Google Website Optimizer

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One of the many things I do is look at what my site is doing by using the great service from Google Analytics. This great free service gives you all kinds of information about where your visitors come from and how they interact on your site.

Another feature that not many of my clients have used is the Google Website Optimizer tool. This allows you to test different content and content layouts on the fly.

Google Website Optimizer

The Google Website Optimizer works in conjunction with your Google Analytics account. It allows you to choose the pages and content to test using web-based interface. You simply provide the Google Optimizer with the content – headlines, images, or text, you want to test. Website Optimizer then shows this content and design alternatives randomly to your site visitors. The tool monitors the content and enables you to see what content provides the highest conversion ratio.

The Google Website Optimizer offers two types of testing

An A/B experiment allows you to test the performance of two (or more!) entirely different versions of a page. You can change the content of a page, alter the look and feel, or move around the layout of your alternate pages; there’s plenty of design freedom with A/B testing. It’s the simpler type of test, and works best with pages that don’t get a lot of traffic.

Multivariate tests, on the other hand, allow you to test multiple variables — in this case, sections of a page — simultaneously. For example, you could identify the headline, image, and promo text as parts of your page you’d like to improve, and try out three different versions of each one. Website Optimizer would then show users different combinations of those versions (let’s say, Headline #2, Image #3, and Promo Text #1) to see what users respond to best. Multivariate tests are more complicated, and typically require higher page traffic.

Getting started with the Google Website Optimizer

Getting started is straight forward and if you are a Google analytics user then just login into that account and click on the link to get started with the optimizer. Once there you can watch a introduction video then click the get started button. You will then arrive at the follow screen:

Next step is to create an experiment by clicking the link. Then follow the on-screen instructions to choose the experiment you want to perform. Google suggests A/B Experiment if your traffic is below 1000 page views per/week and Multivariate Experiment if your traffic is above 1000 page views per/week.

At this point depending on what test you choose, you are given a checklist of steps to complete to begin your testing. Here is the following steps required to be completed for a A/B Experiment:

  1. Choose the page you would like to test
    Examples of potential test pages could be your homepage or a product detail page.
  2. Create alternate versions of your test page
    Create and publish different versions of your test page at unique URLs so that Website Optimizer can randomly display different versions to your users. These URLs could be bookmarked by your users, so after your experiment finishes, you may want to keep these URLs valid.
  3. Identify your conversion page
    This is an existing page on your website that users reach after they’ve completed a successful conversion. For example, this might be the page displayed after a user completes a purchase, signs up for a newsletter, or fills out a contact form.

Once you have completed the above steps you will enter your test page details, url of the domain you want to test, and page variations url’s that you want to test in the following screen:

From this point you will hit the continue button and finish up setting up your experiment. Then you just let the optimizer so the work for you. You can track your results using the online reporting tools in your Optimizer dashboard:

Report Details
Report Details

That is it, your are now setup. Follow the progress and post the content that offers the best conversion.

Here are some Helpful hints that Google offers before getting started?

  • Test a page that gets a lot of traffic
    It’s sometimes a good idea to set up test experiments on a fake or low-traffic page to get comfortable with the tool. But when you’re ready to do a real test, make sure you pick a page that gets a lot of traffic. Pages with lots of traffic are generally faster to optimize than low traffic pages.
  • Test a few things
  • Yes, the power of Website Optimizer is that you can test a bunch of things at the same time and see how they impact each other. However, the more things you test (such as 12 titles, 20 images, and 12 promotional areas) the longer it will take to see results. For your first test, we recommend testing 2 titles and 2 images. You can get fancier once you’ve completed your first test.
    Keep in mind the cardinal rule: as you add sections to your experiment, you’ll need either more traffic or more time to get useful results.
  • Pick a high volume conversion goal
    Eventually, you may want to test things like order completion if you’re an e-commerce site but for your first test, try something that will be more common (e.g., adding an item to a shopping cart, clicking product details page, etc.). If you use a conversion goal that doesn’t happen that often, it will take much longer to find the most effective content.
  • Be bold
    If you’re promoting an email newsletter sign up and want to test a new headline, don’t try a headline like “Gardening Advice Newsletter” if your original title is “Gardening Tips Newsletter.” Instead, try testing an alternative like “Stop Killing Your Plants Newsletter” or “Green Thumb e-Newsletter” Once you’ve completed your first experiment and have gotten results, you can always tweak and try more nuanced alternatives afterwards.
  • Pay attention to your combinations
    Consider designing a series of different experiments if your ideas are likely to clash. As a simple example: a combination that displays red text on a red background. Of course you can expect some combinations in every experiment will be a bad fit. Ideally, though, you want to make sure that every combination is readable.
  • Consider your traffic percentages
    Sites with low traffic and/or a high number of sections and variations will need to include a high percentage of their traffic. If your experiments must minimize customer impact, you will probably need to limit the scope of your experiment; consider trying a phased approach using a sequence of small experiments.
  • Finally, you are the best judge of what will work for your site — all we do is give you the tools to test out your theories.

Stay tuned as I will do a part two to this story with a video tutorial on how to get setup and also some results from a test I am running. Subscribe to our newsletter and get a free SEO Report on a domain of your choice.

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