An Introduction To Split Testing

In these blogs, the importance of repeated testing is often reinforced. Split-testing, also known as A/B testing, is the way of perfecting all forms of email communication, but particularly those used in email marketing. It can, should actually, be used for landing pages as well. It’s the most effective way of increasing ROI. Intuition can be a very useful tool for the experienced, but for newcomers to email marketing it can prove to be a dead-end.

Split-testing can seem daunting to those just starting out, but it is an essential tool, the procedures of which can be mastered quite easily. It’s not complicated. There’s little risk. The cost is low. 

Given the accuracy of our data, low percentage rates of improvement are often the result of testing and it might seem a lot of effort for one or two percentage points. If you test with every campaign, these soon add up. Here’s how to start.

The first thing to decide is how to select your list for dependable returns. The general rule is that it should be around 10% of the full email marketing list, but it’s not set in stone. If you are just starting out, you might have few on your list. Don’t worry. Just move the cutting-point until you have enough on the smaller list to give significant returns. When dividing your list, don’t use any criterion in your data, such as location. It must be a random sample otherwise the results are compromised.

What to test is the next big decision. I’m generally not one for rules and limits, but don’t test more than one thing in one split test. It is possible to do so. But it is complicated.

The simple answer is to test every factor on your landing page or marketing email over a period. Obviously, keep records. With a landing page you might, for instance, test an image of one of your staff welcoming customers. It might work; I don’t know. More importantly, neither will you unless you split-test this single factor. Normally, have a reason for a particular test but, although email marketing is data-led, this is one instance where intuition might be useful even for the inexperienced. Give it a go if you want to.

The one thing everybody tells you, and so will I, about email marketing and split-testing, is to believe the data. Accept the returns even, actually especially, if it rubbishes your favourites. There is a caveat though.

If, for instance, you try a new Subject Line and find that there is a 4% increase in open rates, you might believe there was something special about the wording, the tone, or any one of the other variables. There might be another reason though. If you have used the same style of Subject Line in all your previous marketing emails, your subscribers might well be just a bit bored with the same old. They see something new, they are intrigued.

The answer to this conundrum is, as are so many things in email marketing, resolved only after more testing.

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