From landing pages to marketing emails, any marketing asset hinges on conversions. Once visibility, optimal audience targeting, and user engagement have been guaranteed, it is conversion rates that will determine final sales. In this regard, the holistic practices of Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) will typically offer to refine one’s conversion funnel. However, precisely because this process is so overarching, marketers need a reliable way to gauge the potential efficiency of different asset versions. This is the fundamental benefit that A/B testing in digital marketing offers.
Defining A/B testing in digital marketing
As the name suggests, A/B testing is simply testing two versions of a marketing asset to gauge performance. Version A and version B are presented to audiences, and the two are compared in terms of final efficiency. Metrics as regards performance can include:
Moreover, A/B testing will often refer to Landing Page Optimization (LPO), but it is not exclusive to pages. Indeed, A/B testing sees use across multiple types of marketing material, notably including emails.
A/B testing vs split testing
Finally, on defining the term itself, we must make a key distinction. “A/B testing” and “split testing” are frequently used interchangeably, likely due to their colloquial meanings. However, these two terms do, in fact, refer to different practices.
In essence, A/B testing refers to testing two versions of an asset that differ in one critical regard. That specific, targeted difference may include:
- A Call-to-Action (CTA) button text, visuals, or placement
- Images and image placement
- Headlines and subheadings
In contrast, split testing refers to testing two substantially different versions of a marketing asset. Thus, split testing may entail comparing an initial page or email with one that simultaneously carries many such changes.
The benefits of A/B testing in digital marketing
Understandably, then, A/B testing entails multiple benefits for digital marketers and webmasters. Among many, consider the following crucial ones.
Improved email campaigns
Email marketing remains highly profitable today, as it continues to boast considerable return on investment (ROI). However, to deliver this ROI, you must first ensure your emails get opened to begin with. In this regard, A/B testing offers a reliable way to measure how discreet modifications, such as subject lines, perform. Sweeping, indiscriminate changes may hamper any email campaign, after all, so changes need to be prudent, safe, and data-driven.
Reduced page bounce rates
Similarly, as regards landing pages, bounce rates remain a challenge today. Unlike emails, where the term differs substantially, page bounce rates specifically refer to visitors who leave shortly after visiting. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) frequently delves into the factors that impact bounce rates, which may include:
- Page loading speed
- Mismatch with search intent
- Visual overload
Thus, precisely because potential root causes are so many, A/B offers a safe way to test individual modifications.
Modification risk reduction
On the subject of risk reduction, A/B testing intends explicitly to reduce the risk of sweeping modifications, enabling incremental changes. Pages and emails will more frequently require modest conversion rate improvements, as opposed to complete redesigns. In turn, where split testing facilitates the latter, A/B testing enables the former. Thus, you may ensure your conversion rates don’t face large-scale reduction risks through the incremental implementation of changes.
Improved conversion rates and ROI
Finally, as highlighted above, A/B testing frequently follows CRO. It thus allows marketers to benefit from existing audiences, without the need to engage in lead generation and acquisition practices. Understandably, as these practices typically cost more than CRO, A/B testing offers to safely improve your campaigns’ ROI.
Elements to A/B test
Having contextualized A/B testing in digital marketing, let us examine marketing asset elements that may benefit from it. For the sake of text economy, we will highlight the five most common ones.
As highlighted above, CTAs are naturally crucial to conversions. They are direct calls to action, so every element that comprises them can see changes and optimizations:
- Text font, size, and color
- Button color, shape, and size
As each of these elements alone can yield better conversions, however, it’s advisable to A/B test each individual change.
#2 Headlines and email subject lines
Similarly, page headlines and email subject lines are the first deciding factors that indicate value and relevance – or lack thereof. Changes to them can yield very substantive results as regards conversions by reducing bounce rates and increasing open rates, respectively.
#3 Images and media
Next, as SEO practitioners will attest to, images and media such as video and audio are just as crucial. Such audiovisual elements increase retention and engagement and therefore affect conversion rates. Subtle changes, from autoplay to placement, and more significant changes, such as modifying where depicted people look or point to, abound. In both cases, A/B testing can offer invaluable insights into their effectiveness.
#4 Content length and depth
On a subject where SEO and CRO may differ as regards landing pages, content length and depth affect conversions too. However, different topics, lengths, analysis depths, and tones resonate with different audiences. As such, the typical guidelines of producing long, in-depth content may not, in all cases, offer the best conversion rates. A/B testing offers to solve this dilemma by focusing on existing audiences and their engagement criteria.
#5 Social proof
Finally, social proof remains a deciding factor as regards conversions. Indeed, consumers across industries value social proof as an unfiltered testament to satisfaction from other, real people. However, how one presents social proof can vary significantly and, in turn, affect conversions differently. From bare star review aggregates to elaborate quotes and testimonials, and from plain text to video, presentation always informs conversions.
The process of A/B testing in digital marketing
To conclude, let us briefly touch on the typical A/B testing process. One may elaborate on each step accordingly, but the fundamentals remain static across marketing mediums.
Initially, all A/B tests must begin with data-driven observations. Analytics tools can provide insights into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), which can, in turn, pave the way for informed modifications.
After acquiring data, analysis must follow. With a specific marketing asset in mind, in this step, you may begin theorizing possible solutions to improve conversions.
#3 Create variations
With a solid plan in hand, you may then create different variations of an asset that warrants improvements. You may, for example, create two variations of a landing page, where a key element – like a CTA – differs. For emails, this could be two identical emails that only differ in their subject line.
#4 Run the test
Then, you may employ A/B testing software, such as Convert, Crazy Egg, and AB Tasty, to run your test. In all cases, an A/B test will entail sending the two variations to different audiences and gauging the results.
#5 Analyze the results
Finally, the results of your test will determine which variation works best for your campaign. While a single set of tests won’t likely produce conclusive results, it will help establish the fundamentals. Subsequent tests, building on your data and previous results, will inevitably produce variations that work best and convert better.