Written byAndreea MunteanSenior Conversion Executive
Since launching in 2012, Google Optimize has slowly become an industry favourite A/B and personalisation testing tool due to the fact it’s relatively easy and free to use.
However, there is still a lot of skepticism surrounding this tool as it does come with several limitations. So with this in mind, we wanted to take a closer look at Google Optimize to see if it does measure up to the hype.
Throughout this post, we’ll take you through the basics of Google Optimize and Optimize 360, provide a step-by-step guide on how to set up a Google Optimize account, how to link it to Google Analytics and how to create your first A/B test.
What is Google Optimize?
Google Optimize is an online split-testing and personalisation tool that can be used to power your conversion optimisation efforts and enhance the user experience of your website.
Besides giving you complete personalisation capabilities, Google Optimize is fully integrated with Google Analytics to allow for more advanced targeting, more advanced reporting, and more advanced conversion tracking.
Google Optimize Pricing
Google Optimize has two versions. The cost of the most basic version of Google Optimize is nothing - this is a free tool.
The more advanced version, Google Optimize 360, comes at a cost. Let’s take a detailed look at the differences between these two tools.
Google Optimize vs. Optimize 360
The free version of Google Optimize has some great features for a small- to medium-sized business or for someone who’s getting to grips with A/B testing.
But if you’re a big enterprise business or are running sophisticated testing programs, the paid version – Google Optimize 360 – is the best option.
You can set up multiple Optimize accounts from a single Google Account, but we recommend using your company name as your account name and set up only one account per company. Within it, you can create multiple containers for your brands.
Link Google Optimize to Google Analytics
Google Optimize will encourage you to start testing, but we recommend connecting Google Analytics first.
1. Click on ‘Settings’ in the top right.
2. Navigate to ‘Measurement’ to link to Google Analytics.
3. Select a ‘Property’ from the drop-down menu.
4. Click ‘Link’ to set it up.
Installing the Google Optimize Snippet
You can find the snippet under ‘Set Up Instructions’ in the settings menu. Before you do anything, you have two options for getting this GA tracking updated.
Firstly, you can manually update each page with the Google Optimize snippet. Otherwise, we recommend using Google Tag Manager, so you can easily link your event-based goals to your A/B tests.
1. In GTM create a new tag.
2. Enter your Google Optimize and Google Analytics IDs.
3. Choose your triggering options. If you want to experiment on your entire site, you can choose ‘All Pages’.
4. Save it. Don’t forget to preview it and debug it.
Setting up an Experiment in Google Optimize
Now onto the fun part! We’ll take you through the steps of creating an experiment.
1. Click on the ‘Let’s Go’ button on the Experiences Page in Google Optimize.
2. Enter an Experience Name.
3. Enter the URL of the page you’d like to test.
4. Choose the experiment you’d like to run.
If you’re familiar with all the experiences that can be tested, you can go ahead, and press ‘Create’. Otherwise, here’s a very thorough Google article explaining the difference between each test.
Google Optimize A/B Testing
The most common experiment is an A/B test, so we’ll go forward and create one.
1. Add as many variants as you want to test against the control.
2. Set the variant weights accordingly. We recommend setting equal values for a balanced result.
3. ‘Preview’ the variants to make sure the users will see the same changes.
4. Choose the URL and the target audience.
5. Link the test to the correct view in GA.
6. Enter objectives from the GA Goals list or create custom ones. In the free version, you can choose one primary objective and two secondary ones.
But you cannot change these objectives once the test is set live, otherwise, you will have to start a new test.
7. Review and press ‘Start’.
Your test stats will be available in the ‘Reporting’ tab within Google Optimize, but also in Google Analytics in several ways: Every hit from Optimize is sent to GA with an Experiment Name, Experiment ID, and Variant Number automatically attached.
This way, you can get creative and analyse the data outside of the Optimize User Interface.
Other Google Optimize Testing Options
While we have highlighted how to conduct an A/B test, it’s worth noting that there are other types of testing available on Google Optimize, which can further help you assess the functionality of your website.
Split URL Testing
When using split URL testing, users from one page are selected at random and are then redirected to the variation page so you can see how well they interact with this new version.
You can also use split URL tests to compare two different pages for an element. For example, you could use it to compare the click-through rate of a single-page and multi-page checkout.
Server-side experiments allow you to try out complex tests that could damage the user experience if implemented on the client’s side.
It renders test variations directly from the webserver and then delivers these variations to the client in a predetermined fashion.
When using Optimize, you can perform server-side experiments when you want to test certain dynamic changes on your website.
You can also create objectives and goals, specify variants, and track the overall performance by simply inserting your code on the website.
This particular test is incredibly useful as it allows you to optimise your website using your own data. By using Google Optimize, you can create personalisation tests by setting objectives for a specific group of web visitors.
The types of data you could use to optimise the user experience can include geographical location, age, history of user actions, and more.
What this ensures is that you are providing relevant information to your targeted users.
This type of testing allows you to test multiple elements at the same time.
This is a really nifty tool as it can help you establish the combinations that help you achieve the highest conversion rates. In Google Optimize, your MVT is limited to 16 combinations.
Google Optimize Limitations
With all these experimentation options available to you, Google Optimize does sound too good to be true...
However, there are limitations to what Optimize can do, especially when you opt for the free version. Here are a few of the limitations you may encounter when using Optimize.
Live Experiment Limits
Unfortunately, any tool that is free comes with a price, and in Google Optimize’s case is that there is a limit to the number of simultaneous experiments you can launch.
With Optimize, you can only conduct five simultaneous experiments at one time.
This number could be far too limiting for a larger company that needs to run a substantial amount of tests to ensure they have obtained the information they need to improve their web pages.
This problem is arguably the one most people struggle with. Page flickering occurs when the original version of your chosen page flickers during A/B testing before the new version is displayed.
This can be incredibly detrimental to the user experience, as they could assume that your site is fraudulent and may turn to a competitor site over yours.
Page flickering can be controlled in some cases if you install an anti-flicker snippet.
On-Page Analysis only Scratches the Surface
One other limitation to Optimize is the lack of certain features like scroll maps and heatmaps.
These features are available in plenty of split-testing tools, so if you wanted to use these kinds of features, you would need to run Optimize alongside another tool. And doing this can actually create even more problems.
This is because using two or more tools can slow down the loading speed of your website and could also provide you with data that is inconsistent.
Google Optimize has become one of the biggest split-testing platforms used for those looking to optimise their websites and improve the overall user experience. But with any free analysis tool, you should always try it out first and use it with caution.
Hopefully, this guide makes it easier for you to start testing on your website. But if you need more help deciding whether Google Optimize is the tool for you, just get in touch.