One of the best ways to make sure your content will be successful is to test it ahead of time. This used to be almost impossible for small businesses without the resources to run focus groups, but A/B testing WordPress plugins make it easy for every entrepreneur to test content before publishing it.
📚 This guide to A/B testing will explain everything you need to know to run your first A/B test:
- What is A/B testing?
- Why do A/B testing?
- How to run A/B tests in five steps
- What are the best tools for A/B testing WordPress?
Let’s dive into it!
What is A/B testing?
A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a method for testing two slightly different versions of the same content.
Each version is displayed to a different portion of your audience. Then, engagement and conversions are tracked to determine which version will provide higher conversions when published.
Alternatively, you can also test more than two variants, which you’ll sometimes see referred to as A/B/n testing.
The most effective split testing only changes one element for each variant. This makes it easy to determine how that one change impacts performance.
You may also encounter the phrase “multivariate testing.” This is similar to A/B testing except that it tests multiple variables (and combinations of variables) at the same time.
This can be faster if you’re good with data but it can also make it difficult to understand what specific change is making a certain version perform better.
In contrast, A/B tests only test a single variable at a time (though this variable could be as large as an entirely different page).
Why do A/B testing?
There are a few reasons to do split testing:
- Make more sales. A/B testing is particularly great for optimizing landing pages to get more sales.
- Maximize conversion rates. These tests help you improve your conversion rates, which lets you get the most possible benefit from your traffic.
- Understand what makes content effective. Each test helps you understand how to optimize an individual piece of content. Over time, these insights can help you understand your customers’ general preferences, helping you create better content the first time.
- Identify easy fixes. Only testing one variable at a time means that you’ll be able to quickly implement any necessary changes.
- Save money on marketing. Split testing a marketing campaign helps you make sure it works before you spend a lot of money on it.
In short, A/B testing can help you make changes to your site that actually work, drawing in more people and getting more conversions from the visitors already on your site.
How to run an A/B test in five steps
Now, let’s look at what it’s like to run an A/B test in general. Then, in the next section, we’ll share some specific WordPress A/B testing tools that you can use to implement these principles on your site.
1. Choose the content you want to test
The first thing you’ll need to do is pick a page or post to run your test on. There are three categories of content you may want to run tests on:
- Underperforming content/landing pages. Split testing is a great way to figure out why existing content isn’t meeting its goals.
- Outdated content. Sometimes content is performing well but you want to update it, anyway. For example, you may want to modify some aspects of your homepage to represent changes in your business. A/B testing this content can help you make sure the updates don’t damage performance.
- New content that is being prepared for publication. You can run split tests on any piece of content before you publish it. This can be especially useful for landing pages and other important parts of your marketing funnel.
Create a list of content to test based on these categories. You’ll probably want to run two to three tests at a time, but for now, choose one piece of content and move on to the next step.
2. Choose the goal of your test
Next, you need to establish what you want to get out of your test. Do you want the page you’re testing to attract a lot of viewers to your website? Send people to a specific link? Convince people to buy something?
Your answer will determine the metric you want to test for:
- Views. This is the number of people visiting a specific page. More specifically, you want to optimize for organic views, which are people sent to your site by search engines. Check out our WordPress SEO Checklist for ideas on how to do this.
- Click-through rate. This is the percentage of visitors who click on a specific link within viewing the content you’re testing.
- Conversion rate. This is the number of people who take a specific action when viewing your content. Technically, this can be any action, but in most cases, conversion rate is used to refer to either signups (such as for a newsletter or membership program) or sales.
You also need to decide what counts as a meaningful enough difference for you to choose a particular piece of content.
For example, if you’re testing an updated version of existing content you might decide that you’ll only switch to the new version if it brings in at least 10% more conversions.
Most quality A/B testing tools include features to help you determine if a change is statistically significant or just noise.
3. Decide how to vary your content
Once you know what your goal is, you’re ready to decide how to vary the content. You can test any element of your content, including:
- Headline. You can test variations of a headline for a post/page or an email subject line.
- Images. You can test different versions of a banner or featured image, experiment with different placements of a product image, or otherwise test how an image is displayed to your audience. If you’re testing images remember to make sure both image variations are optimized for WordPress.
