We all have those moments of doubt while working on a page of our website: would this be better if it was red or if it was blue? Does this image work, or would that one be stronger? Is my call to action effective, or would using a synonym make the language more exciting? It’s difficult to decide when we don’t know the answers.
This is what makes A/B testing such an important tool for digital marketing. Through methodical testing, you can know for sure how customers will respond to different options on your site, enabling you to choose the options that lead to the most conversions.
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What Is A/B Testing In Digital Marketing?
Simply put, A/B testing is a process of comparing one option to another. When a web designer runs an A/B test, they choose one detail of a site, create a variation on that detail, and run the change on the site for a period of time. By comparing data from the original site and the revised site, the web designer can determine whether the original or revised site is more effective.
Here’s an example of what a simple A/B test might look like. Let’s say that currently you include a CTA at the end of every blog post you run on your site. The CTA is a button that matches the color scheme of your blog page, but you sometimes wonder if it matches too much and disappears on the page. Would changing the button to a contrasting color lead more visitors to click it? By running an A/B test, you can know rather than guess what the outcome of a button color change would be.
Any element of a page can be A/B tested. Many experts suggest starting with A/B testing your content, since this is the most essential part of a site. Contact form buttons, calls to action, images, color schemes, and even different hyperlink colors are all great options to A/B test, as well as page layout and menu layout. Just be methodical in how you test and be sure to track your data carefully.
How Do You Perform An A/B Test On A Website?
The first step in A/B testing is to decide what page to test. Depending on your site goals, you might choose a page that performs poorly (with few conversions, high bounce rate, etc.), or you might choose to test on a page that has high revenue potential. You could also choose to test on a page that has high or low traffic. Testing low-performing pages can bring them up to speed with better pages on your site, while testing more highly-trafficked pages will give you more data, which is helpful if you are considering making a site-wide change. Spend time digging through your website analytics and really reflecting on which pages will have the biggest impact on your website performance overall before you make your decision.
Once you have settled on a page, choose a single, specific detail on that page and create variations of it. But only change that one detail. For instance, in my previous example of changing a CTA button, I only discussed changing the button’s color. To do a good A/B test, I would keep the button’s text and placement on the page the same. The only detail I would change is the button’s color. This way, I know that if there’s a change in performance on the site, that change is due to the alteration of the button’s color. If I try to test too many details—the button color, the button text, the button’s location or size—then I won’t know which change made my CTA stronger.
A common saying in digital marketing is “always be A/B testing.” This means that you should always be running A/B tests on some detail of your site, that you should always be optimizing and improving to gain more conversions. And if you’re always A/B testing, then you will have the opportunity to test every detail over time. To return to my example, maybe my hypothetical web designer could start by testing the color of their CTA button, then in their next A/B test they could try tweaking the text on the button, then test the placement of the button in a third test, and so on.
Consecutive Tests vs. Simultaneous Tests
If another software subscription isn’t in your budget, an affordable way to implement A/B testing is to simply decide which element of which page you want to change, make the change, and run it for a period of time. Then you can compare analytics data from before and after the change was made. However, the drawback to this kind of testing is that web page performance varies over time anyway depending on the season, the economy, natural fluctuations in your industry, and so forth. This is true when comparing this year’s data to data from the same time last year. With consecutive A/B testing, your test will always have an extra variable in place, making your data less accurate.
A better way to test changes to your site is with simultaneous tests. Tools like Google Optimize, Optimizely, UserTesting.com, Crazy Egg, and HubSpot offer ways to set up A/B tests that will run two versions of your web page at once. They do this by directing half of your website traffic to one version and the other half of your traffic to the other version. The advantage here is that you test your original page with your altered page at the exact same time, providing the most fair and accurate performance assessment.
The Long-term Value of A/B Testing
A/B testing has obvious immediate value because it helps you make informed, data-driven decisions about the look, feel, and functionality of your website. However, these tests have long-term value, too. As the Optimizely website explains,
“A/B testing allows individuals, teams, and companies to make careful changes to their user experiences while collecting data on the results. This allows them to construct hypotheses, and to learn better why certain elements of their experiences impact user behavior…More than just answering a one-off question or settling a disagreement, AB testing can be used consistently to continually improve a given experience, improving a single goal like conversion rate over time.”Optimizely Glossary
In other words, consistent A/B testing not only improves your site, but it hones your understanding of what users are actually looking for from your site, helping you make better decisions about the site overall. With time and data, you can become better at deciding what elements of a site are most likely to work for your user base. And as you add more pages to your site, you can build with confidence and enjoy better performance from the start.
Test, Test, Test For Best Results
A/B testing is an essential part of site optimization. If you’re constantly testing elements of your site, then you’re constantly improving your design, functionality, and user experience, leading to higher conversions. Testing doesn’t have to be difficult, especially since many of the popular software programs used in digital marketing have built-in tools to set up A/B tests. However, setting up these tests and monitoring changes in site performance can be time-consuming, especially if you are consistently A/B testing (like you should be).
That’s why so many businesses turn to TracSoft’s digital marketing services. You can trust our experts to optimize your site using the latest methods in SEO and analytics. If you’re ready to save time and see increased performance, contact TracSoft today to get started setting up a customized digital marketing strategy tailored to your business goals.