Google Website Optimiser, Part 2: Configuring Website Optimiser

Friday, December 5, 2008 | 8:48 AM

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Thinking back to our last post in this series , we walked through a few goals you might consider for your organisation's site. Whether you're considering testing your site to increase donations or awareness, there are a variety of configurations for Google Website Optimiser to help you achieve your goals.


Google Website Optimiser can be configured to allow you to make radical or subtle changes to your website.

Q. So how do I know what to change and how radical should the changes be?

A. Every website is different, however if your conversion rates are relatively low, for example less than 1%, you could probably benefit from more radical changes. If your conversion rates are higher, perhaps 5-10%, you should probably start with more subtle changes.

Q. Does Google Website Optimiser suggest changes for me to make?

A. No, Google Website Optimiser takes variations provided by you and tests different combinations of all these variations for you. For example, you might try two variations of your headline and three variations of images of your offerings, and Website Optimiser will create the six possible combinations. At the end of your test, you'll see reports for each combination. Also each variation is given a score based on how much it impacted your conversion rate.

Q. Why should I use Google Website Optimiser, can't I just make changes to my website and see if conversion rates improve?

A. Google Website Optimiser saves you the effort of manually recording and reporting on what changes have the biggest impact. You also get to test several design changes simultaneously. This is particularly beneficial if you are running advertising campaigns and targeting visitors through paid search such as Google AdWords. There is also the possibility that your "improvements" may actually lower conversion rates. When you use a tool like Google Website Optimiser, you be able to see if your changes are actually helping your site.

Two Ways to Start Testing

1.) A/B testing - Test two different versions of a single page on your website. Perhaps you want to try a two-column layout as opposed to a three-column layout as you feel it's a less cluttered design. Or maybe you want to see if moving your call to action items above the fold (the visible area of the screen before a user has to scroll down the page) to see if it has a stronger impact on conversions? Or maybe you want to try a whole new colour scheme?

Page Version A


Page Version B

Note: Version B has no image and the donate button has been moved.

A/B testing can be a little more involved because you will need to create two different versions of the pages you wish to test. However, if you already have a new page created, as part of a site redesign perhaps, setting up an A/B test is very quick. If you do decide to create a new page with a new layout, remember to test that the new version works as expected across other web browsers.

2.) Multivariate testing - Using the same webpage, you can try variations of different sections of your page. For each section (i.e. headline, call to action button, product image, etc.) Google Website Optimiser lets you test different variations. For example you could use new wording in your page headline or test two different call to action buttons.

As you can see from the image above. You can test things like which button works best, which headline is important, and what image on your page works best.

One of the best things about using Google Website Optimiser and is that you do not need to create any additional pages for your website. Google Website Optimiser automatically inserts variations to the page as specified by you and records the conversion rate for each variation on your site.

Further Example:
You create a webpage but want to test a new headline, two different call to action buttons and two slightly different images. So on one page you have three areas that can be changed.

Total Combinations = 2 headlines x 3 call to action buttons x 2 images = 12 web pages you would have to create.

However using Google Website Optimiser you only need to make changes to 1 page on your website.

Google Website Optimiser Features
One of the best features is that Google Website Optimiser measures which changes and elements on your pages are making the biggest difference and which combination of all these elements is working the best for you in terms of conversion.


The above report shows which changes to your page have the biggest impact on conversion rates.

Section 2 shows that variation 2 has a 11.9% improvement in conversion rate over the original design and variation 1 has a 0.26% improved conversion rate over the original. The tool also indicates that variation 2 has a 99.8% chance of beating the original version.

Section 3 shows that variation 1 had the biggest impact with 15.2% increase in conversion rate. Given the data collected by Google Website Optimiser it is confident that this has the best chance to beat the original version. Variation 3 and 2 also showed improvements over the original design. There is a strong chance that all variations will beat the original design and this is indicated in the column chance to beat all.

Section 1 shows that the original version performed better than variation 1. The red shows a drop in conversion of -3.71%. The original shows a gray bar to indicate no improvement.

Although not shown in the table above, you can view the best combination of all 3 sections to see the ideal conversion page. You may be surprised by the results!

In the next part of the series, we'll go over how you can start using Google Website Optimiser for your organisation. Take some time before, "Part 3: How do I use Google Website Optimiser," to walk through the different configurations for Google Website Optimiser and get to know the tool before deciding which is right for your organisation's website goals.