Is AB Testing Dead?

After Optimizely announced they were sunsetting their free plan as of February 28th the internet was abuzz with posts about “The End of AB Testing.” I’ll save the suspense now and tell you that “website testing” is absolutely NOT dead, but AB testing certainly has been in a slow demise due to neglect, not because of necessity.

A Tool’s Pricing Does Not Make A Tactic Worthwhile

Just because a tool may change its pricing structure does not necessarily indicate the demise of what it is solving. The argument goes that with new options such as dynamic ad and content targeting that you can no longer simply perform A vs. B tests. While that might be true of very large websites I can count on one hand the number of organizations I have talked to who are using such dynamic content on their sites. Furthermore, a decent majority of organizations I’ve talked to are not even doing simple A vs. B tests at all.

So Why Get Rid Of The Free Tier?

Optimizely runs a business. A business’s job is to make money. My guess is that offering something for free didn’t nearly net the revenue gains they were hoping for. Apple sold less devices, but gained revenue because those devices now cost more. LL Bean got rid of its lifetime guarantee because they were losing money on ‘shady’ returns. These do not indicate that people aren’t using cellphones nor do people no longer need to stay warm and dry. What it does indicate to me is that not enough people were using it. (There’s a Bears Ears simile in there somewhere unfortunately)

By Optimizely removing their free tier this should make every organization re-evaluate their testing strategy. Are you testing anything right now? If not then start looking at your conversion funnel. If it is converting any less than 90% then you should be testing ‘something’ inside it! If you are AB Testing and not doing dynamic content, well that is ‘YOUR’ next step. If you’re doing both, well there’s always room for improvement.

Is AB Testing dead? Well, maybe it has been dying a slow death, but not because it isn’t useful. Maybe it’s like the local gym… we all know we need to go, we buy a membership, we rarely go, then we cancel, then the gym loses money and we’re still out of shape. It’s time to get our website testing strategy back in shape! Let’s do this together >

Median Lead Generation Rates by Industry

Landing Page Conversion Rates by Industry 2017

The smart people at Unbounce recently released their 2017 Conversion Benchmark Reports detailing an in-depth breakdown of lead generation benchmarks per industry.

While it’s an amazing benchmark report to download (and you all should), one of the biggest items the document covers is the answer to a question most marketers get asked frequently.

What is the average landing page conversion rate for our industry?

Median Landing Page Conversion Rates by Industry

  • Business Consulting 5.0%
  • Business Services 3.4%
  • Credit & Lending 5.5%
  • Health 2.8%
  • Higher Education 2.6%
  • Home Improvement 3.3%
  • Legal 3.2%
  • Real Estate 2.8%
  • Travel 5.0%
  • Vocational Studies & Job Training 6.0%

How Does Your Landing Page Stack Up?

Are you meeting these benchmarks? They may seem like small numbers, but we’ve seen worse. There are a few reasons landing pages aren’t quite as effective as they should be. Take a moment to think about if these issues are affecting your landing pages and take steps to correct them:

  • Asking for too much personal information : Do you ‘really’ need to collect gender or their affinity for Batman vs. Superman
  • Lost Call To Action (CTA) : Are you directing people to a specific action? If you look at the page for 3-seconds can you easily spot the directive?
  • Missing information or lack of relevancy : Consider ‘how’ visitors are arriving on this page. Are you teasing them with an offer or information that isn’t present on the page? Don’t laugh, this happens ALL THE TIME!

How to run simple AB testing programs with Google Analytics

AB testing can sound daunting at times. I suspect this is why so many organizations have yet to conduct much testing of their own. So in the light of the new year and resolution setting here’s to a 2017 full of ab testing!

