How can I make the best, most engaging email ever?
That’s a great question. To answer it, there are a few options.
You could send various versions of emails to your subscribers in the hopes that you’ll magically hit upon an email that performs better. But this doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a solution and it takes a lot of time.
Or you could search Google to see what other companies say is the secret to the best email. But, unfortunately, online research only tells you what worked for other email marketers’ audiences, not necessarily what will work for your audience.
Well then, how do you discover the secret to the best email ever? It’s actually easier than you’d think.
All you have to do is split test your emails.
Defining a Split Test
Split testing (or A/B testing) is a method by which you can scientifically test the effectiveness of your email marketing.
When split testing, you create two versions (called variants) of an email to determine which email performs better statistically. Once you find which email variant performs best, you can update your email strategy to include the winning email. This allows you to identify what emails engage your subscribers best, which can ultimately help you increase conversions and revenue.
Let’s take a closer look at how it works.
To set up a split test, you first create two different versions of an email. Then you send variant one to a percentage of your subscribers and variant two to an equal percentage of different subscribers. If one email has a higher open rate, click-through rate or conversion rate, you know that’s the email that your audience prefers.
For example, let’s say you’re a blogger, and you send an autoresponder email series to every new blog subscriber. But you notice the first email in your series has a low click-through rate, and you want to improve it. You hypothesize that the reason for the low click-through rate is the color of the call-to-action button, which is the color black.
To test your hypothesis, you create a variant of that email and change one thing: you switch the color of your button from black to green. You then send 50 percent of your list the email with the original black button (your variant one) and 50 percent the email with the new green button (your variant two).
After sending your emails and waiting a day or two, you go back and see that email two had a click-through rate of 26 percent, while email one had a 12 percent click-through rate. You determine that variant two is more effective and change the button in your email series from black to green.
For the split test example above, we sent variant one to 50 percent of our email list and variant two to the other 50 percent. However, this isn’t the only way to divide your list.
You could also send your split test to a subset of your list and send the winning email to the remainder of your list. For example, send variant one to 10 percent of your list, send variant two to another 10 percent, determine what email performs better and then send the winning email to the remaining 80 percent of your list.
And the best part of split testing? You can test and improve almost any element of any email, from CTA buttons to subject lines to font colors and sizes. And once you start split testing and begin seeing the positive results, you may find that you never want to stop.
5 Split Tests You Can Try Today to Improve Your Email Copy
Email content is one of the most important aspects of every email. While a good subject line can intrigue your subscriber and convince them to open your email, bad copy will chase them away faster than you can say, “I didn’t split test.”
Here are five email copy split tests you can try today to improve your email click-through rates and conversions:
1. Headline vs. no headline
Does having a bold and colorful headline at the top of your email content grab your subscribers’ attention and keep them reading?
To find out, try sending two emails: one with a standout headline and one without a headline.
For example, if you’re a fitness blogger, and you’re sending an email about the five stretches you recommend before a workout, you could run a split test with one email variant that has no headline and one email variant with a headline at the top of the email content that says, “5 Pre-workout Stretches to Prevent Injuries.”
2. Personal salutation vs. no salutation
Does your subscriber like to feel that their emails were written specifically for them? Run a split test to find out!
Try using their first name in the salutation of your email (for example, “Dear John,” “Hi John,” “How’s it going, John,” etc.) and see if you get a higher click-through rate.
Pro Tip: If you have an AWeber account, you can easily add a first name to your email subject line or content to personalize your messages.
3. Images vs. no images
Are your subscribers visual people that like images in their emails? Or do they find images distracting?
Images can actually enhance your email copy by improving readability and illustrating the points you are trying to convey, which makes your copy more compelling. Or they could distract your readers from your main message. Which is it for your subscribers?
Create a split test where one email variant has an image(s) and the other does not. Compare the results of your test and see whether your subscribers love email content with images or email content without images.
4. Long content vs. short content
Perhaps your subscribers are in a hurry and want short emails that get straight to the point. Or maybe they need a lot of information before they’re ready to make a decision.
Find out with a split test that compares two email copy variants: 1) a lengthy email that describes all the details of your offer, or 2) a short and easily digestible email that summarizes the same information.
5. P.S. vs. no P.S.
Many email marketers discover that including a P.S. at the end of their emails boosts their click-through rates because a subscriber may skim an email and only read the P.S.
To see if this is true of your subscribers, send your first email variant without a P.S. and your second email variant with a P.S. at the bottom of your content.
Split Testing Best Practices
Although you can test almost everything in your emails, there are rules you should follow to get the most accurate results from those tests. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:
1. Test one element at a time.
When split testing two emails, aim to test one variable (or change) at a time. If you have multiple variables in your two email variants, it’ll become difficult to identify which variable caused a positive or negative result.
For instance, let’s say you’re a blogger who writes about gardening, and you decide to split test an email’s subject line to improve your open rates. You want to find out if longer, descriptive subject lines or shorter, direct subject lines perform better. You also want to see if including a subscriber’s first name in your subject line will increase your open rate.
So you write two variant subject lines. Subject line one is “3 Ways to Stop Weeds from Growing Before They Start,” and subject line two is “John, Stop Weeds Today.” After looking over your analytics, you find that variant two performs better. Great!
But there’s a problem with your test. While neither of these subject lines are bad and these are good tests to run, you don’t know why variant two performed better. Was it because of the first name? Or was it because the subject line was short and direct?
To guarantee this confusion doesn’t happen, test one variable at a time.
2. Have a plan.
While you could test every element of all your emails, you probably don’t have time to do that. Instead, prioritize your tests. Run split tests for your most important and most frequently sent emails first and know what you want to fix about your emails before you run tests.
Create a split testing plan where you conduct one email split test a week or one email split test per month. Then stick to your plan.
3. Act on your results.
Split testing is pointless if you don’t implement what you learn. Keep records of the email split tests you’ve performed as well as the results of those tests.
Not only will this keep you accountable for implementing changes, it will allow you to look back on what did and didn’t work.
4. Keep split testing.
You are never done split testing. Why? Because even if you find something that may be true of your subscribers now (e.g., they like shorter subject lines), that may not be true three months or a year from now.
So test, test and keep testing because the more you refine your email strategy through split testing, the more you improve your emails – and your bottom line.
Start Split Testing
Now that you have a few tests to start with, you can begin improving your emails and your bottom line.
Want to learn even more about split testing? Like how to run split tests that will improve your subject lines, preview text, sign up forms, email design and much more?
Check out our free Minimalist Marketer’s Guide to Split Testing to learn everything you need to know to become a split testing master.