A/B testing has quickly become a staple of the digital marketing world for it’s ability to quickly improve ad performance and ultimately improve conversion rates. Unfortunately for many marketers, despite their best efforts, their experiments just don’t seem to work. While some see rapid increases in key metrics like click-through rates and engagement, others struggle to gain traction with their experiments.
So, what’s the secret ingredient for success? The answer, as is often the case in the world of marketing, is strategy.
Building an Effective Testing Strategy
Successful A/B testing is all about creating a great testing strategy—one that teaches you something with every test you run. Getting it right takes a lot of upfront planning, but when done correctly, all that planning will save time and significantly increase the effectiveness of your tests.
While each campaign will have its own set of variables, every effective A/B testing strategy will always have the same core elements:
1. Buyer Persona
Before you lunge into ads, landing pages, or incentives, you should really take the time to create a ‘buyer persona’ for your product.
A buyer persona forms the basis of your entire testing blueprint, so if you cut corners here you’ll struggle to get any meaningful results.
At a minimum, you should know the following about your audience:
- How old are they?
- Are they mostly male or female? Or evenly split across both?
- What are their responsibilities?
- What is their budget?
- What are their goals?
- Why are they interested in your product or service?
- What problem are they facing?
- How does your product or offer fix their problem?
For most companies, getting this information is often a case of talking to your sales team or even interviewing some of your current customers (surveys can work great as well). Getting a clearly defined buyer persona adds upfront work, but it will make your testing learning curve less steep.
2. Define Your Goals
Do you know what will make your campaign a ‘success’? Are you looking for impressions, clicks, email signups, or sales? If you want to test your campaign effectively, it’s crucial that you understand what you’re trying to accomplish with your test.
Many marketers will kick-off campaigns without clearly defined objectives and as a result they struggle to create meaningful variants in their campaign. If you don’t know what you want to accomplish, A/B testing becomes a game of random luck rather than an effective strategy.
Consider the following when starting any campaign:
- What is your overall goal?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- How does a visitor become a customer? (what does the sales funnel look like?)
- How is your test going to help achieve your overall goal?
- What is more important for your business, conversion volume or conversion quality?
If you want your campaign to be a success, you must understand what your company (or client if you’re an agency) defines success to be and be able to track the metrics that impact those results the most.
3. Create Your Hypotheses
With a clearer understanding of your audience and your business goals mapped out, it’s finally time to get the experiment process started by creating your first testing hypotheses.
At a fundamental level nearly all hypotheses in the digital marketing world share the same basic structure.
“My business wants customer X to complete task Y. I believe that Z is a blocker to completing task Y, so I will modify Z and look for a rise in the completion of Y.”
Everybody still with me? J
Basically, you are looking to identify any points of friction that are preventing your buyer persona from completing what your business wants them to, and then experimenting with ways you can reduce that friction.
As you can imagine the sky’s the limit in terms of what can be tweaked and tested but here are a few common friction points that can derail a campaign.
- You aren’t providing the right offer. Your audience is looking for apples and you’re selling oranges. If the offer’s wrong you campaign is going to be DOA.
- The next step is unclear. Your ad is captivating but what to do after they click the ad is confusing or ambiguous.
- Your ad doesn’t match the landing page. No one likes to feel misled and if your ad isn’t honest people won’t convert. Ideally ads should feel like an extension of the landing page with the same tone of voice, color scheme, and overall atmosphere.
- Your content is confusing. Grammar, writing style, and user experience all matter. If your content is poorly written or your page design is cumbersome, people won’t bother figuring it out.
- You have the wrong traffic. Even a perfectly designed landing page won’t convert if the audience you’re targeting is uninterested. If you’re really struggling to gain traction, break out of the optimization loop and reconsider initial buyer persona. By Improving your traffic quality, you will also improve the effectiveness of your A/B tests.
Understanding your potential friction points is critical to an effective testing strategy. By knowing what areas, you can modify and tweak you can quickly start to recognise exactly what works for your audience.
4. Document and Learn
The final puzzle piece in the A/B testing framework is to actually run your tests, document the outcomes, use what you learned to create new hypotheses and tests, and then repeat, repeat, repeat.
Depending on your specific needs, your documentation can be as complicated or as simple as you want, but it is critical to document two things for every experiment:
- What am I testing?
- What have the results taught me?
Here is a simple example of how you might document an ad/ landing page optimization test:
Say you offer graduate education solutions for fresh undergrads who have recently completed their degree. As you can imagine there are a wide range of potential reasons why a student may be interested in furthering their education but for simplicity’s sake lets look at two:
- Further developing skills for a more advanced position in their field.
- Looking for pathways to enter a PhD program.
Both have subtle differences and depending on you ‘buyer persona’ one will be more relevant to the needs of your audience. By running the ads in parallel and targeting the same demographics, you’ll be able to identify which pathway is more applicable to you audience.
If it turned out to be that a path to PhD programs received more clicks and signups on your landing page, you could then create a whole new set of ads that compares different PhD programs and see which of those drives more conversions. This process can be repeated until you know exactly what support programs to offer to that particular audience.
Finally, once you start to understand exactly what a particular audience is looking for, you can confidently ramp up spending to maximize the impact of that campaign.
As we discussed in the introduction, A/B testing is an incredible tool for optimization, but with out strategy the process won’t get you very far. Great A/B testing campaigns are well thought out and use a clear, methodical testing strategy.
When you get started on your first A/B tested campaign, it will almost certainly take a few tests to yield the kind of results you’re looking for, but if you stick to the points we shared today you will get there.
Interested in learning more about digital strategy? Checkout out our previous post on local search engine optimization and if you’re ready to take your marketing efforts to the next level reach out to On Q Communications today!