Give Your Website The A/B Test


Now that we’re approaching the holiday season (Halloween is in full swing, and I heard my first Christmas advertisement the other day, even though Labor Day was just last week), it’s a good time to review your website to make sure it’s ready for the holiday rush.


If you look at some of your web pages and think, “We could probably do this better” but aren’t sure if changes will draw more customers and keep them engaged, it’s time to test your ideas. This can be achieved through simple A/B testing.


If you’re not familiar, this relates to testing a new web page design against the current one and track visitors, engagement, and visibility over a set period of time. A simplistic example is making one change on a web page to find out if it is more effective – in our example, we’ll use a difference in the “buy now” button on a webpage. Maybe the current button on your website to start the purchase transaction is small and gray. On the new design, you may want to try making it more prominent, both in size and color.


You can create this new page and then set up an A/B test. As customers reach this page on your site, they will be evenly distributed between your original page and the new test page. Over time, you will be able to see which page leads to more customers clicking on the “buy now” button and making a purchase. The one with the most clicks is the winner. Very simple.


You can play around with content, images vs no images, or any other aspect of the page that you and your team may think isn’t driving the traffic you’d like. You also need to keep in mind that you’ll need to choose a page (or pages) of your site that have a call to action or some other way to measure success. It could be clicking on a link to reach another page you’d like customers to get to, download a whitepaper, or fill out a form.


Once you have a goal and web page in mind, you can easily set up A/B testing through a variety of sites. This article outlines some of the most popular sites to conduct A/B testing. Google Analytics is free once you set up an analytics account for your website. We have used it in the past – it’s user friendly and easy to implement with a basic understanding of creating web content and inserting code into the pages. If you’re not familiar with this, you may need the help of your IT Department.


If you’re interested in testing your site, here are some things to remember:


1. Start small: when creating a new page, there should be only one element that is different from the original content. Otherwise, you may not know which change is the one that is driving more traffic or call to action.


2. Take it one page at a time: identify which page on your site is most relevant to your goal, and start there, especially if you see it’s not driving the results you want. Start with this page and work on others one at a time until your most relevant and important pages have been tested.


3. Have patience: depending on website traffic, you may have results with in as little as a few weeks, or a month. If you’re website doesn’t see a lot of traffic, it may be longer. Wait it out and see what happens before making any decisions.


If you sell products online, it will be important to make sure your site is ready for the holidays. If A/B testing seems too complex or you just don’t have time, you may want to invest in usability studies. Mystery shoppers can easily be deployed for this task, and it is a cost effective service. Shoppers can be instructed to make a purchase, whether it’s a specific item or items that interest them. They will then provide a play by play narrative (or voice recording if you’d like) that walks you through their experience, noting what is easy to find and do and where they get tripped up. This can give you valuable insight into areas of the website that need improvement as well.


With online shopping more competitive than ever, it’s a good idea to continually review your website to make sure it’s the best it can be to provide an easy, relevant, and positive experience for your customers.


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