Landing Pages and Google’s Website Optimizer Patent Applications

(Updated 11/26/2007 at 4:30pm to clarify the relationship between Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics)

Google introduced a new tool in October of last year, the Website Optimizer, that enables website owners to test out different versions of pages on their website. Some new patent applications from Google focus upon testing and optimizing landing pages for conversions, using a tool that is very much like the Website Optimizer.

There’s a lot of supporting documentation from Google on how to use their Website Optimizer tool, including a detailed Quick Start Guide, and a couple of videos:

While this tool can be found in the Adwords sections of Google’s pages, it’s important to note that it can be used on other pages on a website that aren’t pointed to by Adwords advertising. If you want to see how effectively your pages lead people to conversions from visitors that don’t arrive at your pages from Google Ads, that is an option available to you. You do need to sign up for Google Analytics when signing up to use the Website Optimizer, however you don’t need to actually interact with Google Analytics itself. Here’s how Google’s Help describes the relationship between the programs:

Do I need an Analytics account to use Website Optimizer?

Yes. When you sign up for Website Optimizer, we automatically set up an Analytics account for use with your experiments. Website Optimizer uses the same powerful tracking technology that is used in Google Analytics to collect experiment data. You will not need to interact with Analytics to use WO. Using Website Optimizer with Analytics does not conflict with any other tracking software you may be using.

The four patent applications were published this past week, and describe many of the fine details behind how Website Optimizer works. Google’s Quick Start Guide and videos cover a lot of the same ground as the patent filings. I’m not going to go into detail about how Website Optimizer works since it’s described so well by the Google pages and videos, though I liked this suggestion which appears in the patent documents:

The same experimental techniques work for any web page, not merely advertising landing pages.

Any web site owner can experimentally determine how good his or her web site design is and which web pages should be targeted for improvement. The web site owner merely needs to designate a test page and a goal page.

A goal rate can be calculated as the percentage of browsing users who, having reached the test page, go on to reach the goal page. The goal rate can be interpreted as a measure of success.

In this specification, in order to adopt the commonly used terminology, “landing page” is used to include all test pages whether or not arrived at through an advertisement, and “conversion page” is used to include all goal pages.

Here are links to the patent applications, if you would like to explore them in more depth:

Articles about Using the Google Website Optimizer

There are a number of excellent articles about using the Website Optimizer (I’ve linked to a few of those below), a wordpress plugin to use with the tool, and a Google Groups page where you can go if you have questions about using it. I’d definitely recommend the Google resources linked above, too.

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13 thoughts on “Landing Pages and Google’s Website Optimizer Patent Applications”

  1. Hi Derrick,

    Good to meet you. If you haven’t used the website optimizer, and you try it out, it would be great to hear your experiences. Testing how people use your pages can be pretty helpful.

    Another tool that you might find worth exploring is Crazy Egg, which gives you a heat map overview of where people are clicking at your your pages.

  2. Hi Bill, I have a little experience with using Google WO, although I prefer to just use my own PHP instead, because then I can do what I want with it. All I have done is set up multiple landing pages, I will start a session which logs which the landing page template they are on as well as other data that is commonly stored in website analytics packages. All sales avenues (quote requests, purchases etc) are logged with this session data. You look though the logs and deduce which elements of the site are increasing your sales/enquires.

    Thoughts: If you are selling a service, you will probably find that using such methods will bring you more quotes, BUT these extra quotes will be the people who are looking for you to work for them as cheap as possible, so you may not necessarily want to waste your time on them because you see yourself as a high-end service provider. You are better of focusing on instilling trust in your visitors and answering questions they might have. For example, display any accreditations or awards you have or ask a question that they might be looking for an answer for and give them a solutions for it

  3. I only have one experience of doing this on one eCommerce site. The aforementioned principles can also be applied here, but you want to focus more on showing people you have a wide range of products at both low and high prices. This is of course dependant on your market. One method I am keen to play with is using the term the person searched for to influence the products shown on the landing page.

  4. Good overview as always Bill!

    It’s worth noting that although you don’t need to use AdWords with website optimiser, you’ll likely struggle to get good enough quantities of data unless you have already well established pages performing organically – and in those cases you shouldn’t be making code changes lightly in case you affect those rankings negatively.

    Affiliates & OMP are the obvious route out, but AdWords is the elephant in the room with website optimiser…

    But then, it is a great product, and any advertising spent is extremely likely to be recouped.

  5. Hi Christopher,

    Thanks. That’s a very good point. It really helps to have enough data coming in to make intelligent decisions based upon your tests.

  6. David,

    Some excellent points. Sometimes it’s not a question of page layout, but rather including elements upon the page that establish credibility or trust or both, or providing information that either helps someone complete a task, or recognize that they have found someone who can help them meet whatever objectives they may have.

    The Website Optimizer tool can be one way of testing, and it may be a nice introduction to testing for many people. But there are other things that you can do, too. The idea of presenting different things to people on a landing page based upon their query is definitely something to explore.

  7. We having been trying the optimiser on a few results and it really helps. Well done Google.

    Wishing everyone an exSEOllent 2008

  8. The website optimiser is very useful tool, however you will only have enough quantitative data if you are already performing well, so not so great for new sites.

    Good post though, I will definitively consider using it in future.

    Sam

  9. Hi Sam,

    That is one of the problems with trying to use the Web Site Optimizer tool – sites that don’t receive a lot of traffic, may not get enough data to be helpful.

    Thanks.

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