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A/B testing in WordPress

A/B Testing in WordPress

The concept of A/B testing has its roots in some standard experimentation techniques. Specifically, the idea of having a control in an experiment. The control is the part of the experiment that stays consistent from test to test so that you can safely attribute any difference in results to the item that you change. For website design the control is all of the elements of the page that you’re not experimenting with. By carefully changing one component of a page (or in this specific case, an advertisement) you can see what causes a better response from a user.

Planning an A/B Test

Once you start entertaining the idea of testing your ads there is the potential to get carried away. You want to try and keep your tests focused on one element at a time. Try two different headlines and see which one performs better before you try swapping out the image you’re using and also changing the offer. Remember the concept is to have a small measurable difference and keep everything else the same. Also, be sure to create landing pages that match the various changes that you make to your advertisements so that your users have a seamless experience. If you’re A/B testing your offer, the landing page has to reflect the same information.

Implementing A/B Testing in WordPress

There are a lot of different ways to implement A/B testing for WordPress. This breaks down into a few specific categories.

  • Plugins – There are a host of plugins that can add A/B testing ability to your website. You can find a variety of them on the WordPress repository. Some of these plugins test a very specific part of a WordPress page and may not be applicable for testing your advertisements specifically. We’ve even written a plugin that integrates with Google Content Experiments for A/B testing.
  • Saas – There are several software services that offer A/B testing as part of their services. Depending on how your advertisements are built, you may be able to leverage one of these to perform your tests. Of note in this space are Unbounce, Optimizely, Kissmetrics, and ConversionXL. These services integrate with WordPress via their own proprietary plugins.
  • Themes – There are even some themes that build A/B testing right in. Divi has a Divi Leads feature that gives you results in the dashboard. Thrive themes also offers built in A/B testing in their themes.

Whichever method works best is going to be for you to decide. If cost is a primary consideration then the plugin or theme solutions are going to be a big win. If offloading the overhead of the A/B test is important for site performance then the saas solutions are going to be the best route. You’re going to have to decide which needs are most important for your site.

More resources for A/B Testing

There are a lot of great resources for A/B testing information.

Landing page

The Landing Page – Where Do Your Ads Go?

Every website has at least one landing page, some have dozens. In the purest sense, any page where a visitor enters your website is a landing page. This idea is also proliferated because with organic search practices almost any page of your site could be the first page a visitor sees. However, in terms of marketing and advertising, a landing page is very specific page and stands apart from the rest of your site.

How Are Successful Landing Pages Made?

There are generally two specific calls to action for a landing page. You’re asking a user to either complete a purchase or to fill out a lead form. In order to focus on one of these two actions you need to focus on the design of your page. Many landing pages are completely dissociated from the rest of the site’s design. Here are some important factors to focus on when designing your pages:

  • Connect to Your Ad – You’ve just sent the user to a page based on an advertisement, you need to make sure that the message in your advertisement matches the message on your page. This may also carry into the graphics used.
  • No navigation – These pages are for their specific purposes only, we don’t want people becoming distracted, investigating other parts of the site, or reading any copy not related to our conversion goals.
  • Clean and clear – Include just enough information to complete the conversion and no more.
  • Make conversion easy – Don’t try and collect a lot of information on these pages. Get only what you need and make it crystal clear what that is.
  • Beautiful design – If you’re going to spend any money on content for your site, these are the pages to do it. Compelling images and maybe a well-executed video are good starting points. Color use, white space, and page flow all need to be considered.
  • Clear CTA – The single most important factor. Your call to action must be incredibly clear, very prominent on the page, and have enticing copy to complete the action.
  • Focus on the visitor – This isn’t the time to focus on the specs for your product, this is about what your product can do for the user. Make sure all of your content is directed to what they can get out of your offer.
  • Social proof – Use testimonials, quotes, or your customer list to show evidence of your offer’s worth.
  • Optimized – This page should be fast and lean.

How can we Build a Landing Page in WordPress

There are a lot of different ways to approach the creation of a landing page. While it comes down to two basic methodologies – you either implement them with a theme or a plugin – there is a lot of variety within those choices.

Theme Implementations

There are two ways to use a theme for your landing page. You can choose a theme geared to make landing pages like Divi (a page builder theme) or Landing, specifically built to implement landing pages.

In addition, many standard themes come with a blank template or a template without navigation so landing pages can be easily created. Even if that template doesn’t exist you can easily create a new template that strips down the distraction and simplifies the page.

