Whether your setting up a new website or redesigning a current one, there are many choices you have to make that can have a major impact on the amount of traffic that is driven to your website and how each user behaves once they get there.
When it comes to creating a website there are many “what ifs” in regards to design, functionality, wording and, most importantly, conversions. You may feel inclined to make decisions based on what you thinkyour consumers may like, but in reality that is just a guess.
If you are anything like me, making decisions can be a struggle. I encountered this specific issue while I was setting up my WordPress website. I couldn’t decide on which theme, color palette or fonts to use and I ended up completely redoing my website 4 different times. Each time I had to guess what would be the most appealing to my visitors.
Even though the audience for my website may be different from an e-commerce or lead generation site, the main goal is the same: attracting and appealing to your target audience.
In my case, I wanted to create a website where recruiters and potential employers could find out information about me (view my resume, experiences, past projects, etc.). I wanted to create a site that made me look hirable.
In most cases, businesses want to create a website that ends with some kind of conversion, whether that be a completed transaction, a PDF download or a newsletter sign up.
How do you know what elements your visitors are going to respond to? And how can you optimize your website so that you not only meet your business objectives, but also engage your audience?
First things first….what is optimization?
“Website optimization is the process of using controlled experimentation to improve a website’s ability to drive business goals. To improve the performance of their website, website owners implement A/B testing to experiment with variations on pages of their website to determine which changes will ultimately result in an increase in engagement, clicks, purchases, or other type of action.” – Optimizely
Measurable benefits of optimization:
- Determines the best version of web page elements that help visitors to accomplish a certain goal.
- Improves the efficiency of the website at converting visitor traffic into email subscribers, readers, or paying customers.
- Results in greater ROI on customer acquisition and traffic-generating campaigns such as web searches, AdWords, social media, and email marketing.
Remember back in elementary school when you had to conduct an experiment for the science fair? First, you had to form a hypothesis and then conduct an experiment that included a controlled variable and a manipulated variable. Website optimization follows a similar format through a process called A/B testing.
Since you can’t assume that your visitors find your website attractive, easy to navigate or clear in providing information, you should conduct an A/B test to positively know how your visitors behave when using your website.
A/B testing allows you to make variations of the pages on your site so that you can study the differences in the behavior of your users, and make well-informed decisions on what changes and improvements to make.
These changes and improvements will ultimately optimize your users experience on your website and can lead to higher conversion rates.
How does A/B Testing work?
A/B testing, commonly referred to as split testing, is when you take an element of a webpage or app and modify it so that you create a second version of the same page. Then half of your traffic is shown to the original page (controlled variable) and half is shown on the modified page (manipulated variable).
As your users engage with each version of your website, you can compare the data through statistical analysis to determine which variation performs better for a given conversion goal. This allows you to gain insights on your user’s experience and takes the guesswork out of knowing if you made the right change to your website.
The A/B Testing Framework:
- Collect Data: Review your analytics and determine which pages on your website need a boost in traffic (or are not meeting conversion goals).
- Identify Goals: What do you want your users to do while they are on your website? This can be anything from filling out a submission form, clicking on a link or watching a video. Make sure you have a clear and concise goal before going into the test.
- Generate Hypothesis: Highlight which elements on your site you want to change and determine why you think those changes will be successful.
Create Variations: Use an A/B testing software (I recommend Optimizely) and make changes to your website.
- Run Experiment: As visitors visit your website they will be randomly directed to either the controlled version or manipulated version of your website. Their interactions will be recorded and later used to compare which version performed better.
- Analyze Results: After your test is complete, your A/B testing software will present the data and show you how each variation performed and if the difference was statistically significant. You can then use this data to make decisions on what changes should and shouldn’t be made to your site.
When might you need to run an A/B test?
- Site Relaunch: Instead of creating a whole new website and then launching it, start with an A/B test and see how your users react. You never know, your audience may love your original site and oppose any changes.
- Marketing Campaigns: Create A/B tests for your landing pages when running marketing campaigns. That way if your audience dislikes the message that you are sending, your campaign is not a total loss.
- Decreased Conversions: If you notice that you are not meeting your goals and traffic to your website has declined, it might be time to run an A/B test to see what is going wrong.
- Increased Conversions: A/B tests can also be used when your website is thriving. It is a good idea to see what is working and what elements of your website users engage with the most.
- Product Launch: If you are about to launch a new product or service, it would be logical to test out multiple options during the launch, so you can respond quickly if something isn’t working the way it should.
A Success Story: Electronic Arts (EA)
Two weeks after EA launched SimCity 5, they had sold 1.1 million copies. 50 percent of the copies sold were digital downloads. EA gives credit to strategic A/B testing for its success.
EA prepared for SimCity 5’s release by advertising a promotional offer to create more momentum for game pre-orders.
The original advertisement was displayed as a banner across the top of the pre-order page, what EA thought would be front and center for shoppers. Unfortunately, the promotion was not returning as much of an increase in pre-orders as they were expecting.
They decided to implement another design/layout option to see if they could drive more revenue.
Here is the original promotion:
On one variation of the page they decided to remove the promotion completely. This lead to some surprising results, the variation with no promotion drove 43.4 percent more purchases.
Here is the website without the promotion:
In most cases, direct promotions result in more purchases, but this was not the case for EA. A/B testing gave them the insight to optimize revenue in a way they would have not originally thought of.
Website optimization and a well-planned A/B test can have a huge impact on the effectiveness of your website. As a business, you do not want to put a bunch of money into advertising to only have your users lose engagement once they visit your website. A/B testing provides you with the information you need to create a site that will improve user engagement, increase conversion rates and help you meet business objectives.