One of Google’s lesser-known web developer tools is Google Website Optimizer. That may be because until recently you could only use this tool in conjunction with a Google AdWords campaign. Now, however, the tool has relaunched as open and standalone, complete with its own blog. If you’re involved with site design and development, it’s worth getting to know how this works.
The basic idea of Website Optimizer is to inject some real data into discussions of how to make web pages perform better, rather than just having endless arguments about whether making the logo bigger would help sales. It does this by systematically displaying variants of a page to your visitors, and tracking which variants have more success in persuading people to click through or take other actions.The simplest type of experiment is an A/B test, where you compare two different pages in terms of how well they get a visitor to go to a third page. You might create two versions of a sales pitch, each of which leads to the same “buy now” page, for example. Website Optimizer includes a simple wizard to walk you through setting up such experiments, starting with identifying the test pages (at least two, though you can include more) and the conversion page.
Website Optimizer can also run multivariate experiments, where you vary content in multiple places on the same page and look at the combinations. This is best suited for pages that get more than a thousand views per week, but can collect a bunch of data more quickly than running multiple A/B tests.
If you’re involved with any sort of site development where the goal is to drive people to an actual action – as opposed to just dumping pages out to be browsed – this tool is definitely worth getting familiar with. Having actual data at your fingertips can go a long way towards creating more useful sites and thus, more satisfied customers.