What is A/B testing in digital marketing?

A/B testing can give you a better idea of what compels visitors to subscribe to your emails, download your content and, ultimately, become customers.

Don’t feel silly for asking. Simply put, A/B testing is the process of testing two options against each other to see which performs best. You can test dozens of aspects on your site to help you choose the best options for conversions. It’s a huge part of your Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) strategy and should be done regularly.

Unfortunately, A/B testing can be time-consuming, which makes it difficult to do consistently, especially when you’re swamped with other responsibilities. It’s a lot like eating your vegetables; you know you need them to stay healthy, but you still find tons of reasons to shove them to the side and enjoy a second (or third) dinner roll instead.

You’ve got to stop it.

You could be missing out on so many conversions without even knowing it. Taking the time to perform simple tweaks throughout your website can make a world of difference. Proper A/B testing will give you a better idea of what compels visitors to subscribe to your emails, download your content and, ultimately, become customers, allowing you to make the necessary changes to increase your conversions.

What Should I Be Testing?

The great thing about A/B testing is that you can do it for just about anything. There are design aspects (CTA button color, size, placement, etc.), content aspects (text size, font, length of copy, etc.) and conversion aspects (number of clicks to reach a download, length of form, thank you page, etc.)

You can even use A/B testing in other areas of marketing such as email. Consider testing subject lines, send times and CTAs within the copy. You might test subject lines for your email newsletter each month, so 10 percent of your email list receives an email with subject line A and 10 percent receives an email with subject line B. After 24 hours, the email with the most opens gets sent to the remaining 80 percent of the list. This type of A/B testing is far less time-consuming than creating new website pages, so there’s really no excuse not to do it.

How Do I Get Started?

The first step is to identify why you want to test. If we’re sticking with our website example, the purpose would be to test conversion aspects. Once you have your basis for your test, you can create one or more variables that relate to your goal.

Let’s say you want to test three areas: CTA placement on your blog posts, landing page copy and form length. Your next step is to create the actual test elements for those areas. Have your CRO team and designer work up alternate versions. It’s very important to only change one thing on each version – if you change more, you won’t have a clear understanding of why one worked better than the other.

After you’ve uploaded the alternative version to your site, you’ll need to set it up so that part of your visitors see the original page and part see the test. It’s a good idea to make it an even split (50/50) and to test at the same time to get as accurate results as possible.

There are also a few technical aspects you’ll want to consider so as not to get dinged by Google. They include using temporary redirect links instead of permanent and not running the test for too long. This is also important to maintain the integrity of your results. Keeping a test running for weeks, or even months, simply isn’t effective.

Measuring the Results

After you’ve completed the test (how long you run depends on what you’re testing), you need to analyze the results to compare conversion rates. The page with the highest conversion rates, obviously, was the most successful. It’s going to take some time, but you’ll see the ROI in higher conversion rates and, ultimately, more customers. Who doesn’t have time for that?