How to test and troubleshoot ActiveCampaign Automations

by | Sep 8, 2021

Testing and troubleshooting in ActiveCampaign is absolutely crucial to successfully automated processes. 

Automating with ActiveCampaign can be exciting, but testing stuff in ActiveCampaign is mostly just crashingly dull. However, it is also totally, unavoidably necessary.

I talk about testing a lot. I do more testing than you can possibly imagine.

So I am going to show you how to test automations and fix problems in ActiveCampaign without waiting for Live Chat or support. 

Troubleshooting is basically the same as testing, except you know it’s broken before you start the test, and the main thing is to find the broken part and figure out how to repair it.

ActiveCampaign testing and troubleshooting are critical automation skills, which will help you save time.

Just to be clear, I don’t mean “Split Testing” here – that’s a different thing altogether.

“Split Testing” is a feature for helping choose the better of two possible versions of an email.

The sort of testing I mean in this blog is the one that checks things are actually working!

Follow these steps to test and troubleshoot ActiveCampaign automations:

Learn to test and troubleshoot so you don’t need ActiveCampaign support

I learned the hard way that testing is best, assuming you prefer not to have to pick up the pieces of broken processes, apologise to contacts and clients, or do the Zoom of shame with your manager. 

And trust me when I say that testing before going live is way faster than fixing afterwards.

I know you’re going to want to skip it sometimes – the temptation is strong.

But testing finds any errors before they are out in the wild, boosts your confidence that it’s going to work how you want it to, and helps identify ways you can improve the process before it goes live.


Things you should routinely test in ActiveCampaign

  • Automations – triggers, wait steps, if/else, goals, CX integration steps
  • Forms – embeds, styling, buttons, redirects, and post-submission actions
  • Links, prefills and link-click actions used in emails
  • Conditional content in emails (if you’re on plus plan or higher)
  • ActiveCampaign site-tracking for page visits
  • Anything integrated – data moving between ActiveCampaign and another tool or platform

See what ActiveCampaign themselves have to say about testing and troubleshooting here


Create contacts to run ActiveCampaign automation tests

I have this invisible friend.

Well, actually there are five of them, and I can’t live without them.

Horatio Bellows (yes, really) and his chums are my secret army of insider-spies, crash-testing everything I build in ActiveCampaign automations and integrations.

They share the same slightly unusual first name (sorry any Horatio’s reading this!) so that I can find them all fast in any environment.

You can see my Horatio’s in action as part of my free Accelerated ActiveCampaign training

Why five? It’s not too many, and not too few. I can remember or keep a note of who is testing which path or version, and I have enough to run several scenarios in the same testing batch.

Each of them has their own email inbox (I use free gmail accounts) so I can step into their shoes properly, and see how things look through their eyes. 

Their email accounts are even set up on my mobile and iPad, so we can pretend Horatio is on the move. Just like a real life person, catching up on email or trying to buy stuff while watching the kids at the park, or waiting for a train.

So you’ll need some names (be relatively sensible – trust me, it gets embarrassing fast if you have to contact support for your rudely named test contact that seemed hilarious at the time….)

And for each name, an email account. Don’t use your own domain – that’s like pretending you’re not with those people all dressed exactly like you on a group trip – nobody will be fooled. Free Gmail does the job nicely.


Prepare test runs so you can troubleshoot your ActiveCampaign automations

As always, prep is the key to success.

In any scenario, you will want Horatio and chums to behave like real contacts in your system.

So think about what the starting position is for this test run. You’re rigging the game, basically, to steer it in the direction you need to test.

If you’re troubleshooting, aim to mirror the contact that ran into trouble. Sometimes you can figure it out by looking at the original contact, but many times it’s easier to find the fault if you rig up your buddy Horatio.

Here are some questions to help get your contact test runs set up correctly:

  • What tags should be on (or NOT on) the contact before the test starts?
  • Do you need to delete them completely from ActiveCampaign so they behave like a new contact?
  • Do you need to delete their user login or a previous booking from an integrated system?
  • What field values need to be in Horatio’s contact record?

Often they get user-logins on websites, or accounts on learning platforms too. You’ll need to rig those up too.

Sometimes you will need to start a couple of contacts from the same set-up, and then have them each do a different thing, so that you can test different paths through your process.

Pro tip: If you’re testing an automation with triggers and don’t want anyone else to stumble in while you’re testing, set it to only run for contacts that contain “Horatio” in their email address, by using the “segment trigger” options in the trigger. You will also need to set it to allow multiple runs whilst you’re testing if it’s normally set to run once only.


Follow expert steps to test your ActiveCampaign automation

Use a different device or incognito browser window for each Horatio. This means the cookies don’t get in such a muddle, and link tracking or auto login stuff is less likely to go haywire.

Set them off, keeping a note of who is testing what (pencil on notepad is my favoured method).

Look with their eyes and use their inbox to view and interact with forms, pages, emails and so on. You’ll see things differently when you wear their hat properly. 

Remember these are real people, with busy lives and limited attention spans, and many things competing for their eyeballs and wallets.

At the same time, watch with your auto-magician hat on, looking at how things unfold for the contact in ActiveCampaign. 

Have their contact page open, and refresh now and again to see how far they get. If it’s an integrated thing, keep an eye on the other places too.

You may need to skip “wait 1 day” type steps for your testers in automations, to speed things along. 

When a test run results in Horatio hitting the crash-barrier, stop the run (or let it finish if it’s nearly done), figure out what caused the crash, fix that, reset the scene, and go again from the top.

Rinse and repeat until the winner’s flag goes up and all Horatio testers are safely home.

Pro tip: Each individual contact can only take 10 runs through any given automation per day


Get troubleshooting tips from ActiveCampaign consultant Kay Peacey

  1. Save Horatio and friends’ names and email addresses to a text expander or auto-correct and use that to enter them when testing. You will get very weary of typing them otherwise, and more to the point, you will miss-type them, wasting a ton of time.
  2. Be patient – ActiveCampaign works on 15-minute cycles for lots of things, as do many integrations. So refresh the page, but not frantically every 10 seconds. Go make a cuppa, have a stretch and then check.
  3. For testing things involving dates, like where automation triggers, goals, if/else or waits involve date values, you may need to rig the automation conditions to use dates within your testing time (say the next few days) so that you can check they work as expected.
  4. Use 100% discount coupons if possible to test purchase processes – most systems will let you create private coupons – or create a test product with nominal price if you need a live payment test.
  5. Let your team or clients know that the Horatios are with you and are safely ignored, and do clean up after them if they leave a mess.

Happy testing and troubleshooting!

Avoid the wait for ActiveCampaign Live Chat, and get ActiveCampaign help faster

With these tricks up your sleeve you’re now ready to test and troubleshoot your ActiveCampaign automations.

One of the great things about knowing how to test stuff is that it means you can be that bit braver, and try things out.

Come and tell me your thoughts, mistakes and successes with testing and troubleshooting with ActiveCampaign over in my free Facebook group! You’ll find tons of ActiveCampaign support and help.

Watch the video below for my full expert walkthrough of how to test and troubleshoot ActiveCampaign automations, complete with Lego minifigs.

ActiveCampaign troubleshooting video with Kay Peacey

To catch my free ActiveCampaign training sessions live, visit my awesome ActiveCampaign Facebook community, the safe place to freak out and geek out about ActiveCampaign.


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