- How text is displayed. You can test different fonts and text sizes. You can also change how the text is organized, for example turning a sentence-style list into a series of bullet points.
- The copy itself. You can test different versions of the text within your content, for example switching out one testimonial on a landing page for another one from your testimonial library.
- The call to action (CTA). This is the part of your page that tells your customers to take action. You can test different ways of wording the CTA, different placements, or different color/image schemes to draw more attention to the CTA.
Remember to choose one element and one variation to test at a time. This makes it easier to identify the variable causing an increase or decrease in views, click-throughs, or conversions.
4. Set up your A/B test
Now you’re ready to implement your A/B test. The process for this will vary slightly based on the tool you’re using, but in general it will look something like this:
- Open your A/B testing tool
- Create a new test file
- Choose the content you want to test
- Set a goal for your test
- Create a duplicate of the content
- Modify the duplicate to reflect the change you decided to test in step three
- Set a timeframe for your test, remembering that the test needs to run for long enough to get a statistically significant result
- Activate your test
When the test is activated, your A/B testing WordPress tool will automatically split traffic to the content, showing each variation to different people. Some tools may also let you customize how traffic will be split between the two versions.
5. Choose the best variation
The final step is to track your goal metrics over time so that you can choose the best version of your content to publish. There are a couple of ways to do this:
- Let the AI decide. Some split testing tools automatically crunch the numbers for you and tell you what the most successful variation is.
- Crunch the numbers yourself. You can also look at the data yourself to determine what variation is getting the highest views, click-throughs, or conversions.
You can then either publish the content or create new variations to run it through more A/B tests.
What are the best tools for A/B testing WordPress?
There are several A/B testing plugins for WordPress. Here’s a quick overview of my three favorites to help you choose:
Nelio Testing is an advanced testing plugin that lets you run split tests and multivariate tests on every aspect of your WordPress site. This includes posts, pages, custom post types, headlines, WooCommerce products, themes, and even CSS.
You can also use Nelio Testing to generate heatmaps, showing you where visitors spend the most time on a given page or post.
🧐 Who this tool is best for
Nelio Testing is ideal if you want the option to run A/B tests on every aspect of your WordPress site, not just your landing pages.
Google Optimize is the A/B testing solution created by Google. You can run regular A/B tests, split tests, URL redirect tests, and personalization tests. There are also more advanced features like server-side experiments.
The one downside of Google Optimize is that it won’t integrate directly with your WordPress site. However, there is a Chrome extension that makes it very easy to set up your variants using a visual interface that works kind of like a WordPress page builder.
The interface will automatically import your WordPress content and you never need to interact with any code.
Google Optimize is 100% free.
🧐 Who this tool is best for
Google Optimize is ideal for anyone who wants to run free A/B tests and who doesn’t mind running those tests outside of their WordPress admin panel.
Despite its free price tag, Google Optimize is still one of the most powerful A/B testing tools out there.
Thrive Optimize is a specialized A/B testing tool for WordPress pages, specifically pages designed with the Thrive Architect page builder. This plugin makes it easy to set up tests, duplicate content, and track a variety of metrics. You can even set it to choose the winner automatically when the test is complete.
Thrive Optimize works on pages built by the WordPress block editor but doesn’t work on pages created with third-party page builders. Thrive Optimize also isn’t compatible with WordPress posts.
You can buy Thrive Optimize + Thrive Architect for $167/year. You can also get these plugins bundled into the full Thrive Suite for access to a form builder, course builder, and more.
🧐 Who this tool is best for
Thrive Optimize is a great choice if you only want to test WordPress pages built with the Gutenberg editor and/or if you’re already using Thrive Architect to build your pages.
However, it won’t work if you want to A/B test content from another plugin, such as a design that you’ve created with Elementor.
🏁 Final advice on A/B testing WordPress
Split testing can help you create better content and, over time, develop an understanding of the choices that impact how your audience responds to content. You can run your first A/B test in five steps:
Do you still have any questions about A/B testing WordPress content? Let us know in the comments!
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