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A/B testing is often regarded as one of the most important components of any marketing strategy. After all, you won’t truly know whether a particular ad message or landing page offer will work with your audience until you test it out in the real world.
A/B testing lets you compare two competing ads or landing pages to find the option that works best. Clearly, this can present valuable insights into your audience preferences while also helping to maximize the performance of current and future campaigns.
Of course, to truly improve your campaigns through A/B testing, you need to set them up correctly in the first place. The right framework will ensure quality outcomes, no matter what you’re testing.
1. Set appropriate testing goals
Like any other marketing campaign, A/B testing must start with clearly defined goals. You need a specific metric that you will use to compare the outcomes of your tests. This is what will help you determine if a particular variant will actually contribute to growing your company’s bottom line.
For most brands, A/B tests should be focused on the number of conversions or the conversion rate. After all, this is the metric that reflects paying customers — the actual source of income for your company.
That being said, many brands (particularly those with a relatively new web presence) may not have sufficient conversion data. In this case, attempting to measure the conversion rate won’t provide the information you need to determine which variant performs best.
Other metrics, like decreasing the cost per click or landing page bounce rate, may be more relevant in these situations. Be mindful of the data you are able to collect so that your testing goals are appropriate and effective.
2. Focus on one variable for each test
By focusing on a single variable, you can have far greater confidence in whether a change to your ad has a meaningful impact on conversion goals. For example, in one recent case study, marketers changed only a single part of PPC ad headlines for a landscaping company — adding a user’s search location to the variant — to increase the clickthrough rate by over 44%.
Because only a single variable was applied in this particular test, it became immediately clear that adding the location to the headline had a direct positive impact on the ad’s performance.
Similarly, A/B testing tends to be most effective when you are only comparing two ads at a time. Trying to test three or more ads will divide traffic between too many variants to provide statistically significant results. With two ads that have a single difference between them, you will be able to instantly recognize which variant performs best.
3. Determine the timeframe
The exact timeframe for how long you should run your A/B test will largely depend on the level of traffic your ads or website get. Generally speaking, most experts recommend running A/B tests for at least one to two weeks.
Not only does this provide more data points for you to analyze, but it also covers each day of the week. Depending on the nature of your website, certain days of the week could see much higher traffic levels than others. If your site achieves the greatest traffic volume on Fridays and Saturdays, running your test Sunday through Thursday could cause you to miss out on crucial audience insights.
A one to two week snapshot should give you a good idea of what users prefer as a whole, as each person is at a different stage in the buyer’s journey. This will also enable you to implement change at a relatively quick pace so that you can begin making further optimizations to increase the effectiveness of your campaign.
Running A/B tests for over four weeks is usually not necessary and will only drag out your optimization efforts.
4. Use A/B testing tools to make life easier
Knowing what you want to test is one thing, but actually running the A/B test can seem complicated if you’ve never done it before. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of tools specifically designed to aid with A/B testing.
Popular A/B testing tools include Unbounce, Google Optimize and Instapage. These tools allow you to test two variants against each other as part of your campaign and will even record the conversion rates to help you determine if there is a statistically significant difference.
When plugging your content into these programs, make sure that traffic will be divided evenly between your variants. A 50/50 split will give you a clear indicator of which option performs best.
You should also double check that tracking has been set up with the correct conversion goals. You don’t want to accidentally double-count user actions, which could skew results from certain traffic sources.
Bonus tip: Rinse and repeat
After performing an initial round of A/B testing, your work is far from over. Optimizing your landing pages, Facebook ads and other marketing materials is ultimately an iterative process.
By continuing to A/B test your current top performers against new variants, you can identify new ways to improve your campaigns. As you keep testing and iterating, you’ll be able to improve marketing outcomes like never before.