The Internet is an overwhelming source of advice for small business owners. And with so many voices out there telling you what to do and how to do it, it’s not uncommon to find two popular gurus out there preaching conflicting messages.

“How-to and list headlines get the most shares!” the first one says.

“How-to and list headlines are overused and ineffective!” says the other.

And, of course, they’ve both got numbers to illustrate their point. As a small business owner, your job isn’t to figure out who’s right. Your job is to figure out what’s right for you and your business.

The most effective way to solve these little conundrums is with A/B testing.

What is A/B testing?

A/B testing is a nickname for testing multiple variations of something—like a headline style. If you have two variations, they are the A and B in A/B testing. Of course, you can test more than two variations if you want.

When you conduct an A/B test, you’re comparing changes against a control to see which one produces the highest number of results. The variation could be as small as changing a single word in a headline or as big as testing changes in voice and style. In all cases, the goal is to identify and use the best performing option and, ultimately, make more money.

What kinds of things can be A/B tested?

  • Headlines
  • Images
  • Designs
  • Calls to action
  • Copy length
  • Copy styles
  • Forms
  • Tweets
  • Social media posts

Why is A/B testing important?

Perhaps the greatest thing about A/B testing is that you don’t have to guess, hope, or cross your fingers that what you’re doing is best for your small business. By testing, you get real data and real results full of information about what your audience prefers and how they react. You can use this information to do things like post more engaging content on Facebook or drive more traffic to your blog or website.

A/B testing is particularly important in online advertising. Think about it: Online advertising impressions and clicks cost lots of money. Wasting that money on poorly performing copy and designs is a real concern unless you’re testing and monitoring the success rate of different campaigns. Obviously, high-performing ads should be displayed more often.

When should you conduct A/B testing?

It’s not a once-and-done thing, if that’s what you’re thinking. A/B testing is a process. It’s a way for you to continually improve how you market and advertise yourself to consumers.

You never know when some new and shiny process will come along and steal the spotlight from your best performers. The only way to anticipate that decline is to track your results. Watch the numbers. And when you see a downturn in the desired response, try and test a new variation, always giving priority to the variations that provide the most clicks or sales.

Do you use A/B testing for your small business? Were you surprised by any of the results?