We live in an exciting times for the small business owner. There are many challenges, but there is also an unprecedented environment where advancements in web design and technology make it possible for a small business website to compete on a nearly level footing with much larger, more wealthy brands’ sites.
Search engines and search engine marketing have been largely responsible for this new environment and it is now a reasonably common occurrence for a small business to appear alongside much larger ones in the search engine results. Of course the larger businesses tend to have a much higher advertising budget, and there are allegations that the search engines are starting to favor brands.
Bigger businesses have also had the advantage of being able to afford to create complex custom solutions in order to assist them in their marketing efforts. Analytics has provided everyone with great data for free for a while now, but things like visual heatmaps, pop-up or fly-out sign-up forms and A/B testing have only recently become very accessible options for the small business owner.
So What is A/B Testing?
A/B Testing, or Multi-variate testing, allows the website owner to create multiple versions of a page or post, and track data like conversion rates and click throughs in order to determine which version is the most successful. Using A/B testing, a business owner can try out different content, calls to action, fonts, videos, changing up just about any element on a page in order to see if there is a more effective or compelling way to do things. The process is called A/B testing because you are comparing option A with option B to see which is best. This video goes into a little more detail:
A/B testing for small business websites used to be a costly and complicated process, but there are a growing number of reasonably priced options available.
And the best A/B Testing Tools for small businesses?
Google Analytics Content Experiments – Free, but fairly complicated to implement. Results are not in real time, require that you wait 1-2 days.
Optimizely – Reasonably priced, very simple to use.
Nelio A/B Testing – WP Plugin, apparently very easy to implement, and familiar to operate for WP users. Moderately priced
Unbounce – Moderate price, landing pages only, but great for those. Good option for PPC.
Kissmetrics – Costly but very effective. Probably the deepest and most diverse data available.
Is there a downside to A/B Testing?
I’ve discussed many of the reasons a small business should consider A/B testing, but I think it’s only fair that I at least highlight some potential negatives.
People nitpick the small details when what they need is an overhaul.
Sometimes people try to “bandaid” their terrible site, spending hours every month tweaking minor details in order to push their conversion rate up. The combined time spent on this could be much more effectively put to use in a total overhaul. Think carefully about this before going into A/B testing. If you’re on the fence, a new website might be a better option. Also, be aware of the IKEA effect, where you feel more attached to an item that you took part in constructing. You may really like your site, but if a neutral party suggests updating it, it’s probably wise!
A/B Testing can be a time consuming task.
Don’t fall into the trap of over-tinkering, where you get caught up in the minutia, and spend weeks refining a page with a fairly low maximum potential. It’s preferable to simply tweak a few important elements, and leave it at that.
Put A/B Testing to work for your website!
Now that you know what A/B testing is, what tools are out there, and how to avoid the downsides, you can put it to use on your small business site! If you don’t have the time to work on finding out the best site improvements to increase your conversion rate, contact Thrive to find out more about setting up A/B testing on your website.
Guest Author: Jonathan Jenkins is an SEO professional and content writer in Cape Town, South Africa. He enjoys staying on top of the ever-shifting industry he works in, playing soccer, and evenings spent by the grill.