Webmaster’s Guide to Multivariate Testing

Most webmasters are concerned with increasing their site traffic and page views when sales seem to be in a slump. Those aren’t very bad ideas, but there is one more thing they can do that could solve the problem: optimize the website by doing some testing.

It’s understandable if you hesitate and avoid making any drastic changes, especially if you’ve already got a better-than-decent looking site and have had measurable success of the past few months. Making changes could produce either good or bad results, and this is the exact reason why you need to run some tests first so you can reduce the risks of getting the latter. One of the most common testing methods that is relatively easy to do is multivariate testing.

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What is Multivariate Testing?

Basically, multivariate testing is when you present two versions of a website to your site visitors. Each version will be markedly different from the other and will be served simultaneously during the duration of the test run. The version that brings in the most favorable results, whether this is in the form of increased sales, clicks, or responses, is then implemented on the site.

Benefits of Multivariate Testing

Webmasters will more or less have free reign when they conduct their tests. This is because, unlike A/B testing, there is no limit to the number of elements that can be varied for each test run. As a result, more changes can be implemented when the tests are completed and the learning curve is accelerated. Instead of having to conduct multiple A/B tests over several months, the website optimization process can be cut down to fewer tests and completed in a shorter amount of time.

Aside from this, multivariate tests also eliminate cautious thinking. The very nature of the tests allows many changes to be made, so it’s a dynamic trial-and-error process of sorts. Webmasters don’t need to overthink before they propose any changes or variations, because multivariate tests do not limit them.

What Website Elements Can Be Tested?

Basically, you can subject all of the elements on your website to the test. This is the great thing about multivariate testing: nothing is off limits, so you can just let your imagination run wild when you’re doing them. To get you started, here are a few web design elements that you can run some tests on:

• Web pages – Header, banners, navigational menus, footer, layout
• Content – Font size, font face, formatting, writing tone
• Images – Size, format, positioning, layout

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Take Action: Run Your Own Multivariate Tests

The first step you should take when you’re planning to run a multivariate test is conduct a site evaluation. Look into the elements of your site that need improvement, and list them down. It is also recommended that you come up with criteria that you’ll be using to gauge how effective the variations were.

Next, decide which elements you’ll be testing out first and create the site variations that you’ll be using for your test. The differences can be as distinct or discrete as you’d like them to be, although the former is recommended to really emphasize the variations.

When you’re ready, run your test. You can do so with the use of software and online programs like Google’s Website Optimizer, which is accessible for free online. If you’re looking for tools with more features, then you might want to consider purchasing premium multivariate testing software for that.

After running the test, determine which version is the better one, based on the criteria that you’ve set earlier. Implement the changes onto your actual website, and proceed to conduct further tests to continue optimizing your site.

Ruben Corbo is a freelance writer that writes about technology, gaming, music, and online marketing especially topics about A/B Testing and multivariable testing. Ruben is also an avid gamer and music composer for short films and other visual arts.

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