A Beginner’s Guide to A/B Testing

Email Campaigns For Success.

What is the best indication that your marketing strategy is hitting home?

Conversions, of course!

That’s where A/B testing comes in. But, what is ab testing? This form of effective marketing testing allows for small businesses and large companies alike to see what marketing strategy works best for their select audience so that conversion rates stay strong, or even improve. With A/B testing two identical pieces of material, such as an email, are created but one element is changed slightly. Then, marketers test the content against two groups and see how both groups respond.

This form of market testing with email is as simple as creating two versions of the same email and sending them to two groups on your mailing list. It’s an uncomplicated, effective testing method to improve parts of your marketing strategy.

Let’s talk about how to get started!

Using AB Test Email Campaigns

Before composing an email, first define the goal you would like to reach. By creating a short list of goals and strategizing how you’ll meet them, you’ll have a sense of direction that’s essential to improving your marketing strategy.

Some popular questions to get you started are:

  • What is the purpose of testing this variable?
  • What information can be gained by testing this variable specifically?
  • Ultimately, how important is this variable in the overall performance of this email?

Asking these questions will help guide the A/B testing process and understand the analytics that comes as a result. In addition, it isn’t limited to one specific element, such as the subject line or graphics. It can be anything in the email from the header to the personalization choices you use to communicate with your target audience. What kind of things should you think about when creating goals and determining what you should test?

Consider the Aesthetics and Copy

Items like the subject line and the body copy are essential to getting and keeping the attention of your target audience. Here’s a fun fact: a study indicates that the human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds (in 2000, just before smartphones) to eight seconds today. For reference, the average goldfish has the attention span of nine seconds.

That’s a pretty narrow window for you to capture the attention of your target audience, so you better make it count! Creating engaging copy, and being smart about how that information is presented, can do that. In addition to having a stellar hook, keeping blocks of text shorter will make it easier for you to hold the attention of your audience.

The language used in copy is typically the first thing that comes to mind with a/b split testing, but it is by no means the only element that should be considered.

Design elements are essential to creating an email that will be aesthetically pleasing and more readily accepted. Things like colors, the font you use, and the images you choose all contribute to how your email will be received. Here are some great layout suggestions to look through for your next split test!

Also, it’s helpful to know a little something about your subscribers before you begin. With over half of emails opened on mobile devices these days, knowing how your email will be viewed will be valuable information when it comes to the design elements of it.

And, Consider Your Audience

In addition to considering those elements and what they’ll be viewed on, you should consider who will be viewing them as well. You can create the best email with on target copy and optimal color schemes, but if it’s sent at the wrong time of the day, or the busiest day of the week, it doesn’t really matter because it won’t get noticed.

This is where it’s handy to have analytics software, such as Google Analytics. (Check out The Daily Egg’s Guide to Using Google for A/B Testing!)

Using analytics to gauge when your users are online browsing the web or checking emails will be invaluable for deciding what the best time of the day is, what day is best, and in some cases even what time of the year to offer certain deals or content. You can also check all of this using A/B testing, just experiment with when you send email and compare open rates!

Choose What You’ll Test

You have a lot to choose from when it comes to what variable you’d like to test with your A/B test emails. The most obvious options are the subject line and headline, but you can and should test the call to action (often abbreviated CTA) and whether or not you should include testimonials—or even what type of testimonials work best.

Other variables that should be tested include:

  • The layout of your message can have a huge impact on how well it is received by your subscribers. Test things like columns or text and image placement throughout the email. Check out these 6 Design Tips to Creating Visually Appealing Email Newsletters for some great design ideas!
  • What images you use and how they relate to the content, or what emotions they trigger in your readers, can make or break a conversion.
  • Some offers, such as free shipping, may perform better than ones like “30% off!”

When testing variables, it’s also important to test just one at a time. Why? Testing multiple variables may seem more efficient and cost effective (depending on your service), but it can make test results unclear. After all, you can’t tell which variable performed better if multiple ones are used.

