Optimizing digital marketing through website A/B testing

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Every relationship begins with an introduction. This applies to human-to-human relationships as well as to business-to-consumer relationships. In the digital marketing world, that first impression on a company’s website is like a digital handshake that can determine how all future interactions will go.

When going live with a website, companies are hoping for a ROI that will be built off of visitor conversions. By optimizing, digital delivery companies will be able to increase opportunities for those conversions to take place. The biggest problem is often knowing what is working and what is not. Decisions on branding, content, and placement are often made based on unfounded gut decisions or the long standing, “this is how it was always done.” Instead of throwing time and money away based on untested theories, websites can be optimized through A/B testing.

What is A/B testing

A/B testing is a method of showing two variations, based on segmentation, of features or entire pages of a website to determine which version will drive the most conversions. It is the living, breathing case study of your website. Essentially, your tests will be split with a percentage receiving the variable and the rest receiving the control. Depending on the segementation rules you decide on, that percentage will fluctuate. For example, if a visitor clicks to download a whitepaper, the next page could show the variation based on that interest area.

Optimizing digital marketing through website A/B testing
Source: Optimizely

Because all businesses and their customers behave differently, testing and seeing how your audience behaves will give you more insight and leverage rather than relying on ‘best practices’ that can be assumptive and generalizing.

Why do A/B testing

A/B testing is a great tool for pre- and post- launch of a website. Pre-launch, different variations of the website can be tested amongst segments of your company. This is a low-cost way to litmus test the visual and functional nature of the website internally before going wide with the launch to your customers.

Post go-live, the testing is focused on how functionality and visualization of the site is, with numerical evidence, effecting visitor behavior. By doing the research, companies will, over time, reduce bounce rate and increase conversions on new and existing traffic.

Making changes to a website can be a costly venture if planning a total overhaul of the site. By making small changes over time, based on the evidence gained through A/B testing, companies are able to make changes more fluidly and at a lower risk to the business. Swapping out a color, button, or piece of content is a lot easier than taking down a live site in its entirety, and it can be done in real-time.

How to A/B test 

Have a baseline

Before you can test, you’ll need to know what your baseline statistics are for the performance of your website.

  • How long are visitors staying on each page before exiting
  • What are the bounce rates
  • What are the form conversion rates
  • What are the completed cart vs abandoned cart rates
  • Etc.

Depending on where your website is being hosted, there may be in-tool analytics solutions you can use. Otherwise, there are tools like Google Analytics, Optimizely, and Omniture that are full-stack options for capturing visitor data.

Once your baseline data has been captured over a given amount of time, you can move on to the next step.

Decide what to test

When putting together a testing plan, the most important thing to remember is not to over-test. By oversaturating the testing environment, you won’t be able to determine what made the actual impact on any improvements, or reductions, in behavior. Choosing 1-2 variants that can be changed with each cycle will clear the field.

During your research period, you should observe the behavior of your visitors and use both the qualitative and quantitative data you’ve captured to determine what you think are the issues, and then create tests to prove or disprove your theory. Think of this as a digital science experiment!

Some areas you can choose to test are the style or tone of copy, layout and placement of forms and other call-to-actions, colors and images, and navigation.

Create and implement your test

After you’ve decided on what you are going to test, the next step will be to create your variation and set up the A/B test with one segment receiving the variation and the other the original. There are many tools available to help you to build and implement these tests, as well as capture reactive analytics that can be acted on in-app. Oracle Maxymiser and Optimizely are two popular tools that perform many of the same services but also offer features that are unique to themselves. When choosing a testing partner, determining what your needs are and which will have the best return on that investment will be just as important as figuring out the testing plan itself. Many marketing automation platforms also provide opportunities for testing on landing pages built natively in those tools. Both Oracle Eloqua and Adobe Marketo use dynamic content to deliver content based on rules or segmentation. The reporting engines in both platforms also will deliver analytics on the engagement for those landing pages based on segment.

Picking a winner

In your testing plan, you should have determined the length of time to run the test, with a longevity that will hopefully provide a large enough audience to show a statistical winner and loser. By performing this test, you remove the emotional component and can determine the winner solely on the data you’ve accumulated. Having this data will not only prove or disprove your initial theory, but will also help guide future testing and help to make your case for any changes that need to be implemented.

Hopefully this helped you to get the ball rolling with A/B testing on your company’s website. Visit the Relationship One blog For more information on A/B testing for email marketing or reach out to us with any questions!

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