Why Should You Split Test Your Photos?

September 5, 2019
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To split test photos or not to split test photos, that is the question. Or is it? We want to help you getting to know more about split testing and why it is important.

The choice between having all your pictures taken by a professional photographer at high cost or aiming at using good quality stock photos for a fair price is a dilemma many companies experience when in need for visual content, when building a webstie or using photos for other purposes such as online advertising or leaflets/banners.

Everybody has a different opinion on whether one or the other is the right choice. But the fact is that there’s no single right solution when having to find good pictures. Depending on business, target group, subject and the actual purpose either one can be the best choice.

The right approach, when having to find visual content that performs best, is always to split test. Naturally, the easiest place to doso is on channels where you can regularly edit. This could be online advertising or on your website. OR this could be a good place to start if you’re planning on using the photos in print.

Through split testing you’re not only getting insights into which content performs the best. But you’re also getting valuable insights into which target groups who are reacting to which picture.

But how can you split test your photos?

You will have to invest time and patience if you want a usable result when split testing. Even though a website has thousands of visitors each month it’s still not enough to just post one photo on a landing page one week, then change to another photo the next week and then evaluate on the results.

True, pure data is obtained when you have used enough time to get a varied photo of the split test. E.g. it’s not suitable to use one product image on your web shop in September/October and then test another photo in November/December. If you do so, you’ll get a biased view if one photo is used during peak season and the other during off-season.

You need to keep calm and test during two periods that are as similar to each other as possible. Then you’ll have a result that makes it clear which of the photos that works the best compared with your goals.

BUT – when it comes to online advertising split testing is a little bit easier.

When doing split testing on online advertising, you are able to run different tests at the same time and you can even test several pictures along the way. AND you’ll get the results faster. But don’t forget to still invest your time in this project – everything under 30 days will not give you any usable data. Therefore, it’s a good idea to let the split test run for longer than 30 days. Just remember to keep track of when the numbers stabilize themselves. When they are stable, you have the final results.

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But why is it so important to split test your photos?

Maybe you are thinking (as a lot of people do) that split testing seems like a lot of time used on just one photo, when in reality it’s your text you want to promote.

But that’s where you’re wrong!

I’m sorry, but you are. However, you’re not the only one. Way too many people see the text as the main focus of the website, and yes, it is important. But not as important as photos, especially not if you’re choosing the wrong photos.

But why?

“PSE” is why. PSE stands for Picture Superiority Effect, which is based on a tested theory which explains that pictures and photos are superior to words. Human beings remember pictures and photos significantly better and for much longer than they do both written and spoken words. The effect of PSE also gets more noticeable the older you get. Meaning, if you have an adult target group (25+), then pictures are more decisive when you need to get your message through.

At the same time our brain decodes photos 60.000 times faster than text. And when every second someone spends on your website is valuable, photos are a must have. You need to get visitors hooked as fast as possible, and this is where photos conquer all, and why split testing is important.

This is why you need to choose correctly

With the importance on split testing you can get the impression that pictures are a strong way to present your message – no matter what.

But unfortunately, this is not the case. That would mean that any picture with the right theme would be able to make your content better, confirm your message in the memory of the receiver. Or most importantly – get them to carry out the wanted actions. This could be placing an order in your web shop or fill in a contact form.

User tests with eye tracking have shown that there are two types of picture content on websites. These two types have very different effect on the receiver:
Pictures that are totally overlooked. These pictures are typically filled with clichés such as arranged stock photos of super happy people. It could also be environmental photos without a central focus point like a product, a human or an animal.

Type 2: Pictures that are thoroughly examined. These are often pictures with high authenticity that depicts “real” people in real and trustworthy situations. AND at the same time are well executed pictures placed in front of a white background or in a relevant environment. This could be a woman wearing a dress instead of the dress being displayed on a mannequin.

In short

Because of these two types of picture content, you need to use more time on split testing your photo material. If you choose wrongly and messages on your website are ingored or overlooked, it can have catastrophic consequences for your business.

The good, relevant photo makes sure that you reach your target group with what they are looking for. At the same time, it makes sure that your visitors get curious and want more information. This gives you the opportunity to take these visitors further on in the customer journey through thoroughly described texts, explanatory videos and even more complementing photos.

So, remember to split test next time you want to use photos in your content.