WordPress A/B testing

Anyone who spends enough time working with WordPress will end up developing a sixth sense for what works and what doesn’t. For example, experience enables us to distinguish good blog post ideas from the terrible, or a great call to action from a shoddy one – but why rely solely on your gut when you could implement a WordPress A/B testing solution?

When done right, A/B (or split) testing takes the guesswork out of the equation, and empowers us to make the best possible decisions for the growth of our sites.

Before we walk you through a couple of WordPress A/B testing tools, let’s take a minute to discuss the basics of split testing, and some of the best practices you should observe to maximize their efficacy.

What is A/B testing and what makes for a good test?

As its name implies, an A/B test involves pitting two options (A and B) against each other, and seeing which one comes out on top. When it comes to websites, this usually involves two versions of the same page with a key difference, such as a variation of a call to action, a different headline, or an alternate color scheme. These are all valid types of split tests.

After selecting your two versions, you must state a hypothesis and choose a goal. For example, if we tested two calls to action, we could say that whichever one accumulated the most clicks is better from a conversion standpoint. That would be our hypothesis, and obtaining the most clicks would be our goal.

Visitors would then be shown either page randomly when they browse your site, and we’d wait until our sample size is large enough to be considered statistically reliable. Once it is, we can see which call to action came out on top by comparing clicks.

It’s pretty simple – even more so if you’re using a WordPress A/B testing plugin – but before we jump into creating our own tests, let’s discuss some best practices:

  1. Make sure your variations are different enough to avoid confusion.
  2. Set a clear hypothesis and goal for your test before starting.
  3. Select your pool of testers randomly.
  4. Make sure your test runs until you accumulate a statistically significant result.

Any WordPress user is regularly faced with decisions that could be A/B tested, so internalizing these steps is fundamental. If you formulate the right hypotheses, a well run split test will tell you exactly how you need to proceed.

WordPress A/B testing: what kind of solutions are out there?

Let’s find out  how to implement your own split tests in WordPress using two simple plugins,  each of which offers free and premium versions.

1. Nelio AB Testing

Nelio AB Testing is a comprehensive WordPress A/B testing solution that pairs a pleasant interface with an abundance of features. It enables you to run almost any type of test you want – entire pages, headlines, theme variations, widgets, and much more.

The plugin’s only downside is its view-based pricing system – the free version will enable you to display your tests to up to 1,000 viewers (which you can increase by referring friends). Even the premium version offers impractically small view limits for sites that receive lots of traffic, thus forcing them into purchasing higher tiers.

Setup instructions

After installing and activating the plugin, and navigating to its main screen, you’ll see four options:

The split testing options available on Nelio AB Testing.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll choose New A/B Test for Posts, and select Headline Experiment – it’s Nelio’s simplest split test option, and will enable us to familiarize ourselves with its setup process nicely. For starters, you’ll need to set up a name to keep track of your experiment, a description, and select which post to use as a base:

Setting your Headline Experiment details.

The following screen will enable you to create multiple variations of the same post or page with different headlines. Unleash your creativity, then click Create:

Creating new headlines on Nelio AB Testing.

Now navigate to your Experiments tab and click on Start below your test:

Starting your Nelio test.

…and once complete, your results will appear on a screen like this one:

Your Nelio test results screen.

Pricing

Free, $29, $89, and $259 per month.

Should you consider Nelio AB Testing?

Definitely – if you don’t mind paying for a premium service. Its free plan is incredibly limited, but will enable you to familiarize yourself with the inner workings of the plugin and help you make a decision.

2. Simple Page Tester

At first glance, Simple Page Tester may look more barebones than Nelio AB Testing, but it can handle complex split tests just as easily. Its free version enables you to A/B test entire posts and pages, making any changes you desire using the WordPress editor.

Furthermore, you’re not limited in any way when it comes to the number of views you can get, and the plugin enables you to run as many tests as you want at once.

Setup instructions

After installing the plugin, a new Setup New Split Test option will appear alongside your WordPress editor when updating any page or post:

Simple Page Tester alongside the WordPress editor.

After clicking it, select Duplicate Master Page for the best results. This option will enable us to modify an identical page to the one we’re testing instead of starting from scratch, or use an entirely different one (which would be a poor setup for a test):

The options available on Simple Page Tester.

Simple Page Tester will create an identical copy of your initial page, which you should customize before the split test can begin.

Finally, navigate to the Split Tests tab and select the test that shares its name with your pages:

The details of a Simple Page Tester split test.

From this screen you can monitor how your test is proceeding, pause it, reset its stats, and declare a winner once you’ve collected a large enough sample.

Pricing

Free, $59, and $149 licenses.

Should you consider Simple Page Tester?

Simple Page Tester is a no-brainer for users who are looking for a sturdy, free solution. It does the job and is remarkably simple to use.

Conclusion

At first sight, implementing a WordPress A/B testing plugin is not as complicated as it may appear. As we’ve already established, there are plenty of tools at our disposal, and a vast array of guides to walk us through the finer points of split testing (including this one!).

To make sure your test is worthwhile, follow these simple guidelines:

  1. Make sure your testing criteria is different enough to avoid confusion.
  2. Set a clear goal and hypothesis for your test.
  3. Select a random pool of testers.
  4. Give your test enough time to accumulate a decent sample size and ensure your results are statistically significant.

Are you a fan of WordPress A/B testing, and do you think it’s important for conversions? Tell us why in the comments section below!