What Is A/B Testing?

What Is A/B Testing?
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What is A/B testing? In digital marketing, A/B testing refers to a research methodology where you compare two pieces of collateral. This could be a headline, a subject line, a website page, a sales advertisement, and any other traffic-driving initiative for a campaign or brand. 

When you’re tasked with delivering the best results for your client’s goals, it would be ideal if you could wave a magic wand, snap your fingers and instantly know what will resonate with your audience.

But in reality, marketing strategy is often the result of trial, error, and most importantly, testing. When you create an A/B test, you are going off your hunches — or hypotheses — and determining which one is the most effective.

An example of A/B testing

Usually, A/B testing goes beyond two options and considers various segments of current, potential or past customers.

Take, for example, a client who is sharing the news of an upcoming sale via their newsletter. It will go out to a list of the following people:

  • Those who have recently purchased
  • Those who signed up for information but haven’t made a move
  • Those who actively shop the store

It could make sense to conduct a subject line A/B test for each of these groups — resulting in six different options. 

A/B testing isn’t limited to content

It’s not only copy that’s put through the wringer with A/B testing: It’s also design, user experience, flow, and so on. Anything the customer can react to should and can be tested. Another way A/B tests could be implemented is when all campaigns and strategies seem to be falling flat. As well-meaning as founders and marketers can be, it’s easy to have an unconscious bias when you’re close to the product or service.

Maybe your generalizations of the ideal customer are inaccurate on the types of clients who would benefit from the product or service. You could also have killer copy, but the graphics feel unprofessional or confusing. Since so many components go into a digital marketing blueprint, A/B testing allows you to pull apart, move around, reorganize and test various set-ups by targeting specific sectors.

Some brands may decide to make their A/B test a make-or-break of their current brand. If numbers aren’t adding up, and an A/B test doesn’t provide factual information to inform future decisions, it could mean a rebranding is necessary to stay afloat. Without A/B testing, though, it isn’t easy to pinpoint the problem. 

Why tracking links are essential to A/B testing

Smart companies will add tracking links throughout the A/B test to understand better what words or imagery prompted an action — and perhaps, what caused a visitor to bounce off the page, too. This data is critical to shaping customer profiles, developing a brand voice and stylebook, as well as meeting sales goals.

After all, if you don’t test: how can you genuinely know what’s triumphant — and what could be even more successful? Though it’s reasonable to conclude it’s far more work than simply throwing up a blog post, a webpage or a social share, in the end, it is one of the most integral investments a brand can make. 

Common uses of A/B testing

  • To optimize for the best results of a marketing goal
  • To better understand customer reaction to imagery, text and experience
  • To improve overall copy and brand voice
  • To inform web design
  • To test various sales, promotions and action-driving campaigns
  • To improve website traffic
  • To create customer profiles and personas for marketing and design
  • To improve overall experience
  • To guide a redesign or a rebranding
Here is the simple explanation of an A/B test — and why it matters in #marketing. Click To Tweet

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About the author

Lindsay Tigar

Lindsay Tigar is an experienced, established travel and lifestyle journalist, editor, and content strategist. Since uprooting from Asheville, North Carolina in 2010 to Manhattan, Lindsay's work has appeared on several websites, including Travel + Leisure, Vogue, USA Today, Reader's Digest, Self, Refinery29, and countless others. While she is always up for the challenge of any assignment, her main areas of focus include travel, wellness, career, psychology, love and healthy living.