As digital marketers, here at Webs we’re obsessed with testing and optimizing. As important as gut feelings and marketers’ intuition are, they simply must be backed up with data in order to be successful in the long term.

There are myriad ways to perform tests that will help you optimize various areas of your business. One option is user testing, in which you select participants to give you feedback about something you have questions around. A larger-scale option is to do A/B testing on your website in order to optimize your design and functionality. But your website it’s the only thing you can test – you should also be constantly optimizing your promotions, like A/B testing your email marketing.

When considering a new tactic for your business, it’s sometimes helpful to look at the experiences of those who have gone before. With that in mind, take a look at these three experimentation and testing examples that got a good bit of attention in recent years:

1. Facebook’s Emotion Test
This on-site test run got the social network into hot water not only with consumers, but also with the FTC. The gist of this study was that Facebook wanted to find out what kind of effect the overall emotional tone of a user’s News Feed has on their own behaviors. To do this, Facebook re-tooled their News Feed algorithm to show the (unwitting) test subjects more or less positive content in their feeds, and then studied the tone of the posts they wrote during that time period.

Read full coverage on Wired>>

2. OkCupid’s “Love is Blind” Test
In reaction to all the backlash against Facebook, Christian Rudder of OkCupid posted a blog entry informing consumers that they are being test on all the time. In what was likely an effort toward transparency, the online dating service founder detailed a number of very interesting tests that OkCupid has run unbeknownst to their users. One such study was conducted on ‘Love is Blind Day’ and sought to find out how user behavior on the site would change if the images of would-be prospects were removed.

Read the results on OkCupid’s blog>>

3. Digg and Netflix Redesigns
It’s important to keep in mind that it is not only important THAT you test, but also WHEN you test. The good folks at Optimizely covered two great examples of A/B testing done before and after major redesigns and the effect that each had on the company. The case studies in this article depict stories of testing from Digg and Netflix. Digg took the approach of “change now, test after” to a detrimental outcome. Netflix pre-tested their changes so they were able to see that their updates had a decidedly positive effect, and recognize the negative comments as the feelings of a vocal minority.

Read the case studies on Optimizely>>

Testing, even though it may be controversial at times, is the only way to know for sure that the choices you are making are best for your website and your small business marketing. Just keep in mind that the subjects of your tests are real people, and try to design tests that will serve them well, and not just treat them like statistics.

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