One of the best ways to gauge the effectiveness of a website is to employ A/B testing. A/B or split testing allows webmasters to see how well their sites are converting visitors. More importantly, it identifies specific webpage elements that are contributing to their success or failure. With split testing, webmasters choose a parameter of their website to test, create two different versions of the site with different variations of that element and then compare them head to head. It’s incredibly easy to get started with A/B testing, and it can significantly improve any website in a short amount of time. Here’s how to get started.
Choose Your Testing Criteria
Finding the right element of your site to perform an A/B test on is the most important part of the process. Focus on portions of your site that affect a visitor’s buying decisions, such as links, advertisements and navigational elements. E-commerce platforms in particular will want to optimize what’s known as their critical path. You can think of a critical path as a sort of “buying map” that tracks the path of a user from their first contact with your website up to the point where they actually add something to a shopping cart and purchase it. A/B testing will help you make that path as short and clear-cut as possible.
Set Up Your Experiment
You’ll want to separately test two versions of the same element on your page that impacts the buying path, such as a “Click Here To Purchase” link or a header title. There are plenty of free A/B testing tools available online that small businesses and entrepreneurs can use to conduct simple tests such as Google Website Optimizer and Visual Website Optimizer. To get more features and flexibility, it may make sense to opt for a paid service like Unbounce.
Evaluate The Results
After you’ve set up an A/B test with the desired parameters, all you have to do is collect some data to analyze. Based on the size and complexity of your site as well as the amount of traffic you receive on a regular basis, this can take anywhere from a few hours to days to complete. Once you’ve gotten a reasonable amount of data, you can analyze the results. After looking at the response to the “A” and “B” versions of your site side by side, a clear picture of which page is better at converting visitors should emerge.
Modify Your Pages and Repeat
Once you’ve had the chance to crunch some data, you’ll need to use the feedback you’ve gotten from your split tests to change your site layout. In some cases, you’ll find that tweaking a single element is all you need. In extreme scenarios, you may discover that you’ll need to start from scratch and completely redesign your website’s layout. Either way, you’ll be able to determine what works best quickly and easily. A/B testing is hardly the only method for doing this. Advanced techniques like multivariate testing, for example, vary multiple page elements simultaneously to find the correct mix of content that’ll facilitate sales.
The woolly world of web analytics and split testing can be intimidating to the uninitiated, but it needn’t be if you take a few basic steps to simplify the process. There are plenty of free tools available online today to help any webmaster perfect their site’s layout. A/B testing is a powerful technique for streamlining pages and works well in many scenarios. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll probably want to move on to multivariate testing to boost sales even further. In any event, split testing is the smart, scientific way to go about improving your website’s performance and profitability.
Tech writer EJ Parfitt has been writing for a short time now and has already picked up steam with several tech websites and local news sites. During his free time, you’re sure to catch him competing in local chess tournaments in downtown Fort Lauderdale FL.