Getting Started with Google Optimize, Part 1: Introduction

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When we look at the Google Analytics™ ecosystem, we see a variety of tools designed to help businesses grow by effectively measuring and managing their digital presence. Tools like Google Tag Manager help us standardize and speed up our tracking. Google Analytics helps us measure our efforts. Google Data Studio simplifies reporting and dashboards within the Google ecosystem.

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However, the one neglected component of the Google ecosystem that marketers routinely and incorrectly avoid is Google Optimize. In this series, we’ll examine Google Optimize, what it does, why we should be using it, and set up our first test together.

What is Google Optimize?

Google Optimize is a website testing tool. If you’ve ever run an A/B test in email or on your website, you get the gist of Google Optimize.

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It allows us to set up tests on our website to determine what works best for generating conversions, digital actions we want people to take.

Why Should We Use Google Optimize?

The reality of audience preferences is that we often don’t know what will work best to generate conversions. We may spend inordinate amounts of time on creative designs and marketing copy, but there’s no guarantee our efforts will deliver maximum impact.

Testing tools like Google Optimize help us answer these questions by setting up tests to determine what works best. As a very simple example, suppose we have a button on our website that asks people to fill out a form. What color should the button be?

Some studies show that primary colors, especially red, attract visual attention and create high contrast. Other studies and guides suggest avoiding colors with negative connotations and associations. Given enough time, we could find conflicting information about every possible choice we could make for our website design. How do we choose?

This is where Google Optimize comes in. With Google Optimize, we would set up a test with multiple colors. Everyone who wants a say in what color button we should be using could have a test set up, and Google Optimize will show every variation to our site visitors. In time, we’d gather enough data to demonstrate one of several outcomes:

  • A specific color on our site works best
  • A set of colors work best
  • Color doesn’t matter

Based on our findings, we’d make the appropriate changes.

What Makes Google Optimize Better?

We don’t necessarily need Google Optimize to run the example above; a website developer could set up random testing on our site for a simple interface change. However, suppose we wanted to test more than one variation at a time? Could we? In theory, yes, but the statistical rigor needed to perform such a test accurately is beyond most marketing teams. Google Optimize has it built in.

Google Optimize also permits us to test many different aspects of our site, not just simple interface changes.

  • Suppose we want to test different copy and images together? We can.
  • Suppose we want to test combinations in sets? We can.
  • Suppose we want to test only to certain audiences, like social media audiences? We can (though some limits apply to the free edition).

Third, Google Optimize, once set up, doesn’t require us to edit our website directly. This is a huge deal for companies where the website isn’t run by marketing; at many larger firms, IT still runs the website and the process for approvals to make changes can take weeks or months. With Google Optimize, once it’s deployed, we can test without needing IT support or making permanent changes to our website until we reach some conclusive results.

Finally, and most importantly for many users, Google Optimize is free of financial cost for most use cases and scenarios.

Next: The Testing Process

In the next post in this series, we’ll cover what things to test; rushing ahead to start a test can do more harm than good if we don’t know what to test for. Stay tuned!

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