Editor’s note: We recently launched an improvement that makes over 60 additional Google services available to Google Apps users. This series showcases what’s new and how your organization can benefit.

Welcome to Google Website Optimizer
Making changes to your website can be a challenge. Websites are often built with little data available in the design phase but once the site launches, tracking tools such as Google Analytics can provide tons of information about visitor behavior, and can highlight areas that aren’t performing as expected. But how will you know what kind of revisions will better achieve your goals? How can you be confident that changes won’t actually result in worse performance? How can you reconcile the different ideas that stakeholders throughout your company contribute about what the site should look like? Now, Google Apps users can address these questions using Google Website Optimizer for free with their Google Apps accounts.

Google Website Optimizer is a tool that lets you eliminate guesswork from website design by testing variations of your webpages. When you identify a page that might need a change, you can create alternate versions of that page and use Google Website Optimizer to send a fraction of the users visiting your website to each alternate version. Website Optimizer then runs an analysis to tell you how visitors to each version of the webpage behave. With this data, you can make much more informed decisions about website updates.

The key advantages of running website tests using Google Website Optimizer are:
  • Base website design decisions on data, not intuition. You probably hear a different opinion about what’s best for your website from each person you ask. Controlled tests provide objective data that can be used to support or disprove different hypotheses.

  • Try multiple ideas at the same time, instead of just one. Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, Google Website Optimizer lets you test many ideas at once and pick the winner as it emerges.

  • Experiment, with a safety net. If the new page you are testing performs well, you can keep that page and maintain the conversion gains. If the new page doesn’t perform well, you can easily stop the test. Google Website Optimizer even monitors page performance and can be set up to automatically disable website variations that begin to perform worse than your original page.

Take, for example, our landing page for a Google Maps Driving Directions widget. The team wanted more visitors to add the widget, but wasn’t sure what design elements would work best. Using Google Website Optimizer, the team ran an experiment to compare the original page to three alternate designs. You can see the four versions below (including the original in the top left):

The result? The Google Maps team found that the lower right-hand design outperformed the original with a 75% conversion rate increase, meaning more users added the widget. Google Website Optimizer made it easy to select the best version of the webpage.

Learn more and get started
Google Website Optimizer can be enabled by your domain administrator from the Google Apps Control Panel at https://www.google.com/a/[your_domain.com] (replace [your_domain.com] with your actual domain name). If your organization isn’t using Google Apps yet, you can learn more and sign up today at http://www.google.com/apps/more.

You can learn more about using Website Optimizer from the team’s Help Center, and more technical users should also read the Techie Guide to Website Optimizer (PDF). You can also follow the latest news about Google Website Optimizer on our team blog.

Share your story
Have you already started using Google Website Optimizer at your organization, or plan to now that it’s available? Please share your story and your organization could be featured in the next Gone Google ad campaign!

Note: Google Website Optimizer may not be available in all areas.