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Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Google Content Experiments-The Good, the Bad and The Alternatives

By Mariel Bacci
August 22nd, 2012

Google Website Optimizer is gone.  It has been replaced with Google Content Experiments.  Countless articles and blog posts have been written on how this change will affect testing for everyone.  This blog post will briefly outline why Google Content Experiments will make your life better, but might make your life harder, and will show you some alternative testing tools that this change should draw your attention to.

Why We Love Google Content Experiments

Regular Expressions Filter Out IP’s

RegEx is an awesome new feature because you can easily include or exclude specific IP addresses from a test.  Now you won’t dilute your test results every time you view your tests pages because you can exclude yourself and the people you work with from being counted in the experiment.

Content Experiments are Integrated into Google Analytics
Since Content Experiments are now integrated with Google Analytics, you won’t have to spend so much time wondering, “Why don’t the numbers in my GWO account match what I’m seeing in GA?”

No more wasting valuable time trying to figure out or explain small inconsistencies that drive you crazy.

Experiments Have to Run for 2 Weeks Minimum
Google Content Experiments will not confirm statistical significance until a test has been running for two weeks.   There are different reactions to this change.  Many sites feel they have seen enough traffic before the end of two weeks to be sure which page performs optimally.   While we agree that it is a pain to run a test longer than you feel you need to, it is more important to be sure that your test results will be lasting.  There is too big a chance that something outside the landing page itself could effect the outcomes in any given week.  Imagine an ideal test-it would run for years to confirm significance across days of week, seasons and fashions throughout the years.  We think two weeks minimum is an appropriate compromise.

We know that you might see things differently and want full control over the abilities of your testing tool.  It is probably time for you to start looking at some alternative testing platforms.

You Can Look at How Your Test Pages are Performing by Segment
The addition of Advanced Segmenting is the very best part of Google’s new Content Experiments.  Now you can look at test outcomes based on traffic type, device, whether or not the visitors to the page have seen the page before- the insights are endless.  Most importantly, you can see that one page might actually convert better overall, but not fair well for a specific segment.

You Don’t Need A New URL for Every Test Variation
This upgrade  allows you to test different page versions without having to create multiple URLs.  You can create a version of your test page that has a different URL parameter using a symbol like # 0r ?.   Using relative URLs will allow you to test different versions for a product template page on your Ecommerce website.

Why We Miss Google Website Optimizer

They Took Away Multivariate Testing!
Google tried to make the transition away from multivariate testing easy by allowing you to use relative URL’s in Content Experiments.  The thing is, it just isn’t the same. Multivariate testing made it so much easier for highly trafficked sites to see how multiple changes to a page influence and affect one another.  The inability to test how elements on the page interact to affect conversion rate is a serious loss.

You Have to Keep Losing Variations through to the end of the test
Although Content Experiments will try and shift traffic away from low performing variation(s), it doesn’t give you the ability to pause them.  If you started with 5 variations and only two are performing, you used to be able to pause the under performing pages in GWO to conclude the test more quickly. In Content Experiments, you will either have to start the test over, or allow the test to run longer than it needs to because of the presence of the diluting variations.

In this industry where time is money, Content Experiments falls short with this change.

You can only have 5 variations and 12 active tests running at any given time
We cannot imagine a case when you would ever have 12 tests running on your site at once.  There are too many factors in each test that will affect one another and you won’t be able to find out anything from your results.

We do not see the purpose of restricting the number of variations running per test at any given time though.  If you have enough traffic, and more than 5 optimized variations- you should be able to run them all at once.  It doesn’t seem likely that you will ever have more than 5 variations that you think might be the best, but if you do- you should be able to test them!

Testing Tools That You May Want To Consider

Visual Website Optimizer- This is one of our favorite testing tools.  It is very easy to use, the price is very reasonable and you can track multiple goals at once.

