What Is Split Testing and How to Run Your Own, for Improving Your CTAs

If your business uses any kind of digital content, you know how crucial it is for your Calls to Action (CTAs) to do their job. Whether you’re looking to promote a webinar, drive traffic to your blog, or sell products, getting people to “click here” feels like a never ending battle of content optimization. But how do you know what “optimized” looks like? The process of split testing can help you find out.

split testing

What is Split Testing?

Split testing is a simple concept, also known as A/B testing. To perform a split test, take two pieces of content that differ only in one way (your test variable). These are shown to different samples of the same audience and their responses are recorded. The results will show which version of your content performed better.

For example, say you’re creating a welcome email for new subscribers, and you want to know which CTA will generate more clicks. You can use split testing to find out–simply create two versions of your email, one with a button that says, perhaps, “Learn More” and the other a button that says “Tell Me More.” Send one email to a small sample of your target audience, and the other email to another sample. Compare the results. Which CTA generated more clicks? That will be the one to use going forward.

Who Uses Split Testing?

Split testing is commonly used by marketers, web and app designers, social media coordinators, public relation teams, and more. This kind of testing is an excellent way to spot check different elements of design, like CTAs, to see if they’re performing as you expect them to, or if something else might be better.

Depending on the type of content they create, people in different roles rely on different split testing tools. For web content, often the easiest way to go is to invest in split testing software, which automatically funnels samples of your web traffic to different versions of a page and records their reactions. Email marketing can be a more hands-on process, though some email marketing platforms offer built-in split testing capabilities as well. No matter what type of content you’re testing, there are tools to help make sure your CTAs and other content elements are generating the highest conversion rates possible.

ab testing different conversion rates

Ways Split Testing Can Help Your Business

In a field where so much can seem subjective, split testing provides valuable hard data. As much fun as it is to create sparkling new web pages or clever copy, if it isn’t getting the results you want (i.e. conversions), it’s not the right content for your business. Split testing is one method that allows you to determine what is the right content, which can save you a lot of wasted time and energy pursuing less-profitable avenues. And, of course, it also helps boost your conversions, since you’re weeding out all but the most effective content.

Split testing can also help you create more devoted fans. Content may be king, but customized content keeps your audience engaged and coming back for more. By split testing your CTAs and other content with different markets, you can tailor your messaging to fit the needs and desires of each audience. This kind of personalized experience gives your customers a sense of personal investment in your brand–it feels like you’re talking just to them! And customers who are invested in your brand are likely to be repeat customers and to recommend your business to others.

3 Tips for Split Testing

different pages with different audience

Use Random Samples

 It’s important when you’re split testing to always compare similar audiences. People of different demographic backgrounds respond differently. If you’re sending an email, for example, and send one version of your split test to your out-of-town contacts while the other goes only to local residents, you’ve introduced a second variable.
Did your local CTA perform differently because it’s better, or because the out-of-town people didn’t like their version? Instead, use two random samples to test your content to minimize tricky variables. With a small audience, it may make the most sense to split the entire group randomly in half and give each half a different version of your split test. With large audiences, though, you want to make sure the majority of your contacts will be getting the better-performing CTA, so random sampling is ideal.

Make Small Changes

 Creating two wildly different web pages and running a split test doesn’t tell you much. Are people responding to the new color palette? Do they really like that new font? Maybe it’s the snarky, funny copy on one page that’s catching their attention.
If you change more than one thing at a time, you won’t be able to work out what elements really draw attention and provoke clicks and conversions. Remember, split testing doesn’t just tell you what works on a given page. When you learn what colors, shapes, and phrasing draw responses on one page, you can apply that to other areas of content as well.

Test and Retest

 Once you’ve run one split test, don’t assume your work is done. You may have optimized one CTA, but what about the rest? What about the placement on the page? What about the timing of an email? And of course, your audience’s preferences may even change over time. Content that generates amazing conversions today may be outmatched by something different next month. Web content is always a work in progress, and by continuing to examine different elements through split testing, you can continue to stay ahead of the curve and drive high conversion levels.

While knowing the tricks of the trade are helpful, when it comes to content marketing, your audience is ultimately just as unique as your brand. It’s important to understand what that audience wants and needs, and split testing is a simple way to get the concrete answers that will help you be more effective at meeting those needs. Have you used split testing before? What did you learn? Share your experiences below.

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