We talk a lot about how marketing analytics is key to inbound marketing success. Another concept that goes hand-in-hand with analytics is testing. Contrary to popular practice, testing in marketing expands beyond email marketing and can be applied to practically every other inbound marketing tactic -- social media, business blogging, landing pages, lead generation, and lead nurturing -- there's virtually nothing you can't test in your marketing.
While we believe marketers should constantly be testing their marketing, the first step is identifying the different marketing variables you can test. And because so many of these variables are applicable across channels, you'll likely never run out of tests to run or experiments to try. The following 20 testing variables can lead you to discover valuable opportunities to optimize and improve the performance of your marketing initiatives.
20 Variables to Test in Inbound Marketing
1. Layout: Test the layout within individual content items like blog posts, email marketing messages, lead nurturing emails as well as website pages like landing pages, your main website homepage, your blog homepage, etc. Move elements of your pages around, and test the performance of one layout vs. another.
2. Calls-to-Action (CTAs): CTAs offer a number of testing opportunities. Test the performance of different calls-to-action based on their placement on various pages of your website and within certain pieces of content like blog posts, ebooks, and webinars.
3. Content Offers: Calls-to-action are made up of different offers, such as an ebook, a webinar, a free trial, etc. Test calls-to-action in terms of different offer topics in your industry and various formats (video vs. webinar vs. ebook vs. free trial, etc.). Do certain offers focused on a particular topic or in a specific format tend to resonate better with your audience? These types of tests can help you indentify the wants and needs of your prospects and customers and help you create content your audience cares about.
4. Color: Test the color of your call-to-action buttons. You can even just test the overall color scheme of your website or blog. Do certain colors elicit a better response than others?
5. Size: Sometimes, just making a CTA button, an image, or a headline a few hairs bigger can make a huge difference. Maybe your headline isn't prominent enough to catch the site visitor's attention. Or maybe your call-to-action is too small to stand out. Test the sizing of different website and content elements.
6. Email Subject Line: In your email marketing and lead nurturing emails, test different versions of subject lines to determine which results in the best click-through rate. Do you find that a more actionable or sensational subject line performs better than others?
7. Blog Titles: Similarly, do some testing and analysis of blog titles. Do numbers in your titles produce better results? Over time, can you notice a pattern of specific words that have consistently attracted lots of views?
8. Email Sender: Test various versions of how you present your email sender. Does a stand-alone name of one of your employees work better than your company name? What about a combination of the two?
9. Email Templates: Create a few different email templates, and test their effectiveness over each other in your email marketing and lead nurturing messages.
10. Length: Test the length of your landing page copy and forms (shorter forms may be better for your business than longer forms, or vice versa), your content (do your readers prefer shorter or longer blog posts with more copy?), your email messages, and social media updates like tweets, Facebook, and LinkedIn updates.
11. Messaging: Have you varied the way you position your message? Try a different angle, and see what effect it has.
12. Tone: Test different tones in your writing and positioning. Does a more serious approach work better than an edgier one? Be careful with this one though -- once you've done some testing and defined your most effective tone, stick with it. Your company should have a recognizable, consistent voice across all your messages and content.
13. Images: Test how people respond to different types of images -- in your blog posts, your email messages, your landing pages, your CTAs, etc.
14. Timing: Do your tweets get retweeted more in the morning or the afternoon? Do certain days of the week make for better Facebook engagement? Perhaps your email marketing is more effective on Saturdays and your blog posts generate more views during the middle of the week.
15. Frequency: Is your particular audience receptive to more or fewer updates from you, whether it be via email, tweets, blog articles, Facebook posts, etc.? Test the frequency of your updates in various channels and take notice of what works best.
16. Keywords: Test the performance of your keywords. Can you generate more traffic from a long tail keyword than you're generating from a more general keyword?
17. Paid Search: While not a variable in itself, there are a number of variables and combinations of variables you can test in your paid search efforts, too -- keywords, messaging, imagery, offers, etc.
18. Targeting and Personalization: Another variable you can test in paid search is targeting! Furthermore, you can test different targeting methods on your homepage, on your landing pages, in your email marketing and lead nurturing, etc.
19. Privacy: Does adding a note about protecting visitors' privacy to certain pages of your website impact your results? Test adding some language that indicates protection of privacy to your landing pages, and see if it results in higher conversion rates.
20. Data Visualization: What's the best way for you to present data? In a pie chart? A graph? An infographic? Try different ways to visualize your data, and see what works best!
Regularly testing elements of your marketing can be a great way to identify ways to improve your existing marketing efforts. What other variables can you test in your inbound marketing?