Inbound Marketing Is A Science And Science Dictates That You Test Everything
Once data became available on almost every aspect of marketing, it evolved into a science. Today, we have real-time data on everything, including website visitors, conversion rates, leads, blogging, content, email, search, rankings and page performance. It’s all there in black and white — no more gray areas.
What this means is that you’re now able to systematically improve your marketing over time by testing various components in a structured way. One of the best ways to do this is by applying a “we should test that” attitude to your inbound marketing and by applying A/B tests in as many relevant places as possible.
Our friends at Optimizely (a testing software platform) define A/B testing (also known as split testing or bucket testing) as “a method of comparing two versions of a webpage or offer against each other to determine which one performs better. A/B testing is essentially an experiment where two or more variants of a page are shown to users at random, and statistical analysis is used to determine which variation performs better for a given conversion goal.”
Now that you know what A/B testing is, here are some of our favorite A/B tests that we run for our clients to help them improve lead generation.
1) Landing Page Tests
Running experiments on landing pages is one of the first places you can focus your “let’s test it” attitude. Landing pages are already built, can be tweaked with very little effort and often produce a big lift in terms of results. When we prioritize work, upgrades to landing pages usually gets put into our sprints first.
One test to consider is shortening the forms. By shortening the forms, you can almost always drive a higher conversion rate. Changing the headline is another great way to keep people who landed on the page connected to the value of the offer provided. Also, consider using a different image. Many people might not be reading your copy, but they’re all looking at the picture on the page. By using an image that represents your offer instead of a stock image, you’ll probably see a nice lift.
2) Home Page Messaging Tests
Your home page is one of the most important pages on your site (notice I didn’t say the most important page, because key landing pages might actually be more important). You might think you have wonderful messaging on the site already, but you should test other messages. If you have a high bounce rate (over 60%), if you’re not converting visitors into leads on this page or if people are not clicking on other pages, you have a messaging issue.
You only have 10 seconds to get a prospect’s attention. You have to emotionally connect with them quickly and you have to disrupt their status quo enough to move them to action. This is a monumental task, and that’s why messaging, stories and page copy are so important. Testing different messages and then watching the key metrics is a great way to see which stories work with your target prospects and which stories are easy to ignore.
3) Home Page Flow Tests
Today’s websites have long, scrolling pages that work well on all types of devices, but this presents a challenge. How much of the page are people actually seeing? One way to find out is to use heat-map and click-tracking tools.
Once you get this type of data, you can create A/B tests to see which design supports your visitors’ journey to the bottom of the page. Almost every page has important information at the top, middle and bottom of the page. In some cases, the conversion points are at the bottom of the page, and if people never make it down there, they never see your offers and will never convert from visitors into leads.
4) Email Subject Line Tests
Email marketing is an important part of any inbound campaign, but it still has to be effective. The first stage of any email campaign is getting the email opened, and the only way to achieve that objective is with compelling subject lines. A/B testing of subject lines gives you a clear indication of what types of issues are resonating with your clients.
For example, you might think being direct is the best way to go so your subject line is “Square 2 Marketing’s March E-Newsletter,” while others think a more compelling but obscure subject line like “Need More Leads? Learn How To Turn Your Website Into A Lead-Generating Machine” is better. A/B testing puts all the guessing to an end. You send the same email to everyone, but in an automated and easy way you test the two different subject lines. The email with the best open rate proves the point.
Now you know how to focus subject lines in the future to produce the best results.
5) Call-To-Action Tests
Call-to-action buttons (or CTA buttons) are everywhere today, from simple buttons with text to more graphic buttons with images and copy. It’s worthwhile to run A/B tests on CTA button designs, copy for the CTA buttons and the graphic images on the designed CTAs.
In this case, you’re testing clicks and not necessarily conversions, which is the job of the landing page. The CTA button’s job is to get people to the landing page. Here’s an example: We learned that “Download My Whitepaper” performs better than “Download Your Whitepaper.” I know, it sounds crazy, but the data doesn’t lie.
You can also A/B test locations for the CTA button on the page. You’d be surprised how moving a CTA button around on the site can produce dramatically better results. You won’t know unless you use the “let’s test that” mantra.
6) Site Navigation Tests
When it comes to passionate arguments with clients, site architecture and navigation takes the cake. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a site that looks like they want their site to look, and everyone is basing their opinions on attitude and assumptions instead of data. Rather than building the site to any one specification, create an A/B test for the navigation and then watch the site perform until it is clear which navigation produces the best results.
7) Image Tests
Finally, people love to speculate on the right pictures for the website. In fact, it can become a major distraction. Again, everyone has ideas and opinions, but those mean nothing in marketing anymore. Instead, test both picture ideas and see which one produces the best results.
For example, women love seeing pictures of women on the web, and men love seeing pictures of women too. However, if you have a male-dominated persona, you might want to use a picture of a man. Why not test which picture delivers better results? Build two similar pages, one with a man and one with a woman, and keep everything else the same on the site. Then, after a few weeks, check to see which version produced the most leads or at least the most clicks on to other pages. You can also look at competing bounce rates. Before you know it, you’ll be able to shutter the weaker page and focus all your energy on some other test.
When you’re doing testing, try to limit the changes in the A and B versions to only one variable. For example, if you’re changing the headline, then just change the headline. Don’t change the headline, copy bullets, images and form fields. While this multi-variable change approach might produce better results, you won’t know which change impacted the results, so you won’t know how to fix pages going forward.
While the one change at a time approach will take longer, you’ll learn much more and drastically improve your ability to impact results going forward. You’re also going to want to make sure your tests are live for long enough to drive enough data points (visitors, clicks, conversions) to make the tests valid. For example, if only five people visit the site and four convert on page A while one converts on page B, it doesn’t necessarily mean page A is better. It just means your sample size is not big enough yet to be meaningful.
On the flip side, you don’t need thousands of data points either; you just need enough for you to feel like your data set is relevant. In most cases, a few hundred should be fine.
Developing a testing mentality within your marketing is like learning a new skill. It will take time, practice and discipline. You’re going to want to jump to action, but instead, repeat the “we should test that” mantra. Eventually, testing will become second nature and you’ll more naturally create tests, execute tests and evaluate test data as a regular part of your marketing activities.
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