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Review: Google’s Website Optimizer a Slick New Tool Worth Trying

Category : paid search, search engine marketing


Why isn’t the Google Website Optimizer getting more attention? I think the tool has real potential. I’ve had the opportunity to test it the last few weeks and I think Google has really developed something useful here. Finding content that converts on landing pages and improving Quality Score are just a couple of the perks I see right off the bat.

The Website Optimizer is built into the Google Adwords interface and helps you find out which content will convert best on your landing pages. Lead generation forms, newsletter sign-ups, purchases are all examples of conversions that are tracked. If you’re using Adwords you may already be tracking conversions with their Conversion Tracker. The Optimizer tool only enhances the service by telling you which combinations of graphics and text lead to those tracked conversions. What is really slick about this tool is that it takes care of revolving options for the different elements you are testing. Want to test three different headlines and two images? Just input those options into the Optimizer and it will revolve them on your live site. Over time the tool tracks which combination of headline and image converts the most.

Here’s my rundown of the process. Note, I’m not a web developer and have only limited experience with coding. But, if you’re a small business marketing manager, you’re probably at a similar level. Despite some complexities with my site, I’d rank the Optimizer very high for ease and explanation.

The first step is identifying which pages will be tracked. The screen looks like this:

Pretty basic. You name the experiment, identify the url of the page you’ll be testing, and identify the url of the conversion page – i.e. the page the customer gets to that you designated as a conversion. Thank you page, document download page, etc. are examples.

Step 2 is tagging the test and conversion pages with the Google code. The first option impressed me the most – the option to have the tagging information prepared for you or for your web team. The screen looks like this:


Excellent option! If you have someone that takes care of your site, simply pass on the url provided by the optimizer with the necessary instructions. Otherwise, if you’re up to it, give it a shot yourself.

I tried it myself and was impressed with the explanations given. You’ll need to install a large block of javascript code on the test page, tags around page items you’re testing such as headlines or images, and finally tracking code on the test page and the conversion page. I think on most websites, this will be a breeze. I ran into some trouble because my company’s site utilizes XML and the code Google provides did not get along real well with the XML. They provide an unbalanced script tag that looks something like this for a headline:


Apparently, unbalanced script tags and XML don’t play well together. I had to turn it over to the company that helped develop our site and they came up with a solution. If you run into a similar problem, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I’ll go further into the solution with you.

The last part of step 2 is simply having Google check to make sure everything is in place which they do pretty easily.

Step 3 walks you through creating variations. Again, a very easy process. I chose to test a headline, an image, and some text on top of a form on my test page. The tool shows you the original headline or image based on your page code and walks you through adding variations. A preview page also lets you try all the combinations together to see how they will look.

From then on it’s smooth sailing. You can watch the results of your experiment by seeing conversions by combination or conversions by page sections (headline, image, etc.). Both give you good insight into what elements work the best together to give you the most conversions.

One thing I thought would be handy to add to the tracking page would be a bounce rate tracker which told you which combinations caused people to leave the site right away and which combinations led them further into the site even if they didn’t convert for you.

Overall, for a service that is bundled in with Adwords, you can’t beat it. It gives you a chance to find out which pieces of content or images are of most interest to your customers. Yes, there are other services that do this for you and I’m sure some have many more features, but I like this because it’s built into Adwords and I don’t have to pay any more to use it. Thumbs up to Google on this!

Surprisingly, I haven’t seen too much blog posting about this. Any thoughts on why? It’s a major addition to Adwords. I did see Diana, Michael, Andrew, and Nancy post information and reviews on the Optimizer. Geordie Carswell also threw out an invite to offer input on the tool as he’d not seen much either. Here are a couple of other resources for those interested in giving it a try.

If you know of other good reviews or have thoughts of your own, please let me know. I’ll add good links to the post as my intent is for this to be a resource for people considering the Optimizer. I’m curious to know if others see this as a great addition or if you’ve had issues and concerns.

Comments (27)

Pat – do you know if this will be a free tool included in Adwords? Either way, I think I have to try this out. Thanks for the how-to!

Hey Aimee, I do believe it is included with the Adwords account – at least that is how it’s currently set up for me. The information page for the Optimizer also indicates that it’s free.

