5 minutes

Multivariate Testing: Using It to Increase Your Site’s Conversion Rates


Creating, managing, and running web sites used to be a whole lot simpler – but crude. The previous process would involve having a programming and design team come together, throw some ideas around, put the site together, measure the results, and then apply changes and tweaks to the design and layout based on what the visitors wanted or preferred.

But in this day and age, more than just a “trial and error” technique is needed in order to come up with a really functional, appealing, and, most importantly, successful web site.

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Initiate the Conversion: Catching Visitor’s Attention

Engaging text, hooks, and bright graphics just don’t cut it. There’s a whole lot more that contributes to the overall feel and look to a web site than just those elements, and it’s something that can either draw in or drive away a site visitor in mere seconds.

So if you’ve just got a small fraction of a minute to convince a visitor to check out your site, browse through your products or services, or read through your content, then it makes perfect sense to do what you can to make sure that you grab their attention (in a good way) and make them stay on your site. You can do just that by testing out various elements and combinations of your web site even before you go live, or even while you’ve already launched.


Site Testing: Split Testing versus Multivariate Testing

Manufacturing firms test out new products and potential new variations or formulations on a controlled group first before going for large-scale production to make sure that it’s what most of the public would want, so why not do the same for your web site?

There are two ways to conduct such tests for a website: A/B testing, which is commonly called “split” testing, and multivariate testing. A/B testing will try out different content for one section or element of the web page and determine which one was most preferred by the site visitors by evaluating which of the options was able to reel in the user, this is done by sending half the traffic to version A and half to version B and measuring the difference in conversion rate.

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On the other hand, multivariate testing involves trying out various combinations of different content and elements on a single web page at a time to see which would be able to garner the most success. This method can be thought of as several A/B tests being performed simultaneously on a single page or multiple pages.

Testing only 3 elements creates 8 different page layout experiences for users. One of these 8 may prove to be significantly better at converting site visitors than others.

Why Go For Multivariate Testing?

Both types of testing have their own specific advantages and benefits. Split testing is suitable for testing established sites or web pages that are already quite successful at the outset to introduce minor changes and updates in order to make the site even better. This type of testing is also preferred for simpler applications such as in email copies or newsletters, where fewer elements will be involved.

Split testing is also more suitable for sites with low traffic as it requires less conversion to take place to generate accurate results than multivariate testing. Multivariate tests are much more complicated in nature and will generally require more time than the A/B testing method. However, since they can make changes to multiple elements over multiple pages, it’s possible to learn more and make bigger advancements.


Benefits of Multivariate Testing

There are a lot of steps that go into the creation of a web site. There are also many tools that can be used to help ensure its success, such as Google’s Website Optimizer and other related applications that can point out which elements need to be changed and what sections are already acceptable.

With multivariate testing, you will be working at an accelerated learning curve. This means that you will be able to test out as many different combinations of various elements, modify the content based on user feedback, and test it out again.

The combinations that you can work with are basically limitless, since you can keep trying them out and gathering results as you go. Of course, you can also expect the testing to go on for a longer period of time, but you will be able to rest easy knowing that most combinations were exhausted and that the final design or layout that you will be using for your web site is the best possible combination available.

Another benefit to using multivariate testing is breakthrough thinking. Using a testing method such as split testing only allows you to modify one element at a time, so it’s more likely that the changes or options to be tested will be thought out excessively and become a product of cautious thinking. Since you can test an unlimited amount of concepts and changes with multivariate testing, you can accommodate and welcome changes and breakthrough ideas that might help put your site at the top.

Multivariate Testing and the Taguchi Method

Multivariate testing is often conducted while the Taguchi Method is also applied. The Taguchi Method is used to reduce the amount of necessary traffic in order to come up with a meaningful market research study.

The method makes use of fractional factorial testing that is able to minimize and lower the number of variations needed in order to determine the values of variables. By applying this method, the number of pages that must be analyzed and tested is greatly reduced.

Multivariate Testing: Increasing Conversion Rates

Site visitors will stay longer on sites that are optimized with a design and layout that has been previously tried and tested. The longer that users stay and browse on a web page, the higher the probability that a purchase or sale will be made. This is the reason why ecommerce sites and online retailers spend a considerable amount of time working on finding the right balance between aesthetics, functionality, and design on their online store shelves.

Conversion rates don’t just mean sales or purchases; they can also translate to the amount of ads clicked that also translates to revenue for the site owner. Moreover, coming up with really good web pages will help build a larger following to the site in a shorter period of time, increasing the site’s reach, influence, and audience that will make it a more valuable domain in the process.

If you’ve not tried any form of conversion testing you’re missing a huge part of the formula for online sales, remember that visitors X conversion rate = sales so if you are only worried about driving traffic to your site you could be throwing away thousands of dollars or more in sales every month.

Note: Photos courtesy of howardlake, laurenmanning, and findyoursearch via FlickR Creative Commons.

Blake Sanders

Blake Sanders is a writer at Maxymiser and an expert on multivariate testing. Blake enjoys discussing various topics on increasing website conversions.

Posts by Blake Sanders
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