Here’s an interesting thing about running a business. No matter how well you think you know your audience, they’ll still find ways to surprise you.
A big part of branding is learning what’s important to the people you serve, and then figuring out the best way to communicate it back to them. You need to develop your brand voice and visuals so you can deliver a compelling message. This is key to the success of your business. Sometimes, you’ll be convinced that you’ve cracked the code and have put together the perfect sales page or opt-in page that gives your ideal clients exactly what they need… only to get a lukewarm response at best. Ohhhh yeah, I’ve been there.
SO. What can you do when that happens? Well, here’s my suggestion: split testing (also called A/B testing). It’s a powerful tool to help you learn how to increase the level of engagement you’re getting from your website visitors. You can use what you learn to increase your conversion rates and gain more leads and clients. Best of all? As well as being very effective, also very simple to do.
What is split testing?
In the world of online marketing, split testing is where two variations of a piece of digital content are created and simultaneously presented to an audience to see which variation performs better. So, for example, you could have two versions of a landing page for a lead magnet (page A and page B). Then, some of your traffic (half, usually) is directed to page A and the rest to page B. By measuring the conversion rates of each variation, you can determine which page turns a higher number of site visitors into leads.
If you run your business online, or at the very least have a website where you want to generate leads, split testing is definitely something you should be doing. There are plenty of tools available to make split testing straightforward and easy, and if you have a WordPress site, I’ll tell you about tool I’ve found very helpful in just a moment.
What can you test with split testing?
Split testing is most often used to optimise webpage designs. These are some of the things you could tweak and test:
- Colour e.g. the colour of buttons
- Number of fillable fields in a form
- Page length
- Including/excluding sections of information
Why should you split test?
There are plenty of “design rules” floating around that describe general best practices. Maybe you’ve heard that buttons of a certain colour are more likely to be clicked, or you have to write headlines in a certain way if you want to compel visitors to read your copy.
The fact is though, that unless you test a design you can’t be certain that a “rule” applies to your business, your web designs, and your specific audience. Unless you put a design choice into practice and then compare it to a different choice, you can’t know for sure which direction leads to the best results.
Split testing allows you to gather insight into what works for your target market. You can learn what kind of messaging and copy they resonate with, what sort of images they like, and how much information they like to read before signing up for/opting into/purchasing something.
Also read: 5 tips for a high converting website design
The limitations of split testing
Split testing has a lot of benefits, but it’s not going to magically fix everything in your marketing funnel. It’s important to be aware of what it can and can’t help you with.
Split testing is great for conversion optimisation, but it can’t (for example) help you gain more traffic to your website in the first place. And if you’re NOT already getting a steady stream of traffic, it’s also going to be difficult to pull any kind of assessment from split testing. You may not have the volume of site visitors to get an accurate picture of what’s happening in your test. (If more traffic is what you’re after, try this post on how to build brand awareness organically in 4 steps.)
It also doesn’t necessarily help you make sure you’re converting the right kind of audience. For instance, split testing can help you work out how to convert more of your web visitors into leads, but if your lead magnet isn’t aligned with your brand, your leads won’t turn into sales.
Split testing is a great tool to have on your belt, but it’s still just one of the many tools and tactics you should be implementing in your business strategy.
How to create split tests
Like I explained above, the basic idea behind split testing is to change a piece of design or copy on a web page and send half your traffic to one version, half to the other. Then, you can see what happens to the conversion rates. By doing this, you’re able to see exactly how that one change affects your audience.
The problem, is that this method can be a pretty slow way to get results. Plus, a small change like altering the button colour from blue to green might not even give you a significant result. So, what can you do instead?
I would actually suggest split testing between two pages that have loads of differences. Two different headlines, different images, different designs, different CTAs… and see what happens to the conversion rates. You’ll probably see a more significant difference this way. You can then take the higher-converting page and this will give you a better starting point if you want to incrementally increase the performance of the page even more by changing smaller things.
Split testing on WordPress — the plugin I use
If you’re a WordPress user like me, then this suggestion is for you! The plugin I’m currently using for split testing pages on my site is Simple Page Tester. (I’m not an affiliate or anything for this plugin — I just find it very helpful and you might, too.)
Simple Page Tester has both free and premium versions with the difference being that only the premium version will give you those valuable conversion rates right inside WordPress. However, by using something like Google Analytics you could still measure conversion rates using only the free version (and the developers have also provided a handy blog post showing you how to do that).
Personally, having the conversion rates visible within WordPress sounded worth the one-time cost of purchasing the premium version and it also gives me access to a year of email support (which I had to immediately use when I ran into a bit of trouble getting the plugin to play nice with my page builder, Elementor). Incidentally, I can also report that their support staff is very friendly and helpful.
It’s important to think of your website as an ever-evolving asset for your business. No matter how well-designed it is, there’s going to be a point in time (many points in time, really) where changes have to be made in order to keep things performing efficiently. Split testing is a great tool you can use to keep an eye on things and be constantly making little improvements that strengthen your site as a whole.
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