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  • Kathleen Pelosi

What is A/B or "split" testing for email...and how does it work?


As a new email marketer, you have probably heard buzzwords such as "segmentation," "opt in," "bounce rate," and of course "A/B split testing." But what is A/B testing for email, and how does it work?

When designing a marketing campaign, you will have many ideas of how to proceed. However, sometimes your team may be conflicted about design choices, content, wording, visuals, you name it. With A/B testing (aka split testing), you don't have to decide all on your own. As the name suggests, using this method will create a clear split in your marketing campaign at first, and you can let your subscriber community tell you which type of finishing touches your campaign should use. A/B testing can be applied to a variety of content such as design for your web page, user experience for your new app, or even printed materials. However, the fastest way to test is by email as you don't need to arrange for people to come into your office to view your materials. Read below to see how you can accomplish this.

First, design two emails and choose specific parts of the emails that you will want to differ. For example, one email may feature graphics that are bright and happy, while the other uses dark colors and scary statistics. Or you may decide to make a simpler distinction such as differing subject lines. Your type "A" email will be sent to one group of recipients and your type "B" email will be sent to another. The most important part is that you and your colleagues will be able to tell the difference between the two emails and use the analytics to make a decision about your campaign.

Next, send the emails and see how your subscribers react to them after a few hours/days. Many email marketers use analytics programs to track certain metrics of their emails. Base your decision off of the following parameters:

  • Open rate: Which email was opened by more recipients?

  • Clickthrough rate: Which email led to more people clicking to links/images?

  • Conversion rate: Which email led to more purchases/desired tasks?

  • Share rate: Which email was shared/forwarded more times?

  • Unsubscribe rate: Which email prompted more people to unsubscribe?


Finally, analyze your results and come to a conclusion. Whichever email sparked more buzz and kept your subscribers engaged is the winner. You should base your marketing campaign emails off of the best email. However, you don't have to stop here. You can keep testing differing tactics with your subscribers until you find an effective email strategy.

LISTSERV +Maestro is a marketing tool that allows you to track email metrics and conduct A/B split testing. Click here to learn more about LISTSERV +Maestro, or comment below to share your experience with A/B split testing.



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