Step number one of AB Testing: Plan

We have already discussed what to ab test previously, but once you have that idea you need to enact a plan to implement it. For our article we’re going to assume that you’re testing easy things, such as button colors or page layout changes. These are typically easy things for a marketer to do within their content management system and it’s the first place to start when dipping your toe into the AB testing game. Here are some quick things to keep in mind:

  • Start with small and easy changes
  • Consider starting with either a page at the end or beginning of your conversion funnel
  • Have one or two page variations, but no more than that

How to setup an ab test in Google Analytics

Setting Up Google ExperiementsOnce you create an experiment you have a bunch of quick and easy settings to get you up and running. If you already have goals set up in GA (and if you don’t call us immediately) you can select them via a dropdown for your test conversion. Then, you must decide if you want all traffic to the original page to be part of the AB test or just some. We would typically recommend just doing 100%. In the Advanced Settings we would advise when you’re first starting to distribute traffic evenly across all variants. When Google starts deciding, especially with low volume, it can get wacky very quickly. For example, at 100 sessions, if the Original saw 25 conversions and Variant 1 saw 15 Google would start showing Original more often. But 10 conversions isn’t hard to make up and in our example it’d be just 10% of the sessions!

The next step is implementing your page variants. It’s as simple as entering the URLs of the pages. So the Original URL is the page as it currently exists and the variants are your competitors. It’s literally that simple. Once you enter these pages and click “next” Google Analytics will give you code to place on the Original page. There are tons of different content management systems out there, but for WordPress you can simply edit the header.php file:
google experiments in wordpress
…Or you can use a plugin such as Simple Content Experiments. Again, your content management system should have some sort of way to implement the GA Experiments code in the head tag somewhere, just ask your development team.

That’s it for implementation. If you want to do simple AB tests any marketer with a good CMS could have a test up and running in a matter of hours. So what then are you waiting for? Get to testing and watch your website conversions skyrocket!

It’s getting a little personal

Personalization is one of many new buzzwords making the digital marketing rounds these days, but in fact it’s not really new at all. The concept has always been there, the platforms have always existed, but perhaps the reason for the buzz is the fact that ‘more’ platforms now exist? Regardless, the same issues exist today as they have for many years and why many sites haven’t implemented any personalization features.

Personalization is difficult

Well, yes, implementing personalization on your site can seem daunting. First you have to either learn about your content management system’s capabilities or install plugins or software that require even more education. But that’s the easy part, the next step is actually coming up with the strategy. This is where I have seen about 98% of all personalization discussions end. Why? Because this takes a lot of time, conceptualization and [fingers crossed] a large whiteboard. You need to get in a room and think through the possibilities. A few questions right off the bat: How will you personalize? Who will get personalized content? What messages make the most sense?

How will you personalize?

The how is more about the content and less about the software/platform. You may want to simply show a banner ad to the visitor, or maybe a large text box at the top of the page, or perhaps a completely dynamic content block within the page copy. All of these are options, but the question is, which one will work best? Strategizing will help, but either trial and error or, better yet, AB testing are really the best ways to find out.

Who will get personalized content?

When you personalize it’s not an all or nothing kind of thing. You can target iPhone users or residents of New York. That doesn’t mean those that don’t fall into those groups have to get something too. This also helps in your testing of personalized content, as maybe you test a message to the eastern United State and leave the standard copy to the Western US. The basic question is, will a visitor falling into ‘this’ group be more apt to engage if you display them a personalized message versus standard copy?

What messages make the most sense?

Typically action-based messages ‘tend’ to do the best, but it really depends on the audience. For instance, content sites may display soccer-related content for anyone viewing a Women’s World Cup page or perhaps a visitor from Florida gets a text box saying there’s a 50% chance of rain today. Commerce and Lead-gen sites may push visitors towards an action based on navigation behavior. “Only 10 left in stock” to a visitor who looked at blue widgets or “Contact us today and save 10%” to a visitor looking for rental properties.

Personalization Strategy

It all boils down to having a strategy. Think through the questions above and how you’ll implement the messaging. Personalization is an incredibly powerful tool, as eMarketer notes “Nearly three-quarters cited increased visitor engagement as a main benefit from real-time personalization.”

What should I AB Test?

Having trouble deciding what to AB test?

