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April 29, 2013

A/B Testing 101: A vs B The Powers of Contrast in Online Marketing

The term ‘A/B Testing’ may make this particular concept for testing your marketing strategies sound complex and intimidating, but it is actually quite simple to use and is effective when used correctly.

What Is A/B Testing?

The best way to think of this testing process is to liken this to the comparative lab experiments you used to do in high school. You get two plants of the same species and you do everything the same for them except for one thing. This single difference between them is what you’ll observe to determine if it contributes to the plant’s growth or not.

To understand how that applies to Internet marketing, here’s the definition broken down into its various components.

A/B testing for Internet marketing involves:

• Two versions of your website.

• Launched simultaneously or in the same setting (e.g. testing one version this Monday 4 a.m. and doing the same to the other version next Monday 4 a.m.)

• Having exactly the same characteristics except for one single element.

• Effectiveness is determined by using metric tools or systems that you deem valuable (such as number of website hits per hour, conversion rate).

And there you have it. The definition actually represents the process itself. Generally speaking, “A” represents the control or the current website design or version you are using while “B” naturally represents what kind of change you are interested in making to your website.

There’s another way to break down this testing method but more about that should be discussed later. For now, it’s critical that you take your time understanding how it works.

What Elements Are Subjected to A/B Testing?

Virtually any element of your website can be subjected to this particular testing method, but most Internet marketers and business owners tend to use it for determining which of their versions is more effective for the following elements.

• Call to action — This is the very last paragraph in your web page or content. It contains a quick summary of all the best points about your products and services as well as an invitation or encouragement for the customer to perform the desired action, such as buying the product or even just to sign up for your newsletter. In most cases, there is a sense of ‘urgency’ involved.

• Product or service description — Most use A/B testing on this area to figure out if they have effectively explained what they are offering. If the target market doesn’t understand what the company is selling, then no one’s likely to buy it.

• Website design or layout — Most people test to measure functionality or responsiveness.

• Pricing — Simply put, which of the pricing strategies used brought in higher sales and/or better profit margins?

• Promotions — Which of the promotions you’ve launched brought in more people to your website? Which had a higher conversion rate or generated more sales?

• Content Length — Does having shorter text about your products seem to work more effectively than having longer text?

Content Type — Do your readers favor articles written with a blog-like format versus something that’s straightforward and containing multiple bullets?

• Form Type and Length — Which of your contact forms seemed to be more effective in obtaining the information you need?

A More Thorough and Comprehensive Outlook on A/B Testing

As promised, here’s a more elaborate way of understanding A/B Testing.

Step 1: Assess your content. Figure out which parts appear to require improvement or change. Rate them according to priority.

Step 2: Create testing elements. Start with the element topmost on your list and create what you feel is a better version of it.

Step 3: Perform A/B testing. Make sure you run these tests simultaneously. You can also try hiring a third-party firm to run them for you or use tools such as Website Optimizer from Google to make your job easier.

Step 4: Determine which metric tools are ideal to use to determine the success of each element.

Step 5: Interpret the results. How effective is Element A over B and vice versa? What else can you do to improve the results?


Ruben Corbo is a freelance writer that writes about technology, gaming, music, and online marketing especially topics about A/B split testing and how to run multivariate tests. You can check out the Maxymiser A/B testing guide for a better understanding on how it works. Ruben is also an avid gamer and music composer for short films and other visual arts.

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