How to Approach your A/B Testing

A/B testing is a great tool, but its breadth of options and the amount of information you get in return can be overwhelming.  It’s important to have a clear plan before you embark on your journey into subject line variations, template comparisons and beyond.


Firstly, identify a single attribute to test.  It’s great to have the option to have three versions of your Campaign - each with their own from name, subject line and design layout, but you’ll not truly know which variation made the most successful email standout to your recipients.  Therefore, pick your target and stick with it – you’ll get far more precise results with actionable data using this approach.

You must also work out what you want to get out of the testing.  For example, if you want to work out what gets you more opens then make that your focus and test subject lines and From names.  However, you can also test how many clicks your email attracts or even how many times a specific link is clicked (this is certainly one to get you thinking about layouts and wording).  Approaching testing with prior planning makes you far more precise and you will get a lot more value in return.


When selecting the first aspect you’re going to test it’s worth thinking of each aspect as a stage of the process.  I like to think in terms of how the recipient is going to peel back the layers of an email: 

The first thing they will see is the subject line or From name in their inbox so it’s best to focus on one of these first and perfect the art of getting your email opened.

 If you focused on the From name, then the subject line comes next and vice versa.  These two are first steps – once you’ve found out what works in getting your email opened you can work on the content your recipient will see.

There are so many possibilities for what you can test at the content stage, so it is important to focus.  Pick an aspect of the content and test it.  This could be the design of a Call to Action button, comparing templates, experimenting with the text or even the page structure of the campaign.  You should break the testing of content into stages itself and work through them.

By the end of all your stages, you’ll have the most robust email campaign possible, ready to take on the world.

Stick at it.

It’s important to do multiple tests at each stage so you can create reliable data.  If you’re going to test subject lines, then try this on four or five Campaigns at different times and for different contact lists.  This will allow you to know what works in various contexts and you’ll have evidence to back it all up.  You might even be surprised at what you find.

Act on it.

When you have your results, use them.  It might be that you find that a new wording style for your subject lines works far better, or that your templates need a refresh to draw people towards that all-important Call to Action. Whatever you find, there’s no point in doing the testing if it’s not going to inform the future of your email marketing.

Even if it backs up what you’ve already been doing, A/B testing has proved its worth and you can bask in the knowledge that you were right all along.