Google Optimize is an extremely useful tool for anyone running an e-commerce sit.
Not only is it free, but it has easy to use, built-in features that are powerful for A/B testing.
Although there are a slew of tools available under the Google Optimize umbrella, in this article I am going to review my top 5 favorite features for A/B testing, and walk you through how they have helped my company GoldTree Consulting unlock growth on our clients’ websites.
What Is Google Optimize?
Google Optimize gives you, the website owner, a chance to play scientist.
By experimenting with different versions of your website, you can learn about your audience’s tastes, preferences, and what appeals to them most.
All you have to do is set up a pre-specified objective such as revenue or bounce rate, and Google Optimize will test variants against each other to identify which version is most engaging. You can then implement the leading version on a wide-scale, which is vital to securing more conversions in the form of clicks, downloads, purchases, or leads.
Congratulations, you have just run your first AB test! Now you are ready to hone in on specific features.
1. Google Analytics Integrations
In order to access Google Optimize’s full functionality, it must be linked to your Google Analytics (GA) account.
The easiest way to understand the difference between Google Optimize and Google Analytics is this: Optimize runs the experiments while Analytics provides the data.
While it is possible to have Analytics without Optimize, that’s like having peanut butter without the jelly, it’s just not as good.
When paired together, Analytics and Optimize allow you to have a centralized, integrated platform where Optimize builds and runs the test while Analytics tells you which variant is performing best based on the data you are tracking (revenue, conversion rate, average order value, etc).
With most A/B testing tools, you need to have an engineer integrate the tool with your Google Analytics data. Most of these A/B testing tools require you to set up goals and conversions via development scripts.
But with Google Optimize, just a simple click of a button will integrate these two platforms, removing all the work required on other A/B testing tools to ensure accurate conversion tracking.
So whatever you need to track－ from Google Analytics to Shopify, Woocommerce to Recharge, Salesforce, Salesforce to INSERT and more－ will be easy to do in Google Optimize.
There is a step-by-step guide to linking your Google Analytics to Google Optimize here.
2. Visual EditorGoogle Optimize’s visual editor tool is a WYSIWYG (“What You See Is What You Get”) system which allows you to edit visual components of your web page and see the changes in real time. In other words, as you make interface changes to your web page, the visual editor reflects those changes so you can see what the finished page will look like right then and there. You are skipping over all the messy code and going straight to the end result, which is a huge time-saver when your goal is visual flow and efficiency. More importantly, it removes the barrier to entry for individuals with a non-technical background to leverage Google Optimize. Want to try new copy on the home page or move one section above another? These are both easy changes for anyone to make with the visual editor. However, more complicated A/B tests will require an engineer to implement the code in a clean and bug-free manner, so always consult your engineer when making more drastic changes (pop-ups, animations, checkout flow changes, and the like.) More in-depth info about using the visual editor can be found in this tutorial.
3. Google Tag ManagerUnless you specify otherwise, the only thing Google Analytics will track is the most basic of basic functionalities (page view, browser, etc.) But there’s so much more available than that. That’s where Google Tag Manager (GTM) comes in. By implementing this tool, you will tap into the power of tags. Tags are configurations that tell GA what to track, including, for example, CTAs (clicks), form submissions, and scroll depth. There are nearly endless trackable tags on any given website, so having clear-cut, specific tags is essential to answering the question: “How are users behaving on my page?” It’s important to note that Google actually recommends you implement Optimize using Google Tag Manager. There are many benefits to keeping everything under the Google Suite house (Google Analytics, Google Optimize, and Google Tag Manager). Some of these benefits include:
- Seamless integrations
- Accurate data tracking
- Scalable updates
- Simple authentication and log-in
- Improved security
4. Reporting in GAOnce you run your A/B test, GA will take the results and generate a detailed report. The report paints a picture of user behavior on your website, so it should not be taken lightly. Each category of the report will provide a different kind of data set. For example, what are my user demographics? How do users navigate throughout my website and how long are they spending on each page? Where are my website “hot spots” and where are the friction points? The data gleaned here will highlight what’s working and what isn’t. Google Optimize also allows you to create a “segment” based on the designated variant from your A/B test. Creating a segment gives you access to all of the data Google Analytics offers, which in turn will help you understand the exact differences between each test variation. I will talk more about segments in the next section, but the high-level overview is that this information allows you to confidently identify what changed in users’ behaviors between each variant. I find it extremely hard for any other A/B testing tool to duplicate this level of detail for testing variants. More on reporting in GA can be found here.
5. Audience Targeting
Finally, we have audience targeting.
This function allows you to narrow in on certain segments of your audience, and then target users based on those segments. This can include anything from location, to behavior, to type of device.
Audience targeting is especially helpful when you want to make changes around the way a certain segment sees your site without disrupting the site as a whole.
For example, if a feature of your site isn’t working properly on mobile, audience targeting will let you change the mobile version without changing desktop. This ensures each user is having a customized, personal experience with your site.
One of the more complex uses of audience targeting includes something called user time frames.
User time frames allow you to show users a variant based on when they last visited your site. For example, you can present a specific pop-up to users who come back to your site 24 hours later through an email campaign or a retargeting campaign.
This level of customization is possible thanks to Google Optimize, and will be key to unlocking new growth on your site.
Learn more about audience targeting here.