Multivariate testing is an internet marketing process used by web developers, online entrepreneurs, and local businesses to ensure that their websites are optimized to increase and/or improve their conversion rates. This type of experimenting allows website developers and webmasters to test various components of their websites in a live environment. While Alpha-Beta (AB) testing tends to explore the advantages and weak points of two different variations and determine which is better. Multivariate testing, on the other hand, is much like an Alpha-Beta test. The difference is that it is like having multiple AB testing performed at a single instance.
Simply put, multivariate testing looks to assess the effectiveness of a web page by going live and testing various combinations of the page’s components. The elements tested can range from the site’s content, text font and size, placement of headers and side bars, background colors, and landing images to name a few.
By testing multiple variations of a website at once, it allows webmasters to see how users respond to a specific variation. All of these components are thoroughly scoured to see which particular variation or its elements and subelements provide the right mix and feel to consistently turn a targeted user into a customer. This type of testing also weeds out the elements and components of a web page in particular or website in general that does not contribute to the conversion, thus narrowing down a website owner’s options to just the best and consistent page elements.
Statistics play a big role in multivariate testing and thus, it is important that each variation must contain all components that are to be tested and must be presented in equal proportions. The behavior of incoming visitors are monitored and recorded for analysis. Most multivariate test results are often determined by counting the clicks they made for content they prefer.
But not all testing requires statistical data as there are some methods that solely require behavioral observations as basis for the determination and implementation of the site’s modifications.
Multivariate testing may seem like rocket science to the average Joe. After all, it does entail website technicalities such as Meta tags, content, headers, banners, page codes, buttons, images, and text to mention a few. But if you are someone who desires to see conversion rates raise and break through the roof, then learning the basics and, eventually in the future, the advanced methods of multivariate testing should be a paramount priority of yours the moment you decided to bring your business online.
Bear in mind that each element has its values and their values are limitless. All you have to do is explore them and assign them in different variations, which tackle an element’s position and placement in a page. It may sound difficult but if you identify what are the changes you want to apply, then testing becomes a tad simpler.
Identify which method you want to us
There are various multivariate testing methods out there and each has its advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we will discuss three multivariate testing methods generally used by internet marketers and website developers.
Full factorial testing – this method require exposing each combination to a fair share of internet users. If there are, say, 12 possible combinations or variations, each combination will receive one-twelfth of the site’s overall traffic. This particular testing approach is useful when you want to see how users react to multiple variables and elements grouped in various combinations. This will help determine which particular grouping and/or element showed excellent performance compared to others. But bear in mind that just because a variation works well, you might think that you have the perfect set-up. There are several cases that a headline in a variation performs well but not its content. Or a well-placed image may attract significant traffic but the placement of the buttons is off.
Partial or fractional factorial testing – Unlike full factorial testing, only a fraction of the variations are presented to the site visitors for testing. Say if there are 12 possible variations, only 6 are subjected to testing. The other 6 combinations will not be tried to experimentation, though they will be subjected mathematical theories and computations. The results from which will then be the basis for the untested combinations or variations.
Taguchi testing – this method is best used if your site’s traffic is relatively small. However, it is not a sound method, according to several multivariate testing experts. This method was based on a same approach used in the manufacturing industry, which entails making specific suppositions to narrow down the number of possible variations. But as to applying the Taguchi testing to an internet-based system, many internet marketers suggest using other testing methods.
Multivariate Testing Word by Chopra
According to Paras Chopra, founder of Visual Website Optimizer, internet users spend 9 seconds to scan and scour a page before they decide whether what they see or read is relevant or not. Therefore, it is very critical that all components in your site work harmoniously to catch and grab the interest of your website visitors within that 9-second window.
Chopra asserts that websites ultimately exist because they sell something, whether it is a product or a service or information they are offering. While how a website looks is an essential part of internet marketing, Chopra says that focusing almost entirely to the aesthetic aspects of website building and online business is a flawed concept.
“Most designs do a sub-optimal job because the designer in you thinks in terms of aesthetics.”
If you are to succeed with your online business endeavor, it is important that you see multivariate testing from a business perspective. Remember that you want to improve your conversion rates, not redesign your website to suit your aesthetical preferences. Here are five steps Chopra presents as a way to start your multivariate testing.
