The Official Google Website Optimizer Blog - The most up-to-date product news, industry insights, and testing strategies

Test Before You Accessorize

Thursday, May 29, 2008 5/29/2008 11:45:00 PM

These days there seems to be an infinite number of things you can add to your site. News alert widgets, embedded videos, click to call buttons, talking avatars, verified testimonials: you can add anything you think of to help your visitors get more from their experience on your site.

Intuitively, we know that some widgets are helpful, some may not make a difference, and some may actually be distracting. Separating the wheat from the chaff is one thing that a website-testing tool can help you do with much more certainty than you'd get from case studies, best practices or sales pitches.

For example, Dale and Thomas Popcorn used a trust seal on their checkout process for years and assumed it was effectively encouraging visitors to buy their gourmet popcorn. One day, a sales representative from another major trust-seal company called to suggest that Dale and Thomas "upgrade" their seal to the one the sales rep was promoting. The rep argued that even though his seal was more expensive, the resulting increase in sales would more than pay for the difference in cost.

When faced with such a decision, one possible strategy could have been for the Dale and Thomas marketing manager to call some industry colleagues and ask for reviews of the sales rep's proposed seal. It's far from ideal, though, to base a big decision on a few opinions.

Instead, the marketing manager made her decision based on data. She happened to be using Website Optimizer for the first time when the sales rep called again, and rather than saying she wasn't interested or signing up on the spot, she ran an experiment with the following traffic split:
  • one-third of visitors saw the original trust seal
  • one-third saw the new one
  • one-third saw no seal at all
She compared the purchasing rates of the three groups. When the test ended, she discovered that having no seal at all did in fact perform worse, but the difference between her current seal and the new one was almost indistinguishable—certainly less than the added cost of the more expensive seal. Good thing she ran her test. Dale and Thomas could instead use the money they would have spent "upgrading" their trust seal to make more efficient marketing investments to drive their business.