What is Split Testing (A/B Testing)
First, let’s clearly state what split testing is not: it’s not something you can’t live without. The majority of marketers never do it, and many of them are doing quite well. So what’s the point of doing something you can do without? That’s exactly how I was thinking about it these past years. Oh, it was quite a revealing story for me, and you’ll see what I mean when you continue reading this post.
Let’s look at the definition of split testing (by Optimizely):
Split testing (also referred to as A/B testing or multivariate testing) is a method of conducting controlled, randomized experiments with the goal of improving a website metric, such as clicks, form completions or purchases. Incoming traffic to the website is distributed between the original (control) and the different variations without any of the visitors knowing that they are part of an experiment. The tester waits for a statistically significant difference in behavior to emerge. The results from each variation are compared to determine which version showed the greatest improvement.
Split testing in common language
What split testing basically means is that you set up different landing pages for your offers and analize the conversions on each of them. Soon enough, you will see that one of them has better conversions that the others. This is the time when you should cancel every page and only keep the one that’s converting best.
The time of testing varies, of course, but basically it’s not even about the time. It’s more about the number of visitors you collect, because like any test, in order for it to give you the requested information, there has to be a certain amount of data collected. Meaning, you can’t judge by the sample of 5 visitors. When you collect 100 or more, this is already worth taking int account.
We should first clear up the meaning of the word conversion.
When you decide to publish a landing page (a website), you do it with a goal, right? It does not really matter what that goal is – you could set up an online shop and sell shoes, trousers, jewelry. You could set up a website and sell services, like plumbing or car repair. In all these cases, a finished sale would count as your conversion. The moment you receive the payment, your goal has been reached. So you can put that lovely checkmark on your list and try to find more paying customers.
One of the most popular goals in online marketing is building your email list. I’m talking about why you should do that in many other places, so I won’t be doing that here. In this case, your goal would be defined as getting people to sign up on your email list. From there, your autoresponder sequence will do the actuall selling.
Why is building an email list so popular?
Think again about what I’ve just said above. Your autoresponder sequence will do the actual selling for you.
Idealy, when all the steps are done and you have a list with a good follow-up sequence in place, all that has to be done is getting people to sign up to it. Everything else is already prepared and some of the people should end up buying something you are selling through this sequence. Which is – be honest – your primary goal from the start.
For instance, you could create interesting posts (like this one, right?), you could use advertising on Facebook or Google, you could use solo ads. Whatever fills your email list is good. In time, you’ll find what works the best, and that’s a sign to use it more.
In the ideal case, the point of all this is you’re not doing the selling anymore. You can actually shrink down the entire business to a single operation, and this is filling in your email list.
This, my friend, is as close to what they call passive earning as you’ll ever get. The ideal case is almost impossible to reach though, so you’ll still have certain things to do, don’t worry.
The best (fastest) way to build an email list
Ok, so we’ve decided that our goal in this case should be to build an email list. How to do it the fastest way possible?
There are a few possible answers to that also, but we’ll choose one. We will give people a gift (or a reward, if you like it more) when they sign up to our list. It can be just about anything, it’s only important that it is coherent with what you want to sell. For instance, if you’re selling a skin care cream, you want women that are interested on your list. It’s not likely you will get them by offering a free book on auto repair, if you know what I mean. Offer them something like an ebook that talks about skin care. Easy.
What you’ll have to do in order for these women to see your offer is build an opt-in page. Here, you can show your free ebook and invite them to sign up for your list by writing their email address into a form.
Visitors will sign up to your list
What’s very important about that opt-in page is that you get the most out of it, because internet traffic is not cheap. No matter whether you’re paying lots of dollars for visitors (via ads) or not, you’re always paying. In one case you’re spending dollars, in the other you’re spending your time. Because while creating a blog and posting on Facebook may not cost you dollars, it will cost you lots of time. Depending on what you charish more, you will decide for yourself which way to go.
