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A/B Testing with WordPress: The Definitive Guide

AB Testing WordPress

Developing a website is never quite done. Yes, you’ll build a WordPress website with a great design, you can insert some content, a few pages, main menu, graphics, links, until it really good.

But believe it when we say that you don’t want a good website, you want a remarkable WordPress website. In WordPress development, there’s always room for more.

Each of the elements of your website can have a serious effect on your conversion rate. This is why you must test each element after you’ve developed your WordPress site.

For that reason, in this article, we’re going to discuss the benefits of A/B testing, and how it can help you increase the conversion rates of your WordPress website.

What Is A/B Testing?

A/B testing or split testing is the comparison of two separate website versions and assessing which one performs better in order to gather insights that can be used for conversion rate optimization.

From a complexity standpoint, there are three types of A/B testing:

  • The Classic A/B Testing: This tests two versions of page elements against each other.
  • Multivariate A/B Testing: This tests two versions of at least two elements of your page.
  • Experimental A/B Testing: Here you can test your own method of testing one or more elements simultaneously.

Why Do You Need to A/B Test Your WordPress Website?

A/B testing can be more than helpful for your WordPress and business overall. You’ll get factual data that you can construct your future decisions on, and you don’t have to go by intuition and keep your fingers crossed that leads will start leaving their email addresses.

A/B testing helps you to reduce the confusion and overthinking when you develop and optimize your WordPress website. If you can’t make the right decision about your website elements, how do you expect your target users to make a decision and become your customers?

It also brings the scientific approach to marketing strategies and web design and provides you with data-packed answers that you can use to improve your page and how you communicate with your customers through your WordPress site.

What Can You A/B Test on Your WordPress Website

Everything that can influence the behavior of the users can be A/B tested in WordPress. You just need a defined process and the right techniques and tools that you can use to test the specific elements:

  • Headers: Two or more headers can be compared against each other to see which one performs better.
  • Footers: You can test a two-column footer versus three-column footers and so on.
  • Sidebars: The users can react differently on two different sidebar versions. You can check which layout produces more conversions.
  • Color Palette: There are colors that are more appropriate for your target users. Find them through A/B testing.
  • Titles: Don’t leave your page and article titles to chance. Test them and find the best-performing headline formula.
  • Opt-in Forms: Offer different incentives, alter your CTA in different versions, change the color of the action button, test new ways that can get you more conversions.
  • Graphics: Having graphics that are engaging and creative is one of the best ways to convert your web visitors into customers. To do that successfully, you need to test which creative graphic resonates better.
  • Content: Your sales funnel won’t work if your content strategy is not properly optimized. Content can be tested just like every other element on your WordPress website, so you can split-test the headlines, featured images, content length, CTAs, and so on.
  • Widgets: Experiment with widgets. Compare several versions of the same type of widget and see which one will have a better effect on the users.

The A/B testing options in WordPress are plenty and the list above can even get more extensive. But that’s what makes A/B testing so effective. You can get specific and literally learn where your weak spots are and make use of that information to fix them. You can even test various argument variations of the UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters that you can use for different campaigns, run the campaigns at the same time, and notice which one is more effective in terms of clicks and conversions.

Defining Your A/B Testing Process

Before you start the split testing process, you need to know what you want to achieve and define your conversion goals. The A/B testing process is comprised from a set of activities that need to be followed in order to obtain genuine insight and conclusions that will tell you what you need to improve:

  • Collect Data: Researching is vital in A/B testing. You need to learn everything that’s happening with your website and how the visitors engage with it. For the purpose, you can use Google Analytics to collect insights such as bounce rate, number of visits per day, set and assess website goals, as well as tracking them.
  • Goal Setting: You need to set business goals for your WordPress website, and once you define them, you need to find the metrics and KPIs that will help you assess if one version of a page is better than the other.
  • Make a Hypothesis: When you define your A/B testing goals and metrics, the next step is to develop ideas (hypothesis) on how you can improve the original version of an element and make it much more effective than the current.
  • Run the Hypothesis: You run the A/B test to check how visitors react to the different versions of specific elements. At this point, each interaction is carefully measured and differentiated to see which hypothesis or element variation worked better.
  • Data Analysis: When you’re done with the hypothesis experiment, you need to analyze the insights. The techniques and tools that you use will point out the differences. This will tell you exactly what you need to change to improve the component’s effect.