Plugin Implementations

With plugins there are several options. There are landing page services like Unbounce, Lead Pages, or Instapage that can connect to your WordPress site via a proprietary plugin. Most of the heavy lifting happens off-site and they offer a great array of services to track your performance. Most offer A/B testing so that you can really dial in on what makes the page convert successfully.

There are some plugin solutions that add landing page capabilities right onto the site. Ultimate Landing Page and Page Builder are both available from the WordPress repository. This type of solution puts most of the tracking and overhead onto your server.

Finally, there are some page builder plugins like Beaver Builder and Elementor that make creating landing pages a snap. While there aren’t specific analytics for the page, they do allow you to leverage normal analytics tools to track conversions.

Additional Information

There are some great resources available to learn more. Unbounce has a great blog focused on landing pages, of particular note are co-founder Oli Gardner’s posts.

Kissmetrics has a blog about marketing, analytics, and testing and has some good resources.

Hubspot also writes frequent posts about landing pages and how to optimize them.


Retargeting is Remarkable

Retargeting (also known as remarketing) is a great tool for advertisers to continue to engage with a user that’s already visited their site. Strategically, we know that the user is already inclined to use their product or service. Many advertising services are offering the feature as the costs tend to be lower than traditional pay per click campaigns, and the audience has already self-selected their interest. Return rates can be as much as three times higher than a standard banner ad. How does it work? Let’s take a look.

How Does Retargeting Work?

Cookies. A cookie is set in your browser when you visit a site that’s using retargeting. When you navigate to another site that has an ad unit set to display retargeted ads, the ad for the site you’ve previously visited is served. There are a lot of fine controls that can be set depending on the service used. The expiration time for the cookie, the number of ads served, even controlling what other sites your retargeted ad appears on; are configurable for your campaign. In addition, the parameters for when a cookie is set can be key. You can set cookies based on actions or inaction that the user takes, cart abandonment for example.

Who Offers Retargeting?

Many advertising networks offer retargeting services. AdRoll, Criteo, and Steelhouse to name a few. As with most things advertising, Google also has an offering which they call Remarketing. In fact, the post was originally titled “Remarketing is Remarkable,” but traditional remarketing focuses on email campaigns as opposed to display advertisements. Given the size of Google’s network it makes perfect sense that they have a retargeting option. Facebook, Twitter, and Linked also have their own flavors of retargeting.

Resources to Learn More

Aside from the services above, you may want to read a little more about retargeting and what makes the most sense for you.

keyword research

Keyword Research – How to Get Started

Keyword research is a major component of your website. It impacts not just your SEO efforts but also your SEM practices. With SEO the keywords you use when you write your pages and posts send messages to the search engines. These messages are taken in as part of the algorithms the search engine’s use and help your pages to come up in search results. With SEM, keywords play a more direct role. When you’re preparing your ads you’ll choose what keywords to associate with them. In either case, if you use the wrong keywords your efforts may be wasted.

SEO Implications of Keywords

When you embark on search engine optimization for your site your goal is to write content that will attract readers to your site organically. Your goal is to have your pages rank on the first page of Google’s search results pages. In fact, you’ll often hear companies guarantee that you will rank on page one of Google. While this can be an important tactic for your site, if the keyword you’re using isn’t being searched for by anyone except your SEO vendor than it may be next to useless.

SEM Implications of Keywords

With search engine marketing, your goal is to associate advertising with keywords you expect users to use to find you. A wrong keyword here means that the right audience won’t see your advertisement or worse, that the wrong audience will see your advertisement and dismiss is because it’s not relevant to what their search.

Generate Your Starting Keywords

There are basically two types of keywords: “head” and “tail.” Head keywords are fairly generic, broad terms like “website” or “website design.” These keywords will have a ton of competition and be difficult to rank highly. You’re better off with long-tail keywords like “WordPress website design” or “website design for real estate agencies.” The longer the tail the more specific the keyword.

The first step is to build a spreadsheet of search terms that are relevant to your website. You’ll want to brainstorm and really hit the essence of the traffic you want to generate. You can test the keywords that you generate in a Google search and see if the results are what you expect. Next, try to turn these keywords into long-tail keywords made up of multiple words. An easy way to produce some long-tail equivalents is to use the Google Adwords Keyword Planner. Yoast, the company that makes an amazing SEO plugin for WordPress also has a keyword expander tool that can generate a CSV file to give you a ton of results.

Test your Keyword Results

Now that you have a list of long-tail keywords you’ll want to circle back to performing a Google search on the terms and making sure those results are similar to your expectations. If they are you’ve created a good pool of keywords for yourself. In addition, if you have two similar long-tail keywords you can test them in Google Trends to see which is performing better. If you’re engaging in SEO you have some topics to write about. If you’re doing SEM then you have some marketing targets for your ads.

