A/B Split Testing and Multivariate Testing – Tips, Tools, and Software

Stop trying to get more TO your website, start getting more FROM your website 

Raise your hand if you get excited when you hear the words “Multivariate testing”?  How about “A/B Split Testing”? Do these phrases ring true with excitement for you?
Probably not.
But do not worry, my guess is that by the end of this article you will be excited about the possibility of what these terms mean.  First and foremost, these words spell a certain relief for most website owners.  This article, unlike so many other articles that focus on bringing more and more traffic to your website from new and various sources, will focus on something quite simple. This article will ask the question: don’t you have enough already?
Let’s take a step back for a minute.  Most website owner’s share a common goal: to get more conversions.  A conversion may be a sale, it may be a newsletter signup, it may be lead, it may be a phone call, it may be a download, etc.  We put websites up to achieve a certain end, and when that end is achieved, a goal is reached.  So with that in mind, how do we increase the number of times our goals are reached? How do we increase our conversions?
There are two ways: 1) we can get more traffic, and 2) we can do more with the traffic we have.  Guess which one of these is usually ignored?
So this is where this article comes in: to discuss doing more with what we have.

A/B Split Testing – Even My Kids Can Do It

My kids do A/B split testing every day.  In fact, if you have kids, my guess is that they split test as well.  This morning my son came up to me and asked if he could have chocolate candy (I hadn’t fed him breakfast yet). Upon hearing my very tired “no”, he then went into the other room and asked his mother if he could have chocolate.  At just 2 years old, he is practicing the simple science of split testing. Unfortunately for him, he started with a losing proposition, so the result was the same.
Split testing is taking one element, creating a variation of it, and then testing the two variations against each other.  My son chose me as the element he would split test, chose my wife as the variation, then tested both parents to see if one created a better result than the other. For your website, you may not want to test your parents, but you may want to test your page titles, a picture, or a disclaimer.

Multivariate Testing – I’m Not So Sure My Kids Can Do It…

…but you can! Multivariate testing takes A/B split testing and puts it on steroids.  Rather than isolate just one element, multivariate testing encourages you to test multiple elements and multiple variations of those elements.  The reasoning here is important: multivariate testing recognizes that it is more than just a title or a picture or a disclaimer that drives conversions, rather, it is a combination of how all things work together on your pages that drive conversions.  Whereas a disclaimer on one page may reduce conversions, a disclaimer on a different page may actually increase conversions.

So how do you go about doing multivariate testing? Well, you don’t do it on your own – you need the help of software and tools.  Multivariate testing creates combinations which will all be tested against each other.  When testing multiple elements and multiple variations, the result is that you can generate a large number of variations rather quickly.  Keeping track of these variations, knowing when to stop testing one, etc, would be too much to realistically handle.

Knowing that multivariate testing is more complex and requires a bit more thought, it may be tempting to avoid it all together.  But to do so would be, in my opinion, a significant mistake.  Multivariate testing can uncover combinations of elements that you would never think to try on your own. When you are trying to get more out of what you already have, it is worthwhile to take the time to test, test, test.

Multivariate Testing Tools and A/B Split Testing Tools

Most multivariate testing tools are built for large organizations that have a staff of statisticians who throw around words like “standard deviation” and “multiple permutations” in their break room as if they were “normal” words (then again, they have a different definition of “normal” as that too is one of a statistician’s favorite terms).  My guess is that most website owner’s do not have the time to break out their statistician hats and start crunching numbers – most website owner’s want to know what works and then move on with their lives.
With that in mind, here are a few tools that you may want to look at to help you start a multivariate test:
  • Google Website Optimizer.  No list on multivariate testing would be complete without including Google Website Optimizer.  Why? Because its free, its useful, and its fairly thorough.  Google added its website optimizer in their Adwords center to help advertisers get more from their advertising spend.  However, you do not need to be spending money with Adwords to use this fantastic tool.Google multivariate testing can be a bit tricky to setup and you may want the help of a developer when it comes to integrating the code into your website.  If you use WordPress, you may want to check out this plugin.
  • WordPress Split Testing Plugin. Speaking of WordPress, if you would like to run simple A/B Split tests, take a look at this plugin.
  • Visual Website Optimizer.  This tool has received plenty of good reviews.  Unlike Google Website Optimizer, it is not free, but unlike Google, it is easy to setup and allows quick changes of tests on your site.  In addition, because it is a paid version, you will get very good support if you need it.
  • Unbounce.  For those of you who just want to create and manage landing pages, Unbounce is a nice solution. Unbounce is limited to A/B testing only, however, it is extremely easy to use and perfect for anyone who runs PPC campaigns for lead generation campaigns.
Finding a good tool for your Internet business and needs can take some time, but once you settle in with a tool, you will likely grow addicted to testing.

Don’t Limit Yourself – What Can Be Tested

Testing isn’t just about headlines.  Testing can be anything at all on your website!  Try testing the following:
  • Test multipage checkout forms against a single page checkout form
  • Test including privacy notices vs. no privacy notices
  • Test email subject titles
  • Test showing one set of products on your front page vs. no products
  • Test having a large “slider” on your front page vs. no slider
  • Test signing your name personally to your site against not including it
  • Test colors
  • Test fonts
You may be surprised at what causes people to continue looking at your site and what causes people to leave.  Being successful on the Internet is not about having good instincts, its about learning to trust metrics and hard data.

I’m Not Excited Yet…In Fact, I’m Kind of Sleepy

At the beginning of this article I promised that talking about A/B Split Testing and Multivariate testing would get you excited about your website.  If you have read this far and are thinking I am a liar, then I would ask that you give me just one more chance.

Let’s talk about results.  Just how effective is testing and what can it do for your business?
To answer this, let’s take a look at a real life example.  At Quiet Light Brokerage, we invite website owner’s like yourself to submit their web businesses for a complimentary valuation.  Our form is simple and straightforward, but our goal is to start conversations with as many qualified people as possible.  As such, we setup Google Optimizer to run a multivariate test on our valuation form to see just how much we could improve our conversion rate.

What would you do if you could double your sales after just one month? What would be willing to do in order to triple your sales after one month?  Would you consider it worth your time?  Most people would agree that it is worthwhile.

Most website owner’s are overworked and are not specialists in enough areas to take the time to track and test conversion rates.  This is rather unfortunate.  While most of us go around chasing more traffic, new social networks, and the like, well organized and successful marketers make sure that their websites are functioning at their top levels.


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