A/B Testing and SEO

According to Google, A/B testing is an excellent way to estimate if what you offer on your website appeals to your target users. The following are Google’s guidelines that you’ll need to respect if you want to run an effective split-testing process for your WordPress site:

  • Don’t use cloaking – Don’t show one set of content to users, and the other to Googlebot— it is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Remember that infringing the Guidelines can get your site demoted or removed from Google search results—probably not the outcome that you would want from your A/B test.
  • Use rel=“canonical” – If you’re running an A/B test with multiple URLs, you can use the rel=“canonical” link attribute for your alternate URLs to point out that the original URL is the preferred version.
  • Use 302s, not 301s – If you’re running an A/B test that redirects users from the original URL to a variation URL, use a 302 (temporary) redirect, not a 301 (permanent) redirect. This tells search engines that this redirect is temporary—it will only be in place as long as you’re running the experiment.
  • Use Testing as Long as You Have To – The amount of time required for an A/B test can vary depending on factors like your conversion rates, and how much traffic your website gets. If Google finds out that you are running an experiment for an unnecessarily long time, they may consider it as an attempt to defraud the search engine and they’ll take action accordingly.

Start the A/B Testing Process

Like every other development and optimization activity, A/B testing takes time, effort, and resources from both you and your team. Now that we defined the A/B testing process above, let’s discuss each stage and see how you can run an effective split-testing optimization for your WordPress site.

Analyze Website Data

You need to learn how the users behave on your website. This involves clicking, scrolling down, article reading, and much more. Each question about user behavior can be answered by using web analytics, such as:

  • What do the users do when they arrive on your page/landing page?
  • How does each element impact the performance of your page?
  • What are the hot points of user attention, and what are the weak ones?

Analyzing your website data can help visualize the current state of your sales funnel and discover where are the exact points where you fail to convert your visitors. You can collect different metrics about your users, such as:

  • Demographics data
  • Interests
  • Geographic data
  • Page behavior
  • Bounce rate
  • Page load speed
  • Conversion value
  • User flow
  • Source of traffic

For this purpose, you can use Google Analytics. The following video tutorial from WPBeginner outlines the two ways that you can install and use GA for your WordPress site:

Identify A/B Testing Goals

When you find the metrics that will determine if one variation of your element is more successful than the other, you’ll need to set your A/B testing goals or the conversion goals that you want to have for your WordPress site.

For example, you need to increase the sales of your product pages. Or, you need to add HQ images that will increase your conversion rate. You can only identify and define your A/B testing goals by defining your KPIs first.

A KPI (Key Performance Indicator) can be explained as a measurement that can help you assess the performance of your business, in this case, the competence of your website.

In essence, the KPIs that you will specify will become the metrics that will disclose your progress towards achieving the conversion goals. For eCommerce, you can define KPIs such as average order value, shopping cart abandonment, ROI from advertising spend, customer lifetime value (CLV), etc.

Let’s also say that you’re doing a new product launch campaign for your eCommerce site. So, you want to send web visitors to a landing page that has a free giveaway for an exchange of their email addresses. You need to track how the rate at which the number of subscribers rises. In the meantime, from email sign-ups, you can switch and measure the product purchasing.

Generate Your Hypothesis

From users’ behavior information and from the goal-tracking data, you need to build your A/B testing hypothesis, for example, “Reducing the page’s bounce rate by adding more visuals.”

Testing WordPress page elements without a hypothesis is like driving without a roadmap. You won’t know where to go with it, and eventually, you’ll never arrive where you wanted in the first place.

