A/B Testing: What Is It And Practical Guide With Examples

Tech SEO

Diana Tsukanova

17 min read

In today's world, data is king and surrounds us in every aspect. However, despite conducting ample research, marketing campaigns may not always yield positive results. Relying on your own instincts can still work, but sometimes it just doesn’t cut it. So is there a solid way to get the job done? Definitely. And this is where A/B comes into play.

How can it be used? A/B testing helps you improve your campaign by identifying the most effective version, so you can avoid wasting loads of money on tools that don't work. Although A/B testing can be a bit laborious, it still saves your time by focusing straight forward on tasks to bring exact results.

By experimenting with different elements and identifying what resonates most with your audience, you can make a killer marketing plan.

Table of contents:
- What is A/B testing?
- How does A/B testing work?
- Why should you consider A/B testing?
- How to conduct A/B testing
- What can you A/B test?

So, what is actually A/B testing, and how can it change the marketing game? Let's delve deeper with a detailed explanation of each step and discover what's hidden at the bottom.

What is A/B testing?

So why is it actually called A/B testing? Essentially, it is a marketing tactic that involves contrasting two different samples of a product against each other to specify which one is more efficient. The audience is divided into two blocs, and each one is randomly shown either the A or B version of the product.

AB testing

Also, sometimes what works for one company may not work for another. A/B testing recognizes this fact and helps businesses tailor their websites to their specific audiences, resulting in better conversion rates and happier customers.

But don't just take my word for it; the proof is in the pudding (or, in this case, the data). By using A/B testing, you can move beyond "we think" to "we know" making optimization a breeze and driving up your ROI.

How does A/B testing work?

As I mentioned before, the A and B versions of the content are shown to different audiences. The A version represents the control group, while the B version is the variation.

The first one, the control group, stands for the initial version, while the second version alters a single element. Why only one, you ask? Well, throwing multiple changes into the mix can turn the whole experiment into a wild party where it's impossible to figure out who's influencing the results . It is worth noting that this approach is commonly known as multivariate testing.

To better understand it, let's think of A/B testing as a game of tennis . You serve up the original version of your website as the "control," and then volley back with a new version as the "variation." By testing these two variables, you can gain insights into what your audience responds to best, making data-informed decisions instead of wild guesses.

So, you can take emails, images, webpages, call-to-action buttons, or even just a headline and make slight modifications to create a second version of the product. These variations can then be shown to different segments of the audience for comparison, so you can determine whether the changes made in the variation had a positive, negative, or neutral effect compared to the baseline control. For example, some users are shown a website with a picture of a dog, while others see a website with a picture of a cat, to see which animal image attracts more engagement.

There are two types of A/B testing that can significantly enhance your website’s conversion rate: user experience and design variations.

UX UI Test

Example 1: UX Test

Imagine you want to enhance user engagement and click-through rates on a website's homepage. Let's consider a scenario where you have a carousel banner displaying multiple products and would like to replace it with a single hero image that has a clear call to action.

After conducting an A/B test, you need to create another webpage featuring the new element. Your current webpage, which showcases multiple products, will serve as the control group, or Variation A, while the new webpage with a single hero image will be the challenger, or Variation B.

The website's traffic will be randomly divided into two groups, with one group exposed to Variation A and the other to Variation B. User interactions, such as clicks and time spent on the page, will be tracked and compared between the two variations. The results will guide further improvements to the website's user experience in order to optimize conversions.

Example 2: UI Test

Maybe you're developing a new mobile app and want to test the impact of different color schemes on user engagement. You'll create two versions of the app, one with a warm color palette (Variation A) and another with a cool color palette (Variation B).

Visitors will be randomly assigned to either Variation A or Variation B and will be asked to complete specific tasks within the app.

Their interactions and feedback will be collected to determine which color scheme leads to better user engagement and satisfaction.

In the wild world of user behavior, numerous factors can impact the likelihood of a click. Mobile users may have a thing for petite buttons, while desktop users may have a preference for something more substantial. To address these variables and ensure fair play, randomization is key , as I previously mentioned. By shuffling users into different groups, you can level the playing field and make sure the results aren't skewed. The term for this technique is known as blocking.

Why should you consider A/B testing?

Nowadays, businesses may find themselves drowning in a sea of unqualified leads , while eCommerce stores wrestle with the frustrating dance of cart abandonment. As for media and publishing companies, they grapple with the elusive task of captivating viewer engagement. These challenges can take a toll on fundamental conversion metrics. But salvation comes in the form of A/B testing.

Why should you consider A/B testing

1. Solve visitor pain points

Navigating a website can be quite an adventure for visitors. Usually, they come to the website to browse around, explore a particular topic, or make a purchase. Nevertheless, sometimes they feel like they're lost in a maze of confusing content and hidden buttons like "Buy Now" or "Request a Demo . If visitors are unable to accomplish their goals, they'll become frustrated, resulting in a poor user experience.

