The Wisdom of A/B Testing
We test out a lot of things these days. Why not our marketing collateral?
We live in a world of endless trials. Whether it be for streaming services, meal delivery programs or pretty much any software tool, testing something out before committing seems as American as apple pie. So why would we not apply this logic to our marketing content?
A/B testing is the process of testing out various iterations of marketing collateral ahead of fully disseminating it. Also known as “split testing” or “bucket testing,” A/B testing assists businesses in identifying which variation of a piece of content is most successful in achieving the desired outcome with a target audience. The good news is that, due to marketing solutions dropping in cost over the past few years, A/B testing is an increasingly viable practice for smaller firms.
And it couldn’t have come at a better moment. With the market growing increasingly competitive, particularly online, ensuring that your collateral is as optimized as possible is more important than ever. Nobody has time to waste on creating content that has no chance of converting customers. Here’s how you can begin incorporating A/B testing to improve your marketing practices.
A/B Testing: Your Ticket to Better Marketing
Have you ever felt that there is too much subjectivity when preparing a new marketing campaign or initiative? While there are concrete best practices with writing or content strategy, select elements do seem to come down to individual choice. Should a button be lower or higher on the page? Would a different color or CTA (call to action) resonate more deeply for a specific audience? A/B testing brings more scientific rigor to the tweaks and changes that are a typical part of honing campaign material.
It’s also a straightforward process to understand. A/B testing technically harkens back to the 1960s, but its contemporary version is most typically used in the context of email marketing campaigns. Many email software programs today allow you to create multiple versions of a campaign email and then send them to a test audience to gather feedback. Operating similarly to the scientific method, a marketer would create a control email and then a supplemental email that is slightly modified.
Once each version is sent and opened (or not), the system automatically compiles analytics for each variation, allowing you to put real data behind your final writing or design decisions. Users can apply this method to test nearly any element of an email – including subject lines, colors, body copy, font size, font family, imagery, links, video and more.
Perhaps best of all, A/B testing does not require specialized knowledge. It’s easy to get started by viewing any of the many well-produced video tutorials that you can find online.
Emails Are Great, but Where Else Can I Use A/B Testing?
Emails are perhaps the easiest way to use A/B testing, but they are not the only one. A/B testing is a crucial aspect of social media advertising, SEM (search engine marketing) and even landing page development. Social media platforms make it easy to create different versions of an ad and then cycle through them for the campaign’s duration. Each platform will continually update you with fresh data on which version of your ad is performing best, allowing you to reallocate your funds and maximize your marketing dollars in almost real-time.
Conducting A/B testing for landing pages is a little more difficult – but not by much. All that is required is to create two different versions of your landing page, changing elements such as headlines, body copy, CTA buttons and their respective layouts. After you have these established, funnel a similar number of people to each page version and gauge performance.
You can do this by employing Google’s free analytics platform, Google Analytics, although that may involve a learning curve. Happily, many leading CMSs (content management systems) have built-in analytics that are more user-friendly and accessible than Google’s. Some of the main metrics you should look at when assessing the quality of your landing pages include (but are not limited to): views, session duration, conversion rate and bounce rate.
If you’re interested in getting your bearings with Google Analytics, there are a ton of fantastic resources online that can help get you started.
Make Your Marketing Count
Running a business is only possible if someone is buying your products and services. And people cannot buy from you unless they know who you are and what you do. This is a long-winded way to say that marketing matters. But marketing is also time-consuming, and when you’re leading an agency, time is always in short supply. Still, A/B testing is worth the time investment. Whether you are conducting an email campaign, disseminating paid ads or even looking to optimize your landing pages, A/B testing allows you to tweak your collateral more effectively before making a final decision.
Simply put, it increases the prospect that your content will convert, and your hard work be rewarded.