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Multivariate testing is one of the most powerful tools available to online publishers. But many of them don't use it for various reasons, from lack of knowledge about multivariate testing to lack of simple testing solutions.
At a weekend hackathon event, a couple of developers decided to change that by building a Headline Split Tester WordPress plugin that gives WordPress publishers the ability to set up A/B testing of their post headlines.
One of the developers explained on his blog:
When you set the alternate headline, we will A/B test your original headline and your alternate headline until one is deemed the winner (most clicks out of X total impressions shown). Then we show that headline going forward.
Simple? Yes. But that doesn't mean WordPress publishers can't benefit from using the same sort of tools larger publishers increasingly use.
One of those large publishers, The Huffington Post, was actually the inspiration for the plugin. As the plugin's developers note, the average blogger or small online publisher may not have the resources, knowledge or desire to implement similar A/B testing using solutions like Google Website Optimizer, which may be free and relatively easy to work with, but require some technical skill and labor to implement.
If it becomes popular, the Headline Split Tester plugin will probably be the first introduction many publishers, particularly smaller ones, have to multivariate testing. But there's no reason the relationship should end there.
There's plenty of opportunity to extend the functionality currently offered. For instance, testing could be conducted across multiple groups, with each group consisting of traffic from unique sources (eg. organic search, social networks). There's the potential to integrate testing with data from third party services offering APIs (think analytics and advertising platforms). And, of course, split testing could even be applied to post content itself. As Joshua Benton at the Nieman Journalism Lab notes, there's another, more sophisticated WordPress multivariate testing plugin in development as well.
While there is some debate in old media circles about this sort of thing, at the end of the day, when done thoughtfully, multivariate testing has the potential to help publishers produce better, more relevant content. And that's good for everybody.