As everyone knows, there are always multiple approaches to accomplishing any goal. And of course, some approaches prove to be more effective than others and can deliver higher levels of success. Such is the general idea behind A/B testing, which can help brands big and small determine the best route to achieving their goals in an array of marketing-related areas. As such, it is a great tool for any brand to have in its marketing arsenal.
What is A/B testing?
Also known as “split testing,” A/B testing is a process commonly used by marketers to directly compare multiple versions of a variable employed in a business asset. The evaluation sees two or more different versions of the variable (such as a webpage design, an image or headline used in an ad, the wording of a social media post, an email subject line, etc.) served to consumers to measure which performs better. By showing definitively which version is the most effective at delivering a desired result, A/B testing serves as a way to take the guesswork out of choosing the best option for any given variable — thereby allowing data rather than hunches to drive use decisions.
Why employ A/B testing?
When used properly, A/B testing allows brands to increase the impact of their individual marketing assets, all while harvesting data regarding the test results. In doing so, it also helps businesses gain insights on the preferences of their target consumers, as well as to continually upgrade their consumer experiences.
A/B testing is an ongoing process that is never fully complete, but at every step of the way it can result in asset optimization, improving each stage of the marketing funnel one by one. And by targeting and improving one aspect of its consumer experience at a time with A/B testing, a business can gradually improve the overall experience consumers have with the brand itself. The business can also reap benefits such as increased website traffic, lower bounce rates, higher conversion rates, lower ad spend, increased ROI and heightened revenues.
When and how to use A/B testing
A/B testing can be performed at nearly any time a company chooses — and ideally, it’s a continual process that leads to constant growth and improvement. The process begins once business decision-makers choose an asset or element to target for improvement.
Once that’s done, it’s time to test. A basic outline of the typical A/B testing methodology should look something like this:
- Create two versions of the same asset — such as a webpage, a landing page, an email, an ad, etc. — with a single variation.
- Determine test duration. The ideal here can vary based on a business’s industry and the traffic the asset receives, but most A/B tests are run for at least two weeks.
- Decide on the A/B testing tool that will be used to run the test, along with the KPIs that will be used to measure test results. (See Brandon’s suggestions for a handful of top free A/B testing tool options below. The KPIs used for A/B testing will vary based on the business’s specific strategic goals for the test and the asset type being tested, but common ones include click-through rate, conversion rate, revenue per visitor, bounce rate, time spent on page, email open rate and engagement.)
- Launch the A/B test using the two asset versions created in step 1 and the testing tool chosen in step 3.
- Once the testing period is complete, analyze the results. Which version of the asset being tested proved most effective at producing the desired results?
- Deploy changes based on the test results evaluated above.
- Decide on the next priority for testing, and start the process over. A/B testing is most effective when performed continuously.
Top items to target with A/B testing
A/B testing has extremely broad possibilities and applications for brands — and from a marketing standpoint, it can be used to evaluate nearly all elements of a brand’s public-facing assets … and more. Some of the marketing materials most commonly targeted for A/B testing include:
- Webpages — including headlines, featured images, graphics, designs, copy such as product descriptions, calls to action (CTAs), and button size and placement
- Emails — including subject lines, images, copy openings, CTAs, CTA button size and placement, and recipient segmentation
- Paid ads — including headlines, images, offers, CTAs, keyword choices and audience-targeting choices
- Landing pages — including headlines, copy, images, CTAs and layout styles
- Website navigation — including the order of navigation menu items, navigation menu display type (e.g., horizontal vs. vertical, etc.), navigation menu placement (e.g., header vs. sidebar, etc.) and the wording of the items in the navigation menu
- SEO tactics — including webpage content position, title tags, meta descriptions, SERP copy, H1 headers, URL structure, rich media inclusion and placement, content length, and copy inclusions (SEO A/B testing typically takes substantially longer than other types of A/B testing, as search engines need time to re-crawl a site’s pages, delaying any resulting change in SERP rankings.)
- Logos — including colors, font variations and design variations
- Forms — including form lengths, form field sizes, questions asked, wording of questions and incentives offered for form completion
- Funnels — including the number of webpages in the conversion funnel, the path to conversion, the inclusion/removal of non-vital information, the removal/addition of navigation tools in the checkout stage, and for certain steps, the use of modal boxes rather than separate webpages
3 recommended (and free) A/B testing tools
A lot of A/B testing tools are on the market — and their pricing and features can vary greatly. For brands just getting started with A/B testing, the following three free options provide a great place to begin:
- Google Optimize, which integrates with Google Analytics for easier performance analysis
- Facebook’s Experiments tool, which allows users to easily A/B test paid ads on the platform
- Freshmarketer, which supports A/B testing for website and landing-page optimization, and offers a free version for smaller businesses
For any business, A/B testing can help ensure more effective content, whether it’s for the company website, social media efforts, email subject lines or a range of other brand assets. And at Brandon, our fully integrated team of professionals covers a broad array of marketing-related categories, all of which can benefit from A/B testing — from social media and email marketing to e-commerce, digital marketing, media, creative, SEO, brand strategy, web design and more. To learn more about how you can put our team of marketing and web-design professionals to work for your brand, contact us today.