This can lead to a chain reaction of issues that ultimately impact conversion rates in a negative manner. To improve this situation, you can use data obtained from tools like heatmaps, Google Analytics, and website surveys that analyze visitor behavior. By doing so, you can identify and address these pain points, ultimately enhancing your visitors' overall experience.

2. Get better ROI from existing traffic

Obtaining high-quality traffic for your website can come at a high cost, experts say. Fortunately, utilizing A/B testing can help you maximize the potential of your current traffic and enhance your conversion rates without the need to invest in additional traffic acquisition. As even minor adjustments to your website can result in a substantial increase in conversions, this can result in a significant return on investment.

3. Reduce bounce rate

Tracking your website's bounce rate is as crucial as remembering your passwords. A high bounce rate can be caused by various culprits, like confusing navigation, overwhelming options, and whatnot. Unfortunately, there's no single solution to reduce bounce rates, as each website caters to different segments.

Engaging in some A/B testing can be a clever way to pinpoint visitors' pain points and elevate their experience. By experimenting with different versions of your website, you can fine-tune it to cater to your visitors, enticing them to stick around longer and maybe even make those coveted conversions.

4. Low-risk modifications

Don't go all-in with a website overhaul. Take the savvy route by taking baby steps through A/B testing. By implementing this strategy, you can steer clear of endangering your current conversion rate and maximize your return on investment (ROI) with minimal adjustments. For instance, you can conduct A/B testing when you plan to update your product descriptions or introduce a new feature. This allows you to analyze your visitors’ reactions and determine which option may be more successful.

By testing changes before implementing them, you can increase your certainty about the outcome. Remember, don't roll the dice on your website's performance. Take the smart route by testing changes before implementing them.

5. Statistically significant improvements

A/B testing cuts out the guesswork and relies on hard data. It's all about crunching numbers to see improvements in areas like page duration, demo requests, cart abandonments, or clicks. It's all about making smart decisions based on the numbers.

6. Increase future business gains

To maximize your future business gains, it's time to give your website a sizzling makeover. This can involve making changes like tweaking the text and color of buttons on certain pages or completely revamping the entire site. However, it's important to use data-driven decisions, such as A/B testing, to choose the best option. Don't stop testing once the design is finalized. Keep testing different parts of your web pages even after the new version is live to ensure your visitors are served the most mouthwatering experience.

How to conduct A/B testing

We're almost there, guys. Now let's understand step by step what to do before, during, and after A/B testing.

Before A/B testing

Before diving into the exciting world of A/B testing, there are a few important steps to cover. These will help set the stage for a successful testing process. Here's what you should do before starting your A/B test:

How to conduct A/B testing

1) Choose one variable for the test

Optimizing variables can feel like diving into a sea of possibilities. To unravel what's effective and what's not, you've got to conduct experiments. It's all about taking one variable, giving it a performance check-up, and seeing the magic happen.

Start by clearly defining your goals for your web page or email. Once that's settled, pick a variable to test. Whether it's boosting click-through rates, supercharging conversion rates, or banishing bounce rates, go ahead and make things work. Don't underestimate the power of even the tiniest tweaks—they can bring robust results.

Now, here's the tricky part. While it might be tempting to test multiple variables at once, be cautious. Untangling their individual impacts can be as puzzling as figuring out who stole the last cookie from the jar.

2) Define your objective

It is vital to begin by selecting a primary metric. This metric serves as the dependent variable, influenced by the manipulation of the independent variable. Envisioning the desired outcome of this metric after the test and formulating an official hypothesis to compare the results against are crucial steps.

Embarking on a test without considering the significance of metrics and goals is akin to sailing without a compass. It is essential to allow your metrics and goals to lead the way right from the outset, ensuring an effective setup for your test. Therefore, before even configuring the second variation, make a deliberate choice regarding your primary metric and let it serve as your guiding star throughout the entire process.

3) Create a challenger and a control

To set up your experimental control scenario, first pinpoint the variables you're eager to test and the desired outcome. This move will aid you in crafting a control scenario that impeccably captures the essence of the original version.

When it comes to testing a web page, the control scenario is the page in its current unmodified state. For landing pages, it's the usual design and copy that you typically employ.

Once you've got the control scenario nailed down, it's time to build its challenger, i.e., the modified website, email, or webpage.

4) Divide your sample into equal and/or random groups

When it comes to A/B testing, it's important to test with two or more equal groups to get reliable results. The way you do this depends on the A/B testing tool you use. For example, when it comes to email campaigns, there are many that can help. They randomly divide the traffic so that each variation gets a fair chance. You don't have to worry about showing any bias. It ensures a fair process, giving you conclusive results that even luck would approve of.

