As a marketer, you’re probably familiar with the idea of using A/B testing to boost the conversion rate of a landing page or email blast. But A/B testing can also help you optimize your content.

While there are plenty of content “best practices” around, the only way to truly know what headline or layout performs best is by testing it. We’ve put together a list of the key content elements you should be testing, as well as a few tools to help you along the way.

Key Elements to Test

So, what elements of your content should you be A/B testing? Here are some of the top choices:

1. Headlines: Your headlines are arguably the most important element to test and optimize – they’re the first thing readers see and they need to be compelling enough to entice readers to click through to the article or blog post. Viral-content sites like Upworthy are known to test up to 25 headlines per content item before settling on a winner.

While it might be overkill to test that many contenders for each piece of content, it’s good to brainstorm at least five possible headlines before narrowing down the two best options. You can then A/B test those two headlines to see which one gets the most clicks. No matter how good your content is, if the headline doesn’t persuade people to click it, then you won’t achieve your marketing goals.


2. Images: Images can play nearly as large a role as headlines in determining the success of your content – they make your content more visually appealing and provide context. If you’re not currently including images alongside your content, this is a good opportunity to test how images impact effectiveness.

However, not all images are created equal and using the wrong images can backfire in a big way. Images that don’t quite relate to your content can confuse readers and bland stock images are known to hurt conversion rates. Testing different images can make a big difference in your content’s performance. In fact, one moving company saw their conversion rates jump by 45% after they swapped out a stock image for a real photo.


3. Content length: Even the length of your content can impact its performance. Research shows that the ideal blog post takes around 7 minutes to read – that amounts to about 1600 words. While this metric provides a good rule of thumb, it’s best to test different lengths to see what your audience responds to most positively. The concept of A/B testing length doesn’t just apply to written content – you can experiment with different lengths for video as well.


4. Calls-to-action: If your content doesn’t give readers a clear idea of what they’re supposed to do next, it’s not working hard enough for you. Calls-to-action (CTAs) in content marketing are a bit different than CTAs on a typical landing page. You’re usually not overtly selling anything. Instead, your CTA is likely to ask readers to:

  • subscribe to an email list
  • read more articles
  • like or share your content on social media
  • contact your team

A/B testing can help you determine which CTAs are most effective at getting your reader to the next step of your marketing funnel. What you’re looking to test here are different action verbs and lengths of CTA, both of which can make a dramatic difference to how your readers respond.

Tools of the Trade

Now that you know which content elements to focus on in your testing, you’ll need to figure out what tools you’ll use to perform the testing. Some of the biggest players in this category include:

All of these tools aim to make it easy to make website changes while accurately measuring the results of each change. If you’re not ready for an enterprise-level solution, you may want to try using Google Analytics to run A/B tests. And there are also a number of WordPress plugins that can do the job, including Simple Page Tester and Nelio.

A/B Testing for Better Content Marketing

There’s no doubt that the biggest driver of your content marketing campaigns will be well-researched, well-written and relevant content. But testing your content’s ancillaries can have a big impact on the overall success of each piece.

If your content marketing campaigns haven’t been getting the results you want, A/B testing may be the solution. Try running some A/B tests on different elements of your content, and you may be surprised by the results. Then, you can double down on the elements that have proven to provide the best results for your target audience.