Introducing Google Website Optimizer

Thu, Mar 19, 2009

Testing / Optimization

As promised, today we’re going to talk a bit about Google Website Optimizer. This post will be dedicated to answering  two basic questions about Google Website Optimizer: “What is it?” and “Why should you be using it?”

What is it?
Stated tersely, Google Website Optimizer is a (free!) multivariate and A/B testing application designed to help e-marketers (us!) to improve their conversion rates by enabling the continual testing of different combinations of web content. It can test any HTML element on a page, including fonts, copy, images, reviews, calls to action, headlines, assurances, and forms.

The two basic types of testing it can do deserve a little further explanation. Simply, A/B (or “split”) testing means you only have two versions of the page. Perhaps on one you have a pink background with a white logo, and on another you have a blue background with a yellow logo. You insert some code into the page that swaps out the relevant HTML elements that control the colors, let GWO know what the “conversion” behaviour is (maybe clicking a sponsor’s link or joining your newsletter?) and GWO will send half of your traffic to one page, and half to the other. Once it’s collected anough data to feel confident about the results it’ll then let you know which style your customers prefer, on average.

Multivariate testing means you are testing different combinations on the same page at the same time. For example, you can test your page’s headline (with multiple headlines to choose from) at the same time as you might be testing a picture, a button, and some copy text. Each time, GWO serves up a different combination until your prospects have seen enough combinations that you can have confidence in a particular combination.

Okay, cool. So why should I be using  Google Website Optimizer?

This question drives right at the heart of a more general question, namely why should be be testing our webpages at all?

The thing is, if you’re putting money and effort into driving traffic to a page, then the content of that page is worth every dollar you spend and every bead of perspiration you sweat  into it. If you have ads, you want your ads to be successful. Web tools like Google Analytics can measure that success; they can track how effective that content is in getting you conversions (whatever a ‘conversion’ means to your business), but tracking won’t tell you how to make your content more effective at promoting the user behavior you want. What do you do? It’s time to make improvements to your site. The only way to figure out which content will work best on your site is to test different content. Google Website Optimizer is the answer.

Another good reason is that in business no one likes to make assumptions. By testing your website with a tool like Google Website Optimizer you no longer have to make assumptions about what works on your site and what doesn’t.

Website Optimizer will help you study the effects of different content on your users. Designing experiments to trial different elements and feature will enable you to identify what users respond to best so you can create a website that will be more effective in getting the business results you want.

Before performing an experiment, take some time to consider which aspects of your page you’d like to test and how; the more thought you put into the experiment, the more valuable results you’ll get out of it. In a later post, we’ll go through the sorts of things you might want to consider testing, and what sort of “best practices” exist.

Depending on your technical level of ability, you may need the assistance of your webmaster or site administrator to set experiments up. He can implement the experiment code on your site which will enable Website Optimizer to vary your traffic to the different versions of your page.

Website optimizaton puts actual users in charge of your continuous improvement strategy. Who better to dictate the evolution of your website than the people who actually use it?

One last thing. If you want to get a headstart on Google Website Optimizer I couldn’t recommend this book more. The guys (and gal!) who wrote it seriously know their. The great thing about it is it that it’s easy just to skim a few chapters and pick up the basics, but there are chapters in it which are satisfying to the real techheads too, that drill right into the statistical modelling and underlying mathematical assumptions of the software.

Our next look at Optimizer will look at examples of elements one might want to consider testing in a page to improve conversion. Until then!

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3 Responses to “Introducing Google Website Optimizer”

  1. Eric Binkley Says:

    Thanks for the tips and helpful information About Google Website Optimizer.


  2. L Says:

    Thank you for another awesome post. Keep up the good work, Logan Charles ~ L


  3. Pintheinfo Says:

    Hi I just passed by consedince while for some articles for my freakin college :) okay anyway nice blog Will check it out Later on ,hope you accept me as a friend blogger. oh yeah will try to visit again :P thanks ^^


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