By Don Nicholas • 03/11/2009
Landing Page Optimization: The value of A/B split testing for increasing response
This publisher’s “winning” titles routinely generate 50 percent more sales than the “losing” titles.
It was enough to make an experienced copywriter groan…
I have more than 25 years of experience as a direct response copywriter, but I recently had a rude awakening when the title I wrote for a paid report lost an A/B split test by a wide margin.
Here’s the story, with a few minor details changed to protect the victor’s identity:
My publisher friend is a fervent believer in creating A/B splits for the titles of his paid handbooks. The graphic design of each cover is identical in color, typeface and size. His sales letter landing pages use the exact same persuasive editorial copy except for the title of the book.
All possible steps are taken to ensure a fair test. The architecture of his Mequoda Marketing System website offers up one of the two alternating landing pages equally to thousands of visitors.
The key metric is number of handbooks sold, not arrivals. A potential customer who abandons the order flow is not counted in the “win” column.
The results of these A/B splits are always decisive.
This publisher’s “winning” titles routinely generate 50 percent more sales than the “losing” titles. Occasionally, the winner outsells the loser even more dramatically.
So, I agreed to write one version of a new handbook title and test it against his alternate handbook title.
Can you guess the results of this scientific copywriting test?
Which handbook title generated more orders?
(A) The Ultimate Alaska Fly Fishing Vacation Handbook: 21 ways to save on the ultimate Alaska fly fishing vacation
(B) Deluxe Fly Fishing Vacations for Less – Alaska Edition: 21 ways to save on the ultimate Alaska fly fishing vacation
Now, before I reveal the winner, please note that it outsold the alternate title by nearly 200 percent — a very wide margin. That means it sold 480 handbooks vs. 160 handbooks. Ca-Ching!
The Winner is B. Deluxe Fly Fishing Vacations for Less – Alaska Edition: 21 ways to save on the ultimate Alaska fly fishing vacation is the winning handbook title, even though The Ultimate Alaska Fly Fishing Vacation Handbook: 21 ways to save on the ultimate Alaska fly fishing vacation, with its rich, contiguous keyword phrases, works better for search engine optimization.
The results of this test are not merely anecdotal. This publisher has repeated his results in other A/B splits. The “cuter,” folksy, more alliterative handbook title has beaten the straight up handbook title every time.
To put it mildly, I was surprised.
The lesson: The customer doesn’t necessarily search for the title phrase. But he often responds better to the “catchy” title.
So, our new best practice, when writing titles for paid products, is to write a title that leads with the main benefit, even if the benefit doesn’t have a keyword phrase in it.
When writing headlines, generally you can use more words. Move the benefit from the subhead; put it in the main headline. Use the popular SEO keyword phrase in the subhead, not the main head.
Or put the benefit before the colon, and place the product name or title after the colon.
(A) Famous angler reveals little-known rivers, streams and lakes that are teeming with fish: The Ultimate Fly Fishing Vacation Guide
(B) The Ultimate Fly Fishing Vacation Guide: Famous angler reveals little-known rivers, streams and lakes that are teeming with fish
In this example, I now predict the first headline (A) would probably pull better than the second (B). But only an A/B split test will determine for certain if I’m right.
Long headlines work best. Your objective should be to get both the benefit and the keyword phrase in the headline. And this tactic is even more important when promoting a paid product than a free download.
On the Mequoda Daily site, the rapid conversion landing pages for free downloadable white papers convert between 17 and 31 percent.
Five Deadly Membership Website Mistakes is our most successful title.
SEO Copywriting Secrets is our least popular title based on the overall conversion rate.
We think this is because the title Five Deadly Membership Website Mistakes is much more specific in its promise than the more general title SEO Copywriting Secrets. Or perhaps people simply have gotten weary of the word “secrets” because it is overused by direct response copywriters.
A/B split testing is a powerful technique for revealing hidden persuaders and ending needless disagreements among copywriters. Measurement trumps argument.
Our conclusion is that all tested copywriting strategies work some of the time. But none of them works all of the time.
Your thoughts? Does this copywriting technique resonate with you?
Please join the discussion on how to write and test effective titles and headlines.
For more editorial and copywriting strategies, don’t miss the Sixth Annual Mequoda Summit and Internet Marketing Conference, April 1-3, 2009.
Get your hands on dozens of practical, specific, detailed, and realistic ways to build, manage, and get results from your online marketing program. Ten information-packed sessions cover SEO, ad sales, budgeting, staffing, editorial strategy, email marketing, link-building and more.
Posted in Landing Pages