How to Boost Your Conversions with Split Testing

Split-testing can create massive improvements in your results, and there is an entire industry of tools, techniques, and consultants ready to help you achieve those improvements, but it does NOT have to be difficult, expensive or complex to get started.

In this episode Chris and Tony reveal:

  • How you can make huge gains, quickly and easily
  • The mindset you should employ with your testing (hint: it is not about being perfect!)
  • How to get started, and what you should focus on first
  • The mistakes people make in testing and how to avoid them

How to Boost Your Conversions with Split Testing

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Tony Clark: This is the Mainframe.

Welcome back everyone. In this episode, we’re going to be talking about an introduction to split testing: how to boost your conversions with split testing. How are you doing today Chris?

Chris Garrett: I’m doing great. Ready to go.

Tony Clark: This is a pretty exciting topic. This is something we love to talk about and geek out about. But one thing that we find is that people tend to get overwhelmed, so we want this to be an easy introduction into what it is you need to be testing, how to get started simply, and keep going simply. I always try and keep things as simple as possible, even when we’re doing later, down the road tests.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, this is one of those areas where it really is that 80/20 rule where you can get 80% difference by doing 20% of the changes. It’s one of those things that you can get some really impressive results by doing some very simple things. People do overcomplicate it.

But I always refer back to experiments like — and I’m going to mangle her name — Is it Joanna Wiebe? She was at the Authority Live Event last year and she talked about how she changed one word on a button and got a 90% increase in click-through rate. These are small changes that can have a massive fundamental impact.

Tony Clark: This is like a lot of things — like creating content or starting a business. You tend to use the feeling of overwhelm as a way to procrastinate. But the thing is that you need to get started with testing, and even something simple and getting it set up to go will get you enough information to move forward. You’ve got to get past that analysis paralysis and get a basic test set up. Then, once you have that set up and you’ve done it once and you start to get some results, it makes you feel more confident in the process.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, and have fun with it. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Don’t overcomplicate it. I’ve got a well-known aversion to math. You don’t actually have to have PhD level math to get a lot out of this process. If I can do it anybody can do it. Just use the simple tools and make simple changes.

Don’t try to put everything into one test. It’s all about knowing what you’re going to test, prioritizing, and get some results that you can be confident in — that you can make decisions on. Because one of the things I’ve found: people get addicted to testing — and you should always be testing — but they get addicted to the process rather than making business decisions based on the results.

Tony Clark: The goal isn’t to become a conversion scientist, which is a bullcrap word anyway. That’s not the goal here. You’re not really trying to get into testing for the sake of testing. You are a small business person, an entrepreneur, a content creator, and your goal is to find out if what you’re creating is working. You’re not trying to get into data for the sake of getting into data.

Chris Garrett: It’s not just about necessarily getting one metric up above all the others. It’s not trying to beat an industry average or anything like that. It’s about competing with yourself. It’s like going to the gym. Don’t be looking to either side on the benches — like your Arnold Schwarzenegger’s and your Dolph Lundgren’s benching the weight of two houses.

Compare it against your last best and always be trying to beat your current best. Don’t be looking at other people. Don’t be looking too far into the future. Don’t be thinking about what you should be getting in terms of results. Just try to be always improving. If you can incrementally improve then you’re going to be getting better results, which is worthy in itself. But also, you’re going to know why you’re getting those results. I think that’s really important.

How You Can Make Huge Gains, Quickly and Easily

Tony Clark: One of the things that you need to remember is, like Chris was just saying, you’re not competing with anybody. You’re competing with your last result. The goal is to make your results better. You do that by those small improvements that Chris was just talking about. One of the things you’re going to find is those small improvements is going to have a larger impact on your end goal. That’s really what we’re trying to get to — is what those end goals are about — it’s not just about conversion.

Ultimately, it’s about the profits that you’re making. That’s really what you’re trying to do: you’re trying to get more leads that eventually become customers, that eventually become paying customers, that eventually become revenue, that become profit. All along you’re going to have little goals that you’re trying to hit, but the main goal always to keep in mind is that you’re trying to get a result that will increase your profitability.

Chris Garrett: You’ll find that there’s things that you can do that get your short-term conversions up but damage your long-term, lifetime value. I’ll give you an example of that. Both Tony and I have experimented with email pop-ups. What I found in my own experiments — and I encourage you to try it yourself, have a look at the lifetime value of somebody who signs up to your list through an email pop-up and compare it against somebody who has consumed content before they signed up.

