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Simple A-B split testing

Simple A-B split testing is a technique to find which changes really improve your website and which changes don’t. In basic terms simple A-B split testing is a variety of marketing testing where customers randomly receive almost identical, yet slightly different, test samples.

This method can efficiently be used in various niches such as brochures, email campaigns and landing pages. Simple A-B split testing can help you to improve conversion rates, better understand visitor behavior, test out new products and much more. Email newsletter services like MailChimp have already implemented simple A-B split testing in their feature range. The big websites all do simple A-B split testing: Amazon, eBay, Lands-End, Boden in the UK. If you look at a Google results page, the pale yellow background on the sponsored (PPC) results was chosen by a simple A-B split test of dozens of colours. Pale yellow got more clicks.

Let me detail you on the technique with an easy example: You want to try a much bigger “add-to-cart” button on a product page. You create 2 versions of the page—you call the old version “A” and the new version “B”.

You then use special software to randomly show site visitors the 2 different versions, and you measure which version works best (ie: which results in more conversions or higher performance). You are testing the new version with real people to see if it works in the real world. You then stop the test and go ahead with just the winning version. Here are 4 tips for you to a successful simple A-B split testing:


  1. Know what to test


    The goal of simple A-B split testing is to improve your website’s performance, not to build a whole website. Find out what exactly you want to test before testing it. Help out with case studies and have a closer look at your own website. If you’re not sure start with a bit. Some of the most popular things to test are call to action buttons, headlines, forms, text length and layout.
  2. Analyze results


    You’ve run your first simple A-B split test, great, now what? Don’t take it for granted that the test version is always a better solution. Examine your results carefully and see where the flaws were and what you could improve even more. One test often won’t be enough. You’ll have to do several or even a multi-variate split testing. Once you’ve done a decent amount of tests you’ll see where the actual results are going.
  3. Do not test A for a while then B


    Just look at any graph of your conversion rates over time - it’s all over the place. Some months can be 20% better than the previous month - then it gets worse again - then better, etc. Conversion rates are affected by season of the year, sources of traffic, news events, the state of the economy, competitor activity. You’ll see big differences and big swings even with no changes at all to your own site.
  1. So if you tried A in a good month then tried B in a bad month you could make an incorrect decision. And you don’t want to freeze all other changes while you try the A and B buttons. Simple A-B split testing aims to eliminate these other differences and see if button B really is better than button A. You’re testing the two versions at the same time in the same season with similar visitors.
  2. Mix it up


    Like you just found out – one test won’t be enough. Be creative with your tests. Don’t stick to the ordinary A-B option, 50/50 audience. Create various templates and vary the proportions. Change something else in each test. At the end you’ll have rich and valuable material to analyze. However don’t get too fancy. Don’t torture your regular visitors with too many testing. Address tests to your new visitors then see how they adapt. To sum up, follow the guidelines but don’t take them as a must. Be creative with some limitations though.

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