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A/B Split Testing: How to Improve Your Email Newsletters

Blog - Newsletter AB Testing

Big Gains From Small Edits

As the world of digital marketing continues to grow, we are constantly learning of new ways to improve upon techniques, even for certain channels that we have been working with for a long time. When it comes to Email marketing specifically, there is always room for improvement. As we have often found, some of the biggest improvements can come from the smallest of edits.

The most minor adjustments to your email templates have the potential to cause click-through rates (the percentage of people who actually click on a link within an email) and open rates (the % percentage of people who even open and view an email rather than just ignoring or deleting it) to suddenly skyrocket. In turn, this can drive large amounts of sales, traffic, sign-ups, and conversions for your business. However, the only way to truly learn from your template adjustments is to implement them one-at-a-time, utilizing classic scientific procedure to test and see which variations are working the best to help you reach your business goals. By isolating your adjustments, you can learn which varying factors are helping to improve your campaigns, and which changes are hurting them.

A/B Split Testing for Email

The best approach for this experimental improvement is commonly referred to as A/B Split Testing: a function available within most email marketing services.

The actual process for Newsletter A/B Split Testing involves splitting a small, randomly selected subset of your mailing list subscribers into two groups. Then, each of these groups receives an email that is nearly identical, except for a small tweak that you are testing. For example, you might test different subject lines or calls-to-action in order to see how that affects the email’s open and click-through rates. Once the results are measured, you then analyze that information and send out the "winning" variation to the all of the users who didn't receive one of the original test emails.

To reiterate, the only difference between the two emails going to the two small test groups should be the single factor that you are testing, not two completely different email designs.

An Example

Acme, Inc. would like find out which color link attracts the most clicks. In the current version of their newsletter, the link is displayed in a big red font with no special decoration.

In order to find out if this is the optimal presentation for clicks, they create an A/B test that includes two identical newsletters, except for the big red link. Email #1 would include the standard big red link with no special decoration, while Email #2 would include a blue link with no special decoration. While it may be tempting to experiment with decorating the link or creating a special button, that should be saved for the next test in order to keep the currently tested color variable completely isolated. The reason for only testing one tweak at a time is so that there is no doubt about what specifically caused the increase in audience reaction. In order to continue testing ways to improve click-through rates, further A/B tests could be done.

But links are not the only thing that can be tested in newsletters. Other potential variables include:

  • Subject-Line: Test subject lines to increase open rates.
  • From-Line: Test which "from" address results in the highest open rate.
  • Landing Page: Find out which landing page to link to by seeing which one results in a higher conversion rate
  • Time of Delivery: The time of day that email is sent could have a significant impact on open rates and recipient activity across all metrics.
  • Presentation of Calls to Action: Not getting enough clicks? Try testing the color of and style of buttons.
  • Just About Every Aspect of A Newsletter: Almost anything in a newsletters can be tested for improvement.

Remember: scientific testing that provides you with measurable results is the only true path to improving your email marketing campaigns. While there are many individuals and sources who will preach of “best practices” for email marketing strategies, what works for other businesses may not work as successfully for the goals of your brand, and your specific email lists. Finding the best digital marketing practices for your brand can only be determined through properly measuring and analyzing your campaigns, and then executing creative strategies based upon the results you gather. When it comes to emails, the one true way to be sure is to test test test!

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