When In Doubt, Test It Out


By Maddy Coast

Digital marketing is a competitive, challenging, and sometimes overwhelmingly complex endeavor. So, naturally, understanding what works and what doesn’t can be more complicated than expected. One of the best ways to evaluate your strategies is through split testing, or A/B testing, in which you run a series of experiments in order to discover what drives the most significant result. It’s accomplished by isolating one element of a website, landing page, ad, or marketing material and testing two very different variations, keeping all other variables (like targeting, audience, etc.) the same. If you’re not working A/B testing into your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on data-driven results that help inform your next marketing decision. 

Say, for instance, you think that a 20% off coupon will sound more appealing to your customer than calling out the dollar amount: “Save $30!” While you may think you know what would work best, you’re probably making that decision from a biased standpoint, based on what you think and feel, or on the opinions of others who are just as biased as you. This assumption could cost you new customers. The best way to figure out what truly will engage more customers is a controlled test where every other element of your coupon stays the same: color, font, targeting demographic, size, shape, paper type, and so on, except the discount call-out. This test is a relatively low-risk, high-reward exercise that is easy to execute and will help inform your next order of coupons. 

Now take this concept and apply it to the digital world of paid ads, organic content, and web development. Through a well-planned and systematic series of A/B tests, you can avoid costly website overhauls that could jeopardize your current performance. Theoretically, you could achieve a near-perfect website with a low bounce rate, relatable and intriguing content, and ultimately convert more prospects into customers and, therefore, more sales. Because, hey, that’s what we’re all here for, right? 

So, what else can you A/B test, and how exactly do you do it? You can A/B test just about anything and everything, but if every marketer did so, we’d be running so many mini-experiments that we’d never make any significant headway. The best way to go about A/B testing is to base your tests on what you don’t already know and be strategic about selecting the elements that will have the greatest impact. If you’ve previously run a series of ads and the ad with the red color scheme outperformed the designs with a neutral color scheme, then you wouldn’t want to run a test with a bunch of different shades of red. Instead, you’d move on to another facet of the ad that you may need to address, like the headline or call to action. 

Start by researching what you already know about the business or what’s worked well for others and formulate different hypotheses about your marketing strategy. From here, you can plan out several experiments that enable you to build upon previous progress. You should also allow for enough time and data to accumulate so that you can see how reliable the results are with a degree of statistical confidence. This could be a number of website visits, ad clicks, or conversion actions, like completed purchases and leads submitted. 

A/B testing shouldn’t be thought of as an every-now-and-then exercise. Instead it should be a constant component of your marketing strategy. Marketing is one of those unique functions of business that requires both creativity and an analytical approach. A/B testing combines the best of both of these disciplines. The process may seem complicated, but it’s really the equivalent of the elementary science fair project where you state a hypothesis, test a variant against a control, and draw a conclusion. 

It takes time, planning, and clean execution to effectively impact your marketing results and your business’s bottom line. Luckily, C Squared Social has a team of experts that can help plan and run these tests on your behalf. Our Account Managers and Marketing Strategists are well-versed in A/B testing best practices, so you can sit back, relax, and watch your business grow. 

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