Why you should A/B test your copy

Written by Rachel McCallion

Could a bolder headline reduce your bounce rate? Would a more functional call to action boost your sales? Don your lab coat – A/B testing is here to help you experiment your way to optimised copy. Without scaring off any loyal customers in the process.

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing is when you create two similar-but-different versions of your copy and pit them against each other to see which performs better. Like the ‘better-or-worse?’ test they do at the opticians, but without a big machine all up in your face.

Crucially, A/B testing lets you see alternate copy in action without committing to it. So if the test content turns out to be a bad move, you’re no worse off. Smart.

Is A/B testing worth it? 

A/Bsolutely (forgive me). 

Small changes can be powerful. Discovery Communications upped video engagement by 6% by testing components of its video player. 

There are a whole host of other companies who have employed A/B testing to their benefit.

How does A/B testing work?

Let’s say you want to use A/B testing to optimise your website. You’ll need some testing software (HubSpot has put together this helpful list) and a hypothesis of what might improve your page’s performance.

Next, you set up two versions of your content. Version A is your current copy – the control. Version B is mostly the same, but with one small change that puts your hypothesis to the test – the variation.

The software then controls which version each visitor sees when they reach your site.

Some users will see Version A.

A random sample will see Version B.

The result for most visitors: nothing. It’s business as usual and all the hard work you’ve put into creating your page still stands. Meanwhile, the analytics from the subset of visitors who saw Version B give you just enough information to see if the change is one you should roll out. 

What elements of your page can you A/B test?

Pretty much anything. Just not all at once.

If you test all the elements of a page at the same time, you’re unlikely to learn much – you’ll have no way of telling which changes caused which results. But test each change in turn and you’ll learn exactly how to impact your engagement.

Common copy components to test include:

  • Headings
  • Calls to action
  • Copy length and style
  • Offers

If you want to test multiple changes at once, you can use a slightly different technique known as ‘multivariate testing’ instead.

Put A/B testing in your toolkit 

We’re not saying you need to test every little tweak to your web copy. But keep A/B testing up your sleeve for those tricky copy decisions that need greater investigation. It will soon become your secret weapon for optimisation – generating quick results and lessons you can take into future projects. 

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