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Experimenting with Multivariate Testing from A Merchant’s Perspective

Posted on October 28, 2009 by Zach

A couple of months ago our awesome Adwords team was able to hook us up with five free hours of assistance from a third party to help train and setup Google Website Optimizer tests. We had mentioned to them that we were interested in trying some tests but did not have much experience in doing so and through that conversation they were able to help get us resources to get started. Looking back (as we are collecting the final data from our first test) having that help was invaluable. With that in mind I wanted to share the steps we took with the third party to get things going before our first test kicked off.

First, get familiarized with Google Website Optimizer (GWO). There are several resources available in video and written forms which explain how it works and what needs to be done.

Second, review the website for tests which might be a good jumping off point. Typically, good first tests are variations of an add-to-cart or checkout button, text location or color, banner / promotion variations, etc. For the first test you want something which is easy to setup and has many creatable variations as to get some experience before moving onto more complex tests.

Third, open up your GWO account and start to setup the test. This will include tasks like, telling GWO what kind of test you want to run, and installing the tracking codes on the test and order complete pages.

Fourth, the variations of what is going to be tested need to be created, reviewed and loaded to GWO. At least for multivariate tests GWO handles what code gets swapped out, be it an image or text. Once the codes are in place for the test, developers don't need to be the ones setting up all of the variations as they are created inside the GWO console. All of the buttons, badges, text, etc. will need to be created though (get your designer on the horn ahead of time) and setup inside of the GWO interface. Depending on where your developer setup the test codes it may require a little HTML or CSS knowledge but nothing too crazy.

Fifth, once everything is setup and ready to roll you’ll want to make sure to test that all of the codes are setup (especially the conversion tracking), and then use the preview tool in GWO to preview how all of the variations will look. Test! Test! Test! You don't want to turn on a multi variant test which does not work, has broken variations or takes your site down.

Finally, kick off the test and let the data roll in! Remember that depending on site traffic and how many variations are being tested it could take days or weeks to get enough data for GWO to show recommendations about which variations are the best.

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