How to A/B test your emails

In order to deliver the best content for your audience, you should always to be running A/B tests on your emails. A/B tests allows you to determine the type(s) of content that is the most effective with YOUR OWN audience. Although there are some broad email “rules” out there, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will work for your email audience. That’s where A/B testing comes into play.

How A/B email tests work…

It’s simple! Two versions of an email are created and sent to two separate groups of equal size. The version that does best (i.e. more clicks or opens) is determined to be the winner. That’s it!

Most email marketing services offer A/B test features that allow you to control the test group size and the variables of an A/B test (such as subject line or time sent), determine the winning criteria (such as clicks or opens), and send the winning email to the rest of the group. With some services, you can even test more than two emails at the same time.

How to determine the winner of an A/B test

You first need to decide how you’re going to measure success to determine the winner. Are you testing the subject line? The winning subject line will have more opens. If you’re testing something within the body of the email, such as a call to action or link placement, you’ll probably want to measure the click through rate. Other ways to measure success are form fill outs, web page visits, and even conversion rate.

Things you should A/B test in your emails

Now that you’re familiar with A/B tests and how they work, let’s talk about some things you should start A/B testing!

1. Subject line

This is the most popular variable for A/B split tests because subject lines help drive open rates. Here are some ideas to test in your subject lines:

Try testing certain keywords such as sale vs. save or last chance vs. ends today. Avoid using free in your subject line, as that can often trigger an email provider to mark your email as spam.

People are naturally curious. Pique their curiosity by asking a question in your subject line! Example: How to improve your email subject lines vs. Are your subject lines effective?

A general rule of thumb is to keep your subject lines under 50 characters long to allow for mobile readability. Try testing very short subject lines 2-3 words long vs. 5-7 words long.

Subject line personalization has quite mixed results for different industries, especially if you’re a B2B company. Test first name, first and last name, company name, and location personalization to determine what works best with your audience. You may find that your results vary by industry.

Try capitalizing certain words of your subject lines or using no capitalization at all.

2. Date/Time

Do you send your emails out to everybody at the same time every day? Try sending earlier in the morning or really late at night. Try sending your emails by timezones. You should also split test which day of the week is more successful for opens and responses. Most people are busy getting ready for their workweek on Mondays and are ready for the weekend on Fridays. Try sending on a day like Tuesday or Wednesday when people have settled back into their work routine and may be more open to interacting with you.

3. Body type

Do you get a better response rate with a more personal text-only email? Do you get a better click through rate with an well-structured HTML email?

4. Body length

Do you get a better response when your emails are quick and concise? Or is your current email length working well for you?

5. Call to action

Test out different call to actions such as call now, click here, reply to this email.

6. Buttons vs links

Do you use text links for your call to action? Try putting your call to action in an image or HTML button.

7. From name/email

Test using a specific employee’s name vs. the name of your company. Are your subscribers more likely to respond if they build a relationship with just one employee at your company?

Other things you can A/B test

Once you get the hang of conducting A/B tests in your emails, try experimenting with these variables:

  • Including surveys or rating links
  • Image size
  • Reminder emails
  • Call to action in P.S.
  • Cliff hangers in subject line or body
  • Signature
  • Seasonal subject lines or content
  • Industry or location specific content
  • More links vs. less links
  • Greeting
  • Name personalization in body
  • Negative vs. positive incentive (How to win sales vs. How to not lose sales)
  • Prices in body
  • Body length in email vs. landing page
  • Triggered emails (welcome, thank you for your purchase, etc)
  • Button color
  • Background color
  • Font
  • Location of unsubscribe link
  • Size, style, and location of social buttons
  • Email search box
  • About your company vs. about your readers
  • Human vs. corporate tone

What A/B tests have you tried in your email campaigns? What worked for you and what didn’t? Let me know in the comments!

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