I found in my experiments that pop-up people tend to have more complaints, they tend to have a higher churn, and they tend to have a lower lifetime value. I’m not saying that will be the truth for you. I’m saying test it, because it’s not just about your immediate conversion rate, it’s not about your opt-in necessarily. You can do two advertising campaigns and get very different lifetime values out of it. You can get two very different cost per lead out of it.

Right now we’re talking about boosting your conversions, but keep in mind these experiments will have profound impacts all the way down the line. So you always have to be testing. You have to test your entire funnel.

Tony Clark: That’s a great point because a lot of times people tend to forget about that lifetime value metric. There are things that you can test that will show in some instances where, discounting a product for example, will decrease the lifetime value. Keeping the price the same, or sometimes a price increase, will increase that lifetime value. So like Chris said, don’t believe us. Believe your test.

You start setting these things in motion so that down the road you can see how this particular setup has impacted the lifetime value. The initial profitability, and then later on the lifetime value. You can see where you can make changes early on in your conversion process that will have impact later on — sometimes a year down the road. Setting those things in motion early on allows you to be prepared for those type of results. You really have to know what your goal is before you start testing, right Chris? Because that’s really what this is about, meeting a goal.

The Mindset You Should Employ with Your Testing (Hint: It Is Not About Being Perfect!)

Chris Garrett: Yeah. We always maintain that you need to be looking at building a business, not just selling a product. Your first product that you sell might be a loss leader. You might actually make a loss on that campaign, but you’ll make it back with loyal, happy customers who bring friends. It’s your end goal that you’re looking at, and conversion is one part of it. But by looking at split testing first — just on your conversion rate — you’ll learn a lot about testing. You’ll gain a lot from it and it’ll boost your business. Then, you can then take that learning and apply it to the rest of your business.

Tony Clark: Exactly. The goal isn’t here to test everything all at once. Because that’s where people tend to get bogged down, if they think that they need to do everything now. Your initial tests need to have an impact. Then, down the road, you can take what you’ve learned and increase that. You’ll see this a lot of times like when you have a first season of a television show and everybody goes all in. It does great or it doesn’t, but they eat through budget or they don’t have the impact you want.

One of the things I think is an interesting story is “Walking Dead’s” first season versus the second season versus the third season — you can see how the budget changed. The first season was an initial short, “let’s try this out and see how it works.” It had great fans and it did really well — it pulled everybody in.

But then the second season didn’t really have the budget to do anything huge, so the second season took place on a farm. It was like you could tell that their sets weren’t as great. Although the effects were good, they had to work with constraints. Then, the third season they were able to do these elaborate sets and these elaborate things, so they’ve increased that.

When I’m setting up testing — for either a product that’s been around that I’ve never tested or for a new product — I think of it that way. I want my initial test to have enough impact to carry me into the second set of tests. To carry me into the third set. Versus trying to learn everything that I possibly can in that first round of testing and then not have anything really that I need to know, or not know what to test for that second round of testing deeper into the funnel.

By spacing it out well and knowing that this first test is to get this small result, or this small understanding about this — the second test is to do this, and then the third test does this, and then larger — it’s actually more helpful in gathering the information and making good, intelligent decisions.

Chris Garrett: It’s about testing one variable at a time and getting statistically significant results before moving onto the next test. We encourage people to only change one element at a time and not have too many tests on the go. Especially if you haven’t got a lot of traffic right now, you’re better off splitting Test A/Test B and letting it run than having five different tests going on all with different elements changed. Radically different landing pages. Because it’ll take a long time to get any results. You might get misleading results early on. You can get a spike that’ll send you off thinking that you’ve got a result and it’s not statistically significant.

But also if the landing pages are radically different, how do you know which element it was that got you the results? We see this a lot where people have a landing page but they’ll change the design, they’ll change all the buttons, there will be imagery that’s different, copy that’s different, and one will win. Then they’ll say, “Okay, what do I do now?” And it’s like, “Well, which part influenced the result? I don’t know.”

Change one thing at a time. Know what you’re changing. Know why you’re trying it. And then analyze what you get out of it. That means you have to prioritize. You have to see which is getting you the biggest changes, and you have to analyze why that is the case. You also have to pay attention to your lead source — your source of traffic. Because this test might win just because of that source of traffic, whereas a different test might win with a different source of traffic.

