Since the early 1900s, the best direct marketers have used some form of split-testing to improve their sales messages. Marketers like John Caples split-tested with coupon codes to tell which of a number of separate ads produced the best response, changing one item at a time until they found a winning formula. Split-testing is how direct marketers continually increase their profits over time.
With the ease of tracking on the Internet and the advent of low-cost or free software programs, split-testing is something that all online business owners should be implementing each month. It is an ongoing process.
What Is Split-Testing?
Split-testing is the process of creating two separate variations of anything that a visitor or a prospect is exposed to which requires them to take an action, such as a web page, a PPC ad or a banner ad. An action required for measuring a split-test can include the click-through-rate on a PPC ad, submitting a form to request a free consultation or purchasing a product online. Splitting traffic between the two variations of the same element shows you which one produces the best response rate.
Split-testing allows you to remove the guesswork from your marketing campaign by showing you the difference in response rates each variation produces. The first time that you design your web page and set up a PPC campaign, you’ll of course have to use your “best guess” and experience helps a lot here. However, once a page or an ad is activated and you start achieving results you can use split-testing to continually and incrementally improve these results over time.
Essentially, split-testing allows you to identify the combination of factors that produces the highest conversion rate and, in turn, the highest return on investment (ROI) from your advertising budget.
Why Is Split-Testing Important?
Split-testing is the fastest way to increase your conversion rate and lower your cost-per-action, which increases profitability. But more than this, it allows you to be more competitive in your marketplace by allowing you to spend more on advertising than your competition, yet still achieve higher levels of sales and growth at a lower Cost-Per-Action (CPA).
Split-testing also allows you to test what your competition is implementing on their site and to see how it affects your own conversion rates. Over time, split-testing allows you to capture a larger share of your online market.
Let’s Take A Look At The Numbers
Your competition is spending $2 per click and has a 1% conversion rate. That means it costs $200 to drive 100 website visitors. At a 1% conversion rate they are getting 2 conversions (ie sales or sales leads) for every $200, which means their CPA is $100 per action.
If through split-testing you were able to increase your conversion rate to 3% that means for the same $200 spend you would get the same website traffic, but instead of getting just 2 conversions, you would get 6. This means that your CPA is $33, rather than the $100 your competition is achieving…all from the same advertising budget.
What this really means is that you can afford to spend 3 x what your competition is spending and achieve the same CPA, which means that you will dominate the top positions on the search engines and capture the lion’s share of the online market. Convinced yet?
Conversely, if your competition is split-testing and you are not, they will get the lion’s share of the online market and you will miss out.
In the current economic climate, split-testing allows you to get the most out of your advertising budget and to continue growing your business during these tougher times.
What Should You Split-Test?
You should split-test anything shown to a visitor that requires an action. With PPC advertising you can split-test two separate ads and see which ad produces the lower CPA. With your website design you can split-test two separate pages and see which one produces the highest number of conversions. You can also split-test email campaigns, banner campaigns and other forms of paid advertising.
SEO listings (ie what displays in Google’s organic search) are harder to split-test because you don’t have full control over the information displayed in the listings. Saying that, you can split-test the page that prospects land on after they click on your SEO listing.
On your website, you should split-test the following items on your highest traffic web pages – which you can find through Google Analytics:
- Call to action
- Sales copy
- Button styles
- Navigation styles
- Background color
- Listing a phone number versus not listing a phone number
- And anything else which holds a prominent position on the page
For your PPC campaign, you should split-test the text ads, keywords and landing pages.
How To Split-Test
The most important metric to measure with split-testing is the CPA, which is measured with conversion tracking. If you don’t have a website form or shopping cart and all your website leads come via telephone or email, it will be much harder to split-test.
The easiest way to split-test is to use a form on your website for somebody to submit whenever they wish to contact your company. When somebody submits that form, they are taken to another page that is call the “thank you” page, which contains a short message saying something like, “Thank you for your enquiry, we will contact you shortly.”
With split-testing, a conversion code is placed on the ‘thank you’ page which then measures the results. If we were split-testing two landing pages using different headlines we would use split-testing software to rotate between those 2 pages so alternate visitors would see alternate versions of the landing page. After a reasonable amount of visits and because conversions are being tracked, one of the two versions will start producing a higher number of conversions than the other. This is then the better landing page, also referred to as the ‘control piece’. The goal with split-testing is always to try and beat the control piece.
