Recently YouTube has been spending a tremendous amount of effort defending and growing its business in two key areas, namely gaming and mobile. By and large these updates have been well received by the community, but I’d like to suggest another update to the platform in the analytics department. YouTube needs an in-house solution for A/B testing. Why?
Because an A/B test is a fantastically useful method of measuring two different versions of something to see which one is the more successful. What video marketer or creator wouldn’t want that kind of feedback on their YouTube videos?
The #1 complaint I hear from content creators is that they are struggling to reach audiences compared to years past. There are certainly a number of factors that go into that struggle, but one thing that could help give conscientious creators and marketers an edge would some good old A/B testing. A/B testing would provide creators with a simple way to see which approach is better going forward with the channel, rather than just hoping and guessing which approach worked best and trying a to replicate any success with their next video. Yes, there are a lot of analytics that can help support good choices, but being able to make A/B tests for a single video could lead to greater improvements and bigger audiences for creators.
Opportunities for A/B Testing on YouTube
A/B, or split testing, is the practice of comparing two web properties, or pages, to see which one of them performs better with users. Although this feature isn’t available on YouTube, we’d love to see the functionality to split test for the following:
- Video Uploads: Creators could benefit from loading two distinct versions of a video and selecting the best one to become the permanent version. This would allow them to change editing techniques, approaches and even test out whether a video did better with or without branded messages within the video. Some other possibilities would include where to place
- Custom Thumbnail Images: Right now there are far too many factors that influence the success of a video. Simply changing a thumbnail for a video over a different period of time may not tell the true story of why the video did better/worse with the new thumbnail. Having the ability to test out two or more thumbnails at the same time would be invaluable to helping a creator choose the right thumbnail for the life of the video.
- Title/Tags/Description: These items could easily be broken into three groups but the same basic premise would still apply. Not all are created equal. A different set of title/tags/description could make all the world of difference for how a video performs in search. It would be a huge benefit for creators to try out a different set of word combinations without losing a potentially good set they may have had in the first place. After the A/B test were complete, they could then select the one that performed better for the long haul.
A/B Testing on YouTube: The Alternatives
Currently there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to A/B testing on YouTube. As a matter of fact, from all of the discussions at VidCon this year and all of my research I could only find one tool that gets any credit for doing A/B testing well. Until YouTube makes another option, TubeBuddy, is one tool that incorporates split testing as part of its software. Creators and video marketers may already be familiar with VideoLC but these tools are actually made by the same guys, so they have the market cornered when it comes to A/B testing.
The tool allows you to modify the thumbnail, tags, title and description, and run them against the original for a set amount of time, every other day, and analyzes the results. TubeBuddy recommends running their tests for 14 days to ensure that both the original and test video get run on the same days of the week. There is certainly an advantage on the upload day of a video though, so I’d suggest using this tool after views have settled down to a more regular pace. Here’s a screenshot of the software.
C’Mon YouTube: Creators Need This Feature!
Relatively small changes can really help maximize creators’ ability to see the right changes to make for their content and make those long-lasting before the opportunity for views and growth has passed them up. As competition for views on YouTube continues to increase, some reliable A/B testing is a must-have for the platform for both creators and marketers alike. TubeBuddy is great, but it doesn’t provide the ability to concurrently A/B test. YouTube could really help out creators and marketers by making this a feature for the site.