In any case, it’s important that from your visitors as many as possible sign up to your email list. So in this particular case, this is counted as a conversion. You can build a really beautiful opt-in page (to your standards, at least), but the conversion rate will still be low. Why? You’re probably doing something wrong, because the information on your opt-in page does not look inviting enough to your visitors. When you see a problem like that, it’s time to change a few things on your opt-in page.
But what should I change?
Oh, human psychology is complicated – and your landing pages are ment for humans to see. So, for the very best results, a little psychology is needed.
This sentence just means that I have no idea actually. I don’t think anybody can give you the one answer, because it simply depends on so many factors. One day, your landing page might have 50% conversions (every second visitor would opt int or buy or anything), while the next day it might only show 30%. Yes, it also depends on the weather, if you needed to know that.
But that’s not what we are dealing with here. For us marketers, split testing should be focused around things we can actually control. This includes the fonts used, the text used to invite the visitors to take action, your choice of colors, and so on. Plus, the time your landing pages take to load. These are the factors that we can easily control and change if needed, and we should stick to them. Everything over that would already be overcomplicating things and we’ll leave that to Coca Cola and others who have budgets for that.
#1 rule of testing
If you want to know which change to your opt-in page worked best, you should really stick to this one rule.
Always change only one thing at a time.
It’s the basic rule every engineer will easily explain to you, because it works for just about every case you could imagine.
If you change the font, colors, plus text and the main image, how will you know which thing caused what? It may easily happen that conversions drop. Again, which change caused it?
It’s as simple as that and it works exactly like that.
The basic blueprint of split testing
The basic blueprint for successful split testing is as follows.
1) Create an opt-in page the way you like it (Page A)
Use common sense, don’t overdo it. Usually, the simplest opt-in pages work best. If you’re not sure about the texts and CTA (call to action) buttons, you’ll have to either learn a little or pay someone to do it for you. Or, you can just try, based on whatever you already know about it.
2) Create a copy of that page (Page B)
Create an exact copy of Page A and mark it as Page B.
3) Change Page B
Use your editor (WordPress, Convertri, whatever you’re using) to make a subtle change to the page. It can be a different heading, color combination, or CTA text. Be careful – only make one change to the page at any one time, in order to be able to see the results of the change. You can easily make it worse, so you have to have a way back.
4) Drive some traffic to both pages
Start your advertising campaigns, buy a solo ads campaign, or start posting to your social channels. The target here is to get equal amount of clicks from a comparable source to both opt-in pages. Some 100+ visitors should be enough to start, just make sure you have a roughly equal share on both pages for easier calculations.
5) Count the conversions
After each page has received a number of clicks (50 at least), count conversions from both pages. Usually, the difference is not huge, but you’ll easily notice it. There could be 25 conversions on page A (50%) and 22 on page B (only 44%). Clearly, page A converts better, that is, it is more interesting to your visitors. You can safely assume that driving traffic to page A will cost you less (per click) and make you more $$$ (whatever your goal is, remember?).
6) Rinse and repeat
As you have your winner (page A), you can – and you should – dismiss page B and only drive traffic to page A. Now, all you have to do is repeat the steps 2 – 5 in order to further optimize the conversions. At a certain point, when you’re satisfied or don’t want to do it anymore, you can stop. But by that time you will have an optimized page that will bring you much higher conversion rates than the original page, which is the whole reason for optimizing in the first place.
You will simply spend less (time or money) for the same gains.
Doing a split test by hand
It is clear – you can do all that by hand. This means you’ll create the pages, use some sort of link tracker and count the clicks. You can do that by using a free plugin (like Pretty Links) or any of the more sofisticated plugins (like Smart Links). Just create a link and point it to your page A. After you see the first 50 links coming in to page A, write down the number of conversions (people who opted in to your email list so far) and change the link to page B. Wait until another 50 clicks come in, and see how many people opted in by then.
