As one company executive stated during a recent optimization presentation, “Testing your content is like a license to print money.”

For those familiar with optimization, there’s no doubt about it. Online testing and content targeting are the only sure methods for finding out what your customers respond to on a digital property, and what gets them to convert.

Before you start your own treasury, however, remember that testing and site optimization are a mindset and a disciplined, ongoing practice. Great tools are critical, obviously. But implementing the right kind of test (A/B, split or MVT), and getting meaningful results that hold up in court, take planning and expertise.

What’s the difference between split, A/B and MVT?

While some people use “A/B” and “split” interchangeably, the technical difference can be important. A split test is relatively easy to set up even without a testing tool, but does not allow for very complex testing or necessarily valid results. Essentially, you are splitting traffic to two or more pages that represent different executions of the same test idea, and then measuring comparative results. This can be a quick and dirty way to achieve some broad learnings—but it probably won’t give you very meaningful conversion lift.

A/B or A/B/n tests focus on testing one element on a single page or the same element across multiple pages (e.g., button color or navigation). A/B testing is also relatively simple to set up because it isolates a single testing variable, but it can take a long time to generate results—and results themselves can be limited. When more than one element needs to be tested, these tests are typically run sequentially, which takes even longer.

Multivariate tests (MVT) focus on testing multiple variations simultaneously rather than sequentially. These tests represent a major time-savings to run to statistical validity, and provide the most valuable insight into how all elements work together. A good MVT tool does not need to run every possible combination (“full factorial” testing) in order to achieve statistical significance, but does need some pretty hefty math behind it in order to achieve solid results in an efficient amount of time. Webtrends Optimize has a patented MVT technology that produces valid results in a fraction of the time most tools take to run A/B tests.

Is your testing team ready to rumble?

While these definitions may seem straightforward, it can be difficult to assemble the resources you need for effective testing—test planning and design, graphic design, development work, QA and more. And if working in isolation, even with the best testing tool, you are likely to cut corners and compromise the effectiveness of the test. Many times when you go it alone, testing can quickly turn from a great idea to a frustrating burden.

To ensure that testing is as quick and valid as it can be, and to help drive the most conversion and revenue from the tests, leveraging an experienced testing team can make all the difference. And the difference can mean much greater lifts in conversion and revenue. Let’s look at a few real-world examples of a well-implemented testing programs.

Getting real results in real estate

Market Leader helps real estate agents generate a steady stream of prospects and convert them into clients by creating personalized websites and marketing campaigns. With traffic driven from a variety of sources, they wanted to learn which messaging and content would drive higher conversions.

Market Leader implemented MVT focused on messaging and the registration form. The test included seven individual factors (hero image, main copy, secondary content, required notification, registration form, call-to-action button and third party validation). They tested three of the factors four different ways, and four of the factors two different ways.

Using this MVT optimization strategy, they were quickly able to pinpoint the optimal page and maximize conversions. Market Leader found that three factors—registration form, headline and secondary content—were the most influential in lifting conversions. Overall, conversion rates improved up to 60% over the baseline control page across all segments.

Letting airline bookings fly

Alitalia, a large European airline, was concerned about the growing number of players in the market, and how they could better engage visitors to their booking site. They implemented a testing strategy of several website elements—page background, search button, font size, headline, offer, payment options, even images—and used a combination of A/B and MVT.

The result? Alitalia increased bookings by 7.09% in just three months. To put this in perspective, each 0.5% lift in purchases is worth 25 million euros to the company’s bottom line. They also discovered that web pages with more evocative—even dreamy—imaging had higher conversion rates than standard graphics.

Subscribing to higher conversions

eMarketer aggregates and analyzes research from more than 3,000 sources, and brings them together in the most comprehensive digital marketing database in the world. eMarketer’s subscription service provides clients with full access to the thousands of charts, articles and analyst reports in its database. Subscriptions are sold only through a callback from a sales representative, so the website’s ability to generate qualified leads is critical. To lift landing page conversions, eMarketer wanted to understand which specific content elements drive conversions and why.

They implemented a comprehensive optimization project that included A/B and MVT on five page elements: navigation bar, product description, price display, “how can we help you” field name, and call to action button. In just 29 days of testing, eMarketer found that price and product description had the most impact on conversions—and in that time, they gained a 53% lift in overall subscription conversions. In addition, the A/B test of their funnel page proved that a single-step process increased conversions by 20% as compared to a two-step process.

Banking on expertise

When companies get results like these, it can help shift their culture to be more metrics-driven. Attributing numbers to online actions gives everyone a better understanding of the business. Often the learnings that come with testing are just as valuable as the conversion and revenue lifts themselves. One test leads to another, and sets a solid baseline for continuous testing and ongoing growth.

While there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to optimization tactics, having a team of experts to conduct multivariate testing is the best way to get the most out of an optimization project with clear, measureable results. And you can take that to the bank.

If you would like to learn more about A/B and MVT testing please get in touch!