(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:
- Introduction to Website Optimizer Webinar
- Website Optimizer: Creating and Launching Experiments
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:
- Starting landing page experiments
- Generating landing page variants
- Monitoring landing page experiments
- Encoding and Displaying Default Landing Page Content
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.
- The 10 Minute Guide to Testing with Google Website Optimizer (pdf)
- Google Website Optimizer Plugin for WordPress
- 64 Tips for Getting Started with Google Website Optimizer
- Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics: A Perfect Marriage
- ClickZ: Google Website Optimizer, Part 1
- ClickZ: Google Website Optimizer, Part 2
- Google Website Optimizer (beta) Forum