The Anatomy of Email Split Test

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“Always be testing.”

We hear this all the time in world of Internet marketing to the point where it’s almost become a cliche. However, there’s probably a reason why testing is so emphasized in regard to email, right?

In short, split-testing allows you to understand the ins and outs of your audience. It does this without breaking the bank, allowing you to do a combination of the following:

  • Determine which of the essential elements of your messages (subject lines, CTAs and marketing language, for starters) best engage your audience
  • Figure out whether or not a list is up to snuff. Rather than splashing cash on a giant email blast, it naturally makes more sense to test the waters first
  • Assess whether or not there are any glaring errors in your marketing messages. From broken links to design snafus. There’s a lot to potentially go wrong that you may never pick up on without a proper test

Successful testing helps you predict how your campaigns will perform once you roll out the real deal. Which will offer you peace of mind and keeping cash in your pocket.

But keep in mind that not all tests are created equal. You need a strategy in place to ensure that your tests don’t fall flat.

After all, flying blind with your testing will get you nowhere. In fact, failing to properly measure your metrics or under what you’re testing may leave you more confused than you were before you started.

The question remains: what does a successful split test actually look like?

We’ve outlined the following tips to ensure that your testing efforts are focused and are measuring the proper metrics. So you can make data-driven decisions to beef up your future marketing messages.

Start with Subject Lines

There are plenty of elements you can test; from the use of imagery to CTAs, each piece of the puzzle plays its role in your campaign’s potential success.

That said, most marketers prioritize subject lines. As a successful subject line will ultimately determine whether or not your messages get opened at all. Since you can’t measure any other metric without understanding what makes readers click through. Subject lines are a solid place to start. Beyond subject lines, your click-through rate is arguably the second most important metric to determine whether or not your messages resonate with readers.

Understand Your Variables

Perhaps the biggest mistake the newbies make when testing their emails is trying to do too much without actually understanding what metrics they’re trying to measure.

Think about it: there are so many variables to any given email that you have to hone your efforts on a single metric versus a million moving pieces at once.

For example, let’s say that you’re trying to figure out which subject lines result in the highest open rates. In subject lines alone, variables may include:

  • The number of characters in your subject line (think: short, medium and long-form)
  • The marketing message of your subject line (is it presented as an offer or a freebie, for example)
  • The tone of your message (incorporating personalization, statistics, asking a question, etc)
email subject line length

Keep in mind that these sorts of variables can also apply to your CTAs and click-through rates as well.

A bit overwhelming, right?

So, how can you possibly wrangle the most important metrics of your campaign when it comes time to test?

Prepare a Variety of Messages

The key to a successful test is to include a variety of messages during your blast. Each distinctly defined by their variables.

Let’s say you’re testing subject lines for an offer the fitness niche. Testing nine subject lines would be ideal versus three or even six, allowing you to fully experiment with the aforementioned variables in search of the best results. For example:

  • “25 Pounds in 30 Days?” (short length, incorporation question and numbers)
  • “How I  Lost My Baby Weight For Good” (medium length, emotional connection, begs question)
  • “Mary, this fitness program that actually works. No, really.” (long-form, personalization)

Each of these subject lines can be shortened and lengthened accordingly based on your message: the more you play with your messages, the more data you can gather once you’ve begun testing.

While it may seem like a lot of initial legwork in the form of brainstorming and ideation, the results of your tests may be paramount to determining what really makes your readers tick. 

Foolproof Your Tests

Granted you’re ready to run your test, keep the following in the back of your mind to ensure that your test delivers the most accurate results possible:

  • The bigger your sample size, the better: a larger sample allows you to experiment with different messages and get more accurate data (you can use a sample size calculator to give you an idea)
  • Keep your tests as uniform as possible: make sure that you’ve segmented your lists properly and are sending your messages under the same conditions (at the same time, for example)
  • Follow the numbers: although you may find yourself shocked by the outcome of your results, trust the results of your tests rather than pure intuition (remember, you can always test more later if you’re still wary)

Split testing represents a cornerstone of email marketing: although tests can be quite involved, they provide peace of mind as you uncover the absolute best way to reach your readership on a budget. Thankfully, you can make your testing campaigns much, much easier with a robust email automation solution such as Sendlane on deck.

Use Sendlane’s Workflow module to set up an automated split test. Don’t have Sendlane then use our free trial to split test us against your current email marketing platform.

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Zakaria Meftah

Zakaria Meftah

Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder at Sendlane
Based out of San Diego, California, Zakaria aka “Zak” is our young technological prodigy. Zak started his internet career at a super young age of just 15 years old, learning the ins and outs of technology and marketing. From building webpages to hosting servers, he found a passion in email marketing. By the time he reached 21 years old, he was proud to have sold over $10 Million dollars in digital products and delivered over 1 billion emails in his career. As one of the co-founders of Sendlane in 2013, Zakaria uses his expertise and passion to lead our technology team in building one of the "easiest to use" autoresponders and email servicing platforms in the industry. He aspires to grow Sendlane™ into one of the most reputable and well known Autoresponders in the world.
Zakaria Meftah