Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your website shouldn’t be, either.
When building websites or landing pages, seasoned web agencies will use experience, research, and overall best practices to ensure they are launched as optimally as possible. This shouldn’t be the end of the development cycle, but the best websites are constantly being iterated on. Like Olympic athletes, successful websites never stop trying to improve. And the only reliable way to improve your website is through A/B testing.
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How does A/B testing work?
Functionally, the idea behind A/B testing on the web is pretty straightforward. Imagine a boxing arena on the world stage where two of the greatest boxers face each other in martial combat to prove who is the mightiest… will it be Boxer A or Boxer B?
Just kidding! Well, almost joking. In a way, boxing matches and A/B testing are not entirely dissimilar.
A/B testing is a marketing experiment that determines which of two (or more) webpage variations achieves better results through recorded user data.
Variation A is shown to half your visitors at random, and variation B is shown to the other. The winning variation is deployed based on which one performed better, and the loser is discarded. It’s equal parts marketing, science, and maybe just a little bit of that boxing showdown.
Why you should consider A/B testing
A/B testing is so powerful because it removes the guesswork from the equation. It’s the only way to reliably improve your website conversions because you aren’t making risky decisions based on “gut feelings” — you’re making informed decisions based on tangible evidence. You have correlation and causation. Who said you couldn’t have your cake and eat it too?
But as powerful as A/B testing is, it is contingent upon your website’s traffic. Without sufficient traffic, it’s more difficult to reach conclusive results. So if your site isn’t getting enough traffic, it’s advantageous first to build a bigger audience through digital advertising. Afterward, A/B testing will become your website’s superpower.
There’s a mighty mountain of reasons why A/B testing is so powerful, so let’s tackle the most relevant ones.
Solve Pain Points
When users come to your website or landing page and aren’t able to achieve their goals — at best, they’ll be frustrated, and at worst, they’ll leave your site outright. Friction and frustrating user experience are one of the biggest reasons for low conversions. By combining analytics with A/B testing, you can effectively diagnose what isn’t working as well as it could and improve your conversions.
Increase Profits By Improving ROI From Existing Traffic
Digital advertising can be a significant investment for your business. However, getting new eyes to your site is one thing, but converting them is another. Using A/B tests to improve the conversion rate on your existing pages makes more use of the traffic you already have, resulting in a higher ROI. What’s not to love about that?
Every website is unique and serves different purposes and audiences — so there are many reasons why anyone can bounce from your website. Information overload? Bad design? Confusing navigation? By testing multiple variations of those given elements, you can determine the best possible version of your website that will keep new users from bouncing.
The Ability To Iterate With Low-Risk
When you have a significant amount of traffic coming to your site, and things are running pretty smoothly, the prospect of disrupting the status quo can seem like a risky move. With A/B testing, you can make smaller scale modifications to see what’s worth pursuing and slowly adjust your site over time. That way you don’t have to jeopardize what’s working while staying flexible to innovation and improvement.
Confidence In Real Results
As we just mentioned, A/B testing is a risk-averse way of researching and implementing changes to your website. Since it’s all raw data — there’s no need for guessing, taking someone’s word for it, or instinct. The proof is in the pudding. If one variant proves better than the other, you can be confident in making a decision based on statistically significant results.
How to use A/B Testing effectively
While all forms of A/B testing will offer you data, not all results are equal in providing valuable insights. As we mentioned earlier, A/B testing is equal parts marketing and a science… and as such, there’s a method for producing reliable results. So grab your lab coat and beakers — we’re about to get a bit scientific!
Always Research First
Before you even think about running an A/B test, it’s critical to start with research. For your A/B test data to best serve you, you need to conduct an audit on how your site is currently performing before you start to make any decisions on what to change. To do otherwise would be like a doctor prescribing you medication without checking for the symptoms… which is not exactly ethical!
Using tools like Google Analytics and Heatmaps will allow you to best diagnose your website’s current strengths and weaknesses. You’ll be able to answer critical questions: what are my conversion goals per page? How much are they converting now? How much traffic am I getting? Which pages are people visiting — and which do they need to visit? Are those in alignment?
The list goes on.
You could even go a step further and use session recording software which will record how a visitor interacts with your site. A recorded journey will help you see your existing user experience in real-time and pinpoint their behavior pattern more clearly.
Once you’ve answered those questions and recorded those details, you can develop an actionable list of priorities and move on to the next step.
Form A Hypothesis
Creating an A/B test without a hypothesis is like setting sail out to sea aimlessly and hoping you somehow arrive at somewhere desirable. Now, if you were born in the age of exploration, maybe that method would pan out for you. Nowadays — we’d instead just use a GPS, thanks.
The data you’ve generated from your research is invaluable — but it’s still up to you or your team to decide what to make of it and how to use it. Without making insights and drawing conclusions about what may help improve your metrics, you won’t get anywhere conclusive.
Let’s sum up what your hypothesis should entail:
- What is the goal? The more specific, the more likely you will see statistically significant improvements.
- What should be changed? Why and how might said changes improve upon the control version?
- What do you expect the outcome to look like?
- Are you considering external factors? For example, are you also running a promotion? Is it the holidays? Could that influence your results?
Now it’s time to put theory into action. After forming your hypothesis, keep a control version of your page. This will be the baseline to test against. If you’re doing multivariate testing, you’ll now create your B variation — and your C, D, and so on.
When making your variation page, you’ll call to your hypothesis to inform any design changes you may make. As an example, let’s say many people are visiting your contact page, but few are filling it out. It could be reasoned that the form is too long, or maybe it asks for (or requires) information your visitors aren’t willing to disclose immediately. Based on that deduction, it would probably be worth creating a variation that’s shorter or asks for less personal information.
Once you’ve created your variation, put it to the test! After all, the only way to know whether you’re right or wrong is to test it and record the results. Keep in mind that once you begin the test you have to commit to it. Changing anything partway will entirely skew the data and give you unreliable results.
Analyze Results & Draw Conclusions
Once the established time for the test has run its course, it’s time to analyze the results and decide. Sometimes a decision is straightforward, and sometimes it may take a deeper look. Take into consideration the percentage increase of the main objective — but don’t forget to consider how it’s impacted your other metrics.
If you’ve followed the previous steps correctly, there will likely be a clear winner based on the parameter for success you’ve set for the test. In that case, deploy the winning variation and use it as the new control for any subsequent tests. If there was no significant difference, you can conclude it and revisit your hypothesis to begin anew. Even “failures” can be successes, so long as you can draw insight and reevaluate what may or may not be the key to producing results.
As you now know, A/B testing can be time-consuming work that requires a lot of critical thought and requires you to be brutally honest and objective with how your website is performing. But that said — it’s entirely worth it when done correctly.
Remember, your website, traffic, funnel, and brand are all unique to your website and your business. This means that just because someone else in a similar market saw a huge increase in conversions by doing something specific does not necessarily mean the same will be true for you. The only way you can reliably increase conversions is by continuously committing to A/B testing it for yourself and recording the results.
Of course, A/B testing is easy to prescribe as helpful — but that’s not always so easy to do when you and your team are running a business. Sometimes, you may not have the time, the human resources, or simply the experience to commit to improving your site. At Mighty Fine Design Co., we’re obsessed with making things better and shaking up the status quo. Have any questions or need a hand with A/B testing your website? We’d love to have a conversation — you can reach out to us any time.