Split Testing: What You Need To Know

improve-conversionsIn the never-ending quest to grow a business, I hear a lot of talk about increasing traffic.  That is vital to your success deserves all the attention it gets.  However something that is often overlooked is maximizing the traffic you already have.

Do you have a high bounce rate?  If you do, your hard earned traffic is escaping before they even see your fabulous content, sales and special offers.  So today, we are going to focus on improving your site to get more out of the traffic you are already getting.

One of the best ways to improve your results is with split testing (multi-variate testing works also, but I’m going to keep it simple today and just talk split testing).  Split testing is also known as A/B testing.

I’m going to quickly explain what split testing is for the beginners reading this.

Split testing is the process of taking one page on your site, known as your control page (or version A) and doing a Save As to create a second page (version B).  Once Version B exists with its own name, you pick one element on the page to change.  A true split test only alters one element, so don’t go crazy here or your results won’t be accurate.

Next you use software (Google offers this in Analytics, under Experiments) to split the traffic equally among both versions and then you track the results.  One page/ad will get better results (usually and if it doesn’t, you need to test something else, probably something more drastic).

As soon as you have established a winner, that becomes your new control to work with and you create another variation to test.  With continual testing, you can improve your results and get more out of the advertising/SEO/social media dollars and time you are spending to drive traffic.

You can split test landing pages, ad copy, headlines.  There is no limit to what can (and should) be tested.

What’s great about split testing is that it takes opinions and preferences and guess work out of your marketing.  It gives you solid data to work with.  You can use what you learn on one split test in future marketing.

One of the things I like the most is when my testing proves me wrong (in other words, when I am sure one version of the page will win and then it doesn’t!)  It’s such a great way to learn and it improves my results.

Imagine if I didn’t split test?  All the times I was proven wrong, if I had just gone with that version of the page and didn’t test it, I’d have a page out there that was constantly getting lower results.  Not acceptable!

Even the best marketers will tell you that you just can’t always predict how a market is going to respond – even with proven marketing concepts in place and great copy, we just can’t predict the response.  With testing, we don’t need to predict.  We can accurately and scientifically determine what is going to work and improve our results.

Here is a quick breakdown of how to split test:

Step One: Identify a page with an offer on your website that you would like to test.

Step Two: Create another variation of that same offer (in order for an A/B test to be accurate you can only change one thing on the page)

Step Three: Place your split testing software code on your site, and drive traffic to the pages.

Step Four: Review the results and determine which page was the winner.  That page is your new control page, and you can now create a new page B to test something else.  The idea is you keep testing and keep improving the results.

You can test anything, but here are some of the most common things to test:

  • Pricing (example: $9.95 versus $12.95)
  • Headline color (ex: red versus blue)
  • Headline text
  • Header graphic versus no header graphic
  • Negative versus positive text (Ready To Fall In Love? – that’s a positive approach.  Sick Of Being Alone? – that’s a negative approach)
  • Different images
  • Different font sizes
  • Different calls to action
  • Buttons versus text for your calls to action
  • Weird images (like you see on all those Facebook ads) or “normal” images
  • Smiling versus unsmiling people (yes, something that small can impact your results!)
  • All text versus text and images
  • Different layouts
  • Professional stock photos versus more amateur looking “real” photos
  • Border versus no border
  • Background colors and images

The list is endless and it depends if you are testing an ad or a landing page.

If you aren’t currently split testing, I guarantee you aren’t getting the maximum benefit out of your website and you need to start!

Here are some examples of split tests:

Example One: PPC ad:

Version One:

Designer Shoes are Affordable
Women’s Designer Shoes
Big names, great prices

Now, let’s say your click through rate (number of people that click on your ad) is 4.2%.  You are happy, because that’s better than you’ve ever done before. What most people do is keep running with that ad.  What we want you to remember to do is Split Test.

All that means is create a second version of your ad, to compete against your first version and see who wins.

So, now look at version 2:

Designer Shoes are Affordable
Lady’s Designer Shoes
Big names, great prices

Do you see the difference?  Only one word (more about that in a minute).  In the first ad we have

Women’s Designer Shoes and in the second ad we have Lady’s Designer Shoes.

So, let’s look at the results.

Ad 1 – 4.2 click through rate
Ad 2 – 5.1 click through rate!

You just increased your response rate by 21.4%!  No extra costs, simply changing one word and getting an improved response.

Why did more people click on Lady’s than Women’s?  We don’t know, we may never know, but we also don’t care.  All we know is have now improved our click through rate!

Now are we done?  Not even close.  Now we take Ad 2, and create another ad to split test against Ad 2.  You can constantly test 2 ads against each other and incrementally increase your response rates.

Example two: Landing Page Headline

Version One:

Are You Ready To Learn Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About SEO?

Version Two:

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About SEO

In version one, I posed my headline as a question, in version two, it was a statement.

Results: The question won – by a small margin, but still a winner.

So you get the idea.  Look at your site, are there big pages for you (ones that get a lot of traffic and are important for your business)?  Try setting up a split test on those pages.  Are you doing any paid ads on Google or Facebook or anywhere else?  You should be split testing not only the ads but the landing pages you drive them to.If you are doing email marketing, many of the Autoresponder programs allow you to split test subject lines.

Ready for some fun? If you want to see what I would split test for you, post a page or ad text and I’ll come up with a couple different things for you to test. :)




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