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How to Set Up Your First Website Split Test

Split testing is the flossing of the digital marketing world.
We all know we should be doing it, but we don’t.
Even worse, many of the people who are split testing are potentially doing it wrong–causing more harm than good.
I’m not going to talk to you about the importance of split testing because–frankly–we’ve heard it all before. Instead, I want to help you get your first test started if you’re new to the game, and if you’re a seasoned vet, I want to show you how to set up your testing the right way.

Page Selection

This is probably the most important step in your test creation process. If you pick a page that shouldn’t be tested, you’re going to have a bad test.
Tests should be selected based on opportunity.
Remember, opportunity doesn’t mean fixing your worst performing pages. It means testing pages that have the biggest impact on your bottom line.
In other words the page you pick should have the potential for a big lift and should be directly connected to your key progress indicators. Here’s some example of picking the wrong page:

I was meeting with a company who wanted to test an email campaign’s landing page. I asked for the page’s conversion rate, and they told me it was 75%. Yes, 75%! This was for a larger B2B company trying to increase marketing qualified leads (MQLs).
My gut response was, ‘There’s no way the conversion rate is at 75%’, but let’s assume it’s accurate. Clearly the team is asking the wrong question. The landing page shouldn’t be tested, but the email campaign sending traffic to the page should be tested.

To identify your tests, open up Google Analytics (or your preferred analytics platform) and start digging through the data.
One of my favorite identifying metrics is exit-pages. If you have a page with a high exit rate that isn’t the end of your page sequence, then you’ve identified a potential test page.
Which one of the four identified top exit pages shouldn’t be a test priority?
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
The Completed Checkout Page doesn’t need to be tested!
This is the last page in the checkout sequence and shouldn’t be a top priority. Sure you can try adding additional upsells on this page, but it is not as important as these other pages!
Out of these four pages I would suggest checking the cart. It’s easy to quantify the conversion value and the traffic is highly qualified.

Element Identification

So now that you’ve done all that work to identify your page, get ready for…
Well, a little more work.
For our less technically inclined readers, this is the fun part!
Now you have to identify the test elements, or what you expect to increase conversions on your page. Please don’t just guess. Random element selection turns the testing process into a game of guess and check.
Take a look at some qualitative data sources, e.g., eye tracking, click tracking, user surveys etc…
Source: Optimizely
Here’s an example of a heatmap representing average user clicks. Notice that people are clicking where they should be clicking. If you monitor click tracking, make sure your main call to action isn’t in the shaded area!
This will give you information on what aspects of the page aren’t working for your customer. Remember, testing is about optimizing the experience for your customer, a test should not be developed based on what you think works best–you are not your customer!
If you don’t have access to some fancy qualitative data, you might want to look at test case studies from companies in your niche. If you are super niche and you are the only one ‘doing what you do’–then test out ‘best practices.’
Once you have your page and your element(s), put your idea into a test hypothesis.

We believe that changing A for visitors B will make C happen.

Here’s an example:

We believe that changing the copy by adding ‘I Want To…’ to each section for all visitors will increase top-level engagement and get more traffic to mid funnel content.

If you can’t put your test idea into this format go back to the drawing boards because you’re not testing, you’re guessing!

Tech Talk

Okay this is probably where people get a little nervous.
From a technical perspective adding a testing technology to your site is relatively simple. Most testing technologies out there don’t require a major integration time and normally just need a snippit of Javascript added in the <head> tag.
These techs include Optimizely, VWO, Marketizator, &
I know this looks scary, but just copy the code and either send it to your developer or paste it between the <head>…</head> tag.
After the code has been added you are ready to go. Simple, right?

Step-By-Step Example

Let’s put this in action.
In this example I am using VWO, this is not an endorsement of the product. Find out what tool best fits your needs. I recommend checking out TrustRadius’ testing tech report before making a tech purchase.
Step 1 – Select Your Test Campaign Type
Most testing techs include multiple campaign types including A/B testing, split URL testing, multivariate testing, and other qualitative test campaigns. For this example I’ll choose A/B Test.
Step 2 – Enter Your Test Page URL
Prior to opening your testing tech, you should have identified your test page. Since you have that ready to go, just put it in the URL field.
Step 3 – Start Making Your Changes
Testing tools provide you a WYSIWYG editor. For small-scale changes, e.g., headline, call to action, images, etc… the tool should work perfectly. Other larger scale changes, e.g., radical redesigns or template changes, aren’t appropriate for this editor.
You can edit by clicking the element and selecting options from the dropdown
Since I want to change the text in this element, I need to make a change in the html. Here’s what that looks like:
In this test, I changed the messaging on each section from ‘[Action Statement]’ to ‘I Want To [Action Statement]’ Numerous copy writing tests suggest that an effective way to connect a prospect with your product is to use words like ‘I’, ‘My’, ‘Get’, and other action oriented or possessive words.
Here is what the two variations look like side-by-side:
In order to keep this test simple and clean, these are the only changes I’ll make on this page. So I am free to click ‘Next’.
Step 4 – Set Your Goals
During the test process, I urged you to pick test pages that are tightly connected to you main KPIs. You can select different goals and use different ways to verify them. The most common is to enter a goal URL, probably your ‘Thank-You’ page.
Here’s a list of the different ways VWO let’s you track goals:
Step 5 – Finalize Your Test
All you have left is to name your campaign, designate the amount of traffic you want to send to this test.
I always recommend scheduling a test for a specific time period. Don’t run an ad hoc test, you can figure out your test duration using a test duration calculator. When you have your test date, round it up to complete the week and stop it on that end date!
Okay that’s it, click finish and your test is done!
Yes, this is a fairly basic test example, and other tests may call for some more advanced changes. However, your first test should be relatively basic! You need to walk before you can run–don’t waste time or money on complex tests when you’re starting out.
Oh, if this post inspired you to run a test–we’d love to hear about your results.
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Happy Testing!

Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau

Justin Rondeau has been doing this whole “Marketing” thing since 2010, when he was mildly […okay maybe more than mildly] obsessed with all things, data, email, optimization, and split testing. Currently he is the co-owner and President of InvisiblePPC - the #1 white-label PPC provider for agencies. Previously he co-founded Truconversion and even sat at the helm as General Manager of DigitalMarketer and Scalable Labs. Rondeau has trained thousands of marketers, spoken on hundreds of stages, runs a delightful team of marketers, has dozens of shirts louder than his voice, and loves one hockey team: the Boston Bruins.

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