The online landscape changes quickly, and you often need to respond with a shift in messaging and content for your brand. Aside from general changes to your marketing strategy, you should always aim to improve and better target your content. Whether that’s in the form of new creative, updated copy or geographical targeting, A/B tests are perfect for honing in on what works or doesn’t work for your brand.
A/B testing is comparing how two versions of a single piece of content perform. Before diving into the thick of it, remember that A/B tests are experiments, and we can use a modified version of the scientific method to conduct them effectively. Moving from observation all the way to analysis, you can find what works best for your audience, and what content generates conversions.
1. Make an observation
Don’t conduct A/B tests without cause. Instead, look at areas of improvement for your brand. Is engagement not where you want it to be? Are your conversions decreasing steadily over time? Is it time for a messaging refresh? When you know where you’d like to see progress, consider which channels you’d like to improve. A/B testing can be performed with emails, AdWords campaigns, social media content, web pages, and more.
2. Ask a question
After you’ve identified which channels you want to improve, it’s time to evaluate the factors you’ll test. Consider how changing one of these factors will refine or enhance your engagement levels or overall performance.
- Copywriting: A simple way to perform A/B tests is via copy. Consider testing how different lengths of copy affect your engagement rates. You can also look at shifts in tone and brand voice or how diversifying your messaging content influences your brand’s engagement.
- Creative and design: A/B tests are particularly effective in evaluating how different creative works with your audience and across platforms. Colors, typography, and image layout are all important factors in a successful campaign, so make sure to consider how subtle or drastic shifts will influence your performance.
- Timing: Timing has a huge impact on your content and how it performs. Analyze when you’re typically posting content, and evaluate if there may be a better time or day of the week to test.
- Audience targeting: When crafting digital ad campaigns, reconsider who you’re targeting. There may be geographical regions you haven’t considered. Try testing your messaging in relation to your various customer personas. You can even test by interest, age, or careers.
When you evaluate the area you want to test, you can form questions about how simple changes to copy, creative, timing, and targeting will affect your overall performance.
3. Form a hypothesis
This next step is straightforward, but not necessarily easy. What do you think will happen? Use your previous data and research to predict how changes will affect your performance. Once again, don’t conduct A/B testing without reason. You must have a clear goal for testing which version of copy or creative will perform. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time or testing the wrong thing. Form your hypothesis, and get ready to craft your test.
4. Conduct an experiment
Your preparation is done, and now it’s time to A/B test! You know what you’re testing, and you know why. Remember one key point in the scientific method: Always have a control. In marketing, your control is to only test one thing at a time. This translates to only changing one specific piece of your content for each test. If you’re comparing copy, keep the creative, the timing, and the audience targeting the same. If multiple sets of copy or graphics are being tested, make sets of ads or social posts. This way, you can compare and contrast results, testing multiple sets at once. If you need eight sets of ads or copy, do it! Just make sure you’re keeping the user experience in mind. Make sure users only see one set of the ads, one email newsletter, or one landing page. You don’t want to overwhelm them with messaging. If they see both sets, it immediately skews your data.
When you have the final number of ads or content sets, you can determine what percentage of traffic each set will receive. Splitting them equally is effective, as it places each set on a level playing field. If one set of content represents the status quo, consider keeping most of the traffic there; it may skew your overall analytics of the period if one set performs dismally. Decide what’s more important for your brand goals, then organize your experiment.
Specific tools can ensure you only show one set of messaging to a particular user. Temporary redirects are one way to test landing pages, while MailChimp can segment your email list into multiple groups. Social media can be trickier, but tools like Hootsuite, Spredfast, and Facebook ads can help you segment and deliver your content. When you have a method of delivery in place, you can conduct your test.
5. Analyze the data and draw a conclusion
When your test has run, it’s time to analyze the data. What do the numbers say? Are they in line with your hypothesis? If you tested intending to improve engagement rates, don’t forget to also look at click-through rates or conversion rates. If the engagement skyrocketed in one test, but the conversion rate or bounce rate was terrible, that may not be the messaging or content path you want to pursue. Use the numbers to tell a story and evaluate what worked — and what didn’t. Remember: Constantly improving your brand and digital presence should always be your goal. A/B testing is an effective way to make subtle and effective shifts.