Google Unwraps Multi-Variate Site Testing, Anoints Partners

Google has released a site optimization product it’s calling the “third leg” in a stool that includes its flagship AdWords product as well as Google Analytics.

Previously available in limited beta, the company’s Website Optimizer is a free tool to test and switch out Web site offers and other content with the goal of producing the highest possible conversions. Now available to all AdWords customers, the product will go head to head with enterprise software platforms, most of which are beyond the budgetary reach of mid-sized businesses.

“The main problem we’re trying to solve is to get people out of the dark ages in terms of how they develop pages,” Tom Leung, Google’s product manager for Website Optimizer, told ClickZ News. “All too often, they’ll just put a page together and maybe the designer will do a few mock-ups, and they’ll point to the one they feel is going to be the best one.”

Leung says the goal is to help marketers convert their Web sites into a “living laboratory” and expressed the hope it will improve the usability of the Internet overall. Sites will, theoretically, provide more of what online consumers are looking for.

To facilitate adoption of Optimizer among marketers unfamiliar with multivariable testing, Google has anointed five partner companies with trusted consultant status. FutureNow, Optimost, EpikOne, ROI Revolution, and will consult with site owners on what to test, and how to evaluate results.

The relationship with Optimost is a surprise. The company was an early pioneer of multi-variate testing and offers its own competitive technology. Leung said Google and Optimost locked elbows to serve leads and inquiries from customers who ultimately can’t afford the latter’s technology. These leads the firm will refer to Google and support as a consultant.

The jury’s out on whether Google’s solution can eventually replace such large-scale platforms. Leung implies it can. “One of those guys can theoretically handle 100,000 page variations. We go up to 10,000.” However, he added, any marketer testing 10,000 or more variations would be in the .001 percentile, a tiny fraction of the market for landing page optimization services.

Participants in Site Optimizer’s beta test period include kitchen clothing retailer KNG International. After using the optimizer to test “a few layout changes,” KNG increased its conversion rate on aprons and poofy white hats from 3 percent of users filling out a “Contact Us” form to 7 percent. Another tester was PC World, which used the product to optimize its homepage design and, according to Leung, expressed happiness with results.

Google has also deployed the tool in the service of its own divisions, including AdWords, Picasa, and Gmail. For AdWords and Picasa, Leung said, the company experienced double digit increases in conversions.

Bryan Eisenberg, co-founder of consulting partner FutureNow and a longtime ClickZ columnist, said his firm held off on being a Google Analytics partner, given it had relationships with older vendors, but jumped at the chance to join the Website Optimizer Authorized Consultants program.

“When Analytics came out, the analytics vendors were firmly entrenched,” he told ClickZ. “In terms of optimization, none of the players are firmly entrenched.”

This story has been updated to reflect that Google experienced double-digit increases in conversions on AdWords and Picasa after implementing Website Optimizer, not a doubling of conversions, as was previously stated.

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