What Is A/B Testing?
A/B testing is an experiment methodology where you designate two variables, A and B, and run them simultaneously against one another to determine which one performs best. As the name implies, the two versions (A and B) are compared, both of which are identical except for one single variation. This allows you to isolate the variable that performs best when measured against your success metrics.
A/B testing is commonly used in web development and online marketing, as well as traditional forms of advertising. In the online world, the goal of A/B testing is to identify changes to ads, landing pages, and web pages that increase or maximize a targeted performance outcome (such as clicks, conversions or subscriptions). Here are some tips:
1. Know What To Test
The reality is that testing all aspects of your campaign is the best way to ensure success, because each element in your sales funnel is ultimately responsible for generating conversions.
It’s always a good idea to start by testing the elements of your campaign that are at the top of the sales funnel, such as the ads (banner or PPC) you’re using to drive traffic to your sales pages. These are the first touch-points your consumer comes into contact with, so it makes sense that you would test them first. Once you’ve refined the top level of your campaign, you can move on to testing the sales pages themselves.
Testing in affiliate marketing almost usually focuses on:
Ad Copy––Headlines, body copy, meta-tags, meta descriptions, calls-to-action, short versus long copy, email subject lines, email body copy, etc. Testing copy includes using strong versus mild calls to action (e.g., Buy Now versus Learn more), literal versus creative headlines, highlighting different features and benefits, in essence playing around the text to determine what language and terminology your customers respond to the most.
Graphic Design––Page layout, header images, colour schemes, call-to-action size, shape and placement, etc. Graphic design includes testing all the visual elements of your ads and sales pages. Sometimes darker colour schemes work better, sometimes a box shot is better than a photograph, and some customers prefer a smaller less obtrusive call-to-action button. It really all depends on the individual product and its audience––and testing is the only way to find out what you need to know to maximize the effectiveness of your messaging and presentation.
2. Give It Some Time
Try not to jump to any conclusions after you’ve run your test for a couple of days. A solid A/B test split test might even take a month to run. Throwing in the towel too early will only cost you time and effort, and your results will be insufficient to draw any meaningful conclusions from. So, once you start seeing a consistent trend develop that indicates a meaningful pattern, at that point you can close that test or start a new one.
3. Analyze Your Results
Once you’ve run an A/B test, don’t simply assume that the winning version is the best one you’re ever going to get. Dig deeper into your results and see if you can identify any areas where there are flaws in your winning version; areas that could be further improved with subsequent rounds of testing.
4. Mix It Up
Aim to be creative with your tests. You don’t always have to stick to the standard A/B, 50/50 audience. You can forge ahead and create a number of test templates and play with the audience proportions. Don’t always test just your headlines, or just your calls-to-action either. Move on to other aspects of your pages such as colour schemes and typeface. There are an infinite number of combinations you can test so don’t limit yourself. This approach will give you a rich and layered set of data to analyze. One word of caution, though––remember that while variety is good, you don’t want to get too complicated with your tests either. Find a balance that works for you and stay within it.
Recommended Tools for A/B Testing
1. Optimizely – Intuitive and easy to use, offers a simple WYSIWIG interface and free test drive tool
2. Unbounce – incredibly simple testing environment that allows you to create quality landing pages with ease
3. Visual Website Optimizer – Free, easy to use with lots of extra features
4. KISSmetrics – Offers complete A/B testing suite plus suggested action insights to follow up on