Your Guide to A/B Testing

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If you've ever delved into the world of marketing, you've probably heard the term A/B testing being thrown around all over the place. But what actually is it?

A/B testing (also known as split testing) is the process of showing two different versions of the same thing to different people and then comparing the conversion results.

For example, you have two different versions of an advert, one that says "Book your free trial today" and the other says "Book your free, no obligation trial today". You then measure which one of these messages had the most sales attributed to it. Now you know which message your audience preferred so you can re-use it in your future campaigns.

You can use this method in more than just your adverts. You can use it on your website too. You want people to take action on your website, but how do you know whether you have the right message on there that would make people want to take action? Through the use of A/B testing, you can refine your message and make sure the right content is in the right place on your site.

Why should you use A/B testing?

If you feel that you're not getting the number of enquiries you should be through your contact forms, or that the adverts you're running aren't bringing in more sales, it could be time for you to start using some A/B testing.

Solve visitor pain points

Wait, what's a pain point? Simply put, it's anything that stops your visitor achieving what they want to do on your site.

If you have an amazing contact form that asks every question under the sun about your visitor, you're probably being seen as asking too much. I mean, do you really need to know their eye colour and how tall they are? If your visitors don't like the questions you're asking, they won't answer them and they'll drop off your site, never to return. This contact form is a pain point for them.

But fear not, with a little bit of delving into where your visitors go on your site, how long they spend there and what they're actually doing, you can spot where these potential pain points are and through the use of A/B testing, you can start to improve them.

Reducing your bounce rate

"Hold up, this sounds like more jargon... But you're a jargon free business."

Yes, sorry, some jargon is just unavoidable. This one is simple, I promise. Have you ever visited a website, seen it's not right for you and bounced straight back off it? You are part of that website's bounce rate (see, I told you this one was simple).

So how can A/B testing help with this? Quite simple, start trying to narrow down the reasons why your visitors are leaving your site so quickly.

Start slowly

After a long, hard think about your site and why people are leaving, you might feel as though you want to throw the whole design out and start again. I promise you, your site probably isn't as bad as you think it is.

If you make consistent, small changes, your site sill improve over time, and you know that each of the changes will have a good effect on the site. Just remember, you need to test every change before you make it permanent. This way, you know it will be worth it being done.

What can you test?

You may find it best to focus on elements that influence your users' behaviour on your site. The following ideas are a good starting point.

Two options - A or B

Content

Check your headlines. These are the first thing someone will see when they get to your page. If you don't catch your visitor's attention, it's likely they'll bounce right back off without scrolling to see what your actual content is.

Once your headlines are sorted, move onto the actual body of the content. Are you telling your visitors what they want to know? What is the reason they came to this page? Can they easily find out this information and complete an action, such as signing up for your newsletter?

Design and layout

You want to tell your visitors everything possible about your business and why they should be doing business with you. But are you being clear enough?

Your visitors want to be able to see the different content laid out in a logical manner, that makes it clear what each page is talking about and why they need to know the information on there.

Remember, clutter is your enemy. If you have anything on the page that distracts from the content, it's likely your visitors are also getting distracted and therefore not hanging around to read the information.

Navigation

Ensure your navigation is clear and easy to follow.

If your visitor is clicking around your site, you don't want them to get lost and not be able to find what they're trying to look for.

Forms

From small forms to big forms, from basic to in-depth. You need to know which forms your audience prefer to use, and then tweak your forms to match this.

And more

This list isn't the be all and end all of what you can look at through A/B testing. But it's a good starting place.

How do you perform an A/B test?

Now you know what it is and why you should be doing it, how do you actually do A/B testing?

Research

Before you try out any testing, you need to know what is and isn't working for you.

Look at how many people are visiting your site, which pages they are going to and how long they are staying on there. This will give you an idea of which pages are working for you and which ones are missing the mark.

Once you know this, look at the pages which have goals on them, such as filling out a form, or downloading something and compare these pages to your high hitters. Do you see something missing on them?

It can take a little time to do the research, but you need to know what needs to be changed before you can look at how you need to change it.

Formulate your theory

So, you can see what is and isn't working, but do you know why it's happening in that way?

Once you think you've got it figured out, you can start thinking about improving it.

Create variations

Now you've got your theory, you should be basing your changes around it.

For example, do you think your form is asking too many questions? Run a version of it that asks fewer questions and see if that makes a difference.

If your theory proves to be incorrect, you might have to revise it, but that's ok, it's all part of the process.

Flowchart of possible actions

Run the test

There are two different ways in which you can do this, so let's start looking at them so you can decide which one is right for you.

Redirect testing

This is the preferred method when you are changing key elements of the site, and not just the content of it.

For example, you could have two versions of the same page on your site:

  1. yoursite.com/cart
  2. yoursite.com/basket

If you have each of these running a different version of the entire checkout process, you could then test to see which version your customers prefer.

Multipage testing

This is where you change aspects on multiple pages of your site so you can see how your visitors react at each key point in the buying process.

By comparing this new process to the old one, you can see which journey your visitors prefer to go through to get the end result.

Result analysis and deployment

Once your test is finished, look at several key metrics before deciding which version worked better for you. What you choose these metrics to be is up to you and what your aims of the website are.

But once you have chosen your winning variation, you then need to make these changes a permanent addition to your website, keep monitoring them, and then keep running tests to see if they can be improved upon any further.

Summing up

Is A/B testing worth it? We think so. You need to know whether your content is working for you, and what to change it to if it's not. This is what A/B testing does for you.

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It can take a fair amount of work to get it going, but once you get into the rhythm of what you need to look for and therefore change, it comes as second nature. Plus, we're always here to help if you need it.

If you would like to discuss A/B testing your website with us, don't hesitate to get in touch and we can start the conversation with you.

P.S. keep your eyes peeled for our next post on frequent mistakes which are made during A/B testing.

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About the Author

Siân Morris-Parker

Pay Per Click Consultant