6 critical steps for starting your Google Website Optimizer experiments

MoreVisibility - July 13, 2010

About a year and a half ago, I wrote an article for our monthly newsletter that it “takes a village to raise a culture of web analytics” in an organization. One person – regardless of how motivated and hard-working he or she is – cannot create a culture of analytics and insights alone. It takes people from within your own organization, across organizations, and on your executive team to buy in to the analytics program and truly become an organization which values insights and data analysis.

I postulate that the same culture-driven approach can be applied to your company – no matter how big or how small – to create an environment where testing, experimentation, and optimization come first. As you know from reading our blog over the years, we here at MoreVisibility love Google Website Optimizer, a free A/B and multivariate experimentation tool. With Google Website Optimizer, you can create experiments rather quickly and efficiently and get excellent insights as to how your visitors are reacting to the new pages or new variations that you’re sending their way.

Creating a Google Website Optimizer experiment involves some important people that either work directly for you or that you’ve hired to do work for you (depending on your situation). It also involves six steps – from creating the account to installing the JavaScript snippets to launching your experiment – that you and your fellow colleagues, companies or vendors must participate in to ensure that your Google Website Optimizer experiment is a success.

Today, I’m outlining the six critical steps that need to be taken to successfully create and initiate your Google Website Optimizer experiment. Let’s begin!

Step 1: Deciding What to Test
People Needed: Site Owner, IT / Webmaster, Marketer, Web Analyst, Web Designer
Objective: To come up with a crystal-clear picture of what will be tested (what page, what section, what page is the conversion page) and what type of experiment will be run (A/B or Multivariate).
What You Need to Know: This first step should be a meeting with everyone that will be involved in this process, because it is a team effort. Everyone from the owner of the website to the IT guru should be heard and should have something to say about the upcoming experiment. At this step, you’ll decide on two major things: what you will be testing and what type of experiment you want to run with. If you want to do a simple experiment involving an original page and a variation (or “B” page), then the A/B experiment is your best bet. If you have lots of ideas that you want to test on a single page, go with the multivariate experiment. If you’re not sure, you can’t miss by choosing an A/B experiment.

Step 2: Creating the Necessary Pages or Variations
People Needed: IT / Webmaster, Web Designer, Site Owner
Objective: To actually create and upload the variation pages or variation sections (image and text) to use in the forthcoming experiment.
What You Need to Know: Once everything has been decided on, your web designer will actually create the variation page(s) or variation sections for use in your experiment. Once the web designer has done their work, the site owner should be involved to give the green light on any images or mock-ups to proceed. Once the site owner OK’s the variations, they need to be uploaded to the web server (Google Website Optimizer needs to verify that the variation page(s) exist).

Step 3: Creating the experiment in Google Website Optimizer
People Needed: Web Analyst or Marketer
Objective: Creating the Google Website Optimizer experiment and verifying that the pages to be used are on the web (uploaded to your web server).
What You Need to Know: The person who will be in charge of creating the experiment in Google Website Optimizer, which is almost always the web analyst or the marketing person, will go in and start creating the experiment within Google Website Optimizer. They will enter in the URLs of the original, variation, and conversion pages for verification, and grab the JavaScript snippets for the IT / Webmaster to install.

Step 4: Installing the JavaScript Snippets
People Needed: Web Analyst or Marketer, IT / Webmaster
Objective: Working with the IT department or Webmaster to install and verify the JavaScript snippets on the experiment pages.
What You Need to Know: The IT / Webmaster will follow the on-screen instructions provided by the web analyst or marketer and install the JavaScript snippets that need to be installed on all pages involved in the experiment. They will work with the web analyst or marketer to confirm that this has been done exactly as outlined by Google Website Optimizer.

Step 5: Reviewing the Experiment
People Needed: Web Analyst or Marketer
Objective: To review the entire experiment set-up and preview experiment pages before launch.
What You Need to Know: This is the time to review that everything looks good and that there are no design flaws or broken HTML on the experiment pages. If everything looks okay, the web analyst or marketer will launch the experiment!

Step 6: Launching the Experiment
People Needed: Web Analytics or Marketer, Site Owner
Objective: To activate the Google Website Optimizer experiment!
What You Need to Know: Once the Google Website Optimizer experiment launches, it’s important that the owner of the website is made aware that some visitors to his or her site will start to experience different variations of the site. It’s also important to let the experiment run its course naturally (without influencing it by making changes to the web pages involved in the experiment). After a few weeks, everyone on the Google Website Optimizer experiment team should meet and review the report data that the web analyst and marketer will love to analyze and derive insight from.

By following these six steps with the members of your organization, you are destined to succeed, while at the same time, creating a new culture of optimization and experimentation in your company!

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