Did you hear the news? Google is retiring its website optimizer product, replacing it with Google Analytics Content Experiments.
What does this mean for conversion optimization?
I asked website optimization expert Rich Page to weigh in on the changes:
I think Content Experiments is a step backwards for existing testers and users of Google Website Optimizer, particularly because there is no MVT ability anymore. There are also a few limits, including a maximum of 6 variations per test. The only big useful improvement I see is the ability to choose any of your existing analytics goals as your converion goal (this was limited in Google Website Optimizer). However, for people who are new to testing, it should help raise the profile of testing, at least.
Google states we can expect more changes and updates to its tool - let's hope MVT (multivariate testing) makes a comeback. In the meantime, to accommodate MVT, GWO users should explore the other tools out there. In his recently launched book Website Optimization: An Hour A Day, Rich rounds up the alternative players in the testing space:
Mid-Level Testing Tools
This is a newer testing tool that is a step up from Google Website Optimizer in terms of its feature set. This tool is perfect for markets and designers who like tools with visual editors, because it has a great visual interface that allows you to easily design tests. Another benefit of this tool is that it allows you to easily implement tests on your website with minimal technical changes needed. You simply make the visual changes and then add some simple code on the pages that you want to test, and the tool takes care of everything else for you, including running the test and reporting on it.
Service plans are fairly low cost, and based on how much traffic your tests get, also offer extra functionality at the higher service levels. Plans start at $19 for the basic level and features, all the way up to $400 per month for sites with high traffic and users who want all the advanced features.
This is another great visual design tool that lets you actually design tests based on your current pages, by rearranging and making edits to your pages using a simple to use WYSIWYG editor. It then gives you simple tags to place on your website for the version you just visually created, and then it begins showing the test variations to your visitors and running the test.
It also offers click maps for when you want to see what your visitors are clicking on during your tests, and basic visitor segmentation. This tool is very easy to use for someone who is new to testing and is relatively cheap with plans starting at $49 per month.
This testing tool is particularly valuable and unique. Unbounce allows you to create and test new web pages, rather than your existing pages like most other testing tools do. Unbounce lets you easily create your own pages (called landing pages) from a library of landing page templates that have built-in website optimization best practices. it then allows you to test different elements and even hosts them for you on their web servics. All you have to do is send traffic to these new pages to start testing and converting your visitors.
This tool is particularly ideal if you are selling single products or srvices that have a lead generation for and want to test and optimize them. It is also well suited to creating and tesitng paid search landing pages. A great benefit of this tool is that it requires no knowledge of programming code to creat the landing page and run teh tests and is much quicker to set up than any other testing tool. It's also fairly cheap to use.
Enterprise Testing Tools
These testing tools offer advanced functionality and flexibility as well as full support and consulting to help with test implementation and test strategy. However, because of these advanced features, thse tools can often be very expensive and many companies will need to build a case for needing these tools.
This tool is considered by many to have the most functionality of all website testing tools. As the tool name suggests, in addition to offering testing functionality, this tool also offers great visitor targeting capabilities to target groups of your visitors and show them more relevant content. This usually increases the chance of them engaging and converting on your website. This tool also features the great ability to automate which best-performing content to show to your visitors, thus taking a lot of the manual work out of pushing winners live to various groups of your visitors.
This tool also integrates well with Adobe's SiteCatalyst web analytics tool. This enables you to perform more in-depth test analysis if needed in SiteCatalyst, and to use any advanced visitor segments from SiteCatalyst to better segment and target your tests.
This tool is considered the other major enterprise testing website tool and is gaining rapid market share. It offers very similar functionality to the Adobe Test&Target tool, although it doesn't offer as many targeting capabilities, and its integrated analytics offering doesn't compare to the functionality of integrating Test&Target with Adobe Site Catalyst.
It does have some unique selling points, particularly its ability to easily create and test landing pages for paid search and email marketing purposes, and its strong banner ad testing capabilites. It also has a relatively simple implementation in comparison to other enterprise offerings, with an easy to set up single line of code able to test multple pages elements.
Optimost also comes with great consulting services to help with test implementation and strategy, and it also offers a full-service approach to your testing that will do everything for you, including test strategy and test implementation.
This enterprise testing tool has a very unique website testing proposition that can often help remove technical barriers to implementing a testing tool (a common issue). This is because this tool actually runs behind the scenes and not directly on your website and requires no actual code on your website to test. This means that once you have set it up once, it is very easy to perform tests anywhere on your website. However, some organizations find it hard to work with their unique style of implementation, because it requires all your traffic to flow through their platform first in order to serve up the tests.
This tool has strong and unique features to help optimize your mobile website offerings and a great feature to help speed up your website performance, thus helping to increase engagement and conversions. However, this tool lacks some of the advanced testing functionality of Optimost and Test&Target. In particular, it lacks good targeting capabilities and doesn't offer any in-house website analytics features. Overall, this tool is worth considering, particularily if you have complicated technical issues that limite your ability to add test code to your website.
This enterprise tesitng tool isparticularly great for ecommerce websites. It has a great built-in CRM system and merchandising feature that allows you to test and optimize product placement. All of those features are essential for fully optimizing ecommerce websites. However, because it has so many diverse features, the testing capabilities aren't as sophisticated as some of the other leading enterprise testing tools.
This tool also prides itself on its great easy-to-use interface, which is ideal for online marketers. Also, it requires very little technical work to make this tool work on your website, with just a simple code snippet needed for your website to use all its features. overall, this testing tool is definitely worth considering if you have an ecommerce website.
Want to read the entire first chapter of Website Optimization: An Hour A Day? Follow Rich on Twitter and receive a your free copy of chapter one. More than just a book on testing process, it contains a soup-to-nuts overview of how to optimize your website head to toe. (Disclosure: I was involved in the technical editing of this book.)