Beginner's Guide to A/B Testing

Chukwuemeka Ndu, Nov. 12, 2014A/B Testing
Beginner's Guide to A/B Testing

A/B testing is a web optimization technique that helps testers see how different scenarios play out. This article breaks down the process and shows how to easily start testing your website and email campaigns for better results.

Imagine shopping for an accessory and you are torn between two items. You need one of these items to complete an outfit for a major networking event. The accessory you pick will either improve or hurt your approachability, and could perhaps affect the number of connections you make at that event. In this type of situation, you have no choice but to make a decision, and hope for the best. Luckily, when it comes to websites and webpages, there is a method of testing to find out which features can provide you with the best results. This method is known as A/B testing.

With A/B testing, you can figure out which version of a webpage will lead to a higher conversion rate and then implement it. To run a successful A/B test you need to consider the following:

1. Have a clear call to action

Ensure that your page has a clear call to action that can be tested. It could be a click, a “like”, a share; anything that forces a user to take action. For example, on the “About Us” page of a market research site, there can be a call to action that allows users to sign up for a newsletter (See below). Without this, there is nothing to test, and no conversion rate can be measured.

A/B Testing intro - img1

2. Select one aspect of the page

Test one aspect of the page and keep all other aspects constant. Using the previous example, you can test what happens when the colour of the "sign up" button changes from green to red. You want to find out if this change in colour will lead to more sign ups.

A/B testing - 7marketz - sample2

Note: If you test more than one aspect at a time, it would be difficult to know which tested aspect has an effect on your conversion rate

3. Have the same testing criteria for each version

Make sure the amount of traffic directed to the test page is the same for both versions. You do not want to have 5 people go to version A, and 25 people go to version B. The results will then be biased and your test will be flawed. You can also use a time period rather than amount of traffic. i.e. you let as many people visit version A for 1 week and version B another week.

4. Always retest with other aspects

Once you establish a result (e.g. red button leads to more sign ups), you shouldn’t stop there. You have to note the result and test it with other features. For example, now see what happens when you change the banner or the headline on the page. From there you can define how to further optimize your website. A/B testing - 7marketz - sample3

Note: This example only focuses on one page, but continuous testing should be performed on as many pages as possible especially pages that require a call to action.

To get started with A/B testing, Google Analytics Content Experiments is a free tool that is easy to use. There are also other great A/B and multivariate testing tools, such as Optimizely, ABtasty, ClickThroo, SiteSpect, VisualWebsiteOpptimizer and Maxymiser. All which are available at a relatively small cost. You can also look at whichtestwon.com for actual results of previous A/B tests, which can also be applied for your own website.   In conclusion, A/B testing should be used where there is a call to action, such as social media channels, emails and websites. It is a useful tool to find out what works best and will lead to higher conversion rates.

What are your opinions on A/B testing?  Do you have any other methodologies for website optimization? Do you have any other examples of A/B testing? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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