A Guide to Content Testing And How to Use it Effectively 

What is content testing and why should you use it? Your guide to content testing. Optimize your content for your audience and search engines.

A Guide to Content Testing

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash


Today, content is unavoidable. Whether you’re a marketer, business owner, consumer, or even all three, you will likely engage with content every single day. The availability of different devices and technologies means people have content at their fingertips, 24/7. 


According to Review.org, the average American will check their phone about 344 times throughout the day. This amounts to roughly two hours and fifty-four minutes.


Much of this time spent on a smartphone is spent consuming content. That could be in the form of reading an intriguing article, watching a TikTok video, or shopping in your favorite online store. 

What is Content Testing?

Because the average Joe spends so much time consuming content, you would be forgiven for thinking that consumers will read, watch, or engage with anything that is placed in front of them. The opposite is actually true. 


If your content is confusing, boring, or irrelevant to the consumer, they will leave your website or app in favor of one that resonates with them. As such, your content needs to stand out to be noticed. 


That’s where content testing comes into play. 


Content testing is the process of testing content to learn how your audience interacts with it.  So whether you are crafting an email newsletter or creating engaging social media content, you should test your content to evaluate how well it performs.


As a content writer, marketer, or business owner, you are very close to your content. Therefore, you cannot hope to read, watch, or view it from a consumer perspective. 


It is also worth having unauthorized content change monitoring to make sure that no one without authorization has changed the content on your site and that there are no connectivity issues.

What Types of Content are Best to Test?

You may be familiar with the concept of A/B testing emails. But even if you’ve dabbled in sending out emails with different subject lines, you’ve merely scratched the surface of content testing. 


In short, everything you place in front of your audience will benefit from content testing. This includes:


  • Web page text.
  • Menu buttons.
  • Marketing email copy.
  • Images.
  • Videos.
  • Product descriptions.
  • Blog posts.


Depending on your business, it may be better to focus more of your efforts on testing some areas more than others. You could also look to save time and money by incorporating automated testing instead of manual testing.

What Does Content Testing Evaluate?

When you test content, you test for a number of things. These include:


Readability – Some writers think that they need to use big, fancy words to make their content sound knowledgeable. However, niche experts can take complicated topics and simplify them for their audience. This is because they know their topic inside out and can therefore write about it with clarity. 


If, for example, you are explaining what cloud native applications are, your audience is probably not very familiar with them. As such, they will benefit from a simple breakdown of the topic.


If you read something you don’t understand, or you have to reread sentences to grasp their meaning, it feels like a waste of time. A good readability level will make it easier to hold your audience’s attention and encourage engagement. It will also give you more credibility as an authority in your niche. 


usability test

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash


Usability –  Content testing can evaluate the usability of your content to establish how easy it is for your audience to engage with it. You need to consider whether your content makes it clear what you want your audience to do and why. 


Product content, for example, should address your audience’s pain points. It should be concise and easy to follow in as little time as possible. The easier it is to do something, the more likely people will do it.  


Searchability – How easy is it for your audience to find your content in search engines? Search engines like Google consider various content factors when ranking pages and websites. Things like keywords, links, relevance, and how well your content is written, all influence your content’s SEO. 


Accessibility –  Your content, products, and services need to be easy to access. To score highly with accessibility, you need to facilitate for as many people as possible. This means it can be accessed in multiple browsers and through multiple search engines. 


Accessibility also means that you cater to those with disabilities and impairments. It is similar to the definition of functional testing. You are testing the accessibility functions of your content. For example, audio functionality for people with impaired vision, or video subtitles for those who cannot hear. 


Design of content – With content testing, you can determine what your audience thinks of your content’s design and layout. There are general rules you should follow to optimize your content’s design such as placing important information above your web page’s page fold and making your content scannable. 


However, content testing will help you go beyond this. It will enable you to determine specific aspects of your content that stand out and appeal to your audience the most.


Tone of voice – Develop a tone of voice that reflects your brand and speaks to your audience on its level. It should be consistent across all your content. Developing your tone of voice is part of building your brand identity. When you are consistent with your tone of voice, your audience will become more familiar with your brand, which helps to build brand loyalty. 

Types of Content Testing

There are different types of content testing:

Readability Test

The quickest and most efficient way of conducting a readability test is to use an online tool such as Readable, Grammarly, or WebFX. Many tools have free-to-use features and even offer advice on how to improve your text. 


