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Google Website Optimizer: 7 Powerful Tests

his week, the Google Website Optimizer team hosted a two-part webinar series on how to use their powerful — and free! — testing software. In addition to the popular A/B and multivariate tests, Google walked attendees through basic testing methods, then went on to some more advanced techniques.

Here’s the “Cliffs Notes” version, in case you couldn’t make it:

A/B Test— Allows you to test different versions of the same page. Let’s say you want to test the homepage. To indicate which version of the homepage is performing better, a Goal Page is selected, e.g., an order confirmation “thank you” page. So, once a visitor comes to the test page — in this case, the homepage — they’re presented with one version (’A’) that you created to test against another version (’B’) of your homepage. Google Website Optimizer will then record the visit as a success or failure by crediting either version ‘A’ or version ‘B’ — whichever one ultimately led them to the Goal Page. Once sufficient data is collected, a winning page variation will be selected.

Multivariate Test — Very similar to the A/B test in that it allows you to test different variations of the same page. The main difference is that in an A/B test, you’re creating and uploading different files and they’re presented as different URLs (”;”), so Google Website Optimizer splits the traffic to a different version and tracks the performance of each. Multivariate tests allow you to select different sections on your page and create different versions for each section or content element. So, if you want to test different headlines while testing different “add to cart” buttons, a multivariate test can save time when coding. Google Website Optimizer will create different versions of the page, using every possible combination and variation for each page and content element you’re testing.

If we’re testing three headlines and two “add to cart” buttons, GWO will create six unique pages by combing every possible variation. The winning variation is then selected.

Split-Path Test — This test will split your traffic among different linear paths containing multiple pages for each path. This is different in that you’re testing the performance of grouped pages against other grouped pages. For example, you could test a checkout process by splitting it into two variations; one with four steps (or pages), and another with only three steps. Each variation of grouped pages will have the same Goal Page (e.g., order confirmation page). Once the data is collected, the winning checkout process will be the one that converted a higher percentage of visitors.

Multi-Path Multivariate Test — This will test different sections on multiple pages at the same time, all within one experiment. This test is best used after a winning combination from a split-path test is selected. For example, you could test images, testimonials, and contact information on the pages throughout a checkout to find out which combination of the elements across the group of pages is working the best.

“Do Anything” Test — This is a useful testing functionality that allows a test to have multiple Goal Pages, as opposed to only having one Goal Page. For example, let’s say you’re testing the headline and name of a category page. Now, to determine whether the headline is a success, simply test how many click-throughs you’re getting from the category page to any of product pages that it links out to.

Clock — This will register an experiment as a success after the visitor has spent a specific amount of time on the page. For example, let’s say you wanted to test variations on the title of a blog post. You can consider a visit from someone who stays on the page, reading the post for at least 30 seconds, a success. So, if you’re still reading this, hopefully, that means we’re successful ;) Google Website Optimizer will collect data on which headline is engaging the most readers to stay on the page for at least 30 seconds and show us a winning title.

Click — This functionality allows you to set the goal for an experiment as not just a page on a site, but a specific event, or click, on a page. An example would be to test which copy is getting the most people to click on your link to an external checkout source, like Google Checkout or PayPal. Since a click on any link brings the visitor to an outside page, you cannot send them to a Goal Page, but you can measure success by defining a specific click.

If you missed the webinar, don’t worry. There’s a wealth of information on the GWO Help, Forum, Case Study, and Demo pages. Google also said they will soon be posting abbreviated versions of the webinars. Besides, we have more free Google Website Optimizer resources to get you going. And if you decide you’d like expert guidance with your tests, we can help.