5) Determine your sample size

Testing is key, but the size of your sample can make all the difference. Whether you're testing emails or web pages, you need enough data to draw meaningful conclusions.

For example, for email tests, you should send your test to a large enough subset of your mailing list to get significant results. Once you have a winner, you can confidently send it to the rest of the list. Now, when you're testing something like a web page and there's no specific audience size, time is your ally. The longer you run the test, the more views you'll accumulate. And the more views you have, the easier it becomes to detect any significant differences between the variations you're testing.

6) Decide how significant your results need to be

After defining your goal metric, it's time to delve into the game of statistical significance and determine which variation comes out on top. This factor is crucial in A/B testing as it determines the reliability of your results.

The confidence level percentage indicates the level of trust you can have in your results. It's all about certainty. Generally, aiming for at least 95% certainty is a good practice, considering the value of time and resources. Uncertain conclusions should be avoided.

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. In certain cases where the test is not critical and you're seeking minor improvements, you can be more flexible with your confidence level. Why? Because when dealing with small changes, random variations can easily distort your results.

So, remember to choose your confidence level wisely when it comes to statistical significance. It's the secret ingredient that distinguishes successful A/B testing from unreliable outcomes.

7) Make sure you're only running one test at a time on any campaign

When you engage in A/B testing with multiple elements within a single campaign, things can get a bit tangled.

Picture this: you're running an A/B test for an email campaign while simultaneously testing the landing page it leads to. Now, trying to figure out which element is the mastermind behind the increase in leads is like finding a needle in a haystack.

During A/B testing

Now let's take a ride through the essential steps for a successful A/B test.

During A/B testing

1) Use the A/B testing tools

Ready to rock your A/B test on your website or email? You'll need an A/B testing tool like Google Analytics . It lets you test up to 10 variations of a web page and analyze their performance with real users.

2) Run tests on both versions at once

Why is this important? Well, they say timing is everything, and that couldn't be more true when it comes to your marketing campaign. If you run version A one week and version B the next, it's hard to know if the change in performance is due to design or just the week. Run A/B tests at the same time so you can get accurate results. This way, you'll have reliable data and no doubts about what's causing the changes.

So keep testing and refining your timing strategy until you find the perfect sweet spot for your target audience.

3) Allow enough time for the A/B test to create relevant results

Patience plays the biggest role when it comes to obtaining meaningful results from your A/B test. It varies based on a range of factors unique to your company and your testing approach. The timeline could span from mere hours to weeks, or perhaps even longer.

One crucial factor is the amount of traffic you receive. If your website is bustling with visitors, the finish line may be closer. However, if your business experiences a trickle of traffic, you'll need to dig deep for the patience of a sloth.

Give your A/B test the time it needs to gather a robust data set, and you'll be on the path to uncovering valuable insights.

4) Obtain opinions from real users

A/B testing may give you numbers, but it won't spill the tea on why people prefer option A over option B. To really get to the bottom of it, you've got to tap into the source - your users! Gathering direct feedback from them is essential to gaining a better understanding. One smart way to do this is by conducting surveys or polls. They can uncover valuable insights that A/B testing alone can't capture, like why visitors ghosted a button or what made them swipe right on another. This kind of feedback provides a deeper understanding of user behavior and preferences.

After A/B testing

We are getting close to the finish line, so let’s unveil the final steps after A/B testing.

After A/B testing

1) Concentrate on your objective metric

While conducting your analysis on multiple metrics, remember to stay laser-focused on your primary goal metric. Let's say you tested two variations of an email, with leads as your primary metric. In this scenario, don't give too much importance to the click-through rates, as it might distract you from your primary goal. It's possible that one variation might have a higher click-through rate but a poor conversion rate, while the other might have a lower click-through rate but a higher conversion rate.

2) Calculate your testing results

Once you've put in the effort to determine which variation captivates your audience, you can assess whether your results are not merely a coincidence but a genuine game-changer. To accomplish this, it is essential to evaluate their statistical significance.

Instead of manually crunching numbers, use an A/B testing calculator to analyze the data. Just provide the total attempts and completed goals for each variation and let the calculator generate a confidence level for the winning version.

Now comes the critical moment. Compare the obtained confidence level with your selected threshold.

3) Take action based on your results

If it surpasses this threshold, congratulations! The results are statistically significant, giving you the green light to embrace the change and revel in your ingenuity. Disable the losing variation in your A/B testing tool to complete your test.

However, if the test is a head-scratcher, label it inconclusive. Stick with the original variation or take another shot. Learn from the failed data to ace your next test iteration.

A/B tests are great for improving results one test at a time, but don't forget to apply what you learn to future endeavors.

4) Plan your subsequent A/B test

So you have a new approach to enhancing your marketing content. But it's just the beginning. Continuous optimization is the name of the game. It's time to play around with other web page or email features using A/B testing. Get wild with experiments on body copy, color schemes, or images.