Some Things to Avoid

There are a couple of things you want to avoid to improve this process. First, don’t skip the research. Test the the keywords you’ve selected before spending money on them. Second, don’t try to compete on “head” keywords unless you have a large budget you’re willing to spend.. Third, make sure your keywords are relevant and that they are generating traffic. Finally, don’t forget that this is an iterative process. Go back and review your results after you’ve started a campaign or completed your writing. You can always adjust what you’ve set up, but you need to have a baseline for comparison.

Additional Keyword Research Tools

A lot has been written about SEO and keyword research. The trickiest part is making sure that what you’re reading is new content. This is a really dynamic field and what was a solid practice three years ago may not be useful now.

Here are some additional sources to assist you in both generating keywords and reviewing their usefulness:


Creating Strong CTAs

“Read today to make millions!”

Calls-to-Action (CTAs) are everywhere online. Every ad, page, and post that you create should have a purpose and that purpose needs to be communicated to your audience. Creating a CTA that your audience is going to engage with becomes harder all the time as users are bombarded with subtle (or not-so-subtle) commands to “act now.” How can we craft CTAs that produce the right results?

Define Your Goals

The first step to creating a good CTA is know what you want your audience to do. If you’re reading this, you’re probably involved with advertising is some way. Advertising on the web occurs at many levels, from the search engine to your social media to websites you visit. Giving the user the instruction to “Click Here” is no longer enough. You have to explain why that click is relevant to them. To be clear though, the process starts with your goals. You need to make sure that your goals speak to the goals of your users. This is part of what makes defining your target audience so important. Attracting a bald person to your hair salon is not likely to make them act on a free haircut.

Start with an Action Word

Click, join, subscribe, or buy! You want to give a clear command to your audience on what you’d like them to do. Make it as direct as possible. Requests don’t need to be isolated to a submit button, but the closer the request meshes with the actual action to be performed the better conversions you can expect to achieve.

Provoking Emotion…

When you’re writing your CTA be sure to appeal to the emotions of your users. Nothing creates a bond like evoking an emotion. Whether it’s delight from something amazing or funny, fear from dire warnings or the fear of missing out, or suspense from a cliffhanger or tease make sure that there is something that your audience cares about and responds too.

Offer Expires While You Wait

Create a sense of urgency and/or limited availability. Closely tied to provoking the “fear of missing out,” offering your service or product for a limited time or creating a limited edition actually manifests that fear into a reality. If there are only 200 items in a set then you can’t sell more than 200. Be careful not to use trickery with this technique. Customers can be lost if your limited editions aren’t really limited or your limited time isn’t limited.

Don’t Forget Design

There are a few mechanical considerations when you’re writing your CTA. The CTA should be as short as possible while communicating your goals. A headline with one or two supporting sentences and a link with the explicit request should be sufficient. Use other areas of the page to help “sell” the action. This isn’t the time for social proof, features, or advantages. This is the ask – “Call today for the Best Rates.” Make sure that the CTA is easy to see. In fact, make sure the CTA is the easiest thing to see on the page. Avoid having too much competing content in the same area. Keep the CTA large, use a high degree of contrast on the link for the explicit request, and use a fair amount of white space around the CTA. Contrast doesn’t necessarily mean black on white or the reverse. Complementary colors, bright colors, or colors unique to the page can all draw attention to your CTA button. White space isn’t necessarily the color white, but it is a break in the design action that lets your eye rest and return to the element you need to be focusing on.

Read More to Succeed

There has been a ton of research and discussion around writing the perfect CTA. It’s an elusive goal and you can always refine the process. A/B testing is a great way to hone in on a call-to-action that works best for you. CTAs can also shift over time. What was effective last month may not be as effective the next. There are a few organizations and individuals that focus on marketing and have written some great articles on writing a variety of CTAs. You can read more here:

apples and oranges

Google Doubleclick for Publishers – Granular Choice

We’ve already discussed how Google has become a powerhouse for delivering advertising content online with their AdSense program. If that were their only advertising platform they would still be one of the dominant suppliers of advertising online. The Google Doubleclick for Publishers platform cements their position. Why are there two platforms from the same company? Which one is better to use? What’s the difference between the them?

What’s the Difference?