- Determine the problem or challenge. A website or a webpage in particular, serves various purposes from various angles. It is important that you work on a specific problem that you want fixed or addressed. Your goal or goals must also be defined as well as this will give you an idea of how you want things done. Basically, the whole point of performing multivariate testing is to see how traffic can be converted into successful sales. Having said that, Chopra advises that you should not also lose sight of the website’s other purposes.
- Listing you hypotheses. Never settle for one hypothesis, says Chopra. There are reasons why your site is experiencing low conversion rates and you can find these reasons if you just know where to dig. Chopra advises to start with three reliable sources in listing these hypotheses that you can use to help you with your multivariate testing:
- You of all people should know what is wrong with your site and what works well – However, many website owners tend to see only the beautiful things about their websites and it is quite hard for them to be self-critical and view their websites from an objective point of view. The best way to achive this is by looking at your website from a visitor’s perspective. Looking at your website without any preconceptions and disregarding your biases at the door is one good way of determining issues your website is experiencing.
- Site Analytics – Knowing what keywords are working for your site and where your visitors are coming from are some of the data you might find useful. And these data can be determined with your analytics tool. Find out what drives your visitors to your page and what drives them away. If you realize what is wrong from what the analytics provide, you will be able to fix them and significantly boost your conversion rate.
- Usability testing – This is a great resource if you want to get feedbacks from an independent tool. Who knows, you might realize that all you need to do is implement a few simple tweaks to get your conversion rates soaring high. That said, usability testing may cost you a few bucks. The good news is that if you are short on money, you can use affordable services such as Feedback Army or User Testing.
Choose whether you require multivariate testing or Alpha Beta testing – For this article, we pick multivariate testing. As mentioned earlier in this article, multivariate testing refers to examining which variations or combinations and variables perform well to drive your conversion rates up. Make sure you have your goals ready and you know which element or elements you want to test. Remember that each variation and their components are measured and it is paramount that they are measured well to ensure you get the best results.
Analyze the results – When you employ the multivariate testing approach, what happens is that each time a visitor comes to your site, he or he is presented with a random variation of the website. This randomization ensures that all you variations are distributed equally to your incoming traffic. After the test is complete, you will be presented with results that pits variations against variations, providing you with important information such as which variables performed better and which element slacked. The results will also show how much improvement in the conversion rate and how it fared compared to the default combination.
Learn from the information you get – This is important. Once you have the data, it is crucial that you go over them and see what changes and modifications your site requires to increase your conversion rates. Learn and understand why visitors react positively to a certain variation but did not perform a desired action with a certain variable. If you get the gist of your visitors, you will then have the key to exponentially amplify the number of conversions in your site.
More words from Chopra
Multivariate testing can be a taxing task to begin with. Chopra, who created the Visual Website Optimizer, a simple A/B split and multivariate testing tool, has a few tips for those who want to put their sites under a multivariate testing session.
Never include all elements in the test. Chopra says that you should only test specific elements and variables. Including all sections in the page for the test will result to a huge number of variations you need to experiment with. And if you have a ton of variations in your hand, you are going to need humongous traffic just to get definitive results. Not to mention, you will also require more time to finish the test.
Check your probable combinations and screen them. It is best that you only test variations that are logical and compatible with your goals. You can start screening your variations by doing a preview and eliminating variations that you know very well are incompatible. For instance, you cannot have a page that contains a button that said “30% Off” and a headline that has the word “FREE” in it.
Include only sections that you know are needed for the test. Understand that there are sections that can easily attract attention more than others. For instance, headlines are much visible than footers. In any testing, you might want to include headlines into the mix. Footers have little impact and are often not read by users. You might want to consider not including footers in the equation.
Know how much incoming traffic you need to get the best results. You need to get a picture of how much traffic your site requires so you can have all the data you need. This is in correlation to how many sections and variations you want to test. Chopra says that you will not get the answers you need if you proceed testing many variations and your site only has an average of 100 visitors a day. And the more sections you want to test and the less traffic you have, the testing procedure will take months before the whole process is completed.