If your service charges per email address, test the largest group you can afford and choose at random. The larger you can test the better, but for extreme testing try to limit it.

Let’s talk a little more about some of the biggest ab split variables you can test!

Customizing Your Subject Line

The subject line is the introduction to your email, so it’s essential that it stand out from the rest of your subscriber’s inbox. There are many ways that you can get your newsletter noticed; the only way to know what works for you is to conduct ab split testing.

Think of your subject line as the jacket of a book. If the title and image doesn’t grab your attention, you probably won’t take the book off of the shelf and give the content a chance. Just like with books, there is no sure fire way to make sure that your email will be opened, but here are some ideas to help craft a few fantastic subject lines—and see what works best at getting conversions.

Be Straightforward and Direct!

Many marketers use wit and puns to get attention, but these creative approaches have become widely used and normal with emails. To stand out from the crowd, consider being direct. Studies done by marketing agencies show that direct subject lines outperform creative, witty ones every time. So, the approach that used to be “boring” is the new unique.  Just make sure that your direct subject line is consistent with the content in the email and that your content is valuable to the reader.

Use Fear.

We don’t mean horror movies. Use psychology to get readers to open your email by creating a sense of urgency. Messages like “One Day Only—Save 50%” can cause a user to open your email and see what they can save money on. The point is to get readers to open your email and by telling them that time is running out, or there is a limited supply, is a great way to achieve that goal. These top keywords are a great way to get a user’s attention quickly!

Avoid Spam Triggers.

As email users deal with an onslaught of junk mail, providers answer with filters designed to cut out pointless and potentially malicious emails. Your newsletter may never get in the inbox of your subscribers if you accidentally trigger these filters! In order to make sure that this doesn’t happen to the newsletter you’ve worked so hard on, avoid these common triggers:

Also, it’s important to make sure your subject line just doesn’t sound “spammy”. If a reader is reminded of an infomercial when reading your subject line, chances are they won’t open it.

Use Emojis!

While a subject line can come off as too gimmicky, emojis tend to hit just right. Though linguists do not classify emojis as language, they often substitute words and are a modern way of communicating. Plus, they can catch a reader’s eye quicker than quippy text!

Though it’s hard to tell how effective they are at raising open rates, they do break up text and can shorten a subject line. A shorter subject line and a colorful emoji can make an email stand out quicker than anything else. Be careful not to overuse them, however, and make sure they are related to the content in the email.

To Personalize or Not to Personalize

Another variable to consider when doing email testing is whether or not you should personalize.

And, the answer is yes! You should consider personalizing your subject line, but don’t let it stop there. Personalize the body of your email with not only name, but the location of your reader as well. For example, readers located in Florida do not need to learn about winterizing their house for a snowy, icy winter. At the same time, readers in Maine probably don’t want grilling recipes in January. Use your sign up form to get more information from your readers, such as their name, birthday and yes, their location.

By targeting emails to a user’s interests or location, you can tailor the content to fit their lifestyle and needs. This increases the chances that they’ll go from being a reader to a shopper. Perform ab split testing that tests if this is effective for your company and if so, refine it to see what personalization works best with your readers.  Not sure what you should be asking? Take a look at this Hubspot article on ways to personalize your newsletter and improve the open rate!

There are many variables that you can customize in your email to get more attention and improve your conversion rate. The only way to know what works for you and what shouldn’t be used is through effective AB test email campaigns designed to make sure your newsletters are efficient and more importantly, effective.

Statistically, at best the open rate for MailChimp’s newsletters is only 20%. That means that at least 80% of the time newsletters and emails go unopened and deleted without a second thought. Testing out what works and what you can forget about is a great way to fully utilize a marketing channel that is already pretty cost effective and reaches more of your target audience.

By systematically checking and optimizing all variables of your newsletter you can improve your conversion rate and guarantee that readers will find your emails valuable!

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