When it comes to inbound marketing, optimization is key. Consumer likes and habits are constantly changing, which means your marketing methods have to change with them. One of the best ways to continue optimizing your website, and really any aspect of your inbound marketing strategy is to implement A/B testing. So check out this intro to A/B testing, perfect for anyone looking to optimize their marketing strategy:

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is a method of testing different variables of your marketing materials to see which option encourages a better response rate from site viewers and users.

How does it work?

A/B testing works to show you how you can optimize your website, your emails, your landing pages, and literally any aspect of your digital presence, to generate more qualified leads, and shorten sales cycles.

Why should I use it?

One of the best reasons to use A/B testing is that it’s a virtually free way to determine how you can make more money. It’s a great method to help you generate more leads, without spending more money yourself. A/B testing has been proven to generate anywhere from 20 to 40 percent more leads for a variety of industries, and all you really have to do is tweak your website, and monitor those tweaks to see what sorts of results they’re producing.

How do I get started with A/B testing?

A/B testing is one of those things that most anyone with a basic understanding of web development can handle, making it an easy way to improve your website and generate more leads, without too much effort or out of pocket expense. All you really need to get started is a comprehensive analytic software, like Hubspot, or even just Google analytics. These softwares allow you to see the metrics on each of your landing pages, call-to-action buttons, and email open and click-through rates. So long as you have that most basic level of metric tracking, A/B testing is easy.

Most basic A/B tests can be run using the following 6 steps:

Step 1: Deciding what to test

Obviously, the first step of any A/B test is deciding what you want to test. You need to pick one aspect of your digital marketing strategy that you’d like to optimize, and test only that, for a set period of time. An easy one to start with is a call-to-action button. Many tests have shown that a change as simple as the color or size of the button can have a major impact on conversion rates.

It’s good to know that you don’t have to confine yourself to something as small as a CTA button, so long as you’re only changing one variable at a time. For example, some companies will test entire pages at a time, to see which version has the best results. In this situation, they might create two landing pages with different titles, different colors, and different layouts, and run them against each other to see which option produced the most leads.

Since this blog is focused on providing an intro to A/B testing, we’ll start by using something small. As you get more comfortable with A/B testing you can begin to analyze bigger and bigger variables, but today we’ll start with the simple CTA button.

Step 2: Creating two versions

Alright, so we’ve chosen to A/B test our CTA button. So now, we need to create two versions of that CTA button. One will be the “control,” and one will be the “test.” Your control button will be the CTA button you’ve already been using on your website. You won’t change it at all, because you need a baseline to measure the new CTA against. The test version of your button will be exactly the same as your control button, except for one change.

In this example, we’ll say that we’re changing the color of our CTA button. The control is blue, and the test is red. It’s important to only change one aspect on your test version, so that you know exactly what change is contributing to the different viewer responses. If you changed both the color and the copy on your CTA button for example, and began to see massive improvement in user conversions on that button, you wouldn’t know if the different color or the different wording on the button that was sparking that response. Make sure to keep your variable changes to one, in order to effectively test and optimize your marketing element.

Step 3: Running them simultaneously

Now that we’ve chosen what we’re A/B testing, and we’ve made two versions, it’s time to actually test them. A/B testing requires that you run both versions of your CTA button at the same time. This is because you never know how audiences might fluctuate or change habits over time. For example, if you tested the blue button in February and the red button in March, you wouldn’t know if the change in response was from the different color, or changed buyer habits in the different month. So, we’ll run both versions of our CTA at the same time, for the same amount of time.

Step 4: Presenting them to similar audiences

While you’re running your A/B tests, it’s important to ensure that you’re presenting both versions to similar audiences. This ensures you get the most accurate results. One good way make sure you’re addressing similar audiences is to test your variables through email. This way you can control who gets what version of the CTA button, and you can easily see who clicks on it, and who doesn’t. Make sure that you’re sending both versions to recipients with similar job titles, similar demographics, and similar industries. Through this method, you get the most comprehensive picture of how each version is doing, without fear that one type of audience prefers the control CTA while another type prefers the test.  

Step 5: Evaluating the results

When you reach the end of the time limit for your A/B test, whether that’s a month or 90 days, it’s time to evaluate the results. You should be able to tell from your software which color CTA got the most clicks, but don’t stop there. You’ll also want to evaluate all the way through the funnel. If your A/B test button had a positive impact on your conversion rate, make sure to check if those who converted made it all the way to sales.

Sometimes, A/B tests with fewer clicks might end up with more sales, whereas those with more clicks might have fewer sales. In this case, you’d likely choose to implement the A/B test option that lead to more sales, even though it had fewer clicks. It’s important to thoroughly review the results in every area of the sales funnel to correctly determine if you need to make the change or not.

Step 6: Making the necessary changes

Finally, after you’ve completed your A/B testing and you’ve decided which option provided you with the best results, it’s time to make the changes. But you don’t have to stop A/B testing here! Now, you can move on to another aspect of your marketing efforts. If you changed the color of your CTA before, now try testing the size of your CTA button. Or, you might move on to your landing page as a whole, or even just the subject line of your emails. A/B testing can be applied to just about any aspect of your inbound marketing strategy, and when done effectively, can have a major impact on the amount of conversions, leads, and sales you generate online.

If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your inbound marketing strategy through A/B testing, or even if you’re just looking for a bit of help with your current inbound strategy, get in touch with HA Digital Marketing. We’ve been helping our clients generate more traffic, leads and sales through inbound marketing for years now, and would love to help you out. We’ve found that the best way to figure out how we can help benefit your company is with a conversation, so schedule your free initial inbound evaluation today.

For more information on the top inbound marketing best practices of this year, check out our exclusive 2017 Inbound Marketing Forecast below:

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