We’ve all heard the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”
It’s a nice sentiment, but there’s a better way to succeed in digital marketing. It’s called A/B testing, or split testing, and it helps you find the most effective marketing messages by experimenting with two versions and tracking the results.
The most important thing to note is that you shouldn’t test two completely different versions of an asset. You need to take a more strategic approach.
Here’s how to split test an email campaign:
1. Define your goal.
What is your goal for the email? To accurately measure your results, you need to clearly define this before you start testing different variables. Typical goals for a campaign may include driving a hundred e-commerce sales per week or securing a certain number of attendees for an event.
2. Choose one variable to test.
You can test almost any element of a marketing asset with a split test, but you should only test one at a time. This way, you know which variable to attribute your results to. For email marketing, common split tests include:
- Subject line: does one line generate more opens than another?
- Layout: will a colorful layout with images lead to more click-throughs?
- Call to action: what tone of writing gets more readers to take action?
Again, you can test almost anything – but only one element at a time.
3. Split your list.
Divide your email list into two. One segment will get the control (the asset you’re currently using), and the other segment will get the test (the new version of the asset with one element changed). For a valid test, the makeup of each segment should be similar so that your results can be squarely pinned to the one element you’re testing.
When you’re working in channels outside of email, like news releases or social media, you can’t always “split your list.” What you can do is split test from tweet-to-tweet, day-to-day, or release-to-release, just as long as you’re careful to change only one variable.
4. Look for trends – and improve!
Is one version performing significantly better than the other? Congratulations – you’ve found a trend, especially if you’ve run the test more than once. The winning version now becomes the control for your next split test.
Over time, the insights you gain can strengthen your long-term marketing strategy as you learn to recognize patterns and response rates. Perhaps certain calls to action produce more shares, or specific headlines get more open rates.
Whatever the results, they can reveal some valuable information about the audience you are trying to reach, which you can carry over into other aspects of your business’s marketing plan.