Optimizely- No coding required. A one-time copy-and-paste is all you need to run tests. Only works with A/B testing

Omniture- An all inclusive analytics platform.  One of the industry favorite analytics and testing platforms

SiteSpect- A/B testing, multivariate testing, targeting and personalization, mobile content optimization as well as web performance optimization all without having to implement page tags or change your site in any way.

Unbounce- Test, create, publish and optimize landing pages without IT.

Convert Experiments (previously known as Reedge)- Seamless Integration with Google Analytics Goals, E-Commerce Revenue and Conversion Tracking

Webtrends Optimize- An all inclusive analytics platform.  Includes advance segmenting, mutivariate and A/B testing.

What is your favorite A/B or multivariate testing tool?  Please share your experiences and insights with other readers so that they might have some idea of what new testing tools they might like to try out.  Have you started using Google Content Experiments yet?  Do you love the integration with Google Analytics?  Have you come across any frustrations from the change?  If you need help setting up tests on your site, we can help from creating variations to test to making sure your tests are implemented properly.

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Comments (62)

  1. [...] [...]

  2. [...] sind unsere heutigen 10 Lesetipps der Blog-Autoren. Real-Time Bidding: Greasing the WheelsGoogle Content ExperimentsNachhaltigkeit im Interaktiven HandelErwartungshaltung an “Facebook Commerce” ist [...]

  3. Out of all the testing analytics tools you’ve posted here Omniture is my favorite. It’s a great all in one solution and it’s well worth the money.

  4. This is really an informative article and I have learned a lot form this post. Also, bloggers must also remember to be honest all the time. Blogs that are written in an honest voice and truly show who the writer is are often the most popular.Thanks for the share.

  5. I don’t like the 2 weeks minimum part, that is way too long. Also taking away multivariate testing is not a good call.

  6. I tested SiteSpect by myself and its a great tool! Totally recommend it!

  7. Thanks for sharing these types of valuable tools. I will definitely use these tools in upcoming days.

  8. I’ll have to give some of these tools a try! It’s always nice to have alternatives. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Wow, very valuable info here in the article! I liked Optimizely particularly.

  10. Most of all I like integration into Google Analytics, really very helpful

  11. I miss Google Website Optimizer so mucho!, The new options are good but i was used to it.. Thanks for the other tools, some of them are cool!!

  12. I second the nod for Omniture. We just started using it and it really has been working well.

  13. Thanks for the good writeup – I had the content optimizer in some course notes I was going to give next week so will need to do a rewrite but at least will not look an idiot in front of the group of photographers we are teaching search optimisation to.


  14. Losing the multivarient testing does suck but I actually don’t mind the new Google testing tool.

  15. Thanks for sharing! I’ll have to give those tools a whiz! ah, and RIP Google Website Optimizer…

  16. RIP Google Website Optimizer…

  17. Reading this article I realized that I am a novice in this regard. I used SiteSpect and Omniture tools and found fantastic. I hope I have time to test the other soon :)

  18. Beneficial post thanks, I’ll be looking into this with depth and using the explainations against my own Google account.

  19. Aww I miss google website optimizer

  20. We use Visual Website Optimizer and tested some others in past – there are in every tool pros and cons finally. What`s also cool is when you use WordPress using “Landing Page” plugins. There are two outside – one use testing A/B internal and the other with Visual Website Optimizer.

  21. Some great tools listed here. I have to commend google for the content experiments, I like how you can create multiple experiments and run them all at the same time. I’m gonna check out the optimizely, seems easy enough to integrate.

  22. I love google analytics and already use it, but someday I will use your recommendations tools. It must have been great, thank you for sharing.

  23. Visual Website Optimizer is one of my favorite tool.. I find it quite useful.. But no one can replace Google Website Optimizer.. :( :(

  24. Thanks a lot for giving this useful information on Google’s content experience. I’ll give a try to all this tools you mentioned above and do my website’s analysis.

