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Optimizing Pages with Google Website Optimizer

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Google offers Website Optimizer, a free tool for Google Apps users allowing them to test and measure the success of different versions of web pages.

Optimizing a website comes down to optimizing each page or each group of closely related pages. When an user visits a website page, his reaction will be influenced by the content found, the overall graphical appearance of the page and the arrangement of components on the page. Some of the pages are intended to entice the user to take actions such as filling up a form or placing an order. Having a multitude of websites to choose from, the users are very selective in choosing their destination. The content and the appearance of the landing page may attract a visitor to stay longer on the site or may send him off searching for a better place. Google Website Optimizer (GWO) helps website creators to test various versions of their web pages in order to find out what is the users’ reaction to each one so they can make an informed decision on which version performs better.

Important page elements that can be optimized include headlines, graphics, images, command buttons, structure and layout. A page being optimized is called a test page. Another important page in optimization is the conversion page, a page with command buttons on it, for example for signing-up to the website, or the last page, a sort of Thank you page, or the checkout page. It is possible the test page is the same as the conversion page. If an user starts with the testing page and follows through to the conversion page, that is considered a success. Measuring the success for different versions of the test page, the website owner can determine which design is most successful.

That is what GWO does: measuring the success of different versions of test pages across website’s users. The owner can use the tool before launching the website to the general public by testing it against a lower number of users, or he can use it to enhance an existing website. Using GWO, he can decide what percentage of users will get a certain version of the test page(s), measuring which one is better received. Then he can extend the new look to the entire website if he wants to.

GWO offers two types of testing experiments:

  1. A vs. B – multiple separate versions of a test page, each one with its own URL
  2. Multivariate (MVT) – dynamically generated pages, each one with the same URL but served to different users.

GWO comes with a number of .js files for tracking the users, their landing pages, their progress through the site and the reach and completion of a conversion page. Each particular user is counted only once, and it is considered a success only if he started from the landing page and went all the way to the conversion page. The Techie Guide to Google Website Optimizer (PDF) contains detailed technical information on how GWO works. 

GWO is freely available to Google Apps customers.

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