A/B Testing in 4 Easy Steps

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By Theresa Baiocco

A/B TESTING IS SO COOL. No longer do we have to make changes to our websites based solely on the HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). We now make changes based on what has been tested and proven to work.

the split test fairy

via Pobblepop — The A/B Test Fairy

It seems like magic: some visitors see one version of a webpage, while other visitors see another version. The statistics are all calculated behind the scenes, and we simply run our tests until we have enough data to pronounce one of the versions a winner.

This seems to mystify – and dare I say – intimidate, a lot of people who know they should be testing … but aren’t.

Today I’m going to demystify A/B testing and show you how easy it is to get started.

You can’t even use cost as an excuse not to test; Google Analytics has a free A/B testing tool built right into the interface: Google Content Experiments.

While it’s not a very powerful tool, it’s fast, easy, and intuitive. And did I mention that it’s FREE?

It isn’t the most robust tool around, but it does allow you to run your own simple A/B (split) tests – with only a little bit of basic training.

How to Set Up A/B Testing in 4 Easy Steps:

(Note: Google Analytics changes often. These steps and screenshots are current as of Oct. 21, 2013. It’ll probably look different, if you’re reading this later).

Before starting any test, define your hypothesis and how you’ll measure success:

My hypothesis is that a longer story on the Conversion Max About Us page – one that explains more about who we are and why we’re passionate about what we do – will appeal to the “humanistic” buyer type. Those buyers will develop a deeper connection with our company. They will spend more time on our site and visit more pages.

The conversion goal I want to measure, in this case, is the number of page views.

A/B Testing, Step 1

From the Analytics interface, open the “Behavior” section and click on “Experiments”. Enter the URL of the page you want to test. Click “Start Experimenting”.

step1: find the Content Experiments link in Google Analytics

A/B Testing, Step 2

Name: Give your test a name that will help you easily identify it as your list of tests begins to grow. Your site’s visitors won’t see this name; it’s for your eyes only.

Objective: Choose your conversion goal from among any of the standard metrics in Google Analytics or any of the goals you’ve configured for your site.

Percentage of traffic: if you don’t have much traffic, you’ll want to keep this at 100% so your test doesn’t take a year to run. But if you have sufficient traffic and you’re running a risky test to which you don’t want all of your visitors to be subjected, dial this percentage down.

Need some guidance on what constitutes “sufficient traffic”? Check out the Conversion Max A/B Test Time Estimate Tool.

step2 basic settings in Google's Content Experiments

A/B Testing, Step 3

Enter the URL of the variation. This is one area where Google’s Content Experiments is more cumbersome than paid testing tools. It forces you to create an entirely new page, whereas other tools allow you to simply edit the text or move elements around the page in a WYSIWYG editor.


A/B Testing, Step 4

Google Analytics will provide the code to enter in the head tag of your original page.


“R’uh r’oh: what if my site is on WordPress and I can’t access the head tag, Theresa?”

Luckily there’s a plugin for that.

Verify that your test is working. I always like to open the page in different browsers or run it through Cross Browser Testing, so I can see the new variation with my own eyes.

Then wait until you get enough data to have a statistically significant winner.

See how easy that is? No magic or voodoo required.

One caveat, however. Setting up A/B testing is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out WHAT to test in order to make the biggest potential impact on your bottom line.

Here’s a really simple process for the art and science of identifying and prioritizing exactly what to A/B test: 7 Steps to Higher Conversion Rates. That’s where the real magic happens.

If you need help working through this critical process … just ask. That is why we are here. Your success is our main ambition.

Find out more about A/B Testing for better Conversion Rates. Call 888-659-2680 for your no cost, no obligation initial consultation with the Conversion Max team.

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Theresa Baiocco-Farr

Conversion Strategist at Conversion Max
Theresa Baiocco-Farr specializes in helping mid-sized businesses increase their online revenues with conversion optimization. She's a top-rated conference speaker with a Master’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Colorado and a Master Certification in Conversion Optimization from Market Motive. She’s a dog-lover, wife & mom, and a recovering travel-junkie.