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Website Optimizer – Great Tool For Tracking CRO

If you have a Google Adwords account, you have access to the Website Optimizer tool that is a very nifty application to get a great idea of the Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). PPC campaigns nowadays do not come cheap and the crucial factor is to keep track of the conversion rate of your sales funnel.

The actual conversion process involves testing a landing page leading to a signup or filling in of a form or a thankyou page in the event of a successful sale of a product. With Website Optimizer, you can set up experiments that involve Multivariate testing or A/B testing to track which version of the landing page is pulling in the desired results.

The top ranking of a client’s website on the Google SERPs is often used to justify the success of a SEO firm’s efforts. Clients are also obsessed with their site rankings especially in the face of their competitors flying high on the SERPs which is a pretty natural human reaction. But rankings are not the ultimate way of judging the success of a website. Conversion of visitors into customers or visitors taking the necessary action is an ideal way to measure the success of a site’s SEO or PPC efforts.

The testing I did for a client involved switching between an original landing page and a completely new landing page in a PPC campaign. This is an example of A/B testing which is simpler version of testing with Website Optimiser. It is ideal to start with this test if you have lower traffic volume and gain faster results. The conversion in my experiment involved filling in a form.

Multivariate testing involves using the same landing page with changes to headings, call to action, placement of menu items, logos etc forming the variation of the original page. In effect, you are testing between variations of the same page to see which one results in the user taking the desired action and hence achieving the optimum measure of conversion.

When setting up the A/B experiment, fix the original landing page and a new landing page without any room for doubts as you will switch the traffic between these two pages. Then the conversion page is the page with the form that needs to be filled. It is handy to have a printout of the Website Optimizer help section for reference.

Steps to follow when setting up the experiment:
1) Choose your original landing page (let us denote it as OLP)

2) Create a totally different landing page (this is an A/B test) (denoted by DLP)

3) Choose your conversion page (denoted by CP)

4) Now comes the crucial part of installing the tags. These are pieces of javascript code that need to be installed on the different pages.
a) The control script is installed only on the original landing page, placed just after the head tag.
b) The tracking script is installed immediately before the closing body tag on all the three pages namely, OLP, DLP and CP.

5) Website Optimizer’s validation tool will check for errors in the installed tags. It does this in two ways. You can provide the URLs to your original and variation landing pages and the conversion page. If these pages are externally visible, Website Optimiser will access them and point out errors if any.

Alternatively, if Website Optimizer cannot access the pages on your live site, you can save and upload the HTML source files for your landing pages and conversion pages and allow Website Optimizer to validate them.

Once Website Optimizer validates the installed tags, it is time to start your experiment. Make one final check of your experiment settings. Once the experiment is started, you will not be able to change the experiment parameters. You would do well to ensure that the settings are as you intended them to be.

6) The last but not the least step is the % of traffic you wish to switch between your original landing page and the new landing page. I started off diverting 75% of the traffic to the new landing page and retaining the original landing page 25% of the time. Google advises to have a 100% switch in order to run the experiment faster and hence obtain results faster. It is entirely up to you to make the final decision.

After the activation of the experiment, when you click on Website Optimizer, you can see the name of the experiment (the naming is part of the guided process that Website Optimizer leads you through when setting up the experiment) and the Status column says – Running Collecting Data. There are links below it to edit settings and view the report. (screenshot attached below)

The View Report setting allows you to compare the performance of the original landing page and the new landing page. It shows how well or how badly the newer version is performing against the original. In the early days of my experiment, I saw a yellow colured bar which showed that testing was inconclusive.

There are three other columns namely Chance to beat original, Observed Improvement and Conversion/Visitors. As my experiment progressed, the new combination worked better and finally in 15 days, the green colored bar indicated that the new combination is a clear winner.

The Website Optimizer documentation says that if the Chance to bear Original column exceeds 95%, then you can safely assume that your new combination is a winner.

In my experiment, I had to install the script tags on a site run by WordPress. A great Website Optimizer WordPress plugin created by Filippo Toso makes it a breeze to install the tags.

The switching of the original landing page and the new landing page is applicable to all forms of traffic, be it organic or pay per click.

For example, if the original landing page forms part of your website and your new landing page is created specifically to target a PPC campaign and therefore not visible to users landing on your site through an organic search listing, remember that the original landing page will be switched to show the new landing page according to the traffic percentage value that you set in your experiment.

Again, depending on the complexity of your experiment, it can take more or less time for Website Optimizer to judge the winning combination.

Ravi Venkatesan is a senior SEO consultant at Netconcepts, an Auckland seo consultancy offering top quality organic search and paid search services to its clients in New Zealand and Australia.

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