  25. Google Content has a potential. Thanks for the article

  26. I really like Google Analytics to use. With this I will definitely use one of the tool that you described above. I am taking review of them.

  27. I miss google website optimizer too.

  28. I miss google website optimizer

  29. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!

  30. wow.. after loss from outsourcing revenue, i started SEO of website in house. and we were totally unaware of this testing techniques available. We do keep changing content and looks of website without testing.. Now we have a great option to test. hope this would definitely impact better SEO. Thanks for sharing, i need to learn although the Experiment interface of google. Also, is there any tool better than Analytics?? which gives detailed report and suggestions?

  31. Thanks very much I shall be using the tools and putting them to good use.

  32. Bad and The Alternatives.RIP Google Website Optimizer… :( (

  33. Google is driving me crazy! All of their algorithm updates! They need to just relax and stop penalizing people so harshly.

  34. Thanks for sharing these informative tools. Google focuses on good, great and unique content websites.

  35. I like Google updates because it prevents spam.

  36. I like Google Website Optimizer. Thanks for your sharing.

  37. Thanks, I didn’t know anything about this Google service. I’m trying it right now and thinking about my first experiment while reading the article.

  38. Why can’t they ever get this right to exclude your own ip? If you are logged in, then it is obvious what your ip is.

  39. Thanks for this informative post, google website optimizer really helped and improve my content writing strategy.

  40. Out of all the testing tools that are listed here ‘visual website optimizer’ is the only tool that i m using right now and it works perfect for me but definitely i would really love to try other.

  41. Great Post! We all miss Web optimizer a lot :(

  42. Nice Information. Website optimizer was good but i think new Google product content Experiment is also good. Its still in beta

  43. Googles first goal behind its updates is avoiding spammy link building and spammy content. Thanks for sharing this article, its very useful for those who really unknown about googles experiment.

  44. Thanks very much I shall be using the tools for my new non profit website.I am so happy that it helped me so much.I miss google website optimizer too.

  45. The Website optimizer tool was a good tool but you had to be in the matter for using it effectively. Hopefully there will be available more easy tools in future…

  46. I like how you can create multiple experiments and run them all at the same time. I’m gonna check out the optimizely, seems easy enough to integrate.

  47. I didn’t know anything about this Google service. I’m trying it right now and thinking about my first experiment while reading the article.

  48. It’s a good thing they integrated Content Experiments with Google Analytics. No more guessing.

  49. Too much data can be overwhelming and cause you to over think things. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and a Great Blog strategy and you will be on your way!!

  50. Split testing your content is crucial in determining how well they perform. It should be standard practice as it is with PPC advertising.

  51. I like how you can create multiple experiments and run them all at the same time. , seems easy enough to integrate.

  52. I like just plain old Google Analytics for my testing, but I might consider a better tool if it wasn’t to expensive. I will research your recommendations for something better.

  53. I agree. I wish you could immediately see the results coming in, and I’m not exactly sure WHY they’re withholding the test data for that initial period. Something about the algorithm, but I don’t know

  54. I have tested Google Content Experiments, What would be even better is if GA could differentiate multiple domains for the variation pages of the testing

  55. I have used this tool and would recommend others for this. Google Content Experiment is better than their web optimizer.

  56. It is a shame that Google Website Optimizer is gone :/ But Google Content Experiment does a great job

  57. I tested SiteSpect by myself and its a great tool! Totally recommend it!

  58. The list of testing tools is great!

    Thank’s, Mariel

  59. Seems like every time I get used to something, Google changes it. Another learning curve!

  60. Great article. Google Content Experiment does seem to be better than their Website Optimiser.

  61. We have used this tool & from the results I would definitely urge others to use it. Google Content Experiment seems to be very much better than Web Optimizer.

  62. We are about to try Visual Website Optimizer.. I’ve heard lots of good things..

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Mariel is a GA certified analyst at FutureNow, Inc.

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