The difference will tell you how many people have opted in via your page B. Now, compare the figures and you will immediately know which page converted better. Following the above example, you should now keep your page A intact, but change your page B to match the original state (i.e. page A) and then change something else. If you have made changes to the headline in the first test, try another headline or change comething else, like CTA text. Then, repeat this steps until you’re satisfied with the conversion rates.
Sounds like a lot of work….
Yes. It not only sounds like a lot of work, it actually is a lot of work. And if you think this is a lot of work, imagine having 5 or 10 opt-in pages that you want to optimize. Even possibly 10 websites that each includes a few of them.
Unless you have really a lot of time at your disposal and an iron will, or at least someone willing to help you, you’ll soon stop doing it. Because it’s just too much work. And even if you somehow manage to do it, there’s still so many places in this process where you can make a mistake. This is why split testing has such a bad reputation if you ask beginners at internet marketing. Who has time for that…
But hey, you’ve heard all the successful marketers do it, right? I’ve heard it too. Where do they get all the time and money needed?!? The answer is very simple.
Successful marketers are using software applications to do spli tests for them.
Most of the good funnel builders and page builders have the split testing functionality built right in. They let you input the exact conditions you feel are important and based on these they can even decide which page is the winner. After this decision has been made, they simply stop the test and send the traffic to the winning page only. Of course, you can repeat the tests like described above to get even better conversions. And so on.
I’m talking about funnel builders like ClickFunnels, FunnelVio or Convertri here. But while they are all-powerful and can do that already, without ever really needing any extra piece of software, they are not cheap to begin with. A great free funnel builder that you should check is called GroovePages, but honestly I’m not sure about whether it includes A/B testing.
So what can a beginner do, since there usually he has no budget available for such powerful software?
Usually, beginners start with WordPress. Not only it is free, it is actually a great platform. I’ve read somewhere that over 40% of the entire web is powered by WordPress, which is probably close to 2 Billion active websites, if not more (yes, that’s a B!). So it’s working, no problem there. Add a good theme, like Divi, and you have a great and powerful all-round system to start with.
A problem is that WordPress, being such an all-round system, just does not have such functionality built in. The solution is either to invest in a special plugin or use independent software.
Using a special and dedicated plugin is quite s good solution. You’ll have to search around and find something that you like. One example of a good testing plugin is Nelio A/B Testing plugin. It can do lots of things for you, check the link and see what it is capable of.
What you might not like is the price of such plugins. Because they are professional tools they mostly start at some $25/month and get higher as you have higher needs, like using it on more than one website, or higher testing needs. Don’t get me wrong, they’re worth it, just maybe not at the very beginning of a marketing journey, when budgets are small or non-existing.
One problem you might encounter using WordPress
The one problem that is very common when using WordPress is hosting.
WordPress by itself works on practically any shared hosting you use, and these can cost you as little as a dollar per month (usually paid annualy). However, these cheap hosting solutions often do not handle high loads very well. This either means lots of concurrent visitors or simply the complexity of WordPress, mixed with demanding plugins. The results of using such systems can be a very slow website. This is the one thing search engines like Google don’t like, and you will have a hard time getting your SEO to work. Additionally, it is proven that a website loading time of anything above 2 seconds already makes visitor numbers to drop. So using such a system might cost you more to keep the traffic.
The solution to this is relatively simple, but not always cheap – a good hosting. Registrars like NameCheap offer great hosting packages, but again, you’ll hit the $25/month mark pretty easily. And maybe it’s just too much for you at the moment, as it was for me.
Another way around this is by using one of the independent split testing software solutions.
Independent split testing software systems – Cloud based systems
These systems give you an account where you register and get access to your own dashboard. Inside the dashboard, you create links, set up the testing conditions, as well as the conditions to stop the test and pick the winner.
There are lots of such systems available and we’re not going to talk about all of them. What I will talk about is a system that came to my attention earlier this year, when my colleagues from WP Toolkit announced it. It is called Split Test Monkey and it’s a cloud-based software (SAAS).
