With over 181 million active websites on the internet, it may seem impossible to build a website that stands out in the crowd. But don’t let that big, generic number scare you off from taking your website seriously and giving it your all.
Not only is it possible to run a successful website in a sea of other websites, but it’s possible to design your website in a way that pleases your target audience, increases conversions, and edges out your competitors.
Does this like a secret you want in on?
The big secret is simply A/B testing your website instead of making decisions based on a “feeling” or your own preferences. A/B testing is a powerful way to learn exactly what appeals to your customers and what small decisions boost conversions.
Don’t believe it? Studies show that simple decisions (e.g. where to place your CTA button, what colors to use, what copy to include, etc.) can increase conversions significantly. For example, remember when a red CTA button beat a green one with a 21% increase in conversions?
A/B testing is the perfect way to build a high-performing website, and this guide will give you all the ins and outs of how to get started.
What Is A/B Testing And How Does It Work?
A/B testing is a randomized experiment that tests two variables, A and B. In plain English, and as it relates to websites, A/B testing is when you test two versions of your website to determine which one performs better.
This testing process takes the guesswork out of website creation and optimization. Rather than relying on your own preferences or your gut feeling, you can make data-based website decisions that generate winning results.
So, how does A/B testing work?
With A/B testing, you modify one element on your website and create a second version. Then, you randomly show the original version to 50 percent of your audience, and the modified version to the other 50 percent of your website visitors.
Once you’ve run your test long enough to determine statistical significance, you measure engagement results. Whichever version performs better provides you with your data-informed answer.
Keep in mind, you should only change one element of your website at a time during an A/B test. For example, you may be interested in learning which call-to-action (CTA) button drives more conversions. Variations could include color, copy, and size.
If you tested color, copy, and button size all at the same time, you would have no clue as to which change is influencing engagement. When you test only one element at a time, you know exactly what had an effect on visitors’ engagement.
Why A/B Test Your Website?
It’s kind of like this. Your dad is 100 percent sure it’s a good idea to go out wearing crew socks and open-toed sandals. When he walks out of his closet and asks the rest of the family if he looks okay, you do something he thinks is unfathomable. You tell him to march right around and put on some close-toed shoes, so he’s not the next subject of ridicule on the nearest teen’s SnapChat account.
It’s similar with A/B testing a website.
You may be absolutely sure you know what works best on your website, but chances are, you’re wrong. Similarly, what works well for you might not resonate well with your target audience, especially if there is a demographic difference between you and your website visitors. When you A/B test, you get the inside scoop from your audience to find out if your website is wearing metaphorical mom jeans and needs some adjustments.
In short, A/B testing is a data-driven way to collect insightful feedback on your website. With this information, you can implement careful changes to your website all while collecting data on the results.
And, here’s the best part. Not only does A/B testing help you make better design and messaging decisions, but it ensures you’re making business decisions that align properly with customer preferences from the get-go.
This is solid for business since 79% of US consumers say they only consider brands that show they understand and care about “me.” Not to mention, 56% of US consumers say they feel more loyal to brands that show a deep understanding of their priorities and preferences.
A/B testing your website is a surefire way to lean into audience preferences and show your visitors that you “get” them.
What Should a Novice A/B Test?
While it’s true that nearly everything on a website can be A/B tested, it doesn’t mean you have to, or even should, A/B test everything. After all, you want to get your website up and running sooner rather than later.
A good rule of thumb is to test anything that can influence visitor behavior or directly affect conversion. For example, you could A/B test whether the “About” section should come before or after your “Services” section on the navigation menu. Since this element of your website doesn’t carry much weight over how your visitors interact with your site, it probably doesn’t matter too much, and you can stick with the standard.
Here’s what to test instead.
Did you know that compelling copy draws 7.8 times more site traffic and produces brand recall, which leads to higher engagement rates? Top-notch copy is key to the success of your website, so it’s smart to find out what copy your target audience likes most.
Here are some copy elements you should be A/B testing:
- Headlines and Subheadlines. Your headlines and subheadlines are what your visitors will see first. Test to find out which headlines are leading your visitors down the conversion funnel.
- Copy Length. Do your website visitors prefer short and snappy quips or do they need more information to help them engage? There is only one way to find out. You guessed it: A/B testing.
- Tone. Your copywriter can take several approaches when it comes to tone, but only your audience can tell you what tone works best. A/B testing will give you insight into what tonal direction your website needs.
2. Images & Videos
If pictures are worth a thousand words, then you need to choose the right images and videos for your website. With the perfect imagery on your website, your visitors will only need a quick glance to understand what you’re trying to convey. And, A/B testing will tell you which images get the job done best.
