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Three Key Differences Between A/B-Testing and Multivariate-Testing

by Alp Mimaroglu  |  
December 1, 2015
  |  3,504 views

"Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving." —David Ogilvy

If you were going to send the first OkCupid message to a potential date, how many versions would you come up with? And how would you test to see which one was the best one?

Fortunately, there is no market for online dating message testing (not yet, anyway). But split-testing, also known as A/B-testing, has been big business for marketers since the middle of the 20th century. Ogilvy & Mather used A/B-testing to famously rise to the top of the marketing world, and today Neil Patel continues to preach the good news.

Multivariate testing, on the other hand, is a more recent and complex affair. Theoretically, there is no upper limit to the number of combinations that could be tested, making it an extremely powerful alternative to traditional split-testing.

Testing platforms, such as Optimizely, offer both types of tests.


But most businesses, especially SMBs launching their first site, are hesitant about testing. They're interested in it, but they don't know the differences between the two tests. Their common questions may include the following:

  • How much does it cost?
  • How long does it take?
  • What do I have to do?
  • Can I really trust the results?

Using examples, let's go over three ways A/B-testing and multivariate-testing differ. (Along the way, I'll answer each of those four questions as well.)

1. Amount of Traffic


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Alp Mimaroglu is a Marketing Luminary at Symantec . He specializes in marketing automation, demand generation, and marketing technology. Alp has extensive experience in both business and consumer marketing.

LinkedIn: Alp Mimaroglu

Twitter: @alpmimar

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  • by Bart Wed Dec 2, 2015 via web

    Hi Alp thanks for this explanation it really helped see the difference between two types of tests. So you would get less people on the losing site because they dont return to the website? Otherwise the people who enter the site and dislike it cannot give feedback, only by avoiding the "ugly" design. I also read an article about testing e-mails: http://bit.ly/1l7vdR6 . They only talk about A/B testing though. How would a multivariate test look like? you have different pools of people to send it to with different alignments but then do you check the open rate or re-open?

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