I’ve bought my Pro license just days ago and started my first real test only yesterday. I am also preparing a full review of it in a separate post, and I will update this post with a link one it’s ready. Let me just write down what I’ve learned about it so far.
Split Test Monkey features
What I like the most about Split Test Monkey is its simplicity. You probably know Microsoft Word, which – to me – is exactly the opposite of simplicity. It’s a very powerful tool, and it can do everything that has anything to do with writing. But these exact features make it impossible to really learn all of them. It’s just so complicated that it’s far beyond anything simple.
Well, Split Test Monkey is nothing like that.
First of all, it’s intended to do exactly one thing and one thing only – test conversions on landing pages. It has a simple, yet effective interface that will lead you straight into business. Depending on your experience with WordPress, for instance, you can set up a split test inside Split Test Monkey in literally a single minute.
How does Split Test Monkey work?
In order to be able to test two (or up to six in Split Test Monkey) different landing pages, you have to somehow know who lands where and from where. Let me explain.
The software, Split Test Monkey in this case, has to track down two things:
- where the link is coming from,
- was the goal accomplished or not.
First thing is done by pasting a single line of code inside your original page (page A). Split Test Monkey provides that code, and all you have to do is copy and paste it inside your page’s header. Using WordPress, you can use a free plugin like Header And Footer Scripts to do that. When using a page builder like Divi, you simply create a code snippet somewhere in the page and copy it there.
Second action is done by pasting another line of code into the page where your visitors land after converting. This can be a thank-you page or anything like that. Just follow the same principle as above and insert that line of code.
That’s it. Using the first code snippet, Split Test Monkey will distribute incoming traffic between the pages you define in your dashboard. And using the second code snippet, it will know exactly from which opt-in page (page A or page B) the traffic that converted actually originated. It will count these accordingly as conversions.
Here’s a short Split Test Monkey demo video that will show you how it’s done.
Doing this, Split Test Monkey will have a detailed insight about which of your landing pages converted better during the test. It will show you the number of visitors, as well as the number of conversions from every page included. And, should you decide so, it will also stop the test after certain number of clicks, decide about the winning page and direct all the traffic there afterwards.
This way, Split Test Monkey will have efficiently increased your conversion rates on any page, thus saving you money for traffic and earning more from this same traffic.
Did I mention that the pages you test do not have to be built in WordPress? No, you can test just about any pages, as long as you have the ability to input the requested code snippets. This means each and every funnel builder or page builder can be used. Split Test Monkey will make the right decision each and every time.
Split Test Monkey is a solution everyone can afford
Right now, during the launch period, Split Test Monkey Pro is available at a one-time price of $47. It’s a bargain.
Depending on when you read this, the launch period may already be over and the pricing back to normal, which means a subscription of $67/year. It is a bit less inviting, but it still means a cost of only $5.5 per month. And I can assure you – you will make this back in a day through higher conversio rates when you use it on your landing pages.
No matter what you sell online, you should always try to get the most out of your landing pages. The better the conversion rates, the less the cost per click obtained will be, and the higher your ROIs. It really doesn’t make any sense to use poor converting pages and paying for traffic, does it.
Split testing (or A/B testing) is a process that can greatly help you to improve your conversion rates. It is really mandatory to reach the success you want and it will make your hard work bring you results much faster.
You can do it in many different ways, depending on the system you use, your degree of expertise, and last but not least, your budget. Look around the web, play a little and you shall be able to find a solution that will meet your goals in the present moment. But do it, you honestly have no idea how much it can help until you start utilizing its power.
My personal favourites:
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We are in affiliate business with many of the vendors who's products we mention here and write reviews about, which means we could get a certain commission from them should you buy their product via our links. We are however not connected to them in any other way, nor we receive any special commissions for making good reviews. We try to hold our opinion fair and honest, giving you both the ups and downs where we see them. Everything written here is our own opinion and assessment of the possibilities that software provides.