How to Increase Your Online Sales With A/B Testing

The A/B testing process lets you determine what words, phrases, images or other elements of a Web page lead to the most sales conversions. To help you improve your online market strategy, this article provides an overview of the A/B process and offers some hints for improving your copywriting.

By Nathan Segal
Thu, February 14, 2013

CIO — If your small business uses online sales letters or squeeze pages, you're probably thinking about how to increase sales conversions. The wording of these pages is important, since you obviously don't want to say anything that will turn away potential customers. But how do you know what to say?

The most popular methods of testing are A/B testing and multivariate testing. With A/B testing, you test two versions of a Web page to see which one produces better conversions. The "winner" can then be used as a control page against which to test a new variation. Multivariate testing, on the other hand, tests multiple pages and multiple combinations of page elements at the same time to see which one converts better. The Google Content Experiments (which replaces Google Website Optimizer), for example, lets users test up to five full versions of a given page, each administered by a different URL.

This article will specifically look at A/B testing, since it only involves a single variable. Plus, you can think of multivariate testing as a set of A/B tests being performed at once.

A/B Testing Variables to Consider

When looking at a sales page or squeeze page, there are many things you can test.

First and foremost is the headline. According to Magnetic Headlines, 80 percent of visitors will read a headline, but only 20 percent will read the rest of a page. The headline is the first thing that potential customers see, and it's the one page element that can make or break sales and/or opt-ins.

The call to action matters as well. Many marketers test this with different button types, text and colors to see if this will improve conversions. For reference, check out The Belcher Button.

It's also important to test different pricing models. For example, customers might balk at an up-front price of $497, but they could be happy with a monthly fee of $47, even though that means paying more over the course of a year.

Finally, consider a video sales letter and test whether it outperforms a traditional text-based sales letter.

How to Write Sales Page, Squeeze Page Copy

Before you begin an A/B testing strategy, you need to write the copy that will go on the pages you're testing. Brandon Zundel has some advice for getting through the writing process.

"Whenever I feel like I'm working toward a final draft, the next thing I do is read it out loud. When you read it out loud, you'll find yourself stumbling over words and phrases," he says. "If you stumble while reading your copy, what do you think will be happening to your readers?

"Great copy should flow like a steep stream. When you can breeze through it without any hiccups, that's when you know you have it worded right," Zundel continues. "Once I've gotten it to that point, I'll let it rest for a day or two, then I'll repeat the process again."

How-to: 7 Email Marketing Tips to Gain Customers in 2013

It's a good idea to give marketing colleagues access to your materials (assuming they are copywriters). Often, they will spot problem areas that you've missed and can help you determine what needs to be changed. You can also survey your clients (assuming in this case that you have an email list) and ask for their feedback. You may be surprised by what they tell you.

If you want to learn more about copywriting, I recommend the resources of Internet marketers Clayton Makepeace and John Carleton, an American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWIA) online copywriting course or the newest edition of the book Web Copy That Sells, which is due to be released in February 2013.

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