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How Does Google Website Optimiser Work?

Dean Marsden

by Dean Marsden on 11th April 2011

Google’s Website Optimiser isn’t exactly the most publicised or widely used tool; however it can potentially get you double the amount of website conversions without any further investment. You are probably thinking Great! I want to double my website’s conversions for no investment! Well, let me tell you how it works…

It’s commonly referred to as A/B testing or Multivariate testing, however Google groups both names in a service called website optimisation. It’s simple concept that is relatively simple to implement. All that is required is at least one design and/or content variation of the web page you want to improve the conversions on.  Then it’s as simple as setting Google Website Optimiser to rotate which page is to be shown and the results are gathered.

Creating an A/B test

Here’s a brief step by step process of setting up a website optimiser experiment:

  1. Make a duplicate of your test page
  2. On the duplicate(s) try altering any of the following:
    • Images
    • Headings
    • Copy text
    • Position of elements
    • Sizes of text
    • Sizes of images
    • Colour of text
    • Typeface of text
    • Anything really…
  3. Identify a goal page that will be the completion of a conversion, this could be:
    • An eCommerce checkout page
    • A contact page
    • A newsletter signup page
    • A download page
  4. Create a new experiment
  5. Enter the URLs of the original page, variant pages and the conversion page
  6. Install the generated javascript tracking code on to each page within the experiment; this includes the original test page and the goal page. This code will record the visits and choose which page to display.
  7. You can now preview the pages and start the experiment so that is it live

Multivariate Tests

Multivariate experiments let you add many more combinations of headings, images and content dynamically through Google’s system. It can be useful to test many different combinations at once if your website receives high amounts of traffic so that you can save time. Straight forward A/B testing is recommended for websites with lower traffic as experiments show more accurate results the longer they are run.

The Results

The results of a website optimiser experiment are really quite simple to visualise. A measurement bar shows an increase or decrease in conversion rates for each page variation relative to the original. Other data provided by the experiment results further provide you with useful information:

  • The probability that the variant will beat the original’s conversion rate
  • The percentage improvement of conversions over the original page’s number of conversions
  • The actual number of conversions vs. the number of visits


You may think you have invested time into designing the perfect page, but only your visitors can truly tell you that. Sure your page may look good and be easy to use, but changing just the slightest colour or position can dramatically increase website conversions.

Conversion Rate Optimisation through Google Website Optimiser is a highly effective way to provide higher Returns on Investment (ROI).

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden will be keeping you up to speed with video marketing and conversion rate optimisation. Dean excels at delivering video marketing solutions for clients and specialises in converting website visitors into customers.

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  • Samantha Noble

    Sam 12th April 2011

    I would also like to add here that one of the key things to remember with CRO is to exclude the ‘test’ page in your robots.txt file. You don’t want to risk having the test page indexed in the main results (duplicate content, old information etc).

    An easy way to do this is to add all your test pages into a separate folder called ‘Tests’ and disallow the whole folder in the robots.txt file.

    Reply to this comment

  • Dean Marsden

    Dean 13th April 2011

    Yes, great idea Sam

    Reply to this comment

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