Keep your eyes peeled for those golden opportunities to boost lead generation and conversion rates.

What can you A/B test?

If you're not testing, you're just guessing. And guessing is not a marketing strategy - unless you're a psychic marketer. To enhance the effectiveness of your marketing and website, conducting tests is critical. Experiment with elements such as forms, navigation, headlines, and CTAs. But focus on making changes that will have a big impact on traffic and conversions, rather than testing everything.

What can you A/B test?

To improve your website's performance and boost conversion rates, try testing and optimizing various elements. Remember: if you can change it, you can test it. So don't hesitate to experiment until you find what works best for your business.

1) Headlines and subheadlines

In the fast-paced digital world, headlines reign supreme. It's the first thing people see, and it can make or break their impression of your site. That's why it's crucial to craft your headlines and subheadlines carefully. They should be short, impactful, and clearly convey your message from the start. You might want to try A/B testing different fonts and writing styles to see which ones grab people's attention the most. This can help you inspire visitors to take action and convert them into customers.

2) Design and layout

In the wild world of business websites, finding the essential elements can be a bit tricky. Thankfully, A/B testing provides an effective means of resolving this dilemma. By performing A/B tests, you can determine the most vital components for your website.

Let's take a look at an eCommerce store where the product page holds the key to conversions. In this digital age, customers have become pickier. They crave high-quality visuals, especially before committing to a purchase. So, optimizing the design and layout of the product page is insanely important.

The page design combines elements like images, videos, and text to create a product page that smoothly addresses all visitor concerns, avoiding confusion and clutter.

  • Offer transparent information : Show off your products in an imaginative way with clear information that's easy to find. Craft clear content and prominently display size charts, color choices, and other relevant information.
  • Honesty is the best policy : Include both positive and negative reviews for your products, as this lends credibility to your online store.
  • Keep it simple : Avoid using complex language and write in a straightforward and enjoyable style.
  • Act now : Create urgency with limited stock notices, countdown timers, and exclusive discounts to encourage immediate purchases.

Craft compelling home and landing pages, prioritize their design, and enhance their performance through A/B testing. Experiment with various concepts, such as incorporating ample white space, utilizing high-quality images, or featuring product videos, to determine the optimal layout. Streamline your pages and assess heatmaps, clickmaps, and scrollmaps to pinpoint inactive clicks and potential distractions. Eliminating superfluous elements will facilitate visitors' promptly locating the desired information.

3) Navigation

Navigation plays an essential role in providing a great user experience. It's important to have a clear plan for your website's layout and how different pages are connected. By using A/B testing, you can try out different navigation options, find the most user-friendly design, and enhance the overall usability of your site.

The foundation of your website's navigation begins at the home page, which serves as the primary page from which all other pages branch out and interconnect. Ensure that your layout allows visitors to effortlessly locate the information they seek and does not leave them feeling disoriented due to a disrupted navigation pathway. Each click should guide users to their intended destination efficiently.

Here are a few ideas to improve your website's navigation:

  • Give your website a user-friendly navigation bar . Place the navigation bar in the expected spots - either horizontally across the top or vertically on the left side.
  • Simplify your website's navigation . By grouping similar products together you allow visitors to easily find all related items in one place. For example, if you sell different types of furniture, such as sofas, chairs, and tables, organize them in a way that enables users to locate all these options without the need for separate searches, ensuring a seamless browsing experience.
  • Craft a seamless, intuitive website . Last but not least. Maintaining a simple and predictable structure that meets your visitors' expectations. This not only improves conversion rates but also delivers a delightful customer experience, encouraging visitors to return to your site.

4) Forms

Forms are crucial for customer communication , especially in the purchase process. Different audiences require different types of forms, such as shorter forms for some businesses and longer forms for others, to improve lead quality. Use research tools like form analysis to identify areas for improvement and optimize your form accordingly, finding the best style for your audience.

5) Call-to-actions (CTA)

The call-to-action plays a crucial role in deciding if visitors finalize transactions, submit forms, or participate in other actions that affect your conversion rate . Utilizing A/B testing enables you to test various CTA aspects such as wording, location, size, and color schemes, ultimately assisting you in discovering the version that yields the highest conversion optimization potential.

6) Social proof

Social proof comes in many forms, like endorsements from experts and customers, testimonials, and awards. These elements back up your website's claims. A/B testing helps you assess the impact of using social proof and find suitable types, amounts, and placements. Experimenting with different forms, layouts, and locations lets you discover the optimal combination that effectively supports your goals.

7) Content

Remember that the quality of your content impacts your search engine optimization (SEO) as well as important performance indicators such as conversion rates, engagement, and user retention. A/B testing allows you to discover the optimal balance between these factors.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the best way to predict the future is by running experiments. Therefore, let your data speak for itself and embrace the power of testing. As Thomas Edison once famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."