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FutureNow Article
Friday, Nov. 2, 2007

Google Website Optimizer: 7 Powerful Tests

By Ronald Patiro
November 2nd, 2007

This 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 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 different version and tracks the performance of each. Mulitvariate 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.

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Comments (20)

  1. [...] and testing techniques in general, check out this brief but helpful overview at Grokdotcom: Google Website Optimizer: 7 Powerful Tests. There are a few techniques described in this piece which I wasn’t aware Google’s tool [...]

  2. Hello

    I want to test out GWO but which php(dynamic) shopping cart supports it?

  3. [...] Google Website Optimizer: 7 Powerful Tests [...]

  4. Ron,

    Do you know where or how you set up the ‘click’ test you describe above, where you are just testing for click on a site element (for example, a link to a 3rd-party site where you can’t install tracking code)? I can’t find any reference to this within the optimizer site.

  5. Joe,
    Creating a click test, a.k.a. “event testing” does require more advanced coding than the easier tests. Try interacting with the forums that discuss GWO.

  6. Joe,

    Here’s a semi-complete answer from:


    One option is, like in Google Analytics, instead of triggering the /
    XXXXXXX/goal on a separete page, use an ONCLICK, or ONSUBMIT to
    trigger the goal instead

    Click here for more information

    or if it’s a submit button


    You just need to put in your account number where it says XXXXXX, which you can find in the normal tracking script they give you.

    Hope that helps. When Google publishes this video to you can see a similar explanation on the video. They said on the webinar that they’d publish it to that page within 2 weeks or so.

    Roy Furr
    Fresh Look, Inc.

  7. Shoot — that came through bad — it actually took the HTML from the post.

    Let’s try that again:

    One option is, like in Google Analytics, instead of triggering the /
    XXXXXXX/goal on a separete page, use an ONCLICK, or ONSUBMIT to
    trigger the goal instead

    <a href=”” onClick=”urchinTracker(‘/
    XXXXXXX/goal’)”>Click here for more information</a>

    or if it’s a submit button

    <form action=””
    <input type=”submit” value=”Click me” />

  8. Hi now let see if that works out I am playing now around with for a while but the result was not that great, thanks for the code displayed.

  9. [...] The only sure-fire way to determine which design is optimal is through a/b testing. Tools like Google’s Website optimizer make this a [...]

  10. Just a quick note since many of you will be interested: We’re teaming up with Google for a free webinar on Tuesday March 11th on how to get the most out of Google Website Optimizer.

    Hope you can make it!

  11. [...] Your campaign will not start unless you have supplied your payment details, so now you can set up a Website Optimizer test without having to worry about [...]

  12. [...] definition of a split-path test, according to GrokDotCom: Split-Path Test — This test will split your traffic among different [...]

  13. Excellent post! We are currently looking at implementing a test for our checkout process on our website. Our current system is around 5 steps, we’d like to test this against a 2 step process. We’ll most likely be using the Split-Path Test, but am unsure as to how to set this up within Website Optimizer?



  14. After finding this post a little late in the game, you convinced me to try this on one of my pages, and I have to say after just a little setup this is pretty easy to get going. Of course testing too many elements at a time can demand some impressive volumes, so brute force is not the best approach, but the price is nice for this one.

  15. Where can I get details on tthe “do anyhting” test? Cant find it…. Thanks

  16. Where can I find instructions on how to set-up a split-path test?

  17. It’s worth bearing in mind that Google Website Optimizer is just one way of improving clickthroughs. Other techniques – like user testing – looks at the humans behind the clicks.If you understand your customers then you are well on the way to sucess. GWO only gives you a fairly limited picture. An extremely useful one, but limited nonetheless.

  18. I think by this google is trying to make some kind of survey… Its going on MS ways…. Making people addicted to it’s products……. keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.

  19. Multivariate Test rules. I didn’t use google optimizer(to be honest, i’ve never heard for it until now). I’ve used my own code, and just tracked which site clicked more on ads.

    Multivariate test is great, not sure why only small per cent of developers use them

  20. [...] Google Website Optimizer: 7 Powerful Tests – A brief set of notes from one of Google’s webinars on Google Website Optimizer that describes some of the various tests that are possible with Google Website Optimizer. While brief, this post is great because it take you beyond just A/B and Multivariate tests. [...]

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