Are you trying to improve your website to gain more sales or leads? Frustrated because you wanted to try A/B testing but it seems like you don’t have enough traffic?
You are not alone. One of the questions I receive most from online businesses is how to improve their website if their traffic is too low for A/B testing. Which is important because running A/B tests using tools like Visual Website Optimizer is one of the quickest ways to find which versions of your website increase sales or leads the most. But what happens if you don’t have enough traffic?
To help improve websites with low traffic (like small business or startup websites), I’ve created a guide revealing some great techniques to test and improve them. You will also learn you don’t actually need an A/B testing to improve your website, and that it is only one part of successful conversion rate optimization.
First, check if your traffic is too low to run an A/B test
Before we discuss other ways to improve your low traffic website, it’s obviously important to first understand if you actually have enough traffic and to learn what else is important.
How much traffic do you need to run an A/B test on a web page?
To put it in very simple terms, you need at least 5,000 unique visitors per week to the page you want to run an A/B test on. If you don’t have this much traffic, it will take a long time (3 weeks or more, if ever) for your A/B testing tool to gather enough data to find a statistically significant result. You should use this very handy A/B test length calculator to give you an idea of how many days it will take you to get a result. Also, the more page variations you test, the more traffic you will need to get a result. But you need something else too…
Is it just about having enough website traffic to run an A/B test?
In a nutshell, no. Even more importantly, you also need enough ‘conversions’ on your website to run an A/B test. This is because to run a test, you need to tell the A/B testing tool what determines success, and this is usually a major goal like a purchase, a sign-up or a form completion. And the less conversions your website gets per week, the longer it will take the testing tool to find a winning result. As a guideline, your website needs at least 500 conversions per week for a simple A/B test (250 per test version).
What happens if I have enough traffic but not enough conversions?
If you have enough traffic to run an A/B test, but not enough conversions like sales or signups, then consider changing the conversion to be something simpler that happens more often, like a click to a specific next page in the purchase/signup flow to determine success. I will discuss ideas for this in more detail shortly.
How much traffic would I need to use a multivariate test (MVT)?
A multivariate test is an advanced A/B test, where your tool simultaneously tests multiple versions of different page elements (rather than simply testing one page or element versus another in an A/B test). This requires much greater levels of traffic, because the tool needs to show each combination of elements being tested to enough visitors to be able to build statistical significance. If you have low traffic, you simply won’t be able to run an MVT.
Try these techniques if you don’t have enough traffic
Don’t have enough traffic? Don’t give up hope about trying to improve your website! You can still use some techniques to increase the chances of you being able to run an A/B test, or use some alternative approaches to give you similar insights and website improvement results. Here are some great techniques to try:
a) Use an engagement A/B test success metric instead of orders or sign-ups.
As mentioned earlier, remember it’s not just about having enough traffic to run an A/B test – having enough conversions is even more important to be able to get a testing result. And you can define a conversion as something that happens more often – if you use an A/B test success metric that happens very frequently like a click to a specific page (like the next page in your checkout) instead of orders, this will count as many more conversions, and therefore much greater chance of being able to get a result from an A/B test.
This different type of success metrics works particularly well on the homepages for increasing engagement, using any click as the A/B test success metric. Other ideas for this are using ‘adds to cart’ instead of completed checkouts, or clicks to the sign-up page instead of completed sign-ups.
b) Buy extra traffic for a short while to the page you want to A/B test.
If you can afford it, the simplest technique is to just spend more on driving traffic to the page you want to to do an A/B test on. This way you hopefully get enough traffic and conversions to run an A/B test, and could be driven by using Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising (which I think is better and cheaper).
If you have a a very large email subscriber base, you could also try sending an email campaign that drives traffic to the page you want to test, which may result in enough traffic for you to run an A/B test. Not ideal as it’s just a quick traffic spike, but it can help increase traffic along with other methods.
c) Use Google Adwords to split test and find high-converting wording.
With this technique, instead of creating an A/B test in a testing tool, you use Google Adwords split testing function to find which ad variations get most clicks of your headlines and wording that relate to the page you want to test. This is ideal for testing wording for benefits, call-to-actions and other important words on your website. Here are a few variations in Google Adwords to help illustrate this split testing:
To do this, simply create a few different ads in Google Adwords that emphasize different headlines and descriptions, turn on the ad rotation function (for fairest results, use ‘rotate evenly’ option), and see which ad version gets the most clicks to your website. Then once you have found the winning ad, replicate that winning text on the page you wanted to test, and watch your conversions and sales grow! Here is a great guide that shows a company that used this with great results.
d) Use a landing page tool to test and find high-converting wording, imagery and call-to-actions.
You can also use a landing page creation tool to help you find best converting variations of key elements like your headlines, benefits, imagery and call-to-action buttons. You then use those learnings from those landing pages and use them on your regular website pages. You can do this because these tools have a limited version of A/B testing built-in to them.
To do this A/B testing with a landing page tool like Unbounce or Leadpages, create a few simple pages that have different wording, imagery and call-to-actions relating to the page you wanted to test. You will then need to make the conversion event to be a click through so you get a result faster. Once you have found out which versions convert your visitors the most, you then take the winning variations and add that to the page you wanted to initially test.
e) Do user testing on proposed improvements by getting indepth feedback from visitors.
User testing is based on gaining indepth ‘qualitative’ feedback from visitors about each of your proposed website improvements, in comparison to ‘quantitative’ testing that is based on just A/B testing result numbers. This type of user testing also helps you understand the reasons why visitors prefer particular variations of proposed improvements (something that A/B testing tools can’t actually tell you), and is ideal for creating even better follow-up improvements.
To do this type of testing, create another version of the page you want to test, and then using a tool like Usertesting.com show both versions to testers that match your target demographic (you can even use your own website visitors) and ask them questions based on which page version they prefer and engages them better. Then simply launch the page version that has the best feedback (or make additional improvements first and repeat the process). This technique gives such great feedback and insights, that I suggest always using this in addition to using an A/B testing tool.
f) Launch your improvements and then monitor impact on key metrics.
This technique is where you simply launch the new improved page version for one week, check key metrics at the end of the week, then revert back to current page (the control page) for a week and then check key metrics again. After the 2 weeks, determine which version converted the most visitors for your major website goals. If the new page version performs better then launch it. Although you don’t get statistical significance with this method, it’s better than just launching new content and hoping for the best.
When doing this type of website improvement launches, the quality of your improvement idea is really important for determining success. Rather than just guessing, to increase the chances of success I suggest you get website improvement recommendations from CRO experts like myself.
You can still do CRO if you don’t have enough traffic for A/B testing
You may think you can’t do conversion rate optimization (CRO) to improve your website if you don’t have enough traffic for A/B testing. Many people even think that A/B testing and CRO are the same thing. Fortunately these thoughts are both wrong. But why?
A/B testing isn’t essential for improving websites because it is only one of the main elements of CRO – web analytics, web usability, visitor feedback and persuasion are the other essential elements. Gaining many high impact insights from visitor feedback and web analytics will give you some great ideas in particular for improving your website with excellent results.
Ultimately you need to realize it’s not just about having enough traffic to do A/B testing, and that there are many other ways to find the best variations of your website.
Have you tried any of these techniques for running A/B tests on low traffic websites? Or which ones of these will you try first for your website?