To justify that a split-test is statistically correct you need enough visitors and conversions to make an informed decision– as a general rule you will need a minimum of 30 conversions before you can make a decision on which of the variations is best. Note that The difference between the conversions of each version has to be greater than the square root of the sum to ensure statistical integrity.
The best software to use, at the moment, for split-testing web pages is Google’s Website Optimizer, which is available for use free of charge. With this software, you can split-test one or more pages on your website at the same time. It is a very robust system, and the software actually tells you when you have found a ‘winning combination’.
It’s relatively simple to setup and although it can be a little confusing the first time, it quickly becomes very easy to use. Setting up a new split-test can take as little as 15 minutes (after the two variations of the page have been designed).
Split-testing of PPC ads can be done directly through the Adwords interface by setting up a variation of an ad within the campaign. Just make sure to edit the campaign settings and select the ‘rotate ads evenly’ rather than ‘optimise ads based on performance’. Importantly, you will need to activate conversion tracking within the console and add the conversion pixel to the ‘thank you’ page.
Split-testing other forms of marketing is done in a similar way to split-testing PPC ads, that is, managed from within the administration console of the advertising channel and tracked by adding a conversion pixel to the ‘thank you’ page.
Additional Tips for Split-Testing
- You should always be split-testing : With split-testing you set up the test once and let it run for a few days, weeks or a month, depending on your level of traffic. We recommend that as a bare minimum you split-test all of your high traffic web pages and all your PPC campaigns at least once a month. This means that once a month you sit down and review the stats, stop the lower performing variations, and then setup another split-test to try to beat the control piece.
- Track your split-tests : It’s important that you track the changes that are made so you don’t end up split-testing the same thing over and over again, ensuring that you’re continually moving forward. Track changes with a simple spreadsheet, with columns for what is being split-tested, the date and the results.
- Watch what your competition is doing : Learn from them but don’t take what they are doing and implement it on your websites as is… split-test it and see if it improves conversions or not.
- Only make one change at a time : If something is working, only make one change and split-test that – for example the headline. The exception to this is where something’s not working, then you can split-test two very different sets of ads or web pages and see which one produces results.
Remember that split-testing is the key to ongoing success; it is very low cost compared to the benefits you can achieve. In some of our recent split-tests we were able to increase the conversion rate of a website by more than 30% by improving the design and layout of the home page. And this took us less than one-day to implement. Imagine getting 30% more sales from your existing advertising budget…
In a poll taken by more than 2,000 UK computer users, Internet words like ‘netiquette’, ‘blook’, and ‘wiki’ were found to be the most annoying and caused users to leave certain websites that included them. While you can’t possibly know all the words that are despised by the Internet community, you should pay close attention to the keywords and phrases that are being used most often so you can increase traffic to your website by including them in your content.
Choosing the right keywords to use in web page titles and headlines is one of the most difficult steps when creating a website because they are cues that tell visitors what to expect as they are reading your content. Using the wrong words can mean the difference between making a sale or losing one.
Use these suggestions below when choosing keywords for titles and headlines.
DON’T USE SLANG TERMS
Most people do not use slang terms when looking for information on the Internet, so they may not be an effective keyword. Including them in web page titles and headlines is not appropriate if you want a steady stream of visitors. Not only can slang be offensive, it will not reach a wide audience.
OVERUSING ONE KEYWORD
The most effective web pages have a keyword density of about 5%. Usually three or four keywords are used on one page. Only choose one keyword to use in the title and use other keywords in your headlines. By sprinkling keywords throughout, you will increase your chances of being found by web spiders. Too many keywords and your web site will be flagged as spam.
USE POPULAR KEYWORDS IN TITLES AND HEADLINES
When you research the keywords to use on your website, use the most popular ones in your titles and headlines. Web spiders typically look at these first when searching for matches. Include these keywords in your content as well so web spiders will know your site is a definite match.
UPDATE YOUR CONTENT
You should update your content with fresh keywords every month or so. Continue conducting keyword research so you will be able to include keywords that are popular on your site. Adding new content and updating titles and headlines will also keep returning customers interested in your website.
SEO is still one of the best ways to increase traffic to your site. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is through the use of keywords.
Investing in the performance of a website is usually the last thing most companies consider when deciding how they will invest their marketing budgets. Most companies allocate budgets to advertise their website using Google Adwords, SEO, online advertising, offline advertising and social media but few companies think about how important their website is to their overall success.
