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Jun

07

2012

What is A/B Testing?

Inbound Marketing

Your company has just finished implementing its first inbound marketing campaign. You’ve completed all the objectives on your checklist. The website has been revamped with marvelous content and it now includes the perfect keywords to get found. You’ve created tempting offers to lure in visitors and your social media presence is growing. You say to yourself, “I’m done, time to relax!”—Not quite. Your marketing campaign should always be evolving. You need to be able to identify what works and what doesn’t. This is where the testing can help you maximize conversion and capture more leads.

Before I go any further, allow me to explain what I mean by "testing." The most common form of testing, and the one I’ll be discussing, is A/B testing. A/B testing is exactly what it sounds like: two versions of a webpage or advertisement (A and B) are tested simultaneously to determine which version is more appealing/effective. The data collected from the experiment is usually measured via click-through or conversion.

A/B Testing Example

I love this type of testing. I love it because it's logical and mathematical, and I love math because (unlike the theories I learned in b-school) math never lies, 1 + 1 will always equal 2. The same can not be said for all marketing strategies. Every industry includes some form of market testing in their decision process. When incorporated in to the marketing strategy it can be an extremely reliable tool. The testing of two similar but slightly different pieces of content will yield a statistical data set that confidently concludes: "when you do A customers will ALWAYS respond more favorably than when you do B" (or vice versa). Having the ability to predict consumer behavior is "king" when managing marketing objectives.

When I am designing a webpage or an ad I try to step back and clear my mind of preconceptions. The problem is that it is not always easy being objective. You may think your site is well designed and the content is compelling but visitors might not feel the same way. Testing removes your personal opinion from the equation and looks purely at the data. It allows you to be objective and emotionally removed from all subjective attachment to the material. The data will tell you what works and what doesn't. It can enlighten you about your target market and it can tell you the story behind why someone made the decision they did when they viewed your content.

Allowing you to be objective is an important benefit, but there are other key reasons behind testing:

  • Target your market more effectively
  • Identify potential problems with your campaign
  • Solve design problems with your website, CTA’s, or landing pages
  • Maximize conversion and identify what has worked in the past
  • Improve your overall marketing campaign

Effectively Target Your Market

Targeting your audience is a crucial step in optimizing your marketing campaign. You need to know what kind of content leads to higher conversion rates with your target market. Including an image of a family playing with their dog might test better than one of a beautiful woman, knowing that tells you a little bit more about the characteristics of your target market. Even slight variations in phrasing can greatly impact an ad’s effectiveness.

Solve Design Problems

Testing can help you to make informed decisions on design and content. It can be a very useful tool when designing websites or online ads, because it is sometimes easy to forget that design can’t just be aesthetically pleasing, it must be functional as well. There is a famous story from a designer who left Google. He relates, Google couldn’t decide between two shades of blue. So they tested 41 shades between each blue to see which one performed better. That example might seem a bit excessive but the motivation behind this method of testing is reasonable. Just because you think a design looks good doesn’t mean visitors feel the same. Something as simple as changing the color or size of a call to action button could drastically change conversion rates. (You should only test one design change at a time or you won’t know which modification the audience is responding to.)

Maximize Conversion & Redesign

New campaigns are important but you shouldn’t forget about older initiatives. An old landing page may not be receiving the same amount of traffic, but the conversion rate could be nearly the same. You can test that old landing page versus a newer one to determine if there are any noticeable differences, or if you notice similarities between two highly converting pages, keep doing what works. Identify your top-performing offers and re-launch your best content, or re-design your marketing campaign. Remember, you should always be improving on your marketing campaign.

A/B Testing Results

By regularly testing your marketing initiatives you gain a lot of insight into the behavior of your target market. It can tell you what works and what doesn’t—allowing you to reasonably predict future results. By testing old and new pages you can measure how they are performing as a collection. The compounding effect of highly converting landing pages over time is the key to successfully scaling your lead generation. Most importantly, A/B testing is extremely reliable and it gives you the freedom to make objective logical decisions regarding design and content. Over time, continuous A/B testing means better conversion—and that means more sales.

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