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Get the most out of Google Website Optimizer – Tips & Tricks

I’ve been using Google Website Optimizer (GWO) extensively since it started beta around November 2006. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post with some of my ideas on Google Website Optimizer Suggestions. Since then I’ve been doing some testing and research on how to get the most out of GWO. If you’re brand new to the whole concept of split testing or if you’ve never used Google Website Optimizer before, I suggest you first check out their site. For the rest of this posting I’m going to assume you at least viewed their flash tutorial.

First of all, some basic concepts about how GWO works at the technical level.

GWO has three main functions as part of the service:

  1. The (javascript) code that dynamically modifies the test sections on your page (the test page)
  2. The javascript that “counts” when an experiment was viewed (the test page)
  3. The javascript that “counts” when a conversion event occurs (the conversion page)

When you setup an experiment with GWO, the first thing they ask is the URL for the test page and the URL for the conversion page. They then continue to explain how to install the different javascript code snippets on the test page or the conversion page. At first, this really threw me off in terms of what’s possible with GWO. This implies that the elements you are testing are all of part of a single test page and that the conversion event only happens on a specific URL.

This is not the case.

Instead of thinking in terms of a single test page and a single conversion page, think in terms of simply calling a javascript code for each one of the three functions. When you want to split the content – call a javascript. When you want to register a “view” – call a javascript. When you want to register a conversion – call a javascript.

With that in mind, here are some advanced techniques not covered in the basic tutorial on their site.

– Multi-Page Tests –

One of the real world items I wanted to test was a “Next Section” button for our web site. The problem is that a visitor needs to see the same version of the button on each of the pages it appears. If you’re using the single test page mindset, you’re up a creek without a paddle.

So I did some testing on my own and found out that you can simply copy the test page javascript and sections to any test page you want and it’ll behave the same as if it was on the original test page.

In other words, GWO remembers what version you saw across different URLs as long as the included javascript is the same. Of course you need to be testing the exact same element(s) on each page, but for most multi-page tests – this is already the case.

I also emailed our Google rep who confirmed that this will work fine.

 – Show the same element multiple times on single page –

If you have an element that appears multiple times on the same page (like a call to action) you can simply copy the entire section and it works fine. Each of the sections will show the same version. The section name must be the same for all of the sections you want to be identical. After some digging, I found that this is actually covered in the GWO documentation, but it’s hidden pretty deep.  

– Multiple conversion pages for a single experiment –

Just copy the conversion code to any page you want to be counted as a conversion. GWO doesn’t really care what URL you used for the conversion URL when you setup the test. 

– Conversion event based on an action, not a page view-

I haven’t found this covered in the official docs, but it seems to work fine. Just run the javascript code when you want to create a conversion event. For example, lets say you want to track a conversion event of clicked from page A to page B. If you just put the conversion code on page B, you’ll also be counting visitors who went from page A to page C and then to page B. This is not what you wanted. In order to get this to work, simply add on onclick for the link which calls the conversion javascript.

I hope this helps anyone using Google Website Optimizer.

If you have any questions – feel free to ask.

10 Comments

  1. Sounds great; I’m looking forward to the public release, both for my PPC campaigns and usability testing. Right now, I’m doing a lot of the same functions with custom code and tracking; it works fine, but it’s a lot more time-consuming.

  2. We used to do this half manually. The split was done in custom code but the tracking was done with Google analytics (each version was assigned a different campaign).

    What I really like is that GWO already does the statistical analysis for you so I don’t even have to pull in the results into excel (like I did when it was done manually).

    Just curious – what platform are you using for the custom code?

  3. We are Authrized Consultants for Google Website Optimizer. Could we let your readers know that we are offering seven free resources to support Google Website Optimizer at http://www.grokdotcom.com/googlewebsiteoptimizer/ ?

  4. Ophir,

    We have been beta testing Google Website Optimizer for months and have had tremendous results with our clients. We have spent many months answering questions for folks and have created 7 free resources for Google Website Optimizer. These resources include an interview with Google Website Optimizer project manager Tom Leung, a wordpress plugin for the optimizer, a free webinar and a whole bunch of tips to jump start your testing conversion rate.

  5. Thanks for the tips, this is a level above what Google has provided us in their docs. A most valuable addition to a very useful service. Cheers!

  6. So I did some testing on my own and found out that you can simply copy the test page javascript and sections to any test page you want and it’ll behave the same as if it was on the original test page.

    Do you need to copy both the control script, and the sections script, or just the sections? I couldn’t find this answer anywhere on the WSO Help.

  7. This article is great and talks about some of the exact same hacks I came up with on my similar post (Google Website Optimizer tips and hacks). Too bad there isn’t more great shared information like this.

  8. Hi Ophir,

    We recently interviewed the GWO product manager, Tom Leung. Your readers might be interested in it.

    We’ve also developed a simple calculator to determine how valuable multivariate testing services could be for your business.

  9. Hello Ophir,
    Thanks for the helpful advice. We have been looking around for days for a solution to a problem we are having with GWO, and thought maybe you could assist. We have a dynamic site that is based on php and smarty templates. When we attempt to input a smarty call to action such as {include file=”customer/select_brand.tpl”}, the optimizer just shows the literal translation of that request. Do you know of any hack around this issue, maybe to call a seperate js file? Any help would be appreciated.

  10. We also use smarty, and even this is an old topic i would like to know if anyone’s got the answer?

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