Every marketer knows customer preferences change with the wind, so keep a finger on what’s hot—or better yet, try a little multivariate testing.

No, it’s not as complex or techy as it sounds. In fact, this approach to market testing engages potential customers in the marketing process while helping you, the brand, better understand what they like best.

The big bonus? You optimize and fine tune your marketing at the same time.

The practice of multivariate testing is actually quite simple. Essentially, you want to choose two or three key factors within a website or mobile app—such as a headline, graphic, or CTA—and present a few unique designs and combinations to different customers simultaneously. Then, track analytics for a set period to discover which version gained the most views and conversions.

There’s an even simpler version of the same practice commonly called A/B testing, or a split test. It uses the same approach, but the test is downsized, providing only two versions of a web page design, app, email, etc., to suss out the better performer.

Surprisingly, the most effective change is often a minor adjustment to an image within a layout or a few words within a headline. Such small changes can go a long way toward improving site traffic, downloads, and sales leads.

Multivariate testing is like a two-way mirror that reveals the best ways to optimize key marketing pieces. If you’re looking to dive into multivariate testing, first understand what types of marketing content to test and the best ways to experiment.

Where to Start Your Testing

A well-crafted, detailed multivariate test is useful for optimizing all types of marketing content, including blogs, landing pages, social media, and email campaigns.

One small caveat is to properly set up your analytics to track results from the get-go. Not only will you save time and provide hard metrics, but you’ll also see undeniable clarity around what makes customers take action with you rather than move on to another provider. With these stats in hand, it’s easy to prove how specific changes improve customer traffic and marketing ROI.

Brands can play with lots of little things through multivariate testing to see how they impact optimization, including:

  • Colors
  • Headlines
  • CTAs—placement, phrasing, and color
  • Font
  • Links—where they go and how many to include
  • Layout of images and content
  • Path to sales lead or purchase

Choose wisely, though; too many variables results in less-than-helpful, diluted results.

Best Practices for Multivariate Testing in Each Marketing Channel

Core marketing content channels are perfect for multivariate testing. Consider using optimization tools focused on improving website traffic and conversions.

It’s always helpful to see what other brands have found in their markets, but don’t forget: your target audience might respond differently than even a very similar niche. So instead of giving you all the answers, let’s start with the best approaches to multivariate testing within each channel. That way, you can test your own content to get more accurate findings that are sure to drive more engagement for your potential buyers.

Email

Email campaigns have the most power to either entice or repel customers through CTAs. In an email, you’re on your customer’s home turf, so share something useful and desirable. To help move the mouse towards open instead of delete, play with a few different subject lines and include different images, infographics, layouts, or fonts. Images and links to promotions within an email should angle towards a buyer persona’s preferences and offer a clear connection with the brand.

Blogs

Using blogs as a traffic driver, SEO optimizer, and research tool is one of the easiest ways to play with multivariate testing. Headlines, hyperlinks within content, CTAs, or downloads let marketers track what topics are popular and lead to a specific next step. Blogs are a great place to experiment, but be selective and track the performance of what you are testing in detail.

Another common testing option is to use a few different headlines when promoting a blog on social media to drive diverse traffic to the same content. Analytics will reveal what keywords within a blog or headline get people clicking and reading, while hyperlinks within a post lead readers to related content that further showcases the expertise, features, or value-add of a brand.

Last but not least: don’t forget about images. Because images are click-bait for blogs, select those most relevant to the topic. Be sure to add text to clarify key points. You can do a simple A/B test to see which image gets more clicks, too.

Websites/Landing Pages

Multivariate testing is extremely helpful when it comes to website optimization. Not only does it help you gather detailed visitor data, it also lays out the “path to purchase” people choose based on key factors.

Customer psychology is complex, so watch what prospects do at certain points, such as a landing page. Careful observation will reveal how the design of a CTA button or the ratio of content to images drives decision making. Most importantly, marketers can see what elements of a page are essential or superfluous to purchase decisions.

Social Media

Many factors influence social marketing, the most important of which is determining the channels best for connecting with actual customers. Twitter traffic doesn’t mean much if your customers aren’t on it, so why not test out other platforms to discover what social channels are the best for the brand?

Chances are, you’ll end up with a different tone on each platform you use. That’s perfectly okay—as long as they all coincide with your overall brand voice. Here’s some pointers for each platform that have worked with our audience—but don’t forget to test it:

  • Facebook: On Facebook, it’s all about connecting. Try asking questions or making bold posts (“Is SEO dead?”) will get your audience’s attention. Fire them up to get a click and give them juicy enough information to want to leave a reply, too.
  • Twitter: Twitter is the hub for conversation. At mentions and witty banter might be just what your brand needs to stand out. Time to test it!
  • LinkedIn: On this business platform, B2Bs have a great opportunity to engage their potential buyers. If you’re promoting a blog, mention the name of the author and don’t be afraid to give an enticing blurb about the post.
  • Instagram: We at Kapost like to use Instagram to have some fun. Show off your office, give your brand a bit more personality, and prove how awesome it is to be part of your team.

If your social media game is already in the right place, play with sharing content at different times of the day, unique images, changes in headlines, and different CTAs. Analytics will reveal what’s working and when. Be sure to participate in the conversation as part of your strategy. Customers want to educate themselves and be part of the brand in a way that offers them value on a regular basis.

Content Optimization Tools for Your Toolbelt

To make the most of your budget, leverage the power of tools designed specifically for multivariate testing.

Some are free; others are pretty pricey. And some tools offer both A/B and multivariate testing. Do a little research into what will work best for your specifics needs.

  • Optimizely: Helps users experiment with all aspects of marketing content testing
  • Unbounce: Great for landing pages and websites specifically built to keep people on the page
  • VWO: Improve conversions and measure different market segments with a focus is on visuals
  • Maxymiser: Test personalized customer experiences for the web, mobile, and apps
  • Google Experiments: Conduct tests on almost any variation to a website or app to see how it performs in optimizing for a specific goal

And there are other tools available that might fit exactly what you’re looking to accomplish on a budget.

A Few Cautions with Multivariate Testing

Before you begin multivariate testing, make sure you have enough traffic to warrant the experimentation. Depending on how many different versions of content you’re testing, potential traffic may get spread too thinly to offer any useful or actionable insights for optimization.

In addition, too many variations may dilute results and offer no clear winning combination. In these cases, start out with an A/B test approach first, then branch to more diverse testing if needed.

Most importantly, keep very specific test details tracked in a log, including what you tested and how. This will ensure the results are available to everyone on the marketing team, and individuals can apply insights in their specific role, as needed.

Not surprisingly, reading people’s minds is a tricky business! To enhance marketing impact, reach, and overall content optimization, use multivariate testing to let the buyer choose the style of marketing that appeals most to them. Then sit back and see how your metrics improve!

Complete Optimization Starts with Goal Alignment

Creating optimized content with multivariate testing is great—but where do your leads go from there? The best way to ensure that optimizing leads to more than just vanity metrics is to align each and every piece of content with your overall strategy.

If that sounds like a huge task, that means you’re understanding the scope of complete alignment. Fortunately, you don’t have to start with a blank template. Instead, use these ten essential content strategy templates as your jumping-off point.

Katrina Pfannkuch

About Katrina Pfannkuch

Katrina Pfannkuch is a creativity consultant specializing in writing, editing, strategy & coaching. She's a bit of a data nerd & loves seeing how pieces of the informational puzzle come together to paint a creative picture. Catch Katrina & her insights on kick-starting creativity at @creativekatrina on Twitter.