Screenshot taken from readable.com


Readable, for example, is as simple as copying and pasting your content into a box. It then evaluates its readability, giving it a percentage score and a grade. It also offers suggestions on how to improve your content, such as shortening sentences and correcting spelling.


Most Suitable for evaluating: Readability

Cloze Test

A Cloze Test evaluates how well your reader can understand your content’s context. Your user fills in blank words in your text based on the rest of the sentence. 


First, remove every fifth or sixth word in a 250-word piece of text. Then, pass it to your user to see if they can fill in the correct words or words with a similar meaning in the correct context.


Let’s look at an example:


Mary walked to school on Wednesday with her friends. Because it was raining, she took her umbrella. Otherwise, she would have gotten wet. 


Using a Cloze Testing method, the sentence would look like this:


Mary walked to school on [……] with her friends. Because it was [……], she took her umbrella. Otherwise, [……] would have gotten wet. 


Although it is not clear what day of the week Mary is walking to school with her friends, in this context, it does not matter. If it did matter –  because perhaps Mary has an exam that day – this should be communicated clearly elsewhere in the text.


From the word “umbrella”, we can be pretty sure that the second missing word is raining. And finally, because the pronoun “her” is used twice in the text, we know that Mary is female. Therefore the third missing word is “she” in this context. 


This may not be as high-tech as software like Applause or an Applause alternative like Global App Testing, but this simple test does a pretty good job of assessing how well your audience understands what you are communicating with them. 


Most suitable for evaluating: Readability and usability. 


Highlight Test

The Highlight Test is quite simple to carry out. Its purpose is normally to understand the emotions attributed to different parts of your content. It can help you understand how your audience feels about the words, sentences, and type of language you choose. 


Select three different colored highlighters; red, blue, and green work well. Ask your users to highlight the parts of your content that invoke positive, negative, and neutral emotions. These could be feelings about your content in general. Or, they can be about your products, services, website, app, or anything else connected to your content. 


When you carry out this test across a larger number of people, cross-reference the results. These will show you any sections that invoke a common emotion across multiple people. 


For example, you ask 20 users to perform the Highlight Test. Twelve of them highlight the same word red (meaning it evoked a negative feeling), while the remaining 8 highlighted it blue for neutral. From this, you can conclude that it would be beneficial to change that word. 


Best for evaluating: Tone of voice

5 Second Test

The 5 Second Test is another simple test that can be carried out quite quickly. It works by displaying your content to your users for just 5 seconds. Then, you ask them to recall the details they remember about it. 


Keep in mind that 5 seconds is not a long time. But, that is the point. In this short space of time, your users will need to put what they are looking at into context and absorb as many details as possible. This will help you to optimize your web design for engagement and conversions. 


The 5 Second Test indicates the most attention-grabbing elements in your content. If you are discussing GoToWebinar integrations, for example, there may be specific integrations that stand out more than others. Users will be more likely to recognize and remember integrations that they personally use and can therefore relate to. 


Ask open-ended questions so that you don’t accidentally lead your users to an answer. 


Best for evaluating: Design of content

A/B Test

A/B testing is one of the more popular and well-known testing methods. This is because you can test so many areas. It provides a lot of potential for businesses to thrive and put the best version of their content in front of their audience. 


To perform an A/B test, you will need to use online tools and software. Place two versions of your content in front of two separate audiences to see which one performs better. There are some things to make A/B testing more effective. These are:


  • Test one variable at a time so that you know which variable impacts the results.
  • Keep every condition, aside from the variable, exactly the same. For example, the time of day, the geographical area of your audience, etc. 
  • Test your content regularly to ensure it maintains its impact.
  • Balance the traffic evenly for both versions of your content. 
  • Consider external factors that may influence the results. 


a:b testing

Image Sourced from devopedia.org


Done correctly, A/B testing can test and improve all aspects of your content. From optimizing your emails’ subject lines to testing localization with Global App Testing. You can see which elements are most appealing to your audience, which rank higher in search engines, and which lead the user to where you want them to go. 


Best for evaluating: 

  • Readability.
  • Searchability.
  • Usability.
  • Design of content.
  • Tone of voice.
  • Accessibility.

Final Thoughts on Content Testing

Although it may seem a little one-sided as to which test you should opt for, keep in mind that A/B testing can be time-consuming, technical, and expensive. Small businesses on a tighter budget may benefit more from a simpler test, such as the Readability Test or the 5 Second Test. 


Whichever ones you choose, ensure you plan thoroughly. Set your goals and analyze the results. This will help you make the most out of your content testing procedures.