Use A/B testing to optimize conversions on your college or university’s website.
Are you curious about what headlines or color combinations will attract the most visitors? Do you wonder which page layouts or calls-to-action will encourage visitors to complete a form? Consider conducting an A/B test to see how different variations will perform.
Your team of writers, designers, and strategists may have different opinions on what creative element will make a positive impact to your marketing goal. An A/B test compares two or more versions of your page to see which one performs better.
With an A/B test, your team will have control of the variable and be able to collect data on different versions of your page. With the results, you’ll see which page works best, and your team can further refine your creative work to boost conversions.
Types of A/B Testing for Higher Ed
As a digital strategist at Stamats and an OmniUpdate partner, I use different types of testing to determine the success of a web page. My team at Stamats uses various tools to test and measure user experience, and OU Campus makes this process easy with its form asset creation process. For A/B tests, we rely on Google Optimize because it offers three useful methods of testing:
A/B/n Test – This is the most basic type of test, where you want to limit the number of changes to a few elements—such as button color, headline text, or the hero image. Google Optimize saves each change(s) as a variant page. You can have more than two variants running (the “n” in the name), but we recommend limiting to one change per variant. This test helps uncover how tiny changes can have a big impact on your page views, bounce rates, and more.
Multivariate Test – A multivariate test compares a combination of two or more elements as a group. This is better suited for a different brand messaging or art direction. For example, you want to target alumni but aren’t sure about a contemporary or a nostalgic approach to your messaging. On your variant page, you could replace your headline and photography to reflect the 90s, and see which version resonates better with the alumni.
Redirect Test – While Google Optimize allows you to make small, instant changes within its interface, there are times when you want more control to deliver completely different layouts or art direction. With a redirect test, Google redirects your visitors to a new page on your website. Google will still collect data on the visits and interactions, even though the redirect page lives on your server.
Why Conduct an A/B Test?
With OU Campus, conducting an A/B test is fast and easy with its quick form creation tool. Once you create the form, you can place it on any page as an asset, and OU Campus collects the form information. Google Optimize overlays on top of your form, and creates different versions of your page without affecting its functionality. Because Google Optimize is part of the 360 Suite, most of its features are free. For college and universities, the free version is more than enough in most cases.
A/B testing allows your team to:
- Find out why your landing pages aren’t generating conversions
- Test different messaging or art direction by controlling your variables
- Define your messaging strategy on new markets without alienating your existing audience
- Infer your audience’s subjective preferences
How to Conduct an A/B Test for Higher Ed
If this is your first time, begin the process by understanding your audience patterns through Google Analytics. Identify web pages or landing pages you are having difficulties with and isolate the issue to a single metric (clicks, page views, bounce rate, etc.). Meet with your team and come up with ideas on why your visitors aren’t engaging or converting on this particular page, and brainstorm creative solutions to improve the page’s performance.
Next, choose the appropriate test type from your team’s creative brainstorming, and form hypotheses. Structure each test into “if/then” statements, to both label the test and define a measurement for success. For example, “If the green color button works better, then it will have a higher number of clicks.” Inside Google Optimize, set up the test objectives by defining which metric to track.
Target your audience to make sure you have an appropriate sampling size. You can also restrict your sampling based on device types, behaviors, geography, and much more. Once this is done, run the test for approximately 2 weeks or until you have sufficient sampling data proportional to your regular traffic size.
Finally, the automatically generated report will provide you with a recommendation whether to implement your variant or stay with the original design. If the differences are subtle, consider reworking your test or creating new variants to improve the results. The big advantages of A/B testing are that you will never lose your original page and you will always have quantitative data to support your creative decisions.
Muzel Chen is Director, Digital Strategy at Stamats. He has experience combining art and technology and will guide clients to find the proper balance between proven functionality and the latest design. Having previously worked at the Alabama Digital Humanities Center at the University of Alabama as a web developer and designer, Muzel blends his experience in higher education and digital strategy with a keen aesthetic focus he gained working as a designer, creative director, and photographer. Muzel is Google AdWords and Analytics certified.
Interested in learning more about boosting traffic to your website? Check out Muzel’s webcast, A/B Testing: Optimize Your Site Efforts.