To give you a better idea of how image and video A/B testing works, let’s look at a recent split test from Zagg. Zagg wanted to know what type of images led to higher conversion rates, so they conducted A/B testing for a static image, a 360º product image, and a video on their product page, and the results were astounding.
Zagg first tested the static image against the video. They found that the video yielded a 27% increase in revenue per visitor. This told the team that video yielded better results than a static default image.
But, remember how they also wanted to test 360º product images? In a second A/B test, the team tested the video against the 360º image on their product pages. The results were interesting. They found the 360º image produced an additional 12% increase in revenue per visitor.
Video Version of Zagg’s Image A/B Test
360º Variation of Zagg’s A/B Image Test
Simple A/B testing of a static image, a 360º image, and a video provided Zagg with valuable insight into how to boost revenue based on customer preferences.
You can do the same.
3. Call To Action (CTA)
The call to action button is arguably the most important thing to A/B test on your website. Your call to action button can make the difference between a conversion and a user clicking out of your site.
When it comes to A/B testing your CTA, here are some things you can test:
- Copy length
- Copy phrasing
- Copy length
- Size of button
- Color of button
- Placement of button
To give you an idea of how testing a CTA can work wonders, here are some interesting results from experts:
- Helzberg Diamonds saw a 26% increase in clicks by adding an arrow icon to their CTA buttons, according to Marketing Tech Blog.
- ContentVerve saw a 90% increase in click-through rate by using first-person phrasing: “Start my free 30 day trial” as opposed to “Start your free 30 day trial.”
- SAP found that orange CTAs boosted their conversion rate over 32.5%, according to QuickSprout.
As you can see, A/B testing your CTA button makes a difference, and it’s a great place for beginners to start.
What Is the A/B Testing Process?
Now that you know what to test, let’s talk about the process of setting up your first A/B test.
The first thing to remember is you don’t have to go it alone. There are several tools on the market that will guide you through the A/B testing process. Tools like Optimizely, VWO, and Omniconvert provide intuitive tools that help you create variations of your pages. The best part? You don’t need to know how to code. You just point-and-click.
Once you have settled on an A/B testing tool, here is a basic framework that will guide you through the process.
1. Identify Conversion Goals.
Before you start testing, it’s imperative that you know what you want your website users to do. Subscribe to an email list? Sign up for a seminar? Buy a product? Your conversion goals will help you determine what you need to test.
2. Write Down Your Hypothesis.
Congratulations! You officially have conversion goals. Now it’s time to generate A/B testing hypotheses for why you think specific changes will be better than what you already have on your website. Again, these ideas will help you know what modifications to make before you start your testing.
3. Create Your Variations.
Now it’s time to make the desired changes to your website and get ready for testing. Remember, you don’t have to do this alone or strain yourself too hard to create your variations. There are several A/B testing software tools on the market with visual editors that will help you create changes and run your test. You can even use the drag and drop features in your website builder to help you easily modify your site.
4. Run Your Test.
This is the exciting part. Once you initiate your test, website visitors will start to participate. A/B testing works at random, so you won’t know which website visitors will see which variation. All you need to know is 50 percent of your visitors will see one variation and 50 percent will see the other.
5. Keep Your Test Running Long Enough.
There is no magic set number for how long you should run your A/B test. The general rule of thumb is to run your test long enough to determine statistical significance. This will vary from website to website depending on how much traffic you get. Thankfully, most A/B testing software has a built-in calculator that will determine this time frame for you.
6. Analyze Your Results.
Once the time frame is up, take a look at your results and see where there is statistical significance. Again, this process is automated with the help of an A/B testing software tool. All you’ll have to do is login to your dashboard and look at the results. Your dashboard will show you whether your control (option A) or your variant (option B) has greater statistical significance.
And, that’s it. Rinse and repeat until you have a solid idea of what website design, copy, and engagement elements to implement.
Make A/B Testing Work For You
It’s true that A/B testing requires hard work and patience. However, when done correctly, it always pays off in the end. When you have a strong understanding of what your website visitors like, you’re one step closer to accomplishing your goals.
For more information about starting your website, check the Gator Website Builder. The website builder makes it easy to drag and drop elements, so A/B testing is a cinch.
Ashley R. Cummings is a professional freelance writer specializing in SaaS, tech, and advertising/marketing. In a previous life, she was a Russian teacher at Brigham Young University, a corporate trainer, and a grad student—all at the same time. When she’s not writing, you can find her traveling the world with her 2 kids and husband, reading poetry or taking a deep dive into the fabulous world of comedy. Connect with her on Twitter at @ashleyrcummings.