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Every website in cyberspace is trying to achieve something. It could be sales, lead generation, followers, subscriptions, or anything else. All the efforts made in creating the website, designing it, and writing good content leads to this ultimate goal.

Then, what impedes on a website’s ability to get its desired results? Usually, it’s a problem with keeping visitors glued long enough to take action.

Human beings are visually oriented creatures who require stimulating content. What fails to keep our attention will be ignored. We’ll simply move on to the next visually appealing website, which could be your competitor’s.

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In fact, an old article written by BBC in 2002 revealed that the average attention span of Internet users was nine seconds. It’s likely even shorter now thanks to the plentiful options given to today’s online traffic.

What is visually appealing content to one person may be a turn-off for another. As a webmaster, it’s virtually impossible to single-handedly determine which visuals work best and which fail miserably for all visitors. The best move is to go with the majority and choose the visual that’s liked most by incoming traffic.

But, how do you gauge that? Well, that’s precisely where multivariate testing comes in as the answer to your predicament.

What is Multivariate Testing?

Your website is made up of several elements, including images, text, buttons, and videos. Each of these is a variant that can be presented in multiple ways. There can be countless different combinations in which these variants can be visually presented.

Multivariate testing is an exercise used to determine the most effective combination of these elements for meeting a website’s goals.

If your website has an element A that can be varied X number of times and combined with element B for Y number of times, you would test all possible variations of these elements.

In other words, the variations of A (X) multiplied by variations of B (Y) equals the total number of possible combinations. Are you confused yet?

Let’s break this down further through an example. Imagine you’re picking the image and text for your site’s call-to-action button. You zero down it down to four combinations:

Text Variations Image Variations
Variation 1 Buy Now Image A
Variation 2 Click to Buy Image B
Variation 3 Buy Now Image B
Variation 4 Click to Buy Image A

You’ll see here that there are just two images and two text versions. Next, you’d test all combinations of these two elements. You’ll expose part of your incoming Internet traffic to each of these and check out the best conversion rates. The combination that brings in the highest conversions will be your top choice.

Multivariate Testing vs. A/B Testing

A/B testing, also called split testing, is all about creating two distinct web pages that hold the same purpose. The designs and text are different from each other though. It’s a method used to determine which website design garners the most attention and conversions.

All you do is expose both pages to a certain amount of incoming traffic and gauge the ratio of conversion. You obviously go with the design that reaps the best sales or leads.

A/B testing is simple when compared to multivariate testing where you’re trying out several combinations. A/B testing doesn’t demand a huge amount of traffic, so the results are quicker too.

ab vs multivariate testing

On the other hand, multivariate testing takes considerably longer since you’ll need to wait for a meaningful amount of web traffic to test every combination.

There’s a distinct advantage here, however. It gives you better insights into which elements of your website are actually driving traffic. In a way, this testing approach helps you understand consumer behavior like none other. You’ll be able to pinpoint specific elements that work wonderfully in your niche.

If you’re wondering which of these testing tools is supreme, there’s no specific answer I can provide. Both tests should be included in your web design arsenal. Although they are slightly different in their complexities, both help to maximize the efficacy of your design.

website traffic ebook

Tools for Multivariate Testing

Since it’s a lengthy process, it’s recommended that you take advantage of tools that can help you break down each element. I’ve researched a number of testing tools and selected my top picks based on:

  • Cost
  • Goal setting
  • Traffic segmentation
  • Email testing
  • Ease of web page creation
  • Customer support
Note here that I’ve only considered full factorial multivariate testing tools. The term full factorial refers to the fact that they provide all possible combinations of website elements. You can evaluate any of the factors in your testing.

AB Tasty: You can try this tool through a free trial and later purchase it for $34. AB Tasty ranks well on all the parameters delineated above.

Aven SEO: Again, this tool offers you a free trial, but the full version must be purchased for 300 Euros. The only setback you should consider is that there’s no platform for web page creation.

Accenture: From the business and software giant Accenture, this tool brings you choice-modeling enabled for multifactorial testing. It lacks the ability to create web pages though. The cost is about $33,000 initially and can go all the way to $320,000 with ongoing costs.

Conductrics: This tool proves to be good on all fronts except two. You won’t get full technical support and there’s no platform to create new pages.

Convert: You can try this tool through a 15-day free trial and later purchase plans for as low as $599 per month. You can get access to more features and increase limits with their Pro plan, starting at $799 per month.

Optimizely: Last but certainly not least, this tool comes with a fixed monthly fee. Drawbacks can be limiting because there isn’t full technical support, email analysis, or web page creation.

Case Study on Multivariate Testing

If you still have doubts about the efficiency of testing, here’s a case study that proves it can truly make a difference in optimizing your website for better conversions.

In a study published in Smashing Magazine, they tested multiple web page elements to see which one got the highest number of software downloads based on multivariate testing.

The download page contained all pertinent information like brand name, description, testimonials, and a very apparent download link. Yet, it was found that only about 40 percent of visitors actually downloaded the software.

The challenge was to try and convert the remaining 60 percent or at least a majority of them. The elements they chose for multivariate testing included the “download” button located in the sidebar and the “PDF Producer” presented as a download link under the button. Different combinations were created with below variations:

For the Sidebar Button:

  • Button with red color text and “download” written on it
  • Button with red color text and “download for free” written on it
  • Just the word “download” with the pre-existing blue color and a larger font

For the PDF Producer link:

  • PDF Producer link in red color
  • PDF Producer link with a larger font and pre-existing black color

Now, they clubbed each element in various combinations including the pre-existing versions. In all, they tested a total of 4 x 3 = 12 combinations.

They used multivariate testing to determine which download button got the highest number of clicks. The results showed that the “Download for free” text in red plus the pre-existing PDF Producer link had a conversion rate of 63.2 percent. This combination led to an additional 23 percent increase in traffic.

The second best performing variation was “Download for free” text in big font plus the PDF Producer link in red color. This combination had a 56.5 percent conversion rate, with a 16.5 percent increase.

Multivariate testing smashing magazine case study

The data clearly demonstrates that multivariate testing is extremely useful.

Conducting such an experiment provides a good idea of what people find visually appealing. Testing your website design helps you select the best layout that compels users to take an action.

Best Practices to Increase Conversions Using Multivariate Testing

Conducting a multivariate test might be exciting. You can create a number of design options for your web page and test them for their efficiency.

But when you use multivariate testing inefficiently, it can be a total waste of time and money, and can also harm your conversion rates.

Let’s take a look at some of the best practices you should follow when you run a multivariate test.

  • You should make sure that you get a decent amount of traffic on your website. That’s because you need to have a decent number of website visitors if you want to get the best results.
  • You should always focus on testing subtle changes such as a call-to-action button or product images.
    Changing the entire design of your website at once won’t help you get any significant insights on what works well and what doesn’t.
  • You should use multivariate testing on the most important pages of your website such as landing pages or product pages.
  • Choose the right elements to test. Those which can have a significant impact on your conversion rate. You can use heatmaps and session videos to identify them.

You should always aim to get actionable insights from your multivariate tests to boost website conversions.

Conclusion

It’s not wise to assume that your website is visually optimized merely based on your gut instincts. The only way to ascertain the most effective display is by putting it to test.

You should test multiple versions of various elements on your web page to see how people engage with each of them. Multivariate testing gives you real-time data showing what your visitors find to be the most compelling.

You can leverage multivariate testing to make the most of your website’s design and boost your conversions.

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