If you want to grow your email list faster, there are two things you can do.
You can focus on driving more traffic. Continue doing what you do right now: write, promote, interview influencers, Tweet, Buffer, StumbleUpon, buy FB ads, and so on.
Or, you could not do that. You could simply convert more of the traffic you already have.
When you look at it like that, A/B testing is really a no-brainer.
It helps you get more newsletter sign-ups, shares on your content, and eventually, more traffic. Focusing only on getting more traffic also does those things, but it takes much more time and effort.
And, before you ask: A/B testing doesn’t have to be hard to set up or expensive.
You can set up your tests for free with Google Analytics. Here’s a step-by-step guide I wrote on just that.
Many of the ideas in this post can also be done on Twitter or in your email marketing software (for example, testing subject lines). So don’t let site traffic stop you from exploring the world of A/B testing.
Maybe you don’t have a ton of followers yet. Or your site doesn’t have a ton of traffic. If you’re still concerned about whether it’s worth your time, this A/B Split and Multivariate Test Duration Calculator will help. It’ll tell you how long you need to run a test in order to get accurate data.
How to start?
First, you’ll want to figure out what your website’s goal is. Is it to sell more book copies? Is it to get more email list subscribers? Is it lowering your bounce rate?
You’ll also want to keep in mind your entire sales funnel. Those are some scary words, but don’t run away yet! Sales funnel simply means the big picture of each of your readers’ visits to the site.
For example, you could offer a free 100€ bill to every email subscriber. That would work magic! Your conversion rate would be through the roof. But looking at the big picture, most of the new subscribers probably wouldn’t be interested in your content about origami. So it doesn’t make sense to test this lead magnet.
Ok, let’s look at some examples and A/B testing ideas.
The number one priority of your blog should be to build a list. I know, you can read this on every website on online businesses ever, so let’s instead take a look at how you can more effectively grow your list.
Test the location and behaviour of your sign-up box
Where your sign-up form is located can heavily affect how many people join your list. Imagine having a form hidden somewhere in the footer. Most people don’t even scroll that far!
You can place your sign-up box in various places:
- In the sidebar
- In the footer
- Inside each blog post
- On your homepage
- On a welcome mat
- With a timed pop-up
- On an exit-intent pop-up
- With a scroll-based slide-in
Ideally, you’ll have multiple forms throughout the page, and with testing, you can narrow your choice down to three of four ideal places.
Speaking of multiple forms…
Site-wide freebies are good. But when Boris comes to your site to read about grooming cats, he may not be inclined to download your sitewide “ebook on pets”. He will read the article and leave the site. You just lost Boris as a potential subscriber.
For times like these, we use content upgrades. They are highly relevant free ebooks, checklists, and videos that are typically placed inside a blog post and convert crazy well!
Test whether content upgrades make a difference in your conversion rate, compared to your site-wide freebie.
In this example, Devesh Khanal created a simple checklist that people could print out. It took him less than an hour to create it, and it drove a 492% increase in sign-ups.
Imagine increasing your email subscriptions by 500%!
You can test which types of content your visitors respond best to, where to offer the freebie, how these freebies are being presented, etc. Is it better to list more benefits of the freebie or display its monetary value?
Everyone and their sister can give out free ebooks on forms. Many times, the ebook isn’t even good. That’s why I list its actual price on Amazon on the ThemeBro website. This gives the freebie higher perceived value.
Another thing you can test is whether people prefer in-line forms, clicking to open a new landing page, or a popup form. HubSpot tested this and decided on inline-forms. What will your site show?
More things you can test in your form design:
- Whether you should ask for more or less info? You can use extra form fields for audience segmentation.
- If displaying partner logos under the form helps in conversion.
- If showing testimonials besides the form makes a difference.
Call to action button
Use words other than 'subscribe' or 'submit' inside the button. 'Free Instant Access' seems to work best for me, although I’d recommend split testing with other copy such as 'Get Your eBook Now!', or 'Try My Course for Free!', etc.
Besides the copy, you can also test how the button looks. You can add an icon, test different colours (typically, colors that contrast to the site work best), or even try replacing it with a text link.
Content is why people come to your site.
This is why it needs to be perfectly tailored to their needs and taste. Which type of content does your audience respond best to? Should you write shorter content or fewer long pieces? These questions can now be answered with the following A/B testing ideas.
“Write short headlines” is advice you can get from a post named “14 ways to increase readership and bring more traffic to your website in 30 days”.
The point is, nobody has an idea about what actually works on your readers. So stop depending on blogs to give you advice (Oh, how ironic. This is a blog.), and start testing.
There are two easy ways to start testing headlines.
When promoting a brand-new post, you’ll typically schedule a few tweets. They don’t have to be exactly the same. Each can be its own headline which you can then compare to each other.
Leo Widrich writes about this technique in a monster-post on Buffer’s blog. There’s no reason not to use what you learn to also write the headlines on your blog!
Another way is to install a WordPress plugin that will rotate the different blog titles you write and then determine the winner based on the click-through rate. I’ve used this one, and it worked well.
Don’t know what to test? Here are a couple of title ideas:
- Features “How to set up a test with Visual Website Optimizer” vs benefit “Increase your conversion rates without hassle (tutorial)”
- Short “My favourite productivity tools” vs long “Amazing free & paid productivity tools that let me make the most out of my every day”
- Number “16 best A/B testing ideas” vs. no number “Essential list of A/B testing ideas”
- Here is a list of plenty more title formulas
In a similar way, you can test your writing voice. Does your audience prefer a casual tone or do they want to get all the data in tables? Do they like your posts in bullet-points or do they take the time to read longer paragraphs?
This is a great way to test those “best practice tips” all writing blogs seem to toot around.
To gate or not to gate?
Most bloggers gate content based on the effort invested into creating that content.
For example, blog posts will be un-gated, but a 10-page ebook will be gated.
This approach shows zero strategic oversight.
In other words, it may not be effective at all.
You should give out as much content as possible for free, without gating it with email sign-up forms. This allows your brand to be seen by a much larger audience, giving it the possibility to go viral.
Your visitors break down into three buying stages:
- Low: just looking for information on the problem or not aware of it (no gate)
- Mid: looking for a solution or comparing you to competitors (gate)
- High: ready to buy, reading more about your product (no gate)
People in Low are reading your blog. They may share your content, and read more articles. It doesn’t make sense to gate your blog, because it would then have a much smaller reach.
Those in the High range don’t need more persuading. They may sign up for a trial of your product, or read the sample chapter of your ebook. Gating would cause friction in the process.
The reason you should only gate the ones in the Mid stage is that they are the only ones who need persuading. By building a relationship with those visitors, sharing more great content with them, and eventually pitching them your product, you will be able to sell more.
Free information should focus more on the 'what' and the 'why', rather than go deep into the 'how'.
If you don’t have a product, obviously this will not work. But in any case, test with your own visitors. Do non-gated ebooks get more shares or vice versa? Do pdf checklists drive traffic back to the site?
So, ready to start converting like crazy?
Pick two tests that you can implement today, and start using real data to increase your list. By being more strategic with your content, you can create more conversions quicker.
When you’re working for yourself, you need to be smarter about how you use your time. A/B testing is the ultimate time-saving hack.
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