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.
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).
People Needed: Web Analyst or Marketer, IT / Webmaster
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!
I’ve made it a point in 2010 to expose as many of my colleagues and clients as possible to Google Website Optimizer. Anyone looking to improve conversion rates, Ecommerce revenue, customer satisfaction and web site user appeal really needs to sign up for a Google Website Optimizer account today and begin testing.
Surprisingly, Google Website Optimizer, and the concept of A/B or Multivariate testing is a tough sell. It’s not as easy as tagging each page of your site with Google Analytics, or creating a quick Ad Group with keywords and ads like you can with Google AdWords. With Google Website Optimizer, you have to bring in team members from different departments, or possibly, different vendors or organizations to plan, create / design images, write alternate text, tag pages, launch the experiment, analyze the results, and take appropriate action. This doesn’t include avoiding hurting the feelings of the person who designed the site or page and getting their cooperation (suggesting an experiment to improve a page or a site is not an easy psychological barrier to break down).
So I’ve put together a list of 9 solid reasons why you should use Google Website Optimizer on your site. If you want to use it on someone else’s site, use these reasons to convince them that it’s a great idea:
1. It’s Free, and there are no obligations. Let’s say you may become disatisfied with Google Website Optimizer. No sweat: simply remove the tags off of your site, and your involvement ends immediately. Let’s say that you love it and your conversion rates have sky-rocketed: you’ve spent $0 to get there (not counting any design work or man hours, obviously). You simply cannot beat “free”.
2. It focuses on Conversion Rate Optimization: The point of Google Website Optimizer isn’t to bring more traffic to your site. It’s to increase your conversion rates and improve your ROI from your online efforts. That means more money in your pocket.
3. It lets you create an unlimited number of experiments: Are you an “idea machine”, who constantly thinks of things to test or experiment with on your web site? Do you have multiple websites that you’d like to experiment with? GWO let’s you create as many experiments as you desire.
5. It can handle robust multivariate experiments. Last year, YouTube ran a Google Website Optimizer experiment on their homepage with 1,024 different combinations. To date, that is the largest multivariate experiment ever created. Got ideas for a bigger one? GWO won’t disappoint you.
6. It automatically handles the experiment distribution. A frequent question that I receive is “Will I need to edit anything or change anything?”. Other than installing the basic snippets of code, the answer is no. No manual settings, no editing your destination URLs, no fancy programming. Just sit back and enjoy the results!
7. It displays your experiment to all sources of traffic. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to run a Google AdWords campaign in order to use Google Website Optimizer. All traffic – paid, organic, direct, or referring – will be exposed to your A/B or Multivariate experiment.
8. It features easy to read, downloadable reports. You don’t need to own a degree in Mathematics or Statistics in order to be able to interpret the results and take action based upon your results. You can also export your reports in a PDF, XML, CSV, or a TSV file format if you wish.
9. It allows “on-the-fly” experiment creation via an API. Google Website Optimizer is robust and offers its users an API that allows you to push experiments live without having to log-in to the Google Website Optimizer interface.
10. It settles debates, squashes egos, and gives priority to the voice of your visitor. Google Website Optimizer is many great things as you’ve just read about. It’s also a fair and unbiased judge of your website’s pages. Don’t let inter-office disputes, arguments, or power plays dictate what your visitors receive on your site. Let your website visitors tell you what appeals to them and what they don’t like via the actions that they take. Do visitors convert at a higher rate when you use a green “Add To Cart” button versus a red “Add To Cart” button? Go green! Does your revenue increase when you use “15% off” instead of “Mail-In Rebate”? 15% off for everyone! More sales with a blue background, and less sales with a white background? Blue it is!
Do yourselves a huge favor in 2010 and begin using Google Website Optimizer to improve your conversion rates!