How do you know your higher education digital marketing strategy is working? Is it a ‘gut feeling’ or do you have data to back up the digital strategies you choose to use? Here at Statwax, we’ve found running A/B tests is the lifeblood of making ourselves and our clients better. Whether the prospective students in your pipeline are traditional or non-traditional, they are constantly evolving. Therefore it’s important to make sure your marketing is evolving to meet the needs/wants of your audience, and A/B testing is a great way to make sure you are headed in the right direction.
Why A/B Testing is Important
Running an A/B test is simple. To run a successful A/B test it is all about changing one variable in your digital marketing and keeping all other items consistent or controlled. Whether you are looking to test two different call-to-actions or two new image variations, all other pieces of your marketing should remain the same. Otherwise, you won’t have clean data on what caused something to perform better or worse in your test. There could be times when it makes sense to change more than one item (multivariate testing), but for the purpose of this blog, we’ll stick to A/B testing.
If you’ve ever questioned some part of your digital marketing to potential applications and enrollments, A/B testing can give you insight into what is and isn’t working in your campaigns. It also gives you data to back up assumptions, like that email header x is better than email header y. All too often, we marketers assume we know our audience and what they want to see, so we make wholesale changes to our marketing creative and copy without hard data. We then wonder ‘what went wrong?’ when our traffic starts to dip. Without clean data, the answer to that question will be hard to clearly figure out.
What should I A/B test?
You may be thinking to yourself, this all sounds great, but where do I start? Below we feature some of the main digital marketing items we A/B for our clients on regular basis.
Headlines and Copy
Headline and copy A/B testing can be done in two different ways. There is testing headlines or copy featured in your paid advertising, and the headlines or copy that are featured on your landing page. This could range from testing a new H1, or even changing up how or what copy appears first. We recommend testing each of these elements as separate items.
For A/B testing your paid advertising copy, make sure you know the character limits for the platforms you are looking to engage prospective students with each campaign. Work to create variations that can work across a few platforms, so you don’t have to reinvent copy each time.
You also want to make sure the catchy headline or copy you feature in your ad is still relevant to the landing page. Claiming something like “free online degree programs” in an ad and then sending users to a page that makes no mention of “free” will have a potential negative impact on the bounce rate of your landing page.
Call to Actions
Testing your call to action (CTA) is another quick and easy way to get feedback on your digital ads from your audience. A call to action button gives users an idea of what you are wanting them to do next. Sure, in an ideal world for marketing to prospective college students, our call to action would be ‘apply now’. But taking a look at where students might be in their journey, would it make sense to A/B test against a call to action that says ‘request information’ or ‘schedule a tour’? Other A/B tests you could run on your CTAs would be changing the color or style on your call to action button. Maybe your call to action isn’t actually standing out to users and choosing a color that contrasts more with everything on your landing page could potentially have a positive impact. All of these factors could influence performance, but remember it’s important to test one item at a time.
At Statwax, imagery is something we are constantly testing and changing because we don’t want to be at risk of our digital marketing campaigns getting stale. When you are reaching similar audiences over a long period, it’s important to change up your visuals to keep them engaged. Is it a picture of a student that looks like your target audience that works? Or is it a picture of campus? These are all things you can test and get statistically significant results. We’ve run tests where having no student feature in the ad performs better than featuring a student. It is always a good idea to test your ideas and assumptions!
Now that we have given you a few options of where to start, how will you move forward? Our team is always here to help and share advice on how to start testing and improving your enrollment marketing strategies.