Multivariate Testing

Posted By: cody

Last Updated: Monday March 23, 2009

**WARNING** The formatting on this post is lackluster - once again who am I to fight against the ways of WordPress? Hopefully the point / useful information gets across. I haven’t checked the spelling in this post either - so don’t kill me if you find a typo.

I’ve recently been fiddling around with multivariate testing on several websites I run (including Hawk Host) and I though it may prove to be a useful blog post for our customers. Here I’ll explain how to setup multi-variant testing using Google Site Optimizer and a simple web page (though you can apply it to any page / website).

Step One

After signing up for Google Site Optimizer sit down and decide on which portions of your website / webpage you want to subject to testing. Usually this is something like the a header, image, description or something along those lines. For example I’m currently utilizing it for Hawk Host on the tabbed content section.

Step Two

Once you’ve decided what you want to subject to testing on your website select “Create Experiment” on Google Site Optimizer. You will be prompted with two options: A/B Testing & Multivariate Testing. Select the latter. You will be prompted with a brief introduction to selecting which portions of your website you want to subject to testing (same as I said above) - scroll to the bottom of the page and select the check box and hit “Create”.

Step Three

You will now be asked to provide three URL’s:

  1. Name Your Experiment This is an internal name for your experiment. Name it anything you like.
  2. Identify Your Test Page This will be the URL to the page you’re testing. In Hawk Host’s case it’s the main page, or
  3. Identify Your Conversion Page This will help you identify which variants are converting - usually this will be your shopping cart success page or the page you want the visitor to end up on (a sales page, etc)

Once you’ve filled out the prospective fields hit “Continue”. You will be prompted with two radio buttons asking if your team will be installing the JavaScript code or if you will be. Depending on your situation select the appropriate option (usually the latter one).

Step Four

Here’s where we get nerdy. You will be presented with four sections of JavaScript to add to your webpage, each are very important so don’t skip any.

  1. Control Script You will put this right after your beginning tag. This just adds Googles JavaScript functions to help identify the sections you’re testing.

  2. Tracking Script Paste this right before your closing body tag (). This chunk of code adds Google’s tracking to your web page to provide detailed stats on which variants are being displayed, converted, etc.

  3. Page Selections Use the example they provide for you and paste the code they provide right before the portion you want to be a variant. Here are some examples:

    `utmx_section(“heading”) Test heading

    In these examples the portion directly following the utmx_section code is the default content. Usually this is what you currently have on your website. The variants are handled on Google’s end.

  4. Conversion Script This portion of code will goes to the page where you want the visitor to end up. Usually this is a “Thank you” page after purchasing an item or something of that nature. Paste this on that page (ideally near the bottom).

Once you’ve done that select “Validate” - this will attempt to validate that the scripts are properly installed. Don’t be concerned if the conversion portion fails - depending on the software you’re utilizing for your website you may not be able to confirm the code directly (EX: success page after purchasing an item). Select “Continue” if everything passes the validation.

Step Five

You will now be prompted with an area to create your variants. You will notice all of the sections you created now show up on the left. Simply select “Add new variation” under the section you want to create a new variant. It will bring up a little text box with the default HTML code for your default value. From here modify it however you see fit - once you’re finished (make sure to preview it!) select “Save”. Go and do this for every section - but don’t add too many variations for each section. Unless you have a large amount of traffic you won’t get enough statistics on each permutation and will end up with worthless stats. Google recommends no more than 3 variations per section (we personally use 5~ per section on Hawk Host).

Once you’ve finished select “Continue”

Step Six

You will be brought to a page with a summary of your experiment. The most important thing on this page is deciding how much traffic you want to send to the experiment. If you select 100% that means everyone visiting your webpage will be subject to the variating content. If you select 50% only half of the visitors will be subject to the variating content, the other half will see the default content. We personally use 100% the majority of the time depending on how drastic the content change is. Use your discretion here.

Once you’ve finished with that select “Launch Now”

Step Seven

Wait! Wait several weeks to gather enough statistics - Google will provide you with in-depth stats on which combinations are being displayed, which are converting, and if possible it will tell you which seem to be converting on a regular basis. Using this information you should be able to find tune your website to convert as much as possible (based on design at least).

I hope this was useful to someone - I’ll try to clean this post up a bit over the next week or so, though feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments. I’ll add image in the next couple of days to help clarify the steps mentioned.

Until next time, Cody

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