I’ve been using GWO since November 2006. I just wrote up some advanced tips and tricks to help people think out of the box. There is a lot of stuff you can do with GWO that’s not so obvious.

google website optimizer tips and tricks


[...] Meanwhile, here are a couple good looks at two services from the Google: Jeremy Luebke has a First Look at Google Audio (Radio) Ads and Patrick Schaber provides a movie review-style title in his post, Google’s Website Optimizer: A Slick New Tool Worth Trying. Like, seriously, you can see the quote in Google’s next ad already: “Slick New Tool Worth Trying” — Patrick Schaber [...]

[...] Nice look inside website optimizer. [...]

Great write up Patrick. I’ve had a blog post in draft for months now, but looks like you beat me to it :)

There will be a lot of assistance required when the tool comes out of beta, I’m just glad we got a head start.

Dave – Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Please put up your post on the tool – I’d love to read another point of view. There isn’t much being written on it. When you get it posted leave another comment with the link so my readers can see it as well.

Ophir – Great tips on GWO! Thanks for providing the link.

There’s a new Google group about Google Optimizer. Sounds like a good place for general discussion about it :)


[...] Google announced today that their Talk gadget was now more "standalone" than previous versions.  Like the old Talk gadget, the new one can be embedded in a Google personalized start page or external website.  But the new version can be launched into its own window and it functions more like a standard application than a web-based gadget.  And on a completely different front, Inside AdSense announced the addition of a new message center in the AdSense control panel.  Google will analyze each AdSense account once a month and deliver "customized" messages with suggestions for ways to improve AdSense performance.  It should be interesting to see exactly how "customized" these recommendations are.  And finally, Inside AdWords announced that the Google Website Optimizer has been rolled out to all AdWords users.  The Website Optimizer is Google's multivariate testing tool.  More information can be found in the announcement and in this previously-mentioned article by Patrick Schaber.  Oh yeah… and Google Desktop is now available for the Mac. [...]


For anyone interested in getting started with Google Website Optimizer we’ve created a bunch of resources including: a WordPress plugin that makes it easy for you to use GWO with wordpress, a webinar on 7 tips to boost ROI with testing, an interview with Tom Leung Product Manager for Google Website Manager, a quick start guide and more. You can find them at http://www.grokdotcom.com/googlewebsiteoptimizer

Thanks, Bryan! Those are great resources you guys have put together. Thanks for offering them up. I’ll add them to the actual post.

Hi Patrick,

Great review!

Hopefully you’ll enjoy my ‘101 Google Website Optimizer Tips‘.

[...] Using Google Website Optimizer (The Lonely Marketer)  [...]

Anything that helps to see what is really going on and is free has got to be a benefit

maybe its because its still a new tool and most people who arent into the seo/sem havent tried it yet to have the word go around.

It is free and comes with nice user interface. Great tool for smb owners whom do not possess advanced programming and SEO knowledge.

I’ve been doing SEO for years and hadn’t really taken much notice of the tool even though I knew it was available. Needless to say I dont use Adwords very much these days.

Now that I’ve read your post I went back and had a better look and as you suggest the benefits are becoming a little clearer. Not only for clients but in terms of sales copy.

Thanks for the info, much appreciated.

Excellent Info! I’ve used http://www.Boostviews.com ….they seem to do a decent job.

The Google website optimizer is a handy tool to use for free.

I personally don’t trust software like this. I always thought optimisation should be done manually.

This tool has just been released from beta! And regarding the comment above – how can you do multivariate testing by hand?

loan information and more…

That is an interesting article. In our experience website owners find it difficult to understand visitor behaviour even with good systems such as Google Analytics.

We have recently come across an excellent piece of software that not only allows them to monitor individual user behaviour in real time, but also facilitates direct engagement between visitor and user. This has been increasing conversions by an average of 15% in the websites we have implemented it in.

It seems that the individualised data gives a more enlightening perspective.

I think that GWO is quite good to give you a general indication of how your website will convert with the changes you make.

However, I don’t think anything will beat split testing to see what works and what doesn’t.

An interesting article and has led me to try out GWO. I’ve found it helpfull on some websites i’ve built but there are other optimization programs out there that are more advanced, easier to use and get better results however there not free.