A/B Testing: Digital Marketing Gets Testy

Digital marketing lives and dies by metrics. If something’s not working, it needs to be changed into something that will work. 

The problem is, it’s very difficult to predict what will and will not work when it comes to messaging, layouts, ad copy, etc. 

Human beings are incredibly complex, something even the most cynical marketers among us have to admit. Trying to determine whether people will prefer a red background to a green background on your landing page for discounted ‘80s memorabilia is like trying to predict which way the wind will be blowing tomorrow on Neptune. 

There are ways, of course, to make educated guesses. Somewhere out there are studies that will show evidence that people associate green with better deals on retro tee shirts. Another study will probably show that you should actually be using both green and red. 

That’s where A/B testing comes in, and it’s a lot easier than turning to behavioral research papers for the answer. Not only that, but it will tell you, flat out, whether people prefer your landing page in red or green, though you’ll still be left to guess the “why.”

Simply put, A/B testing is one of the most important techniques in your digital marketing strategy, and it should be utilized heavily. 

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is essentially making two versions of something and displaying those versions at random to visitors and then measuring the success rates of each against each other. 

You can use it for all things digital, including websites, landing pages, PPC ads, web or mobile apps, etc. 

It’s basically a scientific experiment that will reveal the best way to proceed with your marketing. 

The process goes something like this:

  1. Create two or more versions of something. For instance, two versions of a landing page. Landing page A has a CTA that says “Sign up for our free on-demand marketing webinar,” and page B says “Sign up and learn the secrets to digital marketing success.” Each page has the same signup form asking for name, email address, and phone number. 
  2. Choose a KPI as the metric that will be measured between these two versions of the landing page. In this example, that KPI will be the percentage of visitors who fill out the signup form.  
  3. Both landing pages go live, and visitors are randomly served one or the other. 
  4. Gather the data and analyze it to discover which landing page had more success in terms of the KPIs. In this case, let’s say it was the B variation with the “Sign up and learn the secrets to digital marketing success” CTA. 
  5. Remove the A variation. Visitors will now only be shown the B variation of the landing page. 

And that’s pretty much it. Now you know which CTA to use on your landing page, and it’s backed up by numbers. 

What A/B Testing is Not

By now, you’re probably catching on that A/B testing can be incredibly effective. It’s a relatively simple way to know for sure which versions of your marketing materials will perform the best. 

What A/B testing will not do is tell you why one variation performed better than the other. Going back to the previous example with the landing pages, variation B may have performed better because the promise of “digital marketing success” leaves room for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks of what success means for them. Or, maybe asking people to sign up for a webinar is asking for too much of a time commitment from the viewer. 

What’s worse, the more you try to think about the “why,” the harder it may be to get a grasp on. Maybe you’ll notice that variation A actually performed better on Fridays than it did on Mondays, and that might suggest that people are just less likely to commit to something like watching a webinar at the beginning of the week. Then you have to examine the reasoning behind that theory. Maybe there’s a global coffee shortage happening that hasn’t really been reported on yet and people are feeling the mornings harder at the beginning of the week than at the end. 

Like we said, human beings are incredibly complex, and nailing down their motivations behind things like preferring one landing page over the other can be a journey into a type of madness. 

We find that our predictions for which variation in an A/B test will perform the best are often shockingly wrong. The reasons behind the predictions are always sound, but there are myriad factors that go into why people do the things they do and the results are often proof that you can’t entirely predict how people will behave. 

Why You Should A/B Test

That inability to predict human behavior is exactly why you should be A/B testing. Even if you don’t know why one thing does better than the other, you’ll know which one the people prefer, and that’s really what matters. 

The digital aether is forever in a state of flux. Trends come and go and customer preferences change on a dime in a constant ebb and flow of likes and dislikes. 

If your business relies heavily on your digital presence, which it almost definitely does in this day and age, it’s imperative for that digital presence to be as fluid as your customers’ behavior. If the dynamics of customer preference are like an undulating ocean, then you have to be constantly adapting to keep your head above the water. 

That means A/B testing everything you can. If you’re changing the buttons on your store page, design several and test them. If you’re revamping the color scheme, test several color schemes against each other. If your marketing strategist says that your target audience prefers snarkier copy, then test snarky copy against more straightforward stuff. 

With each key decision that you make concerning the look and content of your online presence, A/B testing will show you the way. 

We Can Help Develop Your Testing Strategy

At DOM, our SEO and PPC strategists have the expertise and know-how to set up a proper A/B testing strategy that will provide you with the data you need to succeed in a digital world. 

Or, if you prefer, we can build your digital marketing strategy from the ground up, including content creation and building landing pages and entire PPC campaigns to ensure that your products or services are at the top of everybody’s mind. 

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level using top-notch marketing strategy, contact us today for a free consultation. 

chris-loren

About The Author

Chris Loren is a Content Specialist with an eclectic background in writing. With a degree in Professional Writing from La Roche University, he’s written everything from award-winning radio scripts for rollercoasters to technical user manuals for nuclear submarines. He describes his topics of interest as “pretty much everything.”

View Chris's full bio.
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