Should You A-B Test Email Marketing Campaigns?

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What Is A-B Testing and Should You Use It for Your Email Marketing?

If you’re struggling to get your emails read by potential customers, you might need to try a different tactic to ensure that you’re properly targeting your audience. You also need to make sure you are giving them content they need to not only read your emails but to also click the links in them to take action. You also want to examine the language you are using to build rapport and make a connection.

A/B testing is one way you can determine exactly what your email subscribers want rather than guessing. Here’s how to use it.

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First, What is A-B Testing?

It may sound complicated, but A/B testing is nothing more than sending two versions of the same email, with one variable. You want to see which version gets more opens and clicks.

There are a few things you can test out, including:

  • The email copy
  • Your subject line
  • Call to action copy
  • Color or placement of call to action button
  • Images
  • Offer

Ultimately, you want to see what small tweaks you can make to boost whatever number you’re focusing on: the number of people who open your emails, click a link, or make a purchase.

How NOT to Do A/B Testing

The really crucial thing with A/B testing your emails is only changing one component at a time. If you, for example, change the subject line, the copy, and the color of the button in the email, and you see better success with that email, you won’t know which single factor was the contributor to that success.

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So, to summarize: change one thing for each test. You might end up testing all of these potential variables, but only change at a time.

Decide What Your Goals Are

Before you send your first email test, you need to have at least an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish. Maybe your open rates have been abysmal, and you want to increase those. Or maybe you want to boost sales from your emails by 5%. These are goals you can measure against once you have the test results.

Who to Send Your Test Emails To

Let’s say you have an email database of 5,000 contacts. You don’t want to send the entire group Email A or B, otherwise, what good will the information you get from the test do you? Instead, choose a percent of your total contact list, like 20-30%, to be your test group. Send half of them one email, and the other half the other email.

Once you have the “winning email” — the one that gets you more opens, clicks, or sales — you’ll send it to the remainder of your entire email list. You’ll have some assurance that the winning email is one that will do well with your larger subscriber list.

Using Your Test Results

Once you have data on each email you sent, it’s time to evaluate it and use it to your benefit.

Let’s say Email B was identical to Email A, except instead of a green call to action button, it was red. You saw 10% more people click the button. That’s good news! So for this specific email campaign, you absolutely should use a red button.

But you can also use this information for future email campaigns. Every time you need a button, make it red.

And here’s another place you need to measure results to ensure you’re doing a good job of converting email subscribers to customers on your website: your web analytics. Your email analytics may tell you that 25% of the people who opened your email clicked the link to your product. But what did those people do once they got there?

Your website analytics will tell you if they immediately left (bad), looked around a while, or bought that specific product. The results will be a good indicator of whether what you’re communicating in your emails matches up with people’s expectations of what they then find on your site.

A/B testing takes the guesswork out of email marketing. And since email is still one of the best ways to connect with your past and future customers, it’s worth your time to figure out what your audience best responds to. Most email marketing platforms have a testing feature built in, which make it simple to use. For your next campaign, try testing two versions of the same email and see if you can’t improve the results you’ve been getting.

A/B Test Photo via Shutterstock

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Melinda Emerson Melinda Emerson, known to many as "SmallBizLady," is a Veteran Entrepreneur, Small Business Coach and Social Media Strategist who hosts #Smallbizchat for emerging entrepreneurs on Twitter. She is also the author of, Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months.

2 Reactions
  1. Answer: unequivocal yes! You should be testing everything to do with your marketing, especially online where it’s so easy to execute and measurement is so robust.

  2. AB Testing are perfect for campaigns for it helps the promoter know which works and which doesn’t in real time. Campaigns can vary per industry and the only way to know if something works is to test it.