People often talk about A/B testing as a way to increase your sales, but for most business owners the concept is foreign. If you’re one of those people who has no clue what A/B testing is or how it’s used, keep reading because the process is essential for taking the next step with your business.
What is A/B testing?
I like HubSpot’s definition the best because it’s simple and to the point.
“A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a marketing experiment wherein you ‘split’ your audience to test a number of variations of a campaign and determine which performs better. In other words, you can show version A of a piece of marketing content to one half of your audience, and version B to another.”
Why do you want to do A/B testing?
There are a few benefits to A/B testing. First, it challenges your assumptions about your audience. You may think that your readers only check out your website on weekdays or that first thing in the morning is the best time to post your content, but if you never test that theory, then it’s hard to say that it’s the best thing for your company. A/B testing will help you back up what you think is best with actual data.
There are also long-term benefits to A/B testing. As Optimizely points out, “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.”
How do you conduct an A/B test?
Think of this as your elementary school science project.
Step 1: Pick something to test in your A/B test
The first thing you want to do is pick what you’re testing. For example, what headline gets more views for your content?
You must choose only one item to test at a time. If you choose too many, you’re never going to know which of the changes made the difference in the end.
Obviously, there are times when testing multiple variables at once is what you need. At that moment, you want to do what’s called multivariate testing. If you’d like to learn more about that, check out this Optimizely article.
In this explanation, I’m only talking about testing one variable at a time.
Step 2: Create a hypothesis
If you had a science project in elementary school, then you were asked to create a hypothesis. The hypothesis is the thing you’re looking to prove. You’re going to do the same thing in A/B testing.
Let’s say I believe that headlines that have numbers in them, such as 7 Things You Must Do Before Tax Day, are more successful than headlines that do not have a number in them. I will create my A/B test specifically to test out my hypothesis.
Step 3: Create the control and the variable of the A/B test
Once you have your hypothesis, you’re going to create your control case. This is the item that you compare against. For this instance, I’ll create a headline with a number in it.
My variable will be the one that changes. In this case, I’ll create a headline without a number in it.
Step 4: Choose your A/B testing groups
This is where your web tools are going to come in. The web tools are going to help you divide your readers into your two testing groups. If you’re unsure of how to do this, you can touch base with us here at Intentionally Inspirational and we can help you out.
If you use an email service, it most likely has a method to help you conduct A/B testing. The test will divide your mailing list into two random groups. One group will get an email with the headline that has a number in it and the other group will get an email with the headline that has no number in it.
In some cases, testing a small part of your email list may be ideal so that you can use the winning headline with the people on your mail list that were not part of the test.
Step 5: Run your test
Once you’ve made these determinations, it’s time to run your test. You want to take out as many variables as possible. Make sure that you’re sending out your emails at the same time and on the same day. Make sure that you give both the control and the variable an equal amount of time to convert. Run only one test at a time even if the two tests have nothing to do with one another.
Taking these steps will help to ensure that your A/B test results are as accurate as possible.
A/B testing results
Once you’ve run your A/B test, it’s time to take a look at the results. When you’re only testing one factor, it’s fairly easy to determine the results of that test.
Let’s say I sent the email with the number in the headline of my article to 1,000 people on my email list. 175 of them clicked through the email to read the full article. That would mean a 17.5% success rate.
For the second half of my test, I sent the email without the number in the headline of the article to 1,000 people on my list. 70 of them clicked through to read the full article. That would mean a 7% success rate.
If the A/B test is run properly, the results would show that a number in the article’s headline has a 10.5% higher success rate than an article that does not have a number in the headline.
When to use A/B testing
A/B testing isn’t something that you do once and forget. You do it consistently with your content and your website to make sure that you’re always improving your sales funnel.
Ultimately, if you use A/B testing correctly you can increase your sales, which is the whole point of your content in the first place.
For some more great tips on improving your sales funnels, check out this previous post.
Written by Erika Towne