Google Website Optimizer tips from Apogee’s GWO Expert

I recently spoke with Alissa Ruehl, Manager of Website Effectiveness Consulting at Apogee Search. She offered some helpful information about Google Website Optimizer (GWO).

Alissa began by explaining that Google Website Optimizer is a free tool that website owners can use to determine the most effective combination of content on their site through a variety of tests. The results from these tests can then be used to maximize conversion rates among existing traffic to your site.

GWO can conduct both A/B testing and multivariate testing. A/B testing will test two different pages against one another, and multivariate testing will test the various elements on the page to determine the best combination.

Alissa then offered a few strategies to keep in mind when using Google Website Optimizer:

  • Ask big questions. You will only receive answers for the things that you actively test. You should test drastic changes rather than slight changes to obtain statistically significant data.
  • Spend time developing well-written copy to test.
  • Wait for significant data. GWO will indicate when a sample is large enough to be useful.

Alissa pointed out that there are different situations in which one would want to use A/B testing versus multivariate testing:

  • Multivariate tests compare different elements of a page. Google uses a full factorial test so it is very easy to generate a large number of combinations even when testing just a few elements. These tests require a high amount of traffic to achieve statistical significance.
  • A/B testing is suited for sites with less traffic because it requires a much smaller sample size to achieve statistical significance. This is the best option for testing a complete site redesign.

Finally, Alissa offered a few rules to follow when using Google Website Optimizer:

  • Wait for statistically significant data. As discussed earlier, initial results might reflect random chance, so wait until you have had enough traffic for the information to be significant.
  • Limit the elements being tested. If you create too many different combinations, it will take a great deal of time for GWO to produce meaningful results from your test.
  • Spend as much time developing content for a test as you would for a website. Even though this is a test, you are testing potential real options for your site. Do not get sloppy with the content just because it is a test.

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