Effective marketing takes a lot of time and money. In 2019, American companies spent about $15.2 billion on marketing. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t see the returns that they would like. Who wants to dedicate thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to marketing projects that don’t motivate target audiences?
If you aren’t getting the results you expect, you may find that A/B testing can dramatically improve your outreach and conversions. You can apply A/B testing to practically any aspect of your advertising and marketing approach, including ad copy, landing pages, and lead generation forms.
Before getting into the details of how you can benefit from A/B testing, let’s take an overview to see how it works.
What Is A/B testing in digital marketing?
A/B testing is a strategic approach that helps you identify your most effective approaches to marketing. At the most basic level, you release two advertisements. Then, you track which one performs better. The one that brings you more ROI gets preference over the one that under-performs. Why keep spending money on an ad that doesn’t convert consumers into customers?
A/B testing can get more complex. For instance, it can include more than two pieces of content. You can release as many as you want, but a larger campaign will cost more money.
You can also use ongoing A/B testing campaigns to keep improving your campaigns. When your research finds that ad A outperforms ad B, you can turn your attention to ad A’s details. You may find a few ways to improve ad A. If the revised version performs better, then you can replace the original. Then, you can continue optimizing your content with new versions. It’s an ongoing process that should lead to more audience engagement and increased sales.
How do you perform an A/B test?
You can A/B test every part of your ad campaign, including videos, images, ad copy, landing pages, calls-to-action (CTA), and lead generation forms.
It often makes sense to introduce advertisements with subtle differences. Over time, you will learn a lot about how your target audience responds to certain aesthetics and messages.
Now that you have a good overview of A/B testing, let’s take a deeper dive into five areas that can help your business thrive.
How to A/B test ad creatives
Despite having so many options in the “creative” category, it’s one of the easier items to A/B test. Many A/B tests involve:
Adding a CTA click button to an image versus using an un-clickable version.
Putting your company logo next to images versus leaving the logo off.
Using different color schemes to determine which one your audience finds most attractive.
Many companies assume that custom illustrations and photos will get the best results. That’s not always the case. Custom imagery sounds like the obvious choice, but it can cost a lot of money and get underwhelming results.
You can get free stock and illustration images from websites like:
If you have room in your budget for an image subscription, consider Shutterstock. The website has low rates and a diverse collection of photographs.
You can’t assume that unique images will perform better than free and subscription images. You also can’t assume that online photos will perform better than your in-house images. With A/B testing, you get hard data that shows you which options your audience prefers.
Other A/B testing options for creatives include:
Photos with faces versus photos without faces.
15-second videos versus 30-second videos.
Don’t make assumptions. Follow the data!
A/B testing ad copy
Ad copy has a tremendous influence on the power of social media posts. Something as simple as asking a question instead of making a statement could convince more people to follow your link.
Some of the ad copy that needs A/B testing include:
Subject lines and headers.
Social media body content.
Posts with and without emojis.
Posts that offer free downloads, guides, and case studies.
Even the order of your ad copy can matter. Do you lead with a question or start with a fact? You don’t know until you try both options and compare the interaction rates.
A campaign where we kept the same image and tested out varying ad copy subjects and bodies.
A/B testing CTAs (call-to-actions)
Few things matter more than a well-made CTA. Some research shows that adding a CTA to Facebook posts increases click-through rates by 285%! If your CTA convinces people to act, then you’ve taken a big step toward securing a new customer. If few people respond, then your CTA isn’t doing its job.
Many CTAs are pretty generic. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work, though. No need to reinvent the wheel! Options that often work well include:
Act Now – It creates a sense of urgency so consumers feel compelled to take advantage of a short-term offer.
Install Now (Download Now) – Usually works when you want people to start using your app.
Get Started – It offers the gentle nudge needed for consumers to try free and freemium services.
Try Now – Indicates that you have a free version for people to try.
Subscribe – When you want to create an ongoing conversation with readers.
Let’s Chat – A good way to encourage people to continue a casual conversation about your products or services.
Sign Up (Register) – Often gets good results when you want people to sign up for an app or service.
Request a Demo (Schedule a Demo) – A strong option when you want your audience to see how your SaaS solves problems.
Connect With an Expert (Schedule a Call) – Usually applies to enterprise or high-cost items that people need to learn more about before making commitments.
Learn More – You should usually avoid this option. It’s extremely generic. Plus, your social media marketing should already give audiences the essential information they need. If they want to learn more, they’ll respond to other CTAs that use strong verbs to grab their attention.
Again, nothing is written in stone. Test, test, test to make sure every CTA reaches your audience and inspires action!
A campaign where we tested different CTAs -- Get Quote versus Learn More.
A/B testing landing pages
You cannot overestimate the importance of your landing pages. They offer the most in-depth explanations about how your products and services can benefit buyers. It’s also a place where you can position some of your most influential CTAs.
For the most part, landing pages should:
Use keywords that will bring more traffic to your website.
Identify pain points and explain how your service/product eliminates them.
Provide a clear headline that gets to the point.
Include subheads that identify specific benefits of your service or product.
Explain the pleasure of using your service or product (user reviews often fill this role well!)
Give visitors an easy way to buy or reach out to a sales rep.
As you can see, a good landing page includes a lot of elements. You can A/B test all of them. If you try to tackle too much at once, though, you will probably generate a lot of confusing data. Most agencies prefer making two or three landing pages and comparing their results.
Keep in mind that your social media posts can direct people to different landing pages. Taking this approach can broaden your target audience. It makes sense to pay attention to where landing page traffic comes from. Otherwise, you might misinterpret your results.
A/B testing form fills for lead generation
Most lead generation forms get the best results when they ask a small number of questions. You want to gather information about people, but you also want to make the experience simple so you can get their contact information.
You need to do more than A/B lead generation forms on one platform. What works on LinkedIn won’t necessarily succeed on Facebook. Experiment to see how people respond on various platforms.
You can put form fills on websites, but you should also place them on social media sites. People often feel more comfortable filling out forms that they find on websites that they trust. If they don’t know your brand, then they will feel reluctant to give you their information. When you have a professional post on Instagram or Facebook, though, your lead generation form looks more trustworthy and appealing.
We set up an A/B test with our clients' lead forms to see which would convert better.
Setting a budget for A/B testing
It’s easy to see how A/B testing can get out of control. You could spend hours fine-tuning a CTA. Comparing landing pages can feel like a job that never ends.
You can solve this issue by deciding what you want to test and setting a budget for the project. You could create two campaigns. Each campaign contains five ads. If you want to add other A/B testing options, the cost increases.
Theoretically, you could A/B test every aspect of your campaign. Realistically, that will take too much time and cost too much money.
To get the best results without going over budget, reach out to an expert who knows how to get useful data from your testing. In most cases, the A/B testing professional will recommend using a control and variant group. That way, you get meaningful insights without spending more than you can afford.