What’s the difference between split testing and multivariate testing?

In the quest to optimize a website for maximum quality traffic, it is necessary to first quantify it. Testing is done either by split testing or by multivariate testing.

Each of these optimization-testing methodologies has its own strength and advantageous use. Understanding and using the best method for obtaining the information sought is important.

Using Split Testing

Split testing, also known as A/B Testing involves comparing two or more web pages using one variant.

For instance, several landing pages might be tested to determine which holds a reader’s attention the longest per visit once a specific amount of traffic has landed there.

If split testing can provide the necessary information, it is preferable because it is the simplest to implement and understand. It gives truer results when used on smaller trafficked sites and completely new design changes can be tested to determine possible superiority.

Downsides of Split Testing

There are situations where split testing is less than ideal.

For instance, this type of testing is general considered inefficient when applied to large sites, although there are some mega companies that would dispute this.

Additionally it does not provide a way for deeply analysing why one page is better. You can determine which page workers better via conversion statistics, nothing more, which means that further improvement requires additional testing.

The only option for continued improvement is to make changes to the better page and analyze it against the poorer performing page and against the original best page. This can be a lengthy process.

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing, on the other hand, is able to measure, and thus compare, several different elements per page. One could set up a test that measures the effects of several different headers, headlines or font styles simultaneously.

The advantages are obvious, knowledge of exactly which variables affect the site, the degree of affect and which choices are best. However, in order for this testing method to work the site must have a high level of traffic.

Additionally, it require a greater degree of expertise to implement, which makes it out of reach of many less computer savvy individuals.

Although the only viable option for testing small sites is the split (A/B) method both methods can be used on larger sites. If a site has enough traffic to warrant the use of the multivariate testing, finding and paying someone to either set up the testing or teach the site owner the necessary skills might be worthwhile.

Split Testing is Easier to Setup and Execute

However, where A/B testing will suffice it is easily used by even the most techno-phobic with a testing plug-in, and split testing works best for isolating variables.

Variables that can improve a web page’s performance are many and include the page layout, background color, copy text and even the font type and size.

While not each variable will have a significant effect, due to the large pool of consumers an internet site reaches and at a relatively low cost even a small different can translate into a large profit.

Split or A/B testing may seem too simplistic to obtain significant results. Potential users might worry about the limitations it is considered to have when used on large traffic sites. However, when one considers that such familiar names as Amazon, BBC, eBay, Google, Microsoft and Netflix and Playdom have used this method of website optimization it places the split testing method in a more favorable light.