You can see a myriad of successful bloggers and youtubers AB testing their content and there’s a good reason why. It let’s you make informed decisions about what works best for your content and get a better idea of which direction you should go in.
What is AB Testing?
AB testing is basically having two versions of the same thing that differ in some way, then measuring to see which one is more successful. While it sounds like a lot of work, don’t panic, there’s a tonne of simple ways you can AB test your content without it taking a whole lot of time.
Ideally you would want to have the two versions of your content running at the same time and being served up randomly to your audience, in reality that can be a little tricky for a novice blogger, so let’s look at ways you can do these tests without breaking your brains.
Whenever you’re performing tests on your content you’ll want to define some goals, some measurable things that you’re going to be looking for to determine the success or failure of the test. The most obvious goal is to get more eyes on your work and to increase your audience, but there are some other things that you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Is you’re content being shared more during the test? Even if you don’t see a marked increase in your viewers straight off the bat, if you’re seeing increased shares then chances are you’re going to start seeing that increased viewership soon enough.
Engagement is king when it comes to blogging and vlogging, you don’t just want people to be reading or viewing your content, you want them to be engaging with it, to like it, to share it, and to comment on it. Even if you’re viewership doesn’t increase, if you’re engagement does then you’re probably doing something right.
Most content creators have suffered the wrath of bad viewer retention and this is another area you want to keep your eye on. If you can boost up viewer retention on your work then that’s a definite plus, it means your viewers are spending more time reading or watching your content and shows that there’s some kind of improvement.
Another affliction of content creators is the bounce rate, when users just view that single piece of content and then leave. If your testing shows that you’re bounce rate is going down then you’re heading in the right direction.
While these are all factors to consider for your testing, there will be times where you want to pick a focus for your tests. If you have a piece of content that is getting a huge amount of views but has a terrible bounce rate then you’ll probably want to do tests that specifically focus on improving the bounce rate of that content.
Titles can make a hell of a lot of difference, I’ve written before about how changing the title of one of my youtube videos totally changed the retention rate, and it’s definitely something you want to experiment with.
Take a look through your blog or youtube library for a couple of posts or videos that you want to resurrect, and try changing the title. It doesn’t need to be a dramatic change, just tweak it a little. If the content has a very professional sounding title, try changing it to be more natural sounding or vice versa. Do keep in mind the style of the content, you don’t want to have a really technical post that has a title that gives the impression it’s going to be a fun light hearted article.
Now let that post marinade a little and keep an eye on the analytics. Is the page performing any better? Has the bounce rate and retention time increased or decreased? Is the post attracting a different or wider audience?
The Post Content
While this won’t really work for your video content because it’s tough to edit your videos a lot when they are already online, for your blog posts try tweaking them a little. Add more images, take some away, alter the tone of the post slightly, add some new information, try and make it longer or shorter.
Make sure you backup the original post so that if you find the changes give you worse results you can easily just switch back to the original.
Changing up a piece of content that isn’t performing well could help give it a little boost as well as giving you a better idea of what your readers like. Maybe breaking up the text with a few strategically placed images or infographics has helped people consume it easier, maybe changing from a professional tone to a more friendly tone has increased engagement.
Blog posts tend to have a thumbnail, or a main image that is displayed alongside the post, and of course youtube videos all have thumbnails. Try changing them up and seeing what results you get. A lot of youtube success relies on your thumbnail making people want to click on it, so if you have a video that isn’t performing well experiment with thumbnails and see if you can find something that helps get those extra clicks. Take a look at the videos competitions thumbnails and look for ways you can make yours stand out from the crowd.
There are a tonne of ways that you can connect your content together to try and encourage users to continue to consume your content instead of clicking away. If you’re suffering from a high bounce rate start looking at the ways you’re connecting your content together and changing it up.
If you’re relying on end linking (the related posts at the bottom of your articles, or the end screen on your youtube videos) then try sprinkling some links throughout your content. Some blogs will have a mini related posts spot in the middle of their blog posts, but a more natural way to do it is to write complementary content, content that you will be able to naturally link to from the body of your complementing post.
For youtube videos look for places where you could add annotations that link to other relevant videos during the video rather than only linking at the end. Make sure you also add any links in the description box that you think would be relevant as well. Don’t restrict yourself either, if you have a blog post that is relevant to your youtube video then link to it, you want to be looking at ways to get your viewers to consume all your content across different platforms.
Using Social Media to AB Test your content is a great way to do it without having to change a thing about your content. When you publish a new piece of content and shout it out on social media, instead of just posting about it with the exact same title every time try changing up the title, thumbnail or description and see if you get any extra interest from those changes.
Things to keep in mind
I mentioned that AB testing works better when you can run the two versions of something at the same time, and the reason for that is because there’s so many other factors that could be affecting your results. For example, if I write a new blog post and shout it out on twitter at lunch time on Monday, then AB test with a different title on twitter at lunch time on Tuesday, well, it’s a different day of the week.
Maybe on Mondays less people go on twitter in their lunch breaks, or take lunch breaks later because they’re catching up from the weekend so miss my shoutout, maybe Monday was a national holiday somewhere so less people were at work and more of them online, maybe something happened on one of those days that shoved the content I was producing into the spotlight, or stole the spotlight from that topic, all these things could affect the results.
Perform Multiple Tests
Make sure you don’t just perform single AB tests.. Ideally you should be performing multiple tests over the course of a month or two so you really have some data to analyse. While you don’t want to be constantly changing your content up for the tests, there’s nothing wrong with performing a few tests over the course of a month or two to get a better idea of what is working, especially if it’s a piece of content that is not performing as well as it should be.
Let us know about your AB testing in the comments. Have you ever tried it? Did you find it helpful? Do you have any other easy AB tests that you like to do?