to be highlighted and are perhaps being neglected by users.
You can also change the order of things and place CTAs where people more often look to trick them into clicking on them.
What is A/B testing in digital marketing – SEO
Not only does Google allow A/B and split testing, but they also encourage it. In other words, they are saying that it does not hurt your website search rankings in any shape or form. However, they do mention that if you use A/B testing to ameliorate black hat SEO practices such as cloaking, you will be severely punished.
In case you aren’t familiar with cloaking, it basically refers to the practice of showing regular visitors completely different content from the one you are showing to search engines as a means to drastically improve your site search result ranking without damaging your content.
Why test when we can do it for you?
A/B testing takes time, effort, and practice; there’s no denying that. If you feel like it’s too big of a job for you and you’re better off focusing on another aspect of your business, contact us today. We’ll be happy to take it off your hands.