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In October 2006 Google launched a new tool for AdWords advertisers called Web Optimizer. Web Optimizer allows site owners to experiment with different versions of a web page to determine which combination produces the most conversions from site visitors.

I have been using Web Optimizer for the past few months and have become quite familiar with the implementation process and have learned some tips and tricks along the way.

Process

First, I have found it easiest to plan your experiment through before you even jump into the Web Optimizer interface; it will make the whole process easier later. Some questions you need to consider are:

  • What page(s) do you want to test?
  • What sections of this page do you want to change?
  • What different variations do you want to test for each section?
  • What resulting user action do you desire?
  • What page(s) will users end on if they perform the action you desire?

For example, let's say I have an online store that sells widgets. This is how I might answer some of the above questions.

  • I want to test the product page www.abcwidgets.com/bigwidget.html
  • I want to change the product image and description
  • I have 2 different images (one close-up and one full-product) and 3 different text descriptions
  • I want the user to add the product to their shopping cart
  • Users will end up on the shopping cart page www.abcwidgets.com/shoppingcart.html

With this information in hand, it is fairly easy to follow the instructions provided as you work your way through the Web Optimizer set-up process. At certain points you are required to modify the HTML code for your pages, so if you are not comfortable with this you will need the assistance of a web programmer.

Challenges

There are some scenarios that aren't as straightforward as the example provided above. For instance, what if your test page and conversion page are on different domains? Maybe they're on different sub-domains? What if you are running Google Analytics as well? What if you have several experiments with the same conversion page? Thankfully, Google addresses all these issues and more in their installation guide.

Tips

Here are some tips I've learned while planning and implementing experiments that may make things easier for you.

  • Check and double-check your experiment implementation (especially your variations) using the preview button, because once the experiment is live, changes can not be made.
  • If your experiment is risky (i.e. may turn away visitors) you may want to limit the percentage of site visitors that participate in your experiment.
  • It is possible to have multiple test pages and/or multiple conversion pages in the same experiment; you just need to put the code on each page you want to test/track.

Google Web Optimizer is a powerful tool and I have just mentioned a few of the things I have learned while using it. The best way to discover how Web Optimizer can change your site's performance is to begin creating experiments. Start small until you get the hang of things, but then with some creativity you'll be able to test all sorts of combinations on your pages and many different user actions.

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