Here is a fun list of potential things you can test on your website:

Commerce Sites:

  • Add to Cart button text/color
  • ANY page within the payment process (look for form requirements or distractions)
  • Product listing page layout and filter options
  • Product page layout
  • Image(s)
  • Text length
  • Reviews

Lead-gen Sites:

  • Form requirements (eg: do you have to require certain fields)
  • Form titles
  • Field order
  • Steps vs. No Steps

Content Sites:

  • Search results or article list page layout
  • Article page layout
  • Related links
  • Comments section
  • Lots of images vs. none
  • Amount of content OR section headings

There are virtually hundreds of things you could test on your website without needing to involve a designer nor a developer. By focusing on little things you can keep costs low, or even non-existent. All you need is a testing platform and you could even use the free service from Google Analytics called ‘Experiments’. Just start testing! Once you’ll start you’ll be amazed at how even the smallest variations can have huge impact to your conversion!

Oooh look, a squirrel!

In today’s world of flashy advertising, new fangled gadgets and the seemingly limitless capabilities of the internet it is easy for us to be overwhelmed.

I’m no scientist, but as I type this Pandora plays in the background, my iPhone is at the ready to my right and I am typing this on screen number one of my two-screen setup. All of this… wait, a biker just went by on the street outside my window… where was I?

The point here is FOCUS. Although you probably need it personally, I’m not necessarily talking about personal focus. Keeping your digital strategy focused is nearly an impossible task these days. With so many new technologies, tracking and targeting tools it is no wonder marketers get so overwhelmed day in and day out. So how do we get back on track? Lets ‘focus’ on that…

New isn’t always better

If you don’t know how to drive stick shift why in the world would you ‘upgrade’ your car to a manual Ferrari? This happens all the time in the business world though. Too many companies abandon their digital strategy because a new shiny object comes out promising to pinpoint audience segments with a message specifically for them and ultimately get them to buy more. Now, this strategy works when you’re ready, but not if you don’t know how to drive stick.

Stick to the basics…

Ya, ya, the basics are boring. I get it. However, typically the sports team that wins their championship tends to focus on the fundamentals, or basics (unless you’re the New England Patriots I guess). This should apply to your digital strategy. Can your analytics track the entire visitor experience? Do your inbound marketing tactics drive visitors to the right landing pages? Are the calls to action on your site clear and noticeable? These are all digital strategy fundamentals and too many companies do not exhaust their options here before moving onto the next big thing.

It’s not working…

Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be these days. Music tastes change by the hour. And there seems to be a new diet every second. My point is that we are always quick to jump to the next thing as opposed to seeing if what we currently have could actually work for us. Are you utilizing your tracking tools to their fullest potential? Are you driving visitors to the right landing pages? Are you taking advantage of all the segmentation features in your content management system? The next new thing won’t solve the issues of you not using your tools to their fullest. It’s sort of like a power saw because you can’t use a measuring tape when using your hand saw. Your cuts will still be way off with or without the power.

What can you do?

There are some simple questions to ask yourself before going out and spending money on that latest new technology:

  • Inbound Marketing
    • Have you exhausted your potential keyword opportunities and do you have content for them all?
    • Are you out of AB testing options for your Display, Email and PPC mediums?
    • Are you unable to target audiences any more granular than what your existing tools allow? Google has MANY targeting options…
  • Conversion Optimization
    • Have you conducted AB testing on all your landing pages through your existing testing tools?
    • Have you polled your website visitors through a usability test to see what they think you should do?
  • Website Analytics
    • Do you have more than just the basic tracking code implemented on your site?
    • Have you created Advanced Segments for several different factors including particular audiences?
    • Are you taking actions based on reviewing your analytics reports?

At the end of the day there are some really great tools out there that can absolutely help your business succeed online. However, make sure you’re utilizing them to take you to the next level, not to simply stay where you’re at. Remember that any new tool requires implementation and strategy time that adds to the overall cost. Instead of looking at the next shiny thing why not try and take full advantage of what you already have? The power is there, it is installed, but perhaps just needs a little TLC. It all starts with a strategy though… a failure to plan is a plan to fail (or in this case spend money on tools you don’t need).