Skip to main content

What is A/B testing? 7 ways to optimize your campaigns

What is A/B testing: marketer analyzing data

Key takeaways

  • A/B testing compares two versions of a specific marketing element, like a headline or image, while multivariate testing can include many more variables
  • Use A/B testing to quickly hit your conversion goals (or improve any metrics) without increasing your budget
  • Simplify your A/B testing with software that automates the process

Having the right metrics at your fingertips arms your business with useful data that can inform business decisions and help skyrocket your sales and growth. Gathering useful metrics can be as simple as conducting an A/B test on your website content or email marketing campaign.

A/B testing is a technique that compares the effectiveness of two different versions of the same variable (such as an email subject line). Looking at your A/B testing results, you’ll know which one performed better with a select group of people, and you can share the better performing version with your wider audience.

Learn more about how this technique works, along with seven A/B testing examples to use in your small business marketing efforts.

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing is an experiment that allows you to compare the performance of two variations of a specific marketing element—such as a headline or an image. Also known as split testing, A/B testing shows if a small change leads to positive results or if it will negatively impact your business goals.

When you run A/B tests, you can better understand your target audiences. Since A/B tests are performed on real members of your target market, you can gain accurate data on how your ideal customers engage with your website or react to certain types of content. As you start making data-backed decisions, you can achieve a better return on investment (ROI) on all your marketing materials.

A/B testing vs. multivariate testing

While A/B testing focuses on versions A and B of the same variable, multivariate testing compares multiple variables. For instance, if you’re gathering data on your website performance, an A/B test can compare the effectiveness of a vertical menu bar vs. a horizontal one. A multivariate test might compare menu bar placements, button colors, and headlines all at once.

A/B testing is best for determining which email marketing campaign or web page elements have the biggest impact on user behavior. Multivariate testing, on the other hand, helps you determine what combination of marketing elements work best together.

Since multivariate testing is more complex and often unnecessary for everyday campaigns, small business owners who have limited experience with analytics can benefit the most from A/B tests.

How does A/B testing work?

2 colleagues working together

A/B testing is fairly simple. Start by choosing key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to test—those are metrics that measure progress toward your business goals. 

Two popular metrics are conversion rates and click-through rates—but you can test anything measurable that might influence or be influenced by user behavior.

Once you produce the two variations of your campaign or web page, you’ll release version A to a limited audience and version B to a different group of your audience. Sample sizes of at least 1,000 people per group is ideal, but you can conduct A/B tests with fewer people.

Many small businesses use A/B testing software like Optimizely and AB Tasty to automate the testing process. Some email marketing platforms, including Mailchimp and Constant Contact, even offer built-in A/B testing tools that offer real-time test results.

Though you can run tests for non-digital marketing campaigns, this usually requires more effort and resources since you’ll need to manually conduct surveys and reach out to potential participants.

A/B testing examples

A/B tests can measure a wide variety of marketing elements. Here are seven A/B testing examples to show you the best ways to use split tests for your marketing improvement.

1. Headlines

When website visitors visit your homepage or landing page, your headline is the first thing they read. If it piques their interest, there’s a good chance they’ll stay—and if it doesn’t, they’ll probably leave your site.

A/B testing commonly compares how two different headlines perform. You can completely switch up your text between version A and B, or make a subtler change (like leading with a different verb).

For instance, if you’re doing yoga marketing, version A of your homepage headline might read, “Sign up to get your first yoga class for $10,” while version B could be, “Get your first yoga class for $10. Sign up now.”

2. Subject lines

Your subject line can drastically improve the open rate of your email campaign. In fact, 45% of subscribers decide to open an email based on who it’s from, and 33% open it based on the subject line alone

If you want to improve your email open rates—and reduce your bounce rates (when people enter then leave your website instead of viewing other pages), which can increase if you’re flagged as a spam sender—run an A/B test to learn what subject lines work for your target audience.

One A/B test example: Compare buzzwords like “50% off” and “BOGO” to see which improves your KPIs. You can also test the use of emojis and see how they impact your open rates.

3. Call-to-action buttons

Also known as CTA buttons, call-to-action buttons encourage website visitors to take the next step by clicking on the option presented, which routes them to where they can take action. 

Every element of a CTA button—including its size, color, font, and the wording itself—can impact the number of clicks you get. A/B testing one element at a time can effectively compare how small tweaks to your CTA button affect your success.

You can also compare the performance of call-to-action text using A/B tests in other forms of content, including your social media and blog posts, even if it won’t be accompanied by a button.

4. Social proof

When consumers are looking for local businesses to spend their money with, 77% always or regularly read online reviews.

Having social proof like reviews or testimonials on your site can boost your potential customers’ confidence level in your business. But not all social proof is equally as convincing. 

You can run an A/B test to see if adding an embedded Yelp review drives more customer engagement than not having one at all, or if case studies work better than video testimonials.

Get a free Yelp Page

Promote your business to local customers.

Claim your free page

5. Product descriptions

Enticing product descriptions are essential to the success of online stores. The right wording and placement can convince customers that your products are must-haves and usher them through a seamless checkout process. 

To maximize sales, use A/B testing to try out variations of product descriptions on your ecommerce site. For example, you can test bulleted descriptions against paragraphed ones and different wording. Based on the results, you’ll know if the original version or the new version was more effective.

6. Layouts

What is A/B testing: person drafting some content strategies

Aside from helping with content decisions, A/B testing can also help guide your layout by testing how the placement of your text, images, and design elements influences your KPIs. For example, if you want to redesign your product page, test whether product descriptions perform better below the image or beside it.

Whether you’re testing two versions of a web page or two versions of an ad design, be sure to test only one variable at a time to avoid multivariate testing.

Ready to try Yelp Ads?

Put your business in front of more customers.

Start advertising

7. Navigation

Usability refers to how easily website visitors can achieve certain goals (e.g., booking an appointment or getting pricing information), and it greatly impacts the customer experience. In fact, 88% of online shoppers won’t go back to a site after a poor user experience

Your website navigation plays a big role in usability. If shoppers can’t easily navigate your site, they’re less likely to become customers.

You can use A/B testing to decide what to include in your main menu and dropdown menus—and what you don’t need to include at all.

Easy navigation can also improve your search engine optimization (SEO) by making it easier for search engine algorithms to understand your website content, including what pages are most important and what keywords are relevant

Improve the results of your marketing strategy

Just as scientists run experiments to test the viability of a product or process, business owners can use A/B testing as a marketing experiment to help determine how changing one element of a campaign affects its overall results. 

Whether you’re testing headlines and subject lines or comparing layouts or CTAs, the metrics you gather with A/B testing can optimize your user experience and capture the attention of more potential customers. 

To make more data-backed decisions, learn how to do market research with a small business budget.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.