Every site aims to convert visitors in some way. Whether the goal is to make a sale, get newsletter subscribers, or lead users to download an Ebook, a site’s copy and design play a crucial role in these conversions. But instead of taking a stab in the dark at which words and designs will lead to conversions, smart site owners use A/B testing — which makes it possible to run experiments that compare the effectiveness of different variables. If you’re helping with the design or copywriting for a new site, this post is for you.
Creating a WordPress site means finding hosting, choosing a theme, perhaps having it worked on by a developer, and writing and publishing content. After the initial setup, not much changes apart from the occasional blog post. For some sites, that’s enough, but for sites that want to elicit conversions, the initial deployment should be the beginning of the process, not the end.
Without continuous testing, it is impossible to optimize a site for conversions. Small things such as the microcopy on calls-to-action, the color and layout of elements on the page, and the information architecture of a site can make a difference to conversion rates. Perhaps no single change will make a big difference, but the cumulative effect of many small changes can significantly improve a site’s effectiveness — turning it from a blunt instrument to a well-oiled conversion machine.
Why You Should Care About A/B Testing
A/B testing, also known as split testing or multivariate testing (with slight differences), is key to the conversion rate optimization process. In a nutshell, A/B testing presents different versions of a page to different users and measures the effectiveness of each version.
Perhaps you think the copy on one section of your home page is stodgy and uninteresting. You decide to write a new version. But how can you know that the new version is better for conversions than the old? You can’t rely on the site’s conversion rates as a whole, because there are too many confounding variables. Maybe you just happened to have a good month or an article you published attracted a bit of extra attention; your conversion rates might have gone up even more if you’d left the copy as it was. With A/B testing you can make and test small changes to see if they genuinely have a positive impact.
I’m going to highlight three services that aim to help WordPress users with conversion rate optimization. Two are premium services and one is free. Whether A/B testing is worth paying for depends on how much money your site makes and how much a conversion rate optimization process increases revenues, so I’d advise some more in-depth research before you make a decision.
Nelio A/B Testing is a new service that makes it easy to A/B test pages from within the WordPress dashboard. Users simply create a duplicate page, make a change to the duplicate, and the plugin will serve visitors the alternates, providing conversion rate information for each. When you have decided which version is best, it is simple to make it the default.
Nelio is capable of both A/B testing and multivariate testing. The “Professional” package includes advanced features like heat maps, click maps, and multi-goal experiments.
Google Content Experiments is part of Google Analytics. Its integration with a service that you’re probably already using is a plus, and it is a feature rich A/B testing service, but it’s not as easy to use as Nelio and the other options we’re going to look at. You’ll need the confidence to add code to the PHP files of your WordPress site. If you’re happy to do that, then Google Content Experiments is a great choice. There’s an excellent tutorial on WPBeginner.
Optimizely isn’t a WordPress-specific service but it has a WordPress integration plugin. Optimizely is probably the most powerful of the tools we’ve looked at here. It will provide the average WordPress user with everything they need for A/B testing and more. It has a very slick interface and can run tests on multiple pages. Optimizely is slightly more expensive than Nelio with a big jump between pricing tiers, but if you really want to get serious about conversion rate optimization, this is probably the best choice.
For the average non-technical WordPress user, Nelio A/B Testing is the best option: it’s easy to use and has enough features to get the job done. If you’re a little braver and more technically adept, Google Content Experiments is well worth a try. And, if you want to become a CRO wonk, Optimizely has you covered.
About Graeme Caldwell
Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook, and check out their tech/hosting blog.