Guest article! Our first of 2014, too. The piece below is Part One of a series of three articles in which Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein talks about A/B testing your web pages, which can make a huge difference in how well they convert site visitors into supporters and donors. Michael is the president of Spitzer-Rubenstein Strategies, a digital campaign consulting firm specializing in email, social media, online advertising, and website development and optimization. Take it away, Michael:
Small Change Can Yield Big Bucks: A/B Testing Your Fundraising Landing Pages (Part One)
What would 150% more online donations mean to your organization? Would an increase like that pay for another staffer? Another round of direct mail? Maybe relieve some pressure on your budget? It might seem unlikely, but sometimes just a small change to the wording of your fundraising landing pages can make a big difference in the results. In the case of one New York City campaign, it boosted online donations by 158%!
Cathy Guerriero was a first-time candidate running for Public Advocate, and as with most first-time candidates, jump-starting her fundraising was difficult. But rather than throw our hands up in the air, we decided to try something different and see if changing the donation page could increase donations. These weren’t big changes, just a different headline and a couple of sentences about why donors mattered and how their donations would make a big impact for the campaign.
And guess what? It worked.
We tested the old version of the donation page against the new version in what’s called an A/B or split test. A line code split visitors to the page into two groups, with one group seeing the old version (variant A) and the other group seeing the new version (variant B). We quickly found that when someone saw the newer version, they were 158% more likely to donate than if they saw the older version. We didn’t change what they were donating to, how they got to the page, or even what the donation form looked like. We just changed the first few words that people would see!
Not only did the campaign bring in thousands of dollars more in donations during the test, but the boost wasn’t temporary, as we found once we made the new donation page the standard. Each and every fundraising email we sent from that point on suddenly became significantly more effective, and at a crucial point in the election. Emboldened by that success, we did other tests and found more page-tweaks to help convert more and more website visitors into donors.
Testing can also improve other parts of your site, too: volunteer signups are another big opportunity. For that test, we added a photo of Cathy Guerriero with some young volunteers to a new variant of our main signup page. It wasn’t even the best photo — it had been taken on a cellphone camera and the light was off — but the kids looked cute. So we went for it…and didn’t just see a small increase in volunteer signups. They literally tripled compared to the old volunteer form! And we’re talking about a tiny change that took maybe 5 minutes to set up, but the results were incredible.
A/B testing isn’t some black magic, and you don’t need a PhD to make these changes to your website. In the next post, we’ll talk about how you can get more donations or volunteers by testing small, strategic improvements to your website.
Thanks Michael! Check back tomorrow for the next installment.