Controlled Website Tests

Analysis of web traffic reveals a great deal about the online behaviour of users. The data however does not explain why they do what they do, which is crucially important if marketers wish to act on the information.

Understanding “why people do what they do” typically involves a two-stage process — constructing hypotheses or scenarios and testing those hypotheses. To construct hypotheses, and explore issues and scenarios, marketers often conduct qualitative research, or use techniques akin to qualitative research. To test hypotheses and alternatives, they rely on quantitative research methods, and their website is often the ideal platform for data collection.

A/B testing and multivariate testing allow marketers to test elements (headlines, paragraph text, images, call-to-action buttons, testimonials etc.) on a webpage. A/B Testing is used when marketers want to choose between one of two or more versions of a webpage. And multivariate testing is used when they are seeking to optimize the elements on the page.

Multivariate Testing

Multivariate testing is conducted in a live, controlled environment. The webpage is dynamically generated and rotated among incoming visitors so that each gets to see one of the different combinations of elements. Visitors are tracked and their behaviours recorded as they navigate the site, to determine which elements (i.e., independent variables) on a webpage make the biggest impact on the site’s performance.

Site performance is measured in terms of a specific objective metric (i.e., dependent variable) such as conversion rate.

A/B Testing and Google Optimize

Exhibit 27.15  Video demonstration of Google Optimize’s A/B Testing facility.

A/B testing is a method used by marketers and web designers to choose between two or more versions of a webpage. The goal is to identify which variant is more effective in achieving their marketing objectives. Elements of a webpage, such as the page header or images, can be tested to improve website performance.

A/B testing is easy to manage, control, and execute online, making it a cost-effective way to evaluate various elements of the marketing mix. For example, advertising campaigns can be tested on platforms like YouTube before being aired on TV (refer to Section Testing Advertising Online, Chapter Advertising Analytics, Volume II for more details).

Google Optimize is a free and feature-rich A/B testing tool that can be linked to Google Analytics (GA4). To run a test on Google Optimize, follow these steps:

  1. Create an experiment by giving it a name.
  2. Enter the URL of the webpage you want to test.
  3. Choose an optimization technique, such as A/B testing or multivariate testing.
  4. Create variants, such as different headers or images, using the Optimize visual editor. You can set the variant weighting or keep the default setting, which is equal weights for all variants.
  5. Set primary and additional objectives related to purchases, conversions, or page views, or create a custom objective.
  6. Start the test.
  7. Review the results and use them to optimize your website.

You can scan the QR code in Exhibit 27.15 for a demo on how to use Google Optimize to test different versions of a page header on a webpage.

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