Anyone with a passing interest in online marketing will have come across the term “A/B testing.” If a definition doesn’t immediately come to mind, then you need to know that A/B testing allows website owners to maximize the effectiveness of their site design without getting bogged down in the time-consuming process of obtaining feedback directly from site visitors. Oh, and it also has a more intensive sibling called “multivariate testing,” but let’s save that for another time, shall we?
So, for the big players who can access budgets with more zeros than your total number of site visitors, they can sit back and let their dollars do the talking with high-end technology such as Test & Target and WebTrends Optimize. Meanwhile, Google, possibly the biggest player of all, offers the free-of-charge Google Website Optimizer, but reports show that owners of dynamically designed websites will find this option troublesome.
This is why you need to know about Optimizely.
The Optimizely Solution
Take it from the President
In This KISSmetrics article on “5 Email Marketing Lessons From The Obama Campaign”, it was highlighted how a 49% conversion-rate boost occurred after the team’s tech division used optimization and A/B split testing to identify what worked best on their online donation page.
How would your life change if the conversion rate on your landing page jumped by 49%?
But, before you raise your hand and cry foul about the extensive resources that Obama’s team had access to, let’s return to Optimizely—the A/B testing software used by Obama’s tech staff. That’s right; not only did Optimizely deliver outstanding results in that situation, but you can leverage the software’s web-based A/B testing platform for your very own campaign, according to your needs, and, depending on the traffic you receive, it can be yours for as low as $19 per month.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no affiliate.
A Quick Refresher
But hang on—you need further details about A/B testing? No problem. For websites, an A/B test compares the various elements that go into their design, including:
Text, such as headlines
As Shopify’s ecommerce University explains:
“(A/B testing) is not unlike your high school science experiment. Except, instead of dissecting a frog you’re analyzing which is the better scalpel to slice it open. Which one cuts more smoothly, is easier to handle, saves time and increases overall dissection efficiency (so to speak of course).”
Decide What You Want to Examine
The list of subjects that you can put a microscope to with A/B testing is very long. For example, the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe looked at the design of their entire website so that, like the Obama example, they could optimize their site design to maximize the amount of donations they received. Both examples are useful for our purposes, as they had a measurable outcome (donations) and a clear goal (more donations). In fact, donations and email capture are two of the most attainable goals for AS/B testing.
Map Out the A/B Process
You are now ready with what you want to test, so now you need to highlight those aspects of your website that can be adjusted to improve performance. The GoFundMe team looked at the design of their sales funnel, including their landing and sign-up pages. Will a one-step payment process result in more donations than a two-step process? Will yellow or blue work best as the outline color for your landing page? Or, do you need to look at something on a larger scale?
Whatever you decide, ensure that end up with equivalent comparisons so that your outcome is actionable.
PayPal vs. WePay
“Donate” vs. “Contribute”
What you want to avoid is not being specific enough and comparing a PayPal “Donate” function to a WePay “Contribute” function, as you won’t be able isolate what it is you need to change.
Let’s Do This!
Now you are ready to implement and run you’re A/B test, which can be done using Optimizely’s editor. Optimizely users can run multiple variations of their experiment, but if you aren’t seeing much web traffic, then start with one test at a time for best results.
What you are searching for is statistically significant data that tells you that what you see is a direct result of the design changes you made.
Tip: The more traffic you see, the more data that you end up with, which will mean that you will end up with better results.
Last but not least, you need to be aware of the Frankenstein Effect so that you don’t end up making false assumptions. The Frankenstein Effect, if you are not yet familiar with the concept, is the act of collecting varied data or variables independently or simultaneously. By doing so, you run the risk of creating a hodgepodge mix of all the winning variables, only to find out that you created a monster that just won’t convert.
For example, in your test results:
Photo A outperforms Photo B
A red background outperforms a blue background
However, you cannot assume that Photo A on a red background will outperform Photo A on a blue background, or even Photo B on a red background. You need to make sure that you test EVERYTHING. Don’t be afraid to cover every angle.
Where To Next?
In keeping with the “test everything” principle, don’t stop there. A/B testing applies to every aspect of your online presence, from email subject lines through to your domain name.
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