How to do A/B Testing: A Guide For Affiliate Marketers

As more and more entrepreneurs turn to ecommerce as a way to generate revenue, affiliate marketing has grown as a popular marketing channel. Affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be expensive, is low risk, easily scalable, and often generates a better conversion rate than generic online ads.

If you’re an affiliate marketer looking to maximize your profits, one important thing you should be doing is A/B testing your affiliate content. How to do A/B testing properly, though, isn’t something that all affiliate markets are familiar with.

In this post, we’ll be looking at what A/B testing is, why it’s important for affiliate marketers, and suggesting some best practices for carrying it out.

What is A/B testing?

Also known as split testing, A/B testing is a way to compare two versions of a single variable by presenting people with both options and comparing results. In online marketing, A/B testing is used to test people’s responses to different variations in content in order to determine which of the two is more effective at generating conversions (sales, sign-ups, etc.).

If you want to test more than two versions of your content, you call it a multivariate test. Although A/B testing and multivariate testing refer to different testing methodologies, many of the basic principles of A/B testing can also be applied to a multivariate test.

Why do Affiliate Marketers Need to Test?

In affiliate marketing, A/B testing is needed to evaluate the performance of your conversion funnels. It takes the guesswork out of designing content, by giving you hard performance data so that you can understand what works and what doesn’t.

Whether you’re part of a large affiliate network or are participating in a company’s in-house affiliate program, incorporating A/B testing can ultimately help you increase your affiliate commission.

You don’t need to be an advanced web designer or use complicated data analytics tools to carry out an A/B test. Depending on your level of technical knowhow and what type of content you’re testing, there are many easy ways to implement an A/B test.

How to do A/B Testing: Areas to Implement Tests

Following on from the basic definition of A/B testing, you can probably already see that there are many things that could potentially be tested in this way.

A lot of web developers and designers will A/B test every minor change they make to a website and analyze the different responses they get using tools such as heat maps that track visitors’ cursors as they explore a website. But you don’t have to go that far.

Some of the most important things for affiliate marketers to test are their calls to action (CTAs), different media, subject lines, descriptions, and landing pages.

Calls to Action

A call to action, or CTA, is any clear command or instruction directed towards your audience. “Buy now”, “click here to subscribe”, and “sign up to our mailing list today” are all CTAs.

For affiliate marketers, as well as sales—likes, shares, subscriptions, and reviews can all be the incentivized currency of their efforts. For example, if you’re in the business of software marketing, you might not be making any one-to-one sales of individual items, but will have to employ the best SaaS marketing strategies instead.

Regardless of what it is you’re trying to convince your audience to do, however, you should be incorporating CTAs regularly in your messaging.

But which CTA to use? A/B testing can show you how different CTAs stack up against each other, whether you’re using them in your emails, on your website, or in social media posts. Just remember that for the latter you won’t be able to test different versions concurrently, so should test them at the same time of day and day of the week if possible.

Video and Images

Many companies that opt to pursue affiliate marketing as part of their business strategy will provide their affiliates with a range of ready-to-use marketing materials that might include audio, video, and images.

Providing a mix of marketing media helps businesses to keep their affiliates engaged and ensures a certain level of brand uniformity across the affiliate program. But not all materials will work well with all audiences.

If you’re an affiliate marketer who has been provided with a media pack by the company you’re partnered with, A/B testing is the simplest way to figure out which materials are the most effective with your audience.

As well as testing which video or image works best, you can also test different locations on a webpage, or different channels of communication.

Email Subject Lines

With email marketing, the first step towards converting your mailing list is to get them to open your messages.

Splitting your mailing list into two or more sublists and sending them versions of the same email but with a different subject line will show you if one is more enticing than another. All you need to do is check the open rate of each list and compare.

You would be surprised how little differences to a subject line such as adding an emoji or choosing a punchier CTA can actually make a difference in open rates. When it comes to how to do A/B testing, after all, it’s all about little changes that have a big impact.

Product Descriptions

For many consumers, how you describe the product or service you’re marketing is what will ultimately determine whether they commit to trying it or not.

Product descriptions tend to be found on sales pages, but you can also put them in email copy, videos, or in condensed form on graphics. Don’t waste the opportunity to try out different descriptions and test them against each other. Repeat the A/B test everywhere you describe what it is you are marketing.

Landing Pages

Your affiliate website’s landing page is the first page visitors to the site see. You might be thinking—doesn’t everyone who clicks a link to my website see the same landing page? Usually that would be true, but thankfully there are lots of handy, no-code tools available to help you A/B test changes to your website by showing different versions to visitors, including different versions of your landing page.

Besides the design of your landing page, you can test pretty much anything on a website. To make the most of this ability, getting to grips with Google Analytics or your CMS’s analytics dashboard is one of the most important skills you can acquire as an affiliate marketer.

If you’re using Google Analytics, A/B testing features can be found on the Experiments page of your Optimize Account. This guide provides a useful runthrough of Google’s basic web testing suite.

Analyzing Your Results

Once you’ve designed and implemented a test, you’ll need to run it for an appropriate amount of time to generate enough data to analyze. How long is appropriate will vary depending on the volume of your web traffic and the size of your mailing list or social media following.

The more people that interact with each variation, the more accurate a picture you’ll have of which version performs better. Because of this, running your tests for longer tends to get more accurate results.

Analysis of A/B testing in affiliate marketing

How you proceed analyzing your results will of course depend on why you’re A/B testing in the first place. Are you trying to optimize your website’s landing page for maximum sales? Or are you testing different SaaS backlinks to find out which one generates more interest in software subscriptions?

Having clearly defined performance metrics is important when designing your tests and will make your analysis much easier.

Choosing the right tools is vital in order to generate clear, actionable results. Besides Google Analytics there are many A/B testing solutions out there. If you operate a WordPress website, for example, there are a number of specially designed plug-ins available that enable you to test each change you make to your site and then analyze the results.

Conclusion

As a final note, it is important to remember that in affiliate marketing, as in so many other areas of business, nothing is final. Your audience will grow and change, trends will move on, and what was once a fool-proof marketing tactic may end up falling on deaf ears if you’re unable to adapt to an evolving marketplace.

In order to keep up with the times, you should test your marketing content continuously. Every time your affiliate partner makes a change to their offering, test new descriptions. When they send you updated video resources, test how your audience reacts to them. If you want to make changes to your website’s landing page, you guessed it,test them! That’s how to do A/B testing the smart way.

Hopefully, you’ll now have the tools to go out and start A/B testing your affiliate marketing content. Start with something small and easy, like different email subject lines, and before you know it you’ll be testing everything. When there are better conversion rates and more affiliate commission up for grabs, why wouldn’t you?

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