A/B Testing in WordPress: Tips, Free Tools & How to Get Started

Carrying out A/B testing on your WordPress website is one of the best ways to optimise the design choices and content of a site. This type of testing allows you to see which elements are the most effective at encouraging visitors to perform a certain action. This action could be anything from having them fill out an opt-in form to sign-up to an email list, clicking a buy now button or visiting other pages on your site.

What is A/B Testing?

With A/B testing two differing versions of your website are displayed to visitors over a certain period of time, before the data is then compared. With A/B testing, just two variables are compared and these variables could be something as simple as the colour of a link, right through to the WordPress theme being used on a website. Half the visitors that come to your site are shown one option, while the other half are shown the other.

In short A/B testing allows you to test and compare elements on your site against each other, in order to see which ones are the best at converting visitors into customers, subscribers, fans or followers.

Site Elements to Split Test

When it comes to running A/B and other forms of split testing, it can be hard to know where to start. With so many elements of a page to test, from entire themes, to logos, colour schemes and fonts, down to wording, buttons placement and text alignment it can be easy to go overboard and test everything at once.

With A/B testing the idea is to compare just two versions. The original or A which is known as the control and the B which is known as the treatment. The page elements should remain the same, except for one change which might affect how a user interacts with it.  The less you change at one time, the more your results will be able to tell you.

If a green button with rounded corners performs better than a red button with squared corners, how do you know whether the colour of the button or shape of the corners is responsible for the increase in clicks? How would a red button with rounded corners perform? By testing one difference at a time, you can build a better picture of what works best with your audience.

Here are some examples of elements you can test on your WordPress site:

  • Comparing Entire themes
  • Logos and header graphics
  • Sidebar positioning: left vs. right, two vs. one
  • Size of images: do larger images increase clicks
  • Buttons: styles, colours, text, positioning
  • Text links: colours, underline, hover effects
  • Calls to action: do users respond better to ‘click here now’ or ‘visit this site’
  • Forms: which text on a form increases opt-ins, does number of fields effect sign-ups

A/B Testing Tools and Plugins for WordPress

Now with some ideas on what to test, it’s time to look at the tools available to enable web designers to perform A/B testing on a WordPress site.

Title Split Testing for WordPress

This is a nifty little free plugin that allows you to test the titles of your posts and pages to see which ones attract the most clicks from the users browsing your website. When creating a new post you can enter up to 10 titles, although for effective A/B testing only two should be entered; however split testing with more than two titles is possible.

WordPress Split Testing

When the title of the post is displayed as a link, two different options are shown to a portion of the visitors and the click through rate is calculated. At the end of the testing period, the best performing title can be chosen. Using this approach to split test the titles of WordPress posts and pages is a simple way to begin optimising the internal links on your site in order to increase the amount of pages each user visits and the amount of time they spend on your site, while also helping to reduce the bounce rate of the site.

To avoid one visitor seeing different titles for each post, which could skew the results as well as confusing them, this split testing plugin only shows one title to one user. Google also doesn’t see multiple titles and is only shown the original title; unless the testing data shows you that another title is more effective and you choose to change it. In that case Google will see that the original title has been edited rather than a new post with a new title created.

Get the plugin »

Premium WordPress A/B Testing with Optimizely

Optimizely is a premium service that when combined with the free WordPress plugin allows site managers to split test different elements on a site such as buttons, the colour of links and other calls to action which can lead to increased conversions. Thanks to the editor which comes as part of this service, you quickly create new versions of elements on your site such as buttons, images or text which Optimizely will then perform A/B testing on.

Optimizely WordPress A/B Testing

As this service allows you to do advanced testing, without editing any code, it can be a great way to get started with A/B testing and begin evaluating the different elements on your site.

Find out more »

SES Theme Split Test

This is another free plugin for WordPress that facilitates split testing on a site and is one that works in conjunction with Google Analytics. This time, the plugin allows you to compare and split test WordPress themes to find out which one your visitors react more favourably to.

A/B Test Themes

When comparing different themes you are comparing many variables at once. However, as testing at this level is very easy to do it is a good approach for users who don’t want to spend their time modifying individual elements of a theme and would rather just know which theme is best for their site.

However, for users who do want to test just one page element at a time, they can simply make a copy of their theme of choice and then edit just one part of it. This could be the colour of text used for links, a specific call to action, types of buttons used or sign-up form placement.

Once you’ve selected which of the different or modified themes you would like to compare, it is necessary to define custom segments in Google Analytics to analyse the user data and access the results. This will assign visitors to a group based on which theme they see when browsing the site. Instructions on how to set this up can be found on the plugin developer’s website.

Overall this plug is a great way to test at a high level by comparing two different themes, while being equally suitable to those who want to test smaller site elements such as precise wording or image placement.

Get the plugin »

Max A/B

This free WordPress plugin allows you to compare the conversion rates of two or three pages; unfortunately it doesn’t work with posts as of yet. Tests are easy to setup: simply select the pages you want to compare and the duration of the experiment and then wait for the data to collect and the results to be displayed. There is no need to use a third-party service like Google Analytics.

Max A/B Plugin

The ease of use of this plugin, and the ability to make simple alterations and variations to page in WordPress makes for a winning combination. Users wishing to test the conversion rates of pages with the minimal amount of effort would do well to give this free split testing plugin a try.

Get the plugin »

A/B Testing Opt-in Forms

If one of your goals it to increase the number of visitors to your site who sign-up to your mailing list, then investing in a premium opt-in plugin for WordPress that takes care of split testing is a good approach. With these plugins, you not only get the ability to create attractive sign-up forms in a number of styles, from in-post forms to popups and header and footer strips, but they also allow you to easily create multiple variations of each form and then split test them with the weakest performing opt-in form being eliminated until only the strongest candidate remains. To find out more read the guide to the best premium opt-in forms for WordPress.

As you can see, while A/B and split testing is a complex topic that can be performed in a number of ways, it is possible to begin optimising your website and its content without spending any money by using the free tools available. Hopefully this guide will give you some ideas of how to get started and begin improving the conversions of your WordPress site.

Joe Fylan

Joe Fylan

Joe has been using WordPress for many years and spends his time creating content for a wide range of websites and blogs. If you need compelling content for your blog, visit his freelance services portfolio now.

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5 thoughts on “A/B Testing in WordPress: Tips, Free Tools & How to Get Started”

  1. Thanks for the helpful write-up Joe. I’m wondering if you have any recommendations for how one can AB test different product pages built using the Shopp plugin for WP. The challenge seems to be that all product pages in Shopp are dynamically generated from the same php file, so I don’t know how to create and test multiple different versions in parallel. Thanks in advance for any advice or recommendations.


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