What is A/B Testing? Why It Matters & How to Get Started
Has this ever happened to you?
You’ve done all the work. You’ve created a new webpage or email campaign, and you’re ready to release it into the wild.
And then, right at the last minute, you start second guessing yourself.
Maybe that image you chose isn’t quite right? Should your subject line be something punchier?
When you’re marketing a business, you’re making tons of tiny decisions. How can you be sure the choices you’re making are the right ones?
That’s where A/B testing comes in.
What is A/B testing?
A/B testing, or split testing, involves creating two versions of your marketing material (option A and option B) and releasing them both to see which one performs better.
So, if you find yourself debating whether your subject line should be silly or straightforward, you can stop wondering and start A/B testing your subject lines to see which one gets the most opens.
A/B testing not only gives you greater confidence in knowing which strategies work best, by using A/B testing and learning from data over time, you will impact your bottom line with increased leads and conversions.
What to Do Before You Run an A/B Test
Before running an A/B test, set a specific goal for your test. Going back to the subject line example, the goal of your test could be to determine if a silly or straightforward subject line results in a higher open rate.
Or maybe you want to run a test to determine how the amount of fields affects your opt-in rate on email sign-up forms.
Once you know what you’d like to test, set a hypothesis and create two versions of your marketing material and keep every element the same except for what you are testing. This makes it easier to attribute any difference in results to only the element you are testing.
Let’s look at some A/B testing examples
Even if you understand what A/B testing is, you might not know how to use it for your business.
Unsurprisingly, A/B testing is easiest when you leverage technology to do the hard work for you. Let’s review three places you can run A/B tests and how you can get started easily.
1. Subject Lines
Benefit of A/B testing: Higher open rates
Subject lines have a big impact on whether or not someone opens your emails. Which is why I love to test a couple of versions to see which one catches more attention and generates higher open rates.
Luckily, Constant Contact’s split testing tool makes it super simple to test subject lines. Once you’ve created your email campaign, click the A/B Test switch and add two options to test.
Here’s what your A/B test might look like for an email campaign to promote your summer sale:
You can customize what percentage of your audience receives each version. Then, the variation that generates the most opens will be declared the winner and will be sent to the remainder of your subscribers.
I’ve used A/B testing to find the right subject line length, punctuation, and tone. Test out a couple of options in your next email and check back in your reports to see which subject line really won your subscribers over.
2. Sign-up forms
Benefit of A/B testing: More email subscribers
The right sign-up form can dramatically increase the number of email signups your business receives. You can use a tool called Privy, which integrates with your Constant Contact account, to create customized sign-up forms for your website.
Then, A/B test different versions of your sign-up form to see which one results in the most opt-ins from website visitors. You can experiment with your type of sign-up form, your copy, images, and form fields.
For example, if you want to try asking new subscribers for their birthday on your sign-up form, A/B test with the birthday field included and left off to see if there’s any change to your sign-up rate.
You can learn more about Privy on the Constant Contact Marketplace.
3. Landing pages
Benefit of A/B testing: More conversions
Maybe your business uses landing pages to collect webinar registrations or encourage your target audience to download an ebook. Performing an A/B test on your landing page will help you optimize your page so you’re driving more action from your visitors and increasing conversion rates.
You can use a platform called Unbounce to create two different versions of a landing page. Start by creating one version you feel is set up for success. Then, make a copy of your page and tweak one detail. Consider cutting down the amount of text, using a different image, or updating the wording used in your call to action.
You can then direct 50 percent of your website traffic to one version and 50 percent of visitors to the other variation. Monitor the conversion rate to see which results in the better conversion rate.
Head over the Constant Contact Marketplace to learn more about Unbounce and their suite of conversion rate optimization tools.
What to Do After You Run an A/B Test
After you run a test, document the results so you can learn from your findings and apply them in the future. Keep in mind your results aren’t always definitive. So, if your subject line test shows that a funny subject line resulted in a higher open rate, that doesn’t mean you should go with a joke every time.
Great results come from trying new things and keeping your content feeling fresh. You many want to revisit some A/B tests regularly to see if results change over time. It’s possible that your audience likes one approach originally, but then loses interest as it begins to feel stale. A/B testing will help you realize when it’s time to spice things up and try something new.
Frequently Asked Questions About A/B Testing
What’s the difference between A/B testing and multivariate testing?
Multivariate testing means adding more variables to your test. In a multivariate test, you can test multiple elements like the number of fields on a sign-up form, as well as the background color to see which version results in the highest conversion rate.
Multivariate tests involve a more advanced strategy and works best for business with large amounts of traffic.
How large does my sample size have to be for my A/B test to be considered statistically significant?
For subject line testing, we recommend testing each line on a sample size of at least 1,000 contacts if possible. 1,000 users for each version is typically a good benchmark for any A/B test, but if you don’t have enough contacts or visitors to hit those numbers, it’s still worth running the test. Having some data to work with is always better than leaving things to guesswork.
How many elements should I test at once in a single A/B test?
Keep every element exactly the same except for the element you’re testing. This is the best way to make your results clear and reliable. If you change multiple elements at once, then you can’t be sure which variable affected your results.
How long should I run my split test for?
Ideally, you run your test until you hit statistical significance. When testing a subject line through Constant Contact, you can decide to run the test for 6, 12, 24, or 48 hours. This may seem like a short period of time, but since checking email is part of most of our daily routines, I find that 24 hours is usually more than enough.
For something like a website test, you probably want to have the test run at least a week to accumulate enough data from your users.
What do I do if the results are the same across both versions?
Don’t worry, this happens to me plenty! Sometimes I test a subject line and both versions perform almost exactly the same. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means you have to get even more creative to make a splash. It’s not always easy, but I recommend keeping at it and trying something creative the next time around.
If you’re looking for subject line inspiration, these subject line ideas should do the trick.
Put your marketing to the A/B test!
With A/B testing, you never have to wonder how a small change could impact your open rates, click-through rates, revenue, and other important metrics. You can see for yourself and have confidence that your marketing campaigns and materials are optimized for the best results!
Start thinking about what small tweaks you’d like to test out in your email subject lines, sign-up forms, and landing pages. A/B tests are well worth the effort to learn more about your target audience and what works best for them.
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