Take your conversion rates to a whole new
level with split testing
A crucial piece of the on-line puzzle
Paul Smithson - 6th October 2008
Split testing is
critical to almost any business. If you’re not doing it -
you really should be - and if you are doing it, the
chances are that you should be doing it even more.
Without split testing, you are leaving massive amounts of money
on the table every single day. I say this with absolute
certainty. You’re not ‘possibly’ leaving money on the table,
you are ‘definitely’ leaving money on the table. It sounds like
a bold claim, but it’s absolutely true.
Whether it’s a single page sales-letter site, a mini site, an
AdSense site, a blog, or a mammoth content site, there are
always ways to tweak things and increase the percentage
conversion rate if it’s a product that is being sold, the
sign-up rate if it’s a membership site, or the number of
click-throughs if it’s a site that earns revenues from
So, what exactly is split testing?
Split testing is simply the process of testing out different
versions of something to see which one performs best. It could
be a direct mailing piece, a billboard advertisement, a TV
commercial, a web page, an e-mail, or anything else where you
want to find out the differing results based on one or more
changes to the original.
From an Internet Marketer’s perspective it could be two
different web pages you are testing to see which design works
best. It could be testing one headline on a sales letter
against another, or finding out which of two or more banner
adverts brings in the most orders.
Ideally, split testing is done with a fairly large number of
visitors. If you get very low traffic, your split testing
numbers may be inaccurate, but split testing even with low
traffic is usually better than not doing it at all, it can just
often take longer to get a statistically valid result.
You can perform split testing in several different
If you’re running pay-per-click adverts through Google AdWords,
you’ll find there’s a split testing system built in! If you’re
split testing things like sales page copy, a form on a squeeze
page, or the CTR (click through rate) of various placements of
ads on your pages, then you’ll need to develop your own
There are many scripts and online services available that can
help you deliver different versions of a web page to visitors,
and then measure conversions from each version. If you don’t
want to use a script or online service (some of which can be
quite expensive), you can do the same thing yourself by
rotating pages on your own.
You’ll probably want to leave a page up for about a week or
longer and record conversions. Then put up a different page and
record the conversions from that version. Just keep in mind the
fact that conversions may be different, simply because of the
day of the week or the time of day, so if you take a page down
in the middle of the day, or the middle of the week, your
results may be skewed inaccurately.
The importance of split testing can’t be over-emphasized.
Something as simple as changing a single word in your headline,
or changing the color of your order button might change
conversions by several percent.
There have been stories of a single word doubling the
conversion rate of a product. Sometimes changing something
seemingly very trivial, such as the color of the words ‘Buy
Now’ on an order button can drastically increase conversions
and sometimes more fundamental changes, such as using a
different font for the body copy on your web site, can make an
If you use a web design tool such as XSitePro, that makes it
very easy to change the overall look of a site in an instant,
it’s worth testing different page backgrounds, different header
graphics, different navigation menus, etc.
And don’t kid yourself that you know best, because even the
experts get it wrong sometimes.
A famous offline advertising agency was working on a major ad
campaign for a product. They developed several different
versions of the ad, and then asked each of their ad executives
to give their guess as to which one would perform better, and
After each executive had picked which they thought would be the
winner they ran the complete series and gauged the results. The
results proved a huge surprise. Of the dozen or so executives
they asked, not a single one guessed the ad that actually
Even these high-paid ad executives with years of experience
were unable to judge which ad would perform best. This is why
split testing is so crucial. No matter how well you think you
know your market, there will always be things you can’t judge
on your own.
Over time split testing will ensure that you are using the
highest converting version of your site possible. It can be a
long and drawn out process, but it is one that can reap massive
Imagine you had a web site that was converting at the rate of
1%. If you ran a series of ten tests consecutively that managed
to increase the response by just 20% each time, what do you
think the final response rate would be.
It would be a staggering 6.2%.
This demonstrates the incredible power of split testing. Just
by running a series of small tests that each had a minor
impact, the response was multiplied by over 600%.
So, get testing, then test some more, and continue testing
until you can’t think of anything else that could possibly
improve the response rate.
About Paul Smithson -
Paul Smithson is the founder of Intellimon and the driving
force behind the best-selling XSitePro web site development
tool. Since graduating in Business Strategy and Direct
Marketing from two of Europe’s leading business schools, Paul
has set up five multi-million dollar companies, one of which is
now owned by the BBC. His areas of expertise include business
strategy, e-commerce, on-line and off-line marketing, software
development, and maximizing the potential of on-line
For more information about
this, and many other Internet Marketing-related
topics, visit Paul Smithson's site, www.xsitepro.com.
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