The Mistakes People Make in Testing and How to Avoid Them

Tony Clark: That’s a very important point, especially when you’re testing through funnels. I’ll give a specific setup. One thing that people tend to do is they want to test their funnel. So they’ll test every portion of it: the entry page, they’re testing email stuff, they’re testing different landing pages, they’re testing a checkout page. Because they’re not only changing elements on those pages or in those emails that they’re sending out, they’re also not testing those elements in a process that follows on one after the other.

This is an example of when you need to prioritize. Let’s say that you have a very simple funnel that you want to set up. So you have a landing page that you send people to from an ad to get them to sign up for a white paper. Then, once they’re on that list, you nurture that list through an email that eventually tries to get them to buy an ebook that’s associated to the free report that you gave. That’s a very simple funnel.

If you set up too many tests through that process, you’re not going to know what elements of each individual element — each page, for example. But if you’re testing all those things at the same time, you might get a wrong result in that you think that the email change or the headline made an impact but it was really coming from something different.

So, if you’re going to set up a funnel such as that, you need to make sure that you’re doing your simple split test at proper points. Sometimes this is a bit of an intuitive thing. You have to test where you’re actually doing the different test to see if that area or that element is a good idea to test. If you get it too cluttered then you end up with a result that’s incorrect, and you’re going to be making wrong assumptions.

Set up a split test for your landing page from the ad, for example. Then make sure that your ad copy for each of those pages matches that. That’s something that you can test right away. There’s a congruency from one thing to the other. Then, when you go into split testing your emails, make sure it’s congruent with what was on the landing page for each of those results and you’re just not randomly sending people all over the place.

How to Get Started, and What You Should Focus on First

Chris Garrett: Let’s now move into exactly what people should do. What should they test first. Tony, what are the priority elements that people should test on their landing pages to get started in the right way?

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Tony Clark: When talking about landing pages specifically, I always say the headline is the first thing you should be testing, because you want to have that initial impact. I mean we talk about headlines a lot at Copyblogger, and then all the things we do. It’s because headlines are that initial impact. That’s the first thing you should be testing. Setting up a simple headline split test on a landing page using something like the tools we have in Rainmaker or setting them up manually in Google Analytics will allow you to get some really good, solid feedback on that particular landing page right out of the gate.

Chris Garrett: A simple test you can do with the headline is you can take a headline — like a headline for today’s episode would be, “Boost Your Conversion with Split Testing.” You can test that against “How to Boost Your Conversions with Split Testing.” Very simple change, but it can have a profound result.

Let that run and see if you get a good percentage that prefer one over the other. Pick the winner and then try to beat it again. For example, instead of “Boost Your Conversions,” you could have “Increase Your Conversions,” “Accelerate Your Conversions,” and try again. Another thing to test in a headline — and we’ve mentioned it before in previous episodes — is to be ultra specific. You could have a headline for a conversion boosting that is, “Boost Your Conversions by 67% with Split Testing.”

Tony Clark: One of the things you can do is you can spend a lot of time testing headlines. Just that one element can have a huge impact on a campaign. If you look at simple changes to headlines and you’re getting much better results each time you’re changing the headline — and make sure you’re giving your test time to run — you get to a point where you’re confident in the headline.

I think the next most important element to test after that is call to action. Again, we’re talking about very simple changes that you’re making. Once you’ve determined your test for your call to action — you got a solid headline, you’ve tested that, you know it’s doing well — now it’s time to test the call to action. Chris, would you agree that that’s sort of the next thing you need to go to?

Chris Garrett: Yeah. They’re the biggest results I have seen: the call to action and the headlines. What we’re talking about is basically saying, “This is the big promise and this is how to get the promise.” You can see why those give really big results. People, they’re complacent with the call to actions. It’s really important. It’s not just psychology, it’s also giving people an idea of what’s going to happen when they click. Instead of “Sign Up,” or “Subscribe,” which is bad, or even worse is “Submit,” because nobody wants to submit. In certain niches I guess people do want to submit.

Try comparing, “Get your,” versus “Get my.” “Get my ebook,” or “Download the ebook,” or “Get the ebook,” and see what results you’re getting with those. Because in a lot of cases, people prefer to “Start My Free Trial,” versus “Get Your Free Trial Here.” Obviously, traditionally people think of “Click here.” Click here has worked, but only because I think it’s simpler to understand and people can follow that instruction. Try different call to actions. See what happens. People talk about their color and the button size and making it 3D — that all has an impact. But the call to action itself has a massive impact. Work on the copy before you change your design.

