Use A/B split-testing for your union website

May 26, 2010

Split testing is a very useful tool for online union websites and is used by major businesses, advertisers, campaigns like the Obama campaign, and giants like Google and Facebook. All unions should use split testing for their campaign sites, and should consider how to integrate it into their Joining pages.

What is split testing (also called A/B testing)?

Simply put, if you have an important web page (such as your “Join the Union” page), you want to maximise the number of people who take the desired action (called “conversions”) – in the case of the join page, the number of people who actually join.

Most websites have static pages, where the content and design is fixed. But what if some element of the design or text on the page could be improved to increase the number of conversions (joins to the union)? What if you changed the “join” text, or changed the picture, or changed how complicated the join form itself was? This could increase the number of people who join, or it could decrease it. You want to know which, and you also want to know which change it was that increased the number of joins.

Split testing allows you to perform an experiment where you create two (or more) versions of the same page. When someone visits the specified page, they are randomly shown one or another of the “test” pages (either the original one, or the new one). You can then see which version of the page is more successful in getting someone to take the action you want.

After you’ve created the split test, you build a sample – a number of “conversions” – perhaps 100 or so – and check which version of the page was most successful. You can stop using the least successful page, and also experiment more on how to increase the number of conversions. The more you experiment and test, the more data, and (hopefully) the more conversions you’ll get.

Although the example above is for the “Join the Union” page, your campaign sites should also try to use split testing. Most campaigns will have a call to action. This call to action could be signing up to a mailing list, sending an email to a politician or employer, or filling out a survey. Ultimately, your union wants as many people as possible to perform that action.

Split testing can be used for all of these (as well as on your union’s merchandise page).

Google Website Optimizer has made the process really easy for you to add AB split testing to your site. It’s a free service (like most Google services) and links with their many other (free) products like Google Analytics.

If your union’s campaign website is a simple HTML site, then this is really easy to do. If you use a content management system, most of the open source, free CMSs have plugins that do a lot of the coding for you. WordPress for example has two plugins for this purpose (here and here).

Many unions have proprietary content management systems running their websites. Talk to the company that designed your site about split testing using Google Optimizer. Any design firm worth their salt should be able to do it for you – and since it’s offered for free from Google, it shouldn’t cost too much to set up.

This post is part of Project 52 – one blog post per week for the entire year.


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