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Marketing is a wide field, covering many disciplines as part of a bigger picture. One big area is research, and within that sits content testing as a niche discipline. But what exactly is content testing? It’s a form of research that allows marketers to find out whether their content is on point. Does their IoT software development resonate with their readers? Is the content easy to read and understand, and is it helpful? 

Content testing, in other words, is a method we can use to ascertain if the content meets the users’ needs. 

What are the benefits of testing your content? 

Some benefits of testing your content include:

  • Obtaining an independent, impartial assessment of your content 
  • Ensuring content makes sense 
  • Accelerating innovation
  • Checking content is easy to digest and understand 
  • Identifying any gaps in your content 
  • Collating feedback before launching content, saving time and money

What content should you test? 

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Everything linked to your product should be tested. This includes product descriptions, all relevant content marketing, product titles, and every word of content on your website. Even product filtering options and error messages should be tested. 

Which aspects of your content should you test?

Now that we’ve covered the what, let’s go through the aspects of your content we should be testing. 

  • Readability: Is your content tailored for your target market? Is it aligned correctly? Is it dyslexia-friendly? Is there a text-to-speech function that people can use if necessary? Readability is all about the structure of your content, whether it’s easy to read through or not. A good way to assess the readability of text is by seeing if you can scan through it and pick up the main points. 
  • Comprehension: Is your content easy to understand? Is everything explained simply and clearly, or does it feel too archaic or veer away from the important stuff? Is it free of any unnecessary jargon? Your readers should be able to understand your content with ease. 
  • Grammar: Is your content free of typos? Is it grammatically accurate? This aids readability but also makes you look professional. It makes sense to have your content checked over by a proofreader and use software like Grammarly for this purpose. 
  • Usability: Is your content of use to the reader? Do they get anything from reading it? Is it useful? Your content needs to be worth reading, not just filler. 
  • Voice: Is the tone of the text appropriate for the context, or does it include too much personal opinion as an example? Knowing the audience that the content is intended for helps to strike the right tone.

4 Content testing methods

There are many different content testing methods out there, but we will cover four solid ones here that you could use before distributing your content to a wider audience. 

Highlighter test

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This test is quite beautiful in its simplicity. In it, participants are given two (or more) highlighters, and their task is to work through the text, highlighting parts of the content that makes them feel positive about the product in one color, and parts that make them feel hesitant about the product in another color. 

It’s a very easy and old-school method to give you a good idea of what is and isn’t working in your text. You can introduce other colors to the mix to represent other emotions about the product; just don’t go overboard to avoid overwhelming the reader (and the researchers). 

Benefits of this method: Find out how your readers feel about your content 

Drawbacks of this method: Less of a focus on comprehension

Cloze test 

The Cloze test is also very simple, which like the highlighter test makes it a cost-effective method for testing content. The Cloze test aims to see how comprehensible a piece of content is, like a fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) info sheet, for instance. You remove every fifth or sixth word from a text and ask participants if they can still understand what the text is saying. 

If they can accurately guess the missing word 60% of the time or more, then the text passes the Cloze test. 

Here’s an example: 

“In a sense we have ___ to our Nation’s Capital to ___ a check. When the architects ___ our great republic wrote the ___ words of the Constitution and ___ Declaration of Independence, they were ___ a promissory note to which ____ American was to fall heir.

___ note was a promise that ___ men, yes, black men as ___ as white men, would be ___ the inalienable rights of life ___ and the pursuit of happiness.” 

-Martin Luther King Jr, 1963

Do you think this passes the Cloze test? 

Benefits of this method: Great for assessing comprehension of the text.

Drawbacks of this method: It doesn’t tell us if the content is useful.

5-second test 

The five-second test is a little different from the Cloze and Highlighter tests, as it relies on quick, first impressions. The users look at the content for five seconds, after which they’re asked a series of questions about the product. 

Questions should start off general, such as “what is the product used for?”, “how would you describe the product?” or “who would use this product?”. You can then delve into more detailed questions, like “how much do you think this product costs?”, or “how easy is this product to use?”. 

The questions would be tailored to the content you want to test, whether it’s five seconds of an advertisement, five seconds to look at a picture, or five seconds to scan through a description text. 

Benefits of this method: A good way to find out whether the meaning jumps out at the user or not. 

Drawbacks of this method: Not a deep analysis. 

A/B Testing 

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A/B testing is our fourth content testing method. In this scenario, users are often not aware that their behavior is being monitored. Online services like Instagram, Amazon, or Netflix can use this method because they have a large sample size of users online, and they can easily make alterations to their content and measure the differences. 

In A/B testing, two versions of the same content are given to users and how they respond to the content is measured and monitored. For example, Netflix could give some users live, automatic trailers when users hover over a movie title and give other users just the still image. Netflix can then measure which of the two groups is more likely to click through and watch that movie. 

Through researching human behavior on such a colossal scale, these companies can hone in on what people most enjoy and are willing to pay for. 

Benefits of this method: Unbiased since users don’t know they’re being monitored. 

Drawbacks of this method: Not as useful for smaller companies who don’t have a large, statistically significant base of users. 

The steps for developing your test plan

If you’re wondering “but what is a test plan?” we’ll delve into how to create one here. 

Define your goals 

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The first thing we should do is define our goals and testing metrics. What is it we want to learn about our content? How much of it do we want to test? Perhaps we want to know if the content is easy to read and understand, or whether it’s useful for the intended purpose. Whatever we want to learn will dictate the method(s) we use. 

Choose method

With our goals decided, we now choose our method. This choice will depend on goals, the type of content, our budget, and sample size. Many content testing methods can be adapted for different formats. For example, the Cloze test can be used in videos where every fifth or sixth word is bleeped out rather than erased.

Create test

Next, you need to prepare your test. Get your content ready, procuring any equipment and office space for the test. 

Test internally 

Next, you want to test internally. This will do two things; First, it will give your team the chance to identify any flaws in the test and method before you launch. Second, it will give you a framework as a foundation of expected outcomes against which you can compare your actual results from participants. This is a good way to identify our own biases when it comes to content. 

Reach out to participants

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Now, you can either advertise your test to find participants, ask existing users directly or simply prepare to monitor user behavior. 

Carry out the test and analyze the results 

Once you’ve carried out your test, make sure to collate and organize the results in a format that makes them easy to read and disseminate. Use graphics for simple comprehension of the results, and write a report with your findings. Your report should include suggestions for improvements, such as the use of an empathy map to enhance the customer experience. 

Content testing is as easy as A/B… 

Content testing is essential for marketing, and with the advent of the internet and access to so much human behavioral data and affordable SEO services, conducting such tests and finding respondents has become really simple. 

Content testing can be conducted by companies of any size, provided there are users to give their opinions. Hopefully, this article has given you some insight into how you can conduct your own content tests.

Kate Priestman – Head Of Marketing, Global App Testing

Kate Priestman is the Head of Marketing at Global App Testing, a trusted and leading end-to-end functional testing solution for QA challenges. Kate has over eight years of experience in the field of marketing, helping brands achieve exceptional growth. She has extensive knowledge of brand development, lead and demand generation, and marketing strategy — driving business impact at its best. Kate Priestman also published articles for domains such as VMblog and CEO Blog Nation. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.