The hypothesis is a bold claim that you need to aim for. It tells you what is the feedback and the end result that you’ll get from the A/B test. A good A/B testing hypothesis has three vital elements:

  • The Variable: What will you test? Your content, images, CTA, links? You need to isolate one single variable to A/B test.
  • Result: The outcome that you want. Depending on the variable, can be an increased conversion, more CTA clicks, or every other KPI.
  • Logic: Your hypothesis must sound reasonable and realistic, backed by data. This is why user behavior research is important and it’s the rationale behind your hypothesis.

A strong hypothesis doesn’t mean that your A/B test will be a winning one. But, it does mean that you already have the initial framework for each of your A/B tests that you’ll do next.

With every hypothesis and every A/B test you learn more about your WordPress website and your audience. The more you do it, the better tests you’ll conduct, and the better you’ll be able to optimize your website for conversions.

Analyze Your Test Data

When you complete your hypothesis experiment, the next step is the test results analysis. The analytics tool that you use will inform you about how the different variations work on your WordPress site, and what are the key differences of both variations. So, how can you derive results and turn them into actionable insights for your page?

No matter the results of your A/B test, you need to collect the insights and dive into analysis mode. Again, check if you’re measuring the right metric. Even if multiple metrics are involved, you need to assess each metric and KPI individually first and then gather the data to focus on the bigger picture.

Lots of the A/B testing tools that we’ll outline below in this article have an integrated analytics system to track the desired metrics. If you don’t want to use a specific tool, you can always turn to Google Analytics and analyze the data from your tracking code.

You can also start to additionally segment your audience after you get the results from each A/B test, for example:

  • Source of Traffic: Did you acquire the visitors in the test via paid or organic traffic?
  • Behaviors: Are they new or returning visitors? What was their intent when they landed on your page?
  • Outcome: Some of the users will complete your hypothesis, so you need to segment those from the rest and track their entire behavior on your website.

If you notice that one of the element versions brought the right results you’ll want to take notice and apply that variation, but this time, use it in a unique version of your page.

Again, it’s crucial to document everything. The data will be your progress reference and something that you can turn to every time you want to examine a new approach with your team.

Tools for WordPress A/B Testing

WordPress offers amazing tools and plugins that you can integrate for everything on your site, including A/B testing:

  • Google Optimize: A tool that comes directly from the biggest A/B testing advocate – Google! You can combine it with your Google Analytics and it’s really effortless, just like GA. However, just as GA, you must integrate it in the code of your website header.
  • Optimizely: A tool that is focused towards A/B testing. You can use it to run A/B and multivariate tests, multi-page tests, and much more. An entire set of A/B testing tools that can help you optimize your page for more conversions.
  • Nelio A/B Testing: A tool that helps you define, manage, and keep track of A/B-testing experiments, combined with heatmaps. Nelio’s also compatible with WooCommerce.
  • Thrive Headline Optimizer: A premium plugin that you can fully automize. Just like Nelio, fully compatible with WooCommerce.
  • Title Experiments Free: A plugin that you can use to test your titles and discover what your readers find interesting. A simple tool that you can use to add multiple versions of your title.
  • Marketizator: You can use this plugin to create A/B testing experiments and surveys to find out what your visitors think, as well as personalized banners that convey relevant messages TO your audience.
  • WordPress CTA: A plugin that you can use to create CTAs for your website. You can monitor and track conversion rates, run multivariate split tests on your CTAs, and increase your lead flow in the process.
  • Marketing Optimizer: You can use this plugin for A/B tests, create variations for headlines, layouts, images, testimonials, buttons, feedback forms, CTAs, and more.

Over to You

If you’re serious about growing your conversion rates and bring more leads to your business with WordPress, having a well defined A/B testing process is a must. Set clear goals and test your hypothesis. Give the testing process enough time to obtain the right set of data and work in your favor.

Remember that everything on your website can be aligned with your business goals and that in the long run, a well-formulated A/B testing process will always provide you with exactly what you need to make the best possible decision for growing your WordPress site.

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