The differences between the two platforms isn’t readily apparent. Both platforms allow advertisers to sell ads and publishers to place ad inventory on their websites. Both platforms offer some filtering capabilities of the advertisements they show, have reporting options, and access to a wide set of advertisers. The biggest differences between them have to do with how these ads are placed and how they can be granularly controlled.

Granular Control

This granularity kicks in for a few key areas. First, publishers are able to make their inventory of ad units available in several different ways; branded, semitransparent, or anonymous. This allows publishers with a big name to attract more advertisers and command a higher rate while smaller publishers can remain anonymous and still have access to a large pool of advertisers. Next, the publisher has significantly expanded filtering ability allowing them to block specific advertisers, ad technologies, and cookie usage. In addition, rules can be created for block filtering and opt-in filtering for even more granular controls. Also, publishers are able to expand on the reporting that they receive from Doubleclick. While AdSense has some standard reports available, Doubleclick users are able to “create queries based on publisher-defined parameters.”

Do You Need Google Doubleclick for Publishers?

The Doubleclick platform allows a publisher to really take control of the advertising they are presenting to their audiences but not without a lot of complexity. We recommend that you contact a professional to assist you with your advertising decision-making to make sure that Doubleclick for Publishers is the right tool for you. Google has a dedicated page explaining the differences between AdSense and Doubleclick for Publishers in detail. This resource has some additional links that can help you become better acquainted with the offering.

AdChoices – What’s It All About?

You may have noticed a triangular icon in the corner of advertisements on your favorite news or blog site. This triangle is the AdChoices icon and it’s a trademark of the Digital Advertising Alliance. The AdChoices initiative is a way for advertisers to feed ads that are more relevant to their viewers interests.

The Digital Advertising Alliance is made up of several constituent organizations; the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the Better Business Bureau, the Data and Marketing Association, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Network Advertising Initiative. This consortium of trade groups works to self-regulate consumer issues such as the AdChoices project.

The concept of the AdChoices tool is to allow users to have more input in the advertisements that are being shown to them. If the ad network that the site you are on is making use of the AdChoices icon then you can click that icon to block and give feedback about the ad in question. One of the biggest users of the AdChoices tool is Google. Not every Google Ad is served with these options but those that are tailor the content to the user. Google has implemented a “mute this ad” feature that displays a small “x” next to the AdChoices icon. This muting feature will allow you to self-select out of a particular ad campaign and can also let you navigate to your Google ad settings page (for the account you’re logged in with) where you can define your areas of interest, modify your profile, or disable interests based ads (more on this in a moment).

While this seems like a great thing, empowering users to see fewer irrelevant ads and letting them change these settings as their desires change, AdChoices raises some serious questions about privacy. As mentioned above, you can disable interests based ads and some people do because this data is collected and stored by Google. Many people feel this is a privacy issue and don’t want any extra information known about them. To help combat any abuses of this data collection two of the organizations; the Better Business Bureau and the Data and Marketing Association are charged with making sure the advertisers in the space are complying with regulations and that complaints made to them are addressed and advertisers held accountable.

This tool should be seen as part of your advertising strategy. As publishers, we’ve seen how it’s in your best interest to follow the desires of your users. As is the case with ad blocking software, you have users who are making a request of you. If you follow their wishes, you can turn what is mostly interruption marketing into a sales funnel for your advertisers. The AdChoice tool is part of the LEAN standards proposed by the IAB that we’ve previously written about. If your ad network offers AdChoices as an option you may want to consider using it.

For more about how the AdChoices tool affects you as a user, visit the Your AdChoices site.

Getting Started with Adsense


This is the first thing we think of when the word search is mentioned. Their dedication to cataloguing, ranking, and displaying websites to users performing searches makes them a dominant force online. They have used their position as the top search engine to become a leader in the field of online advertising. Their most prominent advertising vehicle is called AdSense.

Getting started with AdSense is easy. All you need is a Google account, a website, a phone number, and postal address. But as with all things technical, the ease of getting started belies a depth and complexity to the service. Once you’ve signed up for AdSense you make your website ad spaces available by pasting ad code on your site. This is where AdSanity can help. With AdSanity, you can control the placement of your ad units on your site. Advertisers compete by bidding on ad spaces in a real-time auction. The highest bidder will show on your site. You are compensated when one of your visitors clicks on an ad being displayed on your site.

AdSense ads are smart too. The system matches the ads that are displaying to the content on your site. This is an automated process, but you can also take a deeper dive and exert some control over the ads that display on your site. You can block individual advertisers, a competitor for example, or entire categories of ads. Controlling the ads you show can have some financial ramifications as well. Not all ads are paid at the same rate since it’s a bidding process. Throttle the ads shown too much and you may find your share of the revenue dwindling.

