A/B Split Test: How to Optimize Your Email Newsletter

How to Optimize Your Email Newsletter
As an email marketer you understand how important the balance of the email frequency, relevancy, and audience expectations is. Every open and click does matter. Now you can stop guessing what will work and what won’t work in your email marketing campaigns and start split testing your email to improve your campaign response and sales with measurable scientific methodology. Testing is the engine of email marketing and G-Lock EasyMail makes this challenging task a breeze to run for everyone.

You can test your email campaigns based on the Subject lines, From lines, offers, designs to see which version generates a higher open rate, click rate or conversion rate.

Why is testing important?

The primary two metrics email marketers use to evaluate the effectiveness of their mailings are opens and clicks. It’s a common case when you see that your unique open rate is higher than your unique click rate. There are two main reasons for this.

The first reason is that people did not intend to read your email and just looked at it in the Preview pane. Loading the email into the Preview pane registers an open in such clients as Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. There isn’t much you can do about this.

The second reason is that subscribers actually opened your email but after reading it, they were not interested enough to click on the links. If your email tracking system records a great (more than 25%) difference between your unique open rate and unique click-through rate, it’s a sign for you that the content of your email does not match the expectations you set. And if this trend continues over time, it means that your emails are not relevant to your list of subscribers, or that you are emailing them at the wrong time.

You have much more control over the 2nd reason because before launching your email marketing campaign you can determine what part of your email leaves the subscriber indifferent and what is evoking a warm response and resonating in a high number of opens and clicks. In fact, there is no secret here. Everything you need to do is testing. Testing is the tactic to convert a part of your silent audience into active readers and purchasers. For a marketer, testing is always the primary instrument of email newsletter optimization. If you are not testing, you are depriving yourself of the opportunity to succeed.

There is one more important thing to note: if you admit the concept of testing, you must also admit the notion of failure. Yes, failure, because the test will not give you only good results all the time. You may fail sometimes too. This is the only way to see what is actually working for you. Such lessons actually move the mechanism of email campaign optimization. So, if you are ready to start testing, you must become comfortable with the notion of failure because it is the only way to succeed.

With that in mind, let’s focus on the A/B split testing – the fastest and easiest method to determine the best performing copy of your email newsletter. 

What is the A/B split testing?

A/B split testing is the testing of different versions of the email to see which one works best. Different versions are sent to a small segment of your list or to your test group (if you have one) and the performance of each version is measured. Only one variable is changed inside the email during one test to see what impact the change has on the email performance. After test versions are sent to a small segment of your list or to your test group, the best performing (winner) version of the email newsletter will be used for sending to the rest of your list.

What are the benefits of the A/B split testing?

Once you’ll see the A/B split testing in practice, you’ll easily understand its value, power and importance for your email marketing campaigns. Now I just want to say that by testing different versions of your email newsletter or sales letter you can:

  • Determine the user-friendly email version that meets the subscriber’s expectations best;
  • Lower the risk of your email campaign failure;
  • Improve your email campaign performance – opens and clicks;
  • Increase conversions and sales.

What should you test to optimize your email newsletter?

It’s about you to decide but here are some ideas of what you can test:

  • Subject line. This is the most popular test where you are determining the impact of your subject line. The primary measure of success here is open rate because the Subject line mostly determines whether the subscriber will open the email or not. A common tactic is to test the email with and without personalization. This can be easily done using the Merge feature in your bulk email sender software. More tests can include email versions with and without the company’s name, the subscriber’s name, the product’s name in the Subject line.
  • From line. Although the best way to show the From line is by using your company’s name, you can experiment by placing your name or your sales person’s name into the “From” field of your email newsletter. Or, you can make your From line show both your name and you company name, for example, “Julia Gulevich from G-Lock Software”. It’s assumed that whatever you put in the From line, it is linked to your actual email address the subscriber can contact you at by replying to your email.
  • Layout, colors or format. You can conduct the A/B split testing to test creative elements of your email newsletter such as color, use of graphics, email format (HTML versus plain text).
  • Email length. This is a great way to test a long email copy versus a short copy. If you have ever wondered whether small paragraphs linking to the full story are more appealing than a long copy, you can determine this yourself now using the A/B split testing.
  • Offers/discounts. The A/B split test allows you determine the appropriate number of products or offers in the email or the product assortment. You can also test the price sensitivity, for example, 10% discount versus $20 discount, and so on. The primary thing you should measure in such tests is the click-to-open rate (CTOR). The winner email version should generate the highest CTOR. When testing offers, discounts, or product assortment, be sure to keep other creative elements, such as the layout and colors, the same from version to version.
  • Sending time (day of the week, time of the day). This is one more thing you can test to optimize your email marketing campaign. If you are testing the impact of the day of week, send both test versions the same week. Additionally, you can experiment with sending at different times of the day, morning versus later in the evening, for example.

Creating Test Plan

So, now when you understand what the split test is and what variables you can test, here are some tips how you can prepare your A/B split testing:

  • Identify your test goals. You should clearly understand what you want to improve: open rate, click rate, click-through rate, or conversion rate.
  • Think how to achieve the goals. After you decide what you want to improve, think about the variables you will test. To improve the open rate, consider testing your From name and email Subject line. To test the click-through rate, experiment with your offer, email design and format.
  • Create random test groups. If you keep a control group, you’ll want to send test versions of your email to that group. Divide the group into several segments including the equal number of recipients and send a different copy of your mail newsletter to each segment.
  • Test one element at a time. You’ll want to test only one variable at a time so that you can measure the impact of that variable on the performance of your mailing.
  • Plan the changes for each test. If you want to conduct multiple tests on the same email, think in advance what variables you will change in each test – don’t leave it till the last minute!

As you see split testing is a great opportunity for you to optimize your email campaign and achieve a greater email performance. Not only does it allow you increase open rate, click rate and conversion rate, split testing also allows you optimize your email newsletter to meet the best subscriber’s expectations and keep the subscribers on your list.

To summarize, here are three metrics to test for overall performance of your email campaigns:

  • The open rate is primarily the test of your From name and your Subject line. Is your email easy to recognize? Does the Subject urge people on reading your email? Do you send a relevant message for the right audience? If the test shows the open rate of 50% or more, you’re on the right way.
  • The click-through rate is about your offer and email format. You may test different offers, bonuses, discounts, you may change the email design and see what works best. Look for 15% or more for the click-through rate you’ll beat the average.
  •  Finally, what is most important is the conversion rate. How did your offer work? Did you get the sales or encourage the action? Expect the conversion rate to reach and exceed 5%.


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