22 August 2007

Putting Limitations in Their Place in Google Website Optimizer

This appears to be an area where I'm finding new and exciting things to discuss with regard to the ability to run multivariate tests on page elements within a site. In the spirit of Google and its pursuit of excellence in business and academia, and its willingness to allow us to push the limitations imposed upon us by ourselves, I've decided to open a post with the idea of having people respond with possible obstacles to their testing which they have conceived of, and have prevented them from executing a test in GWO. Here's how it works:

You tell me the situation: You, your boss, or some smart-(insert posterior here) in your office has created a mental block to performing a high-level, and very useful multivariate test or A/B test which, if run, could produce a multitude of insights and win you office praise, and put the cherry on your bonus. You have Google Website Optimizer and a thorough understanding of the major points which promote your ability to test. If only this one thing, this tiny script or tag, or placement, or file type wasn't there, you would be all set. What is that thing, that, Bucky Dent of a item which is a severe detriment to your intracubicle ticker-tape parade?

We Take a Look: You, me and the boss....my boss. We sit down and examine the test. In doing so, we will carefully look into your problem and create a version of the problem outside of your live site. Then, we'll go to work building the solution necessary for you to get exactly what you want out of the test without a serious loss of resources; mainly time and money.

We Form A Plan: When we've come up with some theoretical work-arounds for the problems which we plan on eliminating, we'll implement them in a basic operational test. At this point, we'll also choose the appropriate place to collect success (thank you page, cart addition, proxy page, etc) Let'em rip without a sincere impact on your live traffic or their variations. This will cost you a spot on your Google Website Optimizer list, which means nothing and costs less. But it will confuse you if you go back and wonder why you have multiple tests with the same name. Be ready.

Launch the Test: After the tests produce acceptable results, we'll launch the fully-prepared test. This includes plimping your multivariate test to the thousands of visitors who will (or not) react to the output bringing back valuable stats to your interface. In a few days, we'll check up to ensure that you're getting the right stats and collecting what you need.

Allow for Completion: As a rule, we try to not look at the test progress on these everyday. We suggest the same, simply for the preservation of sanity. Looking at the way these items interact and change and progress can be like watching a horserace in ultra-high speed film. By that I mean, the suspense is terrible, and it goes on forever. You start to formulate hypotheses about events which aren't really ocurring and a whole slew of other non-useful behaviors.

Analyze Results: Take a good look at what the outcome was. Go back and verify your files to ensure that you received all the collection tags as they were executed. Then, use your information to make a follow-up experiment. Avinash implies in his book that you can narrow these from the field earlier on than the completion of the test, but, for our methodology, we will not. Take the top five variations and a 'dog' or two, and place them out again to verify the results.

Something for nothing is a great idea at family retreats and picnics at the park, but it doesn't work that way. So, for the effort of putting together a test and its strategy, we're going to ask you for two things, which, considering the payoff, may be extremely cheap for the return and praise you may receive. We'll discuss it when you have a chance to write me on the blog or in the Yahoo! Group.

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