Getting Started With A/B Testing — The Ultimate Guide
Relying on your intuition alone to design web pages, write email copy, and run ads isn’t enough to optimize your conversions. The only way to truly know if your campaigns are optimized for success is by putting them to the test.
Enter A/B testing.
Many of you might be familiar with A/B testing and its basic concepts, but you’re just not sure how to get started. If you fall into this category, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide will explain everything you need to know about A/B testing, including its benefits, best practices, and actionable steps to get started.
What is A/B Testing?
A/B testing is a marketing experimentation tactic. It involves splitting your audience to test variations of a campaign to determine which variation performs better.
In simple terms, you show “Version A” of something to half of your audience and “Version B” to the other half. Then you compare the results of the test to see which one had greater success towards your goal.
Here’s a simple visual to explain how this works:
In this example, Variation B is the clear winner.
Which CTA copy is better for your landing page? Get Started For Free or Sign Up Today. A/B testing gives you the opportunity to experiment with these variations.
Benefits of A/B Testing
There are many advantages to running A/B tests. Some of the top reasons why brands leverage A/B testing include:
A/B testing is arguably the best way to perform CRO (conversion rate optimization) on any digital touchpoint. When you create two versions of an email, landing page, CTA button, or campaign, it’s very easy to determine which version is converting at a higher rate.
Changing the number of form fields on a page, adjusting the value proposition, or updating the image can really make a difference when website visitors are deciding whether or not to provide you with their contact information. Based on your experiments, you can determine which versions of a page are more attractive for lead generation.
Better User Engagement
Adjusting on-page elements will ultimately impact the user experience. When you figure out which versions are more pleasing for your user base, it ultimately helps drive engagement. You might discover that one variation has lots of friction while other versions make it easy for users to navigate and consume your content.
A/B testing takes the guesswork out of your marketing decisions. You might have a hypothesis on something, but A/B tests give you actionable data that you can use. Measuring things like clicks, conversions, traffic, open rates, average time spent on the page, and other KPIs should deliver you clear results for how to move forward.
Lower Bounce Rates
Testing variables like fonts, headlines, images, and color schemes can help encourage users to stay on your pages longer. Some design elements are not aesthetically pleasing and cause users to bounce within seconds of landing on a page.
A/B testing is a great way to make budgeting decisions with confidence. Before you start pouring thousands of dollars into an advertisement or a campaign that drives traffic to a particular page, you’ll know that the campaign is pre-optimized for the desired goal. This helps deliver more business value and increases the chances of success for your campaigns.
Increase Site Traffic
Adjusting things like blog headlines, page titles, and email CTAs can have a significant impact on how many people click a link that drives them to your site. As a result, you can quickly identify which variations result in the highest volume of traffic.
A/B testing reduces shopping cart abandonment rates, improves lead generation, and increases engagement. All of these factors help your business earn more revenue for the same campaigns. Since you’re getting data-driven results with A/B testing, you’ll also benefit from a higher ROI from your campaigns and landing pages.
Quickstart Guide to A/B Testing in 4 Simple Steps
The concepts of A/B testing are very straightforward. But getting started can feel intimidating for some people, especially for those of you who haven’t been through this before.
I’ve simplified this process into just four steps. Follow the instructions below to get started, as they’ll steer you in the right direction and set you up for success:
Step 1 — Identify Your Goal
A/B tests will yield lots of different metrics and results. But with that said, you should have a clear goal established from the beginning. This goal will ultimately be your north star as the experiment progresses.
Examples of goals might include:
- Turn blog readers into email subscribers
- Get more ebook downloads
- Lower shopping cart abandonment rates
- Increase the average time spent on a landing page
- Increase the ROI of a social media advertisement
The possibilities are really endless.
You can ultimately run multiple A/B tests for different goals. But keep it simple when you’re first getting started. Stick with one goal for now, and get yourself familiar with the process before you expand.
Step 2 — Select an A/B Testing Tool
Next, you need to ensure you have the right tools at your disposal.
A/B testing tools can come in all different shapes and sizes. You can research the right tools based on your goal in the first step.
For example, let’s say you want to increase the average open rate of your monthly newsletter. You should be able to do this directly from your email marketing software.
So in this scenario, you probably wouldn’t even need to get a new tool. But you might have to upgrade your plan to access A/B testing features.
Here’s a basic example of this from Constant Contact:
However, this type of tool wouldn’t help you experiment with a social media advertisement or test the CTA copy of a landing page button.
For landing page optimization, you could turn to a tool like Optimizely.
Again, it all depends on what you want to test.
For help finding the right software and additional recommendations, check out our reviews of the best A/B testing tools.
Step 3 — Pick a Variable to Test
Now it’s time to select your first variable for the experiment. There is seemingly an unlimited amount of things to test.
But to help steer you in the right direction, it’s best to stick with common elements. Examples include:
- CTA button size
- CTA button copy
- CTA button placement
- Headline size
- Headline copy
- Background colors
- On-page image
- Form field placement
- Number of fields in the form
- Email subject line
- Email preview text
- Buy buttons
- Add-to-cart buttons
- Product descriptions
- Page design
The list goes on and on.
Keep in mind that you’re ultimately going to test multiple variables over time. But you need to stick with one for now. If you make too many changes at once, you won’t know exactly which variation impacted the results.
Was it the CTA button placement or the background color? Sticking with one variable per experiment is the only way to know.
Step 4 — Analyze the Results
Analyzing the results is the final step.
To do this correctly, you need to know which metric or metrics to track based on your goal. You should also set a minimum sample size to determine when the test is complete.
For example, running the test for a week may not be enough if you’re only getting 40 visitors to a particular landing page. You may need to keep that active until you’ve researched hundreds or thousands of people in your sample pool.
Then you need to decide how significant the results would be for you to make a decision.
For example, if the conversion rate on one page is 20% and the conversion rate on the other variation is 21.5%, can you confidently say that the latter is better? Probably not.
Choosing an A/B testing tool with good reporting features can make your life much easier as you’re going through this process. Here’s an example from Zoho PageSense:
Just keep in mind that more information isn’t always better. Don’t use a tool that’s going to overwhelm you with datasets that you don’t know how to digest.
A/B Testing Best Practices
I’ve run thousands of A/B tests in my career, both for myself and for my clients. Based on my experience, I want to share some quick tips and best practices for you to keep in mind as you’re going through this process.
- Only test one variable at a time
- Pay close attention to your sample size
- Never make changes in the middle of a test
- Start with a hypothesis
- Make sure you’re getting data from reliable sources
- Think closely about which variables you’re testing and why you’re testing them
- Link experiments with the right KPIs
- Always be testing
Following these best practices will increase your chances of success with A/B testing.
A/B testing is a powerful way to increase conversions, enhance the user experience, and make more money. But A/B tests will only be successful if you know how to run them and set everything up properly.
Use this guide as your blueprint for A/B testing.
Follow the step-by-step instructions and keep my best practices in mind. If you need additional assistance or have more questions about A/B testing, reach out to our team for a free consultation.
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