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Google Launches Website Optimizer 66

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the yet-another-fine-google-service dept.
Rockgod writes "Google Analytics Senior Manager Brett Crosby unveiled the tool, called Google Website Optimizer, this morning at the eMetrics summit in Washington D.C. If you find web site traffic heat maps like CrazyEgg, ClickDensity or Google Analytics' own heat map interesting, this looks like the next generation of that kind of tool. If Google's Website Optimizer can score high on usability, I expect it to be a big hit with small and medium size website publishers."
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Google Launches Website Optimizer

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:29AM (#16514495)
    ... but what is it?
    • by setirw (854029) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:35AM (#16514523) Homepage
      It supposedly can determine which home pages make the greatest impression on users. I agree with you, though, that this should have been included in the summary, which is meaningless.
      • by adam (1231) * on Friday October 20, 2006 @07:13AM (#16514717)
        I'm somewhat unclear on this, and I watched 80% of the flash demo linked above before getting insanely bored (mostly due to the pace) and letting my ADHD take over. From what I can tell, they are implying that this is not an algorithm doing the "checking" of your web site, but rather human editors/users. The flash demo mentions testing optimization of images as well, which I believe wouldn't be something easily automated through an algorithm (at least not easily automated to derive USEFUL results). However, i'm a bit confused because they aren't very specific as to who or what will be testing your site for clickthru/etc. At some point I started to think "oh, okay, google editors/volunteers will be testing it" (much like the google image labeler [google.com] beta linked from /. a few weeks ago).. and then i started to suspect they are actually just using the code to run multiple "live" versions of your site and let NORMAL google users view them in a random distribution and then see which ones stay (and buy) and for how long etc. But maybe I just misunderstood and got distracted 5 seconds before they explained this haha. Anyone with the answer?

        If it really is the latter method, I am sure it would work for some web sites, but I know for our company's site, we can only ever display one version of our content, as any minor changes at all tend to draw a lot of industry attention (i.e. "hey