There is also common confusion about the difference between an AB test and an ‘AB’ redirection test (split test) and when to use which one. A split test, or redirection test, is used to test variations of a specific page hosted on different URLs. In other words, a split test’s variations are hosted on different URLs, while AB tests are hosted on the same URL. You’re now probably wondering, ‘well that’s all well and good, but when should I use an AB test and when should I use a split test?’. At the risk of oversimplifying it, for any major back-end design changes or complete page re-designs, a split test is preferred. If you are only looking to test simple front-end changes to the page, an AB test is preferred. Bear in mind, a split test requires more effort and work hours, as you will need to build a completely new HTML, whereas, in an AB test, changes can easily be made within a WYSIWYG editor.
I can already hear you SEO marketers yelling at the computer screen about how these split tests will impact the page rankings. But fear not, Google, as always, has you covered. Google recommends using the attribute rel=”canonical” and not a no-index tag on your alternative pages. This will indicate to Google that the variations are relatively similar to the original.
Another useful use for split tests that we have come across for our smaller clients, is when pages you want to test have small amounts of volume. There is nothing more demoralising than doing all the initial research and analysis on your website, then plugging in the data to an online CRO test duration calculator, like this one, only to find out that the test would need to run for 10 months to reach statistical significance. We have found a technique using split tests to be very useful with this.
We have a travel client who were looking to do a CRO test on their great deal package page. The site contained these great deal package pages for all their available destinations. The layout of the pages were exactly the same, with the only difference being the actual content, which was unique to each destination. We found that there was not enough volume going towards these individual destination pages for us to conduct a test in a reasonable amount of time.
We knew what we wanted to do, we wanted to completely re-design the pages, with more emphasis on the benefits the client provides and the CTAs. We chose 6 of the top volume destinations, created new variation pages on the website, and re-designed their great deal pages in exactly the same way, with the only difference being the destination specific content. We made sure the variation pages had a common element in their URL. The original pages contained ‘great-deals’ and our variations contained ‘your-deals’.
We then set up a redirection test within our CRO platform, AB Tasty, and used a regular expression within the split test section of their editor, which allowed all the original destination ‘great deal’ pages to redirect to their corresponding variation ‘your deal’ pages. This technique allowed us to combine all the data from the 6 original pages and 6 variation pages into one test, allowing us to reach statistical significance in a shorter amount of time, while comparing our original design and the variation design. The result ended up with a 36% increase in conversions for our variation page design.