Increase Conversions Without Spending Money: Google’s Website Optimizer

By jameszol
Published on October 8, 2008

Testing your website’s landing pages is one way to increase conversions without spending more on advertising. Certain design and page elements can improve conversion rates by 100% or more over time!

Basic Intro to using Google’s Website Optimizer to test your website

To get started with Website Optimizer, first log into your Google AdWords account. Click on “Website Optimizer, just below the tabs at the top:

You’ll be shown a table with a list of your current experiments. Experiments are the separate tests that you are running, for example one landing page versus another. Since it’s your first time, you’ll click on “Create An Experiment”.

Two Types of Tests:

A/B Experiment

If you’re new to Website Optimizer, A/B Testing will be your first task. It’s less complicated than Multivariate Testing, and you don’t have to have a ton of traffic for it to be effective. A/B Testing allows you to test two entirely different landing pages against each other. This is useful if you’re planning on redesigning your site, for example, and you’re not sure whether a blue background or a red background gets the best results. Or if you’d like to know if more people sign up for your service if the form is on the right side or on the left, the A/B test is a great way to find out. It’s also a good way to prove to your boss that things are working. The Optimizer will give you a report of the results from each landing page you do.

A/B Testing doesn’t mean you only get two options, either. You can test several variations against each other. If you’re not getting much traffic, though, you’ll probably want to limit your testing options in order to see quantifiable results faster.

To run an A/B experiment, click “Create.” You’ll continue on to a checklist with the following items:

1.Choose the page you would like to test

Examples of potential test pages could be your homepage or a product detail page.

2.Create alternate versions of your test page

Create and publish different versions of your test page at unique URLs so that Website Optimizer can randomly display different versions to your users. These URLs could be bookmarked by your users, so after your experiment finishes, you may want to keep these URLs valid.

3.Identify your conversion page

This is an existing page on your website that users reach after they’ve completed a successful conversion. For example, this might be the page displayed after a user completes a purchase, signs up for a newsletter, or fills out a contact form.

Once you’ve completed the steps, click “Continue.” You’ll be asked to name your experiment and then identify where your pages are. You’ll need to have already uploaded your variations to your server.

If your pages aren’t on the web, Website Optimizer will say it cannot find them, and you’ll need to check the URL or make sure you have uploaded them correctly. When you’re ready, click “Continue.”

You’ll be asked who will install the Javascript tags that identify your test and conversion pages. We’ll assume that you are doing this:

Continue, and you’ll be given little javascript code snippets to paste into your pages. Whenever it says to paste the code at the beginning of your page, make sure to paste it right after the

tag, not before. Whenever it says to paste the code at the end of your page, make sure to paste it right before the tag.

Now, upload your pages with the script in them and click “Validate:”

If the pages don’t validate, check to make sure they uploaded correctly. Sometimes you need to wait a minute for it to recognize the new pages.

Voila! You’re done setting up the experiment! Now, it will gather data whenever someone lands on your landing page from any of your ads. The code will rotate which page users arrive at, and it even keeps track so repeat visitors don’t get different versions of your site (so they don’t get confused!). After a while, you’ll be able to view a sample report like this:


(As you can see, Variation 1 really killed the original!)

To view this report, click on “Website Optimizer” and then “View Report” by the name of your experiment in the table:

Multivariate Experiment

A Multivariate Experiment is taking the A/B test a little bit further. This is the experiment you want to run if you’re trying to change multiple things on different parts of the page simultaneously. You’ll want to be getting 1,000 or more views a week for this to be effective. This is for advanced testing, but Google does a pretty good job of walking you through it.

You start at the same spot as A/B Testing: create an experiment in Website Optimizer, only this time choose Multivariate Experiment. AdWords will walk you through the following steps:

1. Identify experiment pages
1a. Plan your experiment
2. Add JavaScript tags to experiment pages
3. Create variations
4. Review experiment settings and launch
5. View Report

You can see an example of Google’s multivariate experiment on its Adwords homepage in our previous post on the subject.

Constant testing with Website Optimizer can increase your conversions by over 100%. We’ve seen cases where conversions have doubled or tripled just because of the layout – not even the content – of a landing page. Why are users finicky like that? I guess figuring that out is all part of marketing.

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3 Responses to “Increase Conversions Without Spending Money: Google’s Website Optimizer”

  1. Kathy @ Virtual Impax (2 comments.) says:

    GOOD STUFF! I have ignored exploring that tab in my Google Adwords account. This post has provided the courage to boldly go where I haven’t gone before!

  2. Jake says:

    awesome post. what was the difference between the original and variation 1?

  3. jameszol says:

    @Kathy – Thanks for the comment and we’re glad you were inspired. :)

    @Jake – Excellent question. It was a completely unique ecommerce design (Variation1) compared to their existing design (Original). This was a simple A/B test for their entire store – not just a single page. I’ll ask the client if we can write about it. :)

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