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!
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about testing (which I love and encourage you to embrace with open arms as I have). I like to use Google Website Optimizer whenever I have an experiment to run, but you can use any program, such as Omniture Test & Target. As long as you are testing, you are “in the game” (and, if you are not testing, why not?).
I found an article within the Google Website Optimizer help section that I’d love to expand upon, called “The Top Five Elements to Test“. This help section article lists 15 specific elements, but it does not cite any examples, which I feel help visualize each point, even though some of them are very obvious. So, I have beefed up this very good list of possibilities below. Enjoy, and, seriously consider testing as many of these 15 things as you can:
1. Title -Short versus Long
Short: High-Quality Product
Long: High-Quality Product that will last for generations to come!
2. Title – Question versus Statement
Question: It’s 10 PM – Do you know where your kids are?
Statement: It’s 10 PM – Your kids are in bed.
3. Title – Formal versus Informal
Formal: Good Evening, Sir / Madam.
Informal: Yo, what up, dogg?
4. Title – Emphasizing selling point A versus B
Selling Point A: 100% Recycled Material!
Selling Point B: 100% Money Back Guarantee!
5. Image – Big versus Small
Big Image: Takes up half the screen
Small Image: 100 x 100 square in the upper-right corner of the page
6. Image – Photo versus Illustration
Photo: A nice, vibrant stock photo, or photo taken by a professional
Illustration: A nice, vibrant drawing, sketch, or animation created by a professional
7. Image – Customer versus Product
Customer: Happy customers, smiling and laughing on a warm sunny day
Product: Close-up picture of your awesome product against a smooth background
8. Layout – Long sales letter versus multi-column layout
Long Letter: A very long page outlining every possible detail and customer testimonial about your product
Multi-Column: A table with visible rows and columns displaying tidbits of information and statistics about your product
9. Layout – 3 page pitch versus one dense page
3-Page Pitch: Three pages, including the landing page, with “Click for More” or “Continue” buttons at the bottom
One Dense Page: All of the information contained in the three-page pitch on one single page
10. Selling Proposition – Quality versus Convenience
Quality: Made with 100% Imported Leather!
Convenience: Never buy another pair of boots again!
11. Selling Proposition – Features versus Service
Features: 256GB of Disk-Space!
Service: 24/7 Customer Support!
12. Selling Proposition – Make Money versus Save Money
Make Money: Make $100 for every friend that you refer!
Save Money: Save $100 on your next trade-in!
13. Conversion Incentives – Free Shipping versus Money Back Guarantee
Free Shipping: We offer Free Shipping to every city in the United States!
Money Back Guarantee: We will refund 100% of your money if you are not satisfied.
14. Conversion Incentives – List All Incentives versus None
All: List every possible incentive imaginable on Landing Page
None: Simply promote the product price, image, and / or availability on Landing Page
15. Conversion Incentives – Telephone Order conversion versus online form
Telephone: Call us at 1-800-555-1234 and get started today!
Online: Fill out our simple online form and get started today!
Back in High School, I was a Lieutenant in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (Go Eagle Battalion!). Class leaders had a lot of fun during uniform inspection time, as well as during drill and ceremony time. We would routinely shout out several commands and instructions to our particular platoons during each class hour, which also included several popular sayings within our corps. These included (but definitely were not limited to):
“NINE to the front, and SIX to the rear!” – A reference to the length and distance of your arm swing during marching;
“Get in STEP [Cadet’s Rank and Last Name]!!” – During marching, this would be sounded off to ensure that each cadet’s step would precisely match every other cadet’s step. If every cadet stepped with their right foot, the cadet that stepped with their left foot would stick out like a sore thumb;
“Move the RIFLE around your head, not your HEAD around the rifle!” – My personal favorite during drill and ceremony with our Springfield M-1903’s;
“If you are not double-timing it, you are WRONG!” – You can replace “double-timing it” with any number of different instructions or tidbits of information to convey the message that this was a team effort, and you were wrong if you weren’t participating like everyone else.
We can take that last saying and apply it to testing and experimentation on the web. If you have a website and a marketing plan of any kind, it is imperative that you implement a testing and experimentation plan. Why? Because if you are not testing, you are wrong. In today’s internet world, you absolutely need to have some kind of testing strategy where the ultimate goal is to improve your website’s functionality, your lead acquisition process, and your shopping cart, so that you can have even happier customers, create some more returning shoppers, and ultimately make more money.
For starters, it doesn’t matter what you test – just get your feet wet!