Tony Clark: Exactly. Since this episode is really an introduction, if you test your headlines and your calls to action, and that’s the only thing you do — if you just set up split tests for that and nothing else, you’re going to see a huge impact. That is a very simple introductory way to get started with testing. I’ll give you a good example. You’ve set up a landing page for something and you’ve done your different headlines. You’ve tried a how-to versus a non-how-to, or you’ve done a more explicit headline versus a non-explicit headline. You’ve tested that out and you can see the actual results.

Let’s say I’m running Rainmaker and I’ve set up those two split tests and done the headlines and actually can see on the little graphic and the result report that the explicit headline did much better. That’s the start of my landing page and I’ve just increased my conversion by X — whatever the result is there. Then I want to go in and test the call to action next. I do things like “Learn more,” versus “Find out more.” Depending on the context and depending on your audience, those specific words are going to have different impact.

Depending on how complex the product we are promoting, we find that “Learn more” actually doesn’t do as well, because people find learning to be overwhelming. “Find out more” — they’re willing to find out more. Little things like that. Little, subtle, single-word changes can have a huge impact on your landing page. Having a way either through Rainmaker or through Google Analytics to quickly see the results of that will really have an impact on the campaign.

Chris Garrett: That’s what you want to see. You want to see a big impact and you want to know the reasons why. Once you’ve got past the headlines and the call to actions, there is a little bit of intuition and gut control over it. Tony, you have a really good story about what they teach in sales launches where you’ve made the video off-center or something, and Brian didn’t liked the design but it actually converted better. What was that?

Tony Clark: One of the things we did with the design is I like … Back in that time when I was doing design, all of my designs had a purpose behind them. They looked nice but really I had this design psychology thing. I’d studied a lot about the psychology of design. One of the things we did was in the overview video I offset the call to action box, which was an opt-in box.

While Brian was watching the video he said, “I don’t like the box there, because every time I’m watching the video my eye keeps being drawn to it.” Then a light bulb went on because he realized that that’s really what we’re … We don’t care if they watch the whole video or not. The idea is to get them to have enough information that they know what they want. But then to keep that call to action right there so they can do it.

We found that the conversion rate went up very high on that particular opt-in. But we also found that the impact of the people that signed up for that on the early bird list — the conversion off that list went up higher. Because people had seen enough of the video to know that, “this is right for me or at least enough that I want to find out more,” and then they move to the sign up. We used friction to reduce friction. I know that sounds funny. We made it so it was a little bit bothersome, but it wasn’t a hurdle. It bothered them enough that they kept glancing at it so they knew it was there, but it wasn’t a hurdle to get to when they were ready to sign up. That was a test that we did that worked out really well and used something that you normally wouldn’t do.

One of the things I talk about a lot — I love being wrong if it makes me more money. I love being surprised. I’m like the MythBusters guys when they do an experiment and they can’t believe the result, but they have the facts right there. They love being wrong and it’s hilarious. I love doing that too. I love going into something with an idea of, “this is how the result’s going to work,” being confident and cocky about it, and then being proven completely wrong by the data. However, I don’t mind being wrong if I’m making more money.

Chris Garrett: That’s the thing. People always think that scientists, they want to shout “Eureka!” but actually the most fun in any kind of experiment is when you say, “Oh, weird.”

Tony Clark: Whenever you’ve learned something and it’s impacted in a positive, or even a negative way — even if you’ve learned something but the result was, “Wow, this was terrible. I thought this was going to be great and it worked out terribly, so now I know what to change.” Ultimately it’s going to make it better. That’s really what you’re trying to get to. That’s the goal of any kind of experiment, any kind of test. How would you summarize this episode for introducing people to split testing?

Chris Garrett: First of all, get started and always be testing. Treat it like an experiment. That actually takes some of this thing of things not going quite according to plan in a way, because you’re learning. It’s all about learning. If you learn something valuable, even if your conversion rates or your sales go down, then it’s going to help you long-term. Second, don’t try to test everything at once. One variable at a time — prioritize. We’d suggest the priorities are to start with the headlines then move to the call to actions. Then test the rest after you’ve got a really good headline and a really good call to action.

Tony Clark: That sounds great Chris. In our next episode we’re going to talk about how to automate some of this and get into talking about your basic marketing automation. We’ll see you next time.