Your website is the single most important component of your online marketing strategy – it will literally make or break your success online. Here’s why…
1. Your Website Determines How Many Sales You Achieve From Your Advertising Budget
When you run advertising online, or offline for that matter, you’re driving prospects directly to your website. You might be spending $2,000 per month on advertising, or you might be spending $100,000. In either case, the number of sales you achieve from your advertising is directly related to the performance of your website.
Let’s take a quick look at the numbers… if your website converts 1% of website visitors into customers you will generate 10 new customers from 1,000 visitors. But if you can increase the performance of your website to convert 5% of website visitors, you’re generating 50 new customers from the same advertising budget, or 5x as many sales without spending a cent more on advertising.
Many companies we speak to are happy to spend $10,000 per month on advertising but baulk when we suggest investing $10,000 one-time on improving the performance of their website – this is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make… just take a look at the numbers.
2. Your Website Can Give You A Competitive Advantage
Your website’s conversion rate is one of the most powerful competitive advantages you can gain against your competition. If your website converts 5% of website visitors into sales, and your competitors are only converting 1% of website visitors into sales, you can spend 20% of your competitors’ budget and still achieve the same result.
When you look at how the majority of online advertising works these days, you’re paying a cost-per-click for prospects to visit your website. If you can convert website visitors at 5x the rate of your competition, you can pay 20% of their cost-per-click and still achieve the same cost-per-acquisition (CPA).
But that’s not what usually happens… what usually happens is that you pay 2x or 3x per click to completely outbid them online, gain maximum exposure and capture the majority of the available market share, and still pay a lower CPA than your competition.
3. Your Website Affects The Quality of Clients You Attract
The quality of the design, structure and layout of your website directly affects the quality of clients you attract – the higher the quality of your website, the higher the quality of clients you will attract.
Think about it… how many times have you visited a website and instantly made an assumption on the type of company it is, how expensive the products or services would be and whether or not you wanted to contact them, just by how it looked and felt.
I’ve often been surprised at just how much the design of a website can affect the quality of leads and sales a website receives. If you want to attract larger companies with larger budgets to your company, then you need a website that reflects what those companies expect to see from a website. On the other hand, if you’re selling cheap products or services, then you don’t want your website to look too expensive.
4. Your Website Affects How Much Facebook Traffic You Receive
Facebook is now one of the largest sources of website referral traffic after Google… and when you consider that more than 10 million Australian are on Facebook, it makes sense. But to really maximise the traffic you receive from Facebook it’s important to understand how it works.
Facebook users share content from around the web, with more than 2 billion posts ‘liked’ and commented on every day. To drive the maximum amount of traffic from Facebook your website needs to include information that people want to share with their social network. The best type of information to share is news, helpful information, photos, videos and any type of information that really adds value to the lives of the people that consume it.
By integrating Facebook sharing functionality, such as Facebook ‘Likes’ and soon-to-be-released ‘Gestures’, you will align your website with how people share content on Facebook thereby maximising the traffic you receive.
5. Your Website Directly Affects Your SEO Rankings
The better your website is optimised for SEO, the higher the rankings you will achieve. Updating the Title Tags, Meta Tags and internal linking can be implemented on any website, but gaining maximum SEO performance from a website requires developing the optimum website structure from the ground up.
The key to really maximising your SEO rankings is to create a different web page for every top level keyword you want to rank for. Doing this will mean that you have the keyword in the Title Tags, Meta Tags, URL structure, Headings and body copy… and it will be integrated naturally. You’ll also have a page for each keyword which makes it easier to rank for each keyword. And the more pages you have on your website, targeted to specific keywords, the more rankings you will achieve.
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…
After reading this article my hope is that you fully understand the role that your website plays in the performance of your success online… the only thing left is making the decision not ‘if’ but ‘when’ you will invest in your website.
If you’re on a limited budget and you’re running advertising campaigns, my recommendation would be to place those advertising campaigns on hold and divert that budget to upgrading your website. When your website is ready and you reactivate your campaigns you’ll see an immediate boost in the sales and profits you earn online.
If you’ve got more of a budget to play with (but not too much) but you need your advertising to stay running, my recommendation would be to divert some (not all) of your budget to upgrading your website.
And if you can afford to keep your advertising campaigns running and still invest in your website, then do so right away.
Your website holds the keys to your online success… the better if performs, the more money you make… period.
So what are you waiting for?