If you’ve been thinking about testing, or if this blog post is the first you’ve ever heard of it, know that for right now, it doesn’t really matter what you test. The mere fact that you going to start testing something – anything – is good enough for now. Get your feet wet and get comfortable and familiar with the idea first, before worrying about what types of testing strategies exist or what standard deviation stands for. Pick anything on your homepage to test for a week or two – that picture of a palm tree, that blue “click here” button, or that first paragraph of text. Pick one of those items (only one for now), and make a change to it, upload it live, and see what effect that has on your traffic and your conversion rate over a week or two. Congratulations – you have just tested something!
This testing idea sounds great, but I wish there was a free tool out there that can help me set-up tests or experiments on my website…
Have no fear – Google Website Optimizer is here! Google Website Optimizer (or GWO for short) just recently came out of Beta, and is now available to everyone on the planet for free. GWO affords you the opportunity to create an unlimited amount of experiments, completely controllable and customizable. GWO goes as far as to offer your technical or website programming team a unique set-up page per each experiment, so that they have every piece of code and every instruction necessary to set GWO up for any page on your website.
What types of Experiments can I conduct with Google Website Optimizer?
There are two different types of experiments:
A/B Experiments – Sometimes also referred to as “A/B Split Testing”, this tests one page on your website up against a different version of that same page, to see which page gives you the best possible chance for an increased conversion rate. Rotating your Ads on Google AdWords evenly is a form of A/B testing in the marketing world. This is the same concept, but for a page on your website.
Multivariate Experiments – Sometimes also referred to as “MVT Testing”, this tests different areas of a page on your website (for example, different headers, footers, or product images), to see which combination gives you the best possible chance for an increased conversion rate. This is actually quite an advanced type of test, but Google Website Optimizer makes it easy for all of us.
How long should I run a test for, and what results will Google Website Optimizer show me?
I like the 15-day rule. With 15 days, you get two full weeks, plus that additional day’s worth of information. This could be longer or shorter, depending on the volume of traffic to your website. However, something in the neighborhood of two weeks should be enough time for a proper experiment.
Google Website Optimizer gives you a “Page Sections” report and a “Combinations” report (specifically for your Multivariate Tests) for you to look at. You’ll be able to view the estimated conversion rate range, in both a numerical form and a sliding bar graph, as well as other fancy statistically-oriented metrics, such as “Observed Improvement”, and “Chance to beat Original / Chance to beat All”, allowing you to very quickly see which page version or which page combination is doing the best job of bringing you more conversions.
What if I run a test between my homepage and a new version of my homepage, but the original homepage beats the new homepage – is it back to the drawing board?
Yes, and no. First of all, you’re going to have to become comfortable with the idea that an original page / original combination beating a newer page or newer combination doesn’t equate to an unsuccessful experiment. If you’re able to conduct a fair and unbiased experiment, then the experiment itself is successful, regardless of the outcome of the experiment. Google Website Optimizer runs fair and unbiased experiments, so rest assured that your experiment will be a successful one.
Now, just because your original homepage beat your new homepage, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn something that you can use in your next experiment. Keep track of what changes were made on the new homepage, and what was different on the new homepage versus the original homepage. If you only make one or two changes, you’ll have a much easier time in keeping track of exactly what’s making the visitors tick and what’s making them leave your site than you would if you completely re-invented the wheel and made several dozen changes.
Other than the homepage, what other types of pages can I experiment with?
The question should really be “what can’t I experiment with?”. You can and you should experiment with all different types of pages – homepages, about us pages, thank you pages, shopping cart pages, order confirmation pages, and so on. GWO lets you run an unlimited amount of different experiments, and you can also run multiple experiments simultaneously with different parts of your website.
After you’ve started testing, don’t let the novelty of it wear off. Find a way to make testing and experimentation a part of your job. I know, I know – you’re very busy and you have a lot of work to do, and you can’t possibly imagine putting on yet another hat on. But you JUST have to! Otherwise, your competitors will begin to fly right past you and take your customers away from you. You wouldn’t want that, would you?
Try this: every month, pick 1 thing to test. The “Add to Cart” button, the homepage text, the links on your “Thank You” page…anything. In a few months, you will thank yourself, as you will (hopefully) work towards making your website more attractive to your visitors, which should in turn increase every marketers metric, the conversion rate. Even if your conversion rate doesn’t increase, you will at least have started to learn about your visitors – what they like, what they don’t like, and what they react positively or negatively to – which can only help your business.