The success of your AdSense account and the money you make from it are going to be impacted by the number of page views and unique visitors you get to the site. The more viewers you have, the more likely an advertisement will be clicked. Google offers some special assistance to sites that are passing the 300,000 monthly page view milestone.

Once you have your website configured to make use of AdSense and you start to see a revenue stream it may be time to expand your involvement or fine tune your campaign. Google has a listing of partners that can help take you to the next level. Like WordPress itself, the more you want to do with AdSense, the more you’re going to want to seek professional assistance.

So, getting started with AdSense is easy. If you’re already an AdSanity user you might want to start an account today and see if you can monetize the work you’ve put into your website with AdSense. You can even download the mobile app for tracking your AdSense account while you’re on the go. If you want to learn more about AdSense, Google has a plethora of information.

IAB Standards – The Future of Advertising Online

Founded in 1996, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) develops technical standards and best practices for the digital industry. In the same way the W3C lays out standards for web development, the IAB lays out standards for digital advertising. These standards are put into practice by the over 650 media and technology companies that make up the IAB’s membership. These members account for about 86% of the online advertising in the United States.

There are several standards and best practices that are particularly relevant to users of AdSanity. The first is the Ad Units standards. The current version of AdSanity uses specifications originally laid out by the IAB standards. With the proliferation of mobile and tablet devices as well as the continued strong numbers of desktop and laptop devices these formerly fixed sizes have to become more adaptable. One of the ways that this adaptation is being achieved is through flexible sizes. Similar to how responsive web sites adapt to your various devices, flexible sizes allow for ads to adapt to a variety of devices.

In addition to the ad units there is a new standard that the IAB has introduced called LEAN. LEAN stands for lightweight, encrypted, AdChoice supported, and non-invasive advertising. The overall goals are about keeping your ads optimized and user-friendly. Most ad networks are leveraging HTML5 to keep their designs flexible and small in size (See HTML5 Ads – New Gold Standard). LEAN makes a lot of new recommendations on how to handle everything from auto-playing audio, video ad behaviors, pop-up usage, and many other aspects that can impact a user’s experience on a website.

One of the important parts of LEAN is the support of AdChoice. AdChoice is a technology supported by the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA) of which the IAB is a member. It allows users to have a voice in the type of advertisements they are shown. The idea is to make the advertising that you are exposed to more relevant to you and the products and services you are interested in.

If you’d like to learn more about IAB standards visit their website – www.iab.com. You can read more about the upcoming Ad Standards. Finally you can read more about AdChoices and the DAA here.

HTML5 Ads – The New Gold Standard

The advertisements you’re seeing online today are more and more likely to be built with HTML5 as opposed to any other technology. There’s been a paradigm shift to HTML5 for ad distribution. The roots of this change lie in a few key historical decisions and with several benefits of the HTML5 specification.

First, some history. Flash used to be the technology of choice for providing advertisements. You could take all of your assets and wrap them up in one SWF package for distribution. However, playing a Flash ad did require the extra overhead of requiring a browser plugin. In addition, the packaged files could be a fairly sizeable chunk of code.

While both of these are minor considerations, the release of the first iPhone in 2007 had major ramifications. Apple never supported Flash on their mobile devices. Android devices, released a year later, continued this trend of Flash abandonment. With such a large percentage of today’s web usage occurring on mobile or tablet devices, Google has followed suit and is now going a step further. As of June 30, 2016, Google has stopped accepting Flash ads, and by January of 2017 Google will stop displaying previously uploaded Flash ads.

While this sounds like technology giants in the advertising space pushing their own agendas, there are some real world reasons for the change. One of the major benefits of HTML5 ads is device independence. Since HTML5 is supported on all modern browsers by default, no plugins are necessary to view the content. Additionally, HTML5 ads can be built with the responsive web in mind. This means, no matter what device you’re using you can be served a version of the ad that’s right for your screen.

Another big benefit to HTML5 is the use of live text. Since you’re using the basic structure of the web in a smaller package, your text is searchable, translatable and allows for the use of web fonts to style the type. Using HTML5 means that text can wrap as needed, giving it the flexibility to display regardless of the device size or shape.

As far as we can tell, HTML5 ads are the way to go for the foreseeable future. If you want to know more, the IAB has a great primer on building HTML5 ads that meet their guidelines. One last comment on the HTML5 specification, since we’re basing our ads on a technology that advances over time, we should have a great path to the future. As the specification updates, our ads can update along with it.