Google Website Optimizer Review

About Google Google Optimization Optimizer Review

Google Website Optimizer Review

 Google Optimizer is a free product from Google that allows you to run A/B and multivariate tests. All you need is a Google account and the desire to make more sales. In this article, I will review Google Website Optimizer, the setup, the effects on search engine rankings, and touch on the topic of cloaking (since Website Optimizer is in part a Cloaker).

To get the most out of this article, you need to be familiar with the following terms: A/B Test and Multivariate Test.

An A/B Test (also called a split test) is a test in which two versions of the page are tested against one another. The test involves the original page and a variation of the page. The variation can contain ANY changes. A/B tests are perfect for beginners, for quick tests, and websites with low traffic.

A Multivariate Test is a test in which page variables such as headlines, calls to action, paragraphs, buttons, etc are tested against each other. Google allows up to 1000 multivariable tests at once. For example, if you have six headlines and want to test three variations for each, you can set up: 6 x 6 x 6 = 216 tests. Multivariate tests require a long time to produce data but are much more effective than A/B.

The Biggest Question of All – Does Google Website Optimizer Affect Search Engine Rankings?

If you do search engine optimization, then obviously this is the biggest question. Why? Because Google Website Optimizer (let’s call it GWO for short) serves different pages to different users (up to 1000 variations). How does the Google bot behave towards it? What if it follows a link and gets a different page all the time? Will I lose rankings? Those are the questions you should be asking.

Here’s a clear answer by Tom Leung, Business Product Manager of the Google Website Optimizer team in an interview with conversion guru Brian Eisenberg:

Bryan Eisenberg: “Any time you do, any kind of multivariate, A/B testing, what will the Google search engine think of the page?”

Tom Leung: “Using the website optimizer in and of itself will not affect your Google search engine rankings, because the original content will still be there and be indexed as if you weren’t testing. However, if you use the test and if you find ways to give a better customer experience and then you implement those changes, then you should have every reason to believe that it will be reflected in a positive way in your rankings. Using the tool in and of itself won’t change your rankings one way or another.”

The answer is loud and clear. I have not tried testing the index page, so if you did, please let us know your experience (even with that guarantee I am VERY wary of testing the index since it’s the most important page of the website).

Also, here is a quote from ThreadWatch, quoting Google:

“Website Optimizer is designed to keep your original content visible in the HTML source code of your page at all times. As a result, your original content is visible to crawlers, which means there should be no major impact on search engine ranking.”

GWO and Google Search are integrated, and Google knows when you’re testing and won’t penalize you (an extremely WILD guess). On the other hand, once tests are successful and you implement changes to the original file, don’t be surprised if rankings change, either positively or negatively.

The setup is easy. First, choose the type of test you want to run – A/B Split or Multivariate.

Setting up an A/B Test

First, choose the page you want to test. Then, create an alternative version of that page. Name your experiment and identify the pages you want to test. Google will ask for the URL of the original and the URL of the test page (Google calls it Variation #). Copy and paste URLs into appropriate boxes.

Next, specify the conversion page. The conversion page is the page that users see when they complete your desired action (sale, sign up, download). The conversion page cannot be accessible from a link, search result, or any other way, but by completing your action (otherwise, it will mess up data).

At this point, Google will give you four script codes to install. These include one “control script” which will go on top of the source code (before the tag) and one tracking script, which will be positioned on the bottom of the source code (after the tag).  

Another script, for the variation page, will go on the bottom of your test page after the tag. And the fourth script must be placed at the very bottom of the conversion page. Add all the code and validate it.

Click continue and you’re done.

From now on, GWO will serve different versions of the page to different users. If you’re testing two pages (original + variation) then Google will split traffic 50/50. In the GWO control panel, you can view detailed reports, and pause and modify the test.

Setting up a multivariate test is trickier, and you will need basic HTML knowledge to pull it off. First, identify the page you want to test. It can be the index, product page, contact us, or any other page. Then select the page sections you would like to test, such as headlines, buttons, calls to action, etc.

Name your experiment and specify two pages for GWO – the page you want to test and the conversion page. If you want to test a headline, then the code would look like this:

<script>utmx_section(“specify ANY name here”)</script><h2>Qualifying for Home Equity Loan or Home Equity Line Of Credit</h2></noscript>

If you want to test an image or a button, then the code will look like this:

<script>utmx_section(“specify ANY name here “)<img src=”/images/home-equity2.jpg”></script>

Wrap ALL the elements you want to test with this script. When done, press continue. That’s where the fun begins.

In my test, I specified five headlines I want to test. Here’s how this looks inside Google Website Optimizer:

To add variations, simply click on Add New Variation. You can create as many variations as you desire. Keep in mind that all variations are tested against one another, so if you add three variations for five headlines (including originals), the total comes to 243-page variations. It will take some time to test all of them, and you will need a lot of traffic (at least a few thousand visitors per day).

Once you’re finished with the setup, you can check all the variations at once using the Google Website Optimizer test screen.

Next, specify the amount of traffic you would like to test > 100%, 75%, 50%, 25%, or 10%.

Press “Launch” and you’re done. Now it’s time to sit and wait for results.


Both an A/B split test and a multivariate test require time to determine the most effective page/combination. Metrics include estimated conversion rate, the chance of beating the original, observed improvement, and conversion rate/visitors.

Immediately after Google Website Optimizer was released, SEOs started to ask a question: does Google warrant cloaking? Since it provides software that helps serve different versions of the page, GWO can be considered a Cloaker from Google. Search Engine Land and other leading search publications had interesting posts with insightful discussions by industry gurus. Here’s a quote from Danny Sullivan (apparently he was quoting someone else, by the way):

“Test various pages, and keep showing spiders the original one during testing. Anyone not seeing what the spider sees is technically getting a cloaked page. Yes, as he notes, that’s what Google Website Optimizer does – so Google itself seems to be giving tacit approval to cloaking.”

So does Google warrant cloaking? The answer is still NO, as Google invented the tool to help small advertisers get more out of their AdWords campaigns.

More Articles and Resources Concerning Google Website Optimizer:

  • Grokcast: Google’s Tom Leung on the Google Website Optimizer
  • Google Optimizer – is it approved for cloaking?
  • Google Website Optimizer Now Available, But Is It Cloaking?
  • 5 Common misconceptions about the Google Website Optimizer
  • Landing Pages and Google’s Website Optimizer Patent Applications
  • Website Optimizer Help
  • Google Website Optimizer Plugin for WordPress
  • 64 Tips for Getting Started with Google Website Optimizer
  • Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics: A Perfect Marriage
  • ClickZ: Google Website Optimizer, Part 1
  • ClickZ: Google Website Optimizer, Part 2
  • Google Website Optimizer (beta) Forum

I recommend the tool to anyone serious about increasing their conversion rate, since conversion optimization and testing go hand in hand, and Google is giving you an enterprise-level tool for free.

DISCLAIMER: The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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