What is A/B Testing? How to Conduct an Effective A/B Test for Marketing

How to Conduct an Effective A/B Test

An A/B test is also called split testing. This is a way to test if a variation of a website, app, or email will get better results than the original. Businesses leverage split testing to reach specific business goals. Whether it’s to increase revenue or user engagement, A/B testing is a powerful tool to help navigate the changes that get the best results. At its core, an A/B test is an experiment to see which changes help your business hit a goal.

Just like with any good experiment, an A/B test requires a test group and a control group. The control is what you already have. The test would the variation that you make specific changes to. 

If you’re trying to improve the bounce rate on your site for example, you could use a split test to determine if changes to search features or navigation controls would help people stay on your site longer. Then you present both pages to people in your target audience and see which one performs better.

There are many tools out there to help you calculate the significance of your test once it’s complete. You can use our A/B calculator here to discover if the outcomes of your test are statistically significant  in helping you reach your business objective.

Why Conduct an A/B Test?

Too many people try and guess their way through business problems. While it’s important to formulate a creative strategy, it’s equally important to use data to inform your decisions. An A/B test gives you information that helps you ask better questions, make better changes, and learn why different pieces impact the behavior of your website visitors and customers.

A/B testing allows you to make one change at a time to see where you gain the greatest benefit. Let’s say you want to improve the checkout rate on your e-commerce store. First you want to start with breaking your checkout process into a series of steps that reflect the checkout process.

For example, the flow that a customer goes through likely looks like this: 

  1. View Product Page
  2. Add to Cart Button Click
  3. Completes Registration Form
  4. Adds Payment Method
  5. Confirms Purchase

Using A/B testing you might start at the very top of this flow, by increasing the number of people who move from “View Product Page” to “Add to Cart.” With this goal in mind, you want to choose one variable to test, for example button color, to see if you can increase the number of people who add products to their shopping cart.

When you test one change at a time you get the added benefit of seeing the best overall changes to make so you can boost your conversions and goals. It’s especially helpful when creating an effective marketing campaign.

What Does a Good A/B Test Need?

 

Data Collection

Choose a method of collecting data. There are many tools out there, but Google Analytics is a comprehensive and free tool you can use to evaluate your split tests easily. Get this in place prior to testing.

Select SMART Goals

You want to create goals that are specific and can be measured by the tool you are measuring with. Your goals can be anything from getting someone to click on the “Buy Now” link to actually completing a purchase. You set the goal you want to measure.

Create a Hypothesis

This is where it starts to get more scientific. What do you think will happen if you change something on your app or site? Start creating a list of the outcomes you want and the changes you think will help you get there. Then, order the list based on ease of implementation or expected impact.

Design Variations

Whether you’re trying to improve the user experience on an app, or the click through rate on a landing page, you’ll need to plan out the variations you want to test. Is it the color or location of a button, where to find navigation elements, or the wording on a page? Choose your variations, and start making the changes on a secondary page.

Control & Test Groups

You’ll want to randomly assign users to the control group or to the test group. Once the test starts, you’ll be collecting data and learning about your end users’ habits. Each test is measured, controlled, and compared to the original. You’ll want to set the test for a limited amount of time. If you want to discover the ideal amount of time to run the test, we have a convenient calculator that can help. When the time is up, you’ll be able to use the data you gathered to see how it went.

Analyze the Outcomes

Check the data for the test group and the control group. Compare the data. If your changes make a statistically significant difference, great job! If it didn’t you can leverage the new data to decide which change to make next. Maybe it wasn’t the color of the button that needed to change but it was the location. The goal of analyzing data is to make informed choices about how to proceed with your testing and marketing campaigns.

Does A/B Testing Effect SEO?

Yes, no, maybe. In general, if you run a short-term A/B test, it’s important to remove the duplicate pages after the test is complete. Google does not dock you for running A/B tests unless you do some shady things with it.To avoid reducing your SEO, you should avoid cloaking, use rel=”canonical” on your website link, use temporary 302 redirects as opposed to permanent 301 redirects, and only run the experiments as long as needed. If you do these things, you shouldn’t take a negative hit to your SEO.

What Should I Avoid Doing When A/B Testing?

When you’re running a split test, it’s essential that you don’t try and test too many changes at once. This will make it difficult to know which changes give the best results. You also don’t want to ignore statistical significance.

If you can focus on creating a good hypothesis, choosing the right tools, and making small changes at a time, you’re more likely to have a successful A/B test. The more you learn the more you can implement. This will help you with long-term marketing goals, sales, conversion rates, and so much more.

A/B Testing is a valuable tool whether you’re running ads, creating landing pages, or looking to update the look and feel of your app. Create a good plan, run the test, collect the data, make changes, repeat.

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Jaclyn Hawtin

Jaclyn Hawtin

Senior Data Architect

Over a decade of experience in product management, devops, startups, and agile methodologies. Track record of simplifying complex technical processes for cross-functional teams. Proficient in user centered design, UX, IX, UI, IA, user research and data analytics for responsive web, mobile and tablet applications. Incredibly adaptable, fluent with both people and machines.

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