Optimising your website copy can be a bit of a dark art. It’s often hard to know whether your copywriting efforts are really hitting the mark.
This is where A/B testing (also known as split testing) comes in. With A/B testing you can compare two different versions of your website copy against each other, in order to establish which one truly performs best.
Copywriting is actually one of the simpler features to evaluate, as changes are quick and easy to implement. You can make as many changes to a webpage’s written content as often you like, small or large, testing as necessary. Here are some tips for getting the most out of the A/B testing of your copywriting.
How to A/B Test copywriting
With A/B testing you create a second version of the webpage you want to assess, with changes. These alterations can be as minor as rewriting a headline to a complete rewrite of the page. The website’s traffic is then directed randomly between the two versions of the page, with half of visitors shown the original (or control) content and half shown the modified content.
The conversion rate of each page can then be measured, according to your own conversion targets, and the better performing page adopted. Using our list below you can change one element of content at a time and repeat the process until the page is fully optimised, before moving on to other pages. A/B testing in this way allows you to optimise according to verifiable data, rather than hunches based on previous experience, which won’t always work in practice.
There are numerous tools available for A/B testing your content, including Optimizely, who provide a thorough breakdown of how to A/B test here. Or to find out which software tool is right for your business check out Crazyegg’s A/B testing guide.
Elements of content to A/B test
The headline is usually the first thing visitors to your website see. It provides them with a general sense of what the page is about and will often determine whether they choose to read on. You can A/B test variations of headlines to find out which ones result in the most conversions. Popular headline formats include:
• Question headlines – invite curiosity from the reader
• How to headlines – provide a solution to a problem
• Benefit headlines – introduce the benefits of a product or service
• News headlines – offer product/service/industry updates
• Numbered headlines – proven to have higher click-through rates
• Direct headlines – tell the reader exactly what they can expect
Also consider experimenting with length (the number of words in the headline), punctuation (i.e. exclamation marks, hyphens), and the types of words used (i.e. negative words versus positive words). Most important, however, is to create clear headlines that fit in with your company’s persona.
The length of your website copy can have a dramatic impact on conversion rates. Long-winded copy that rambles on for hundreds of words with no clear break will send visitors running for the ‘back’ button. Research has shown that visitors will spend, on average, just 8 seconds on a website before clicking away from the page, so if you’re to have any chance of encouraging them to stay longer your copywriting must be appealing.
Try experimenting with different word counts and layouts. Cut down sentences and paragraphs to make them more concise and easy to read, break up larger pieces of text with sub-headings and add in pictures throughout the copy to keep visitors interested – the copy should be easy to scan for key information.
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to website copy and this is why A/B testing is vital because the purpose of any given webpage as well as the type of visitor will differ widely from one website to another.
Tone of voice is a hugely important aspect of a website’s copy, and getting it right for your brand can make all the difference. For example, is your copy too friendly for your business-to-business model, or perhaps too formal to really be engaging to your customers?
A/B testing can help you discover which tone appeals most to visitors to your website so try varying the tone of your copywriting, particularly from page to page because what works for your product page won’t necessarily work for your blog or about page.
Is your website’s copy full of passive sentences, jargon, clichéd terms or pretentious language? Are you using words that downplay your company’s value (i.e. cheap, low-cost), or using too many superlatives (i.e. best ever, most rewarding)? Are you using the right pronouns in the right context (you versus we)?
Certain words and phrases are a huge turn off for visitors to a website, so A/B test your word use with fresh alternatives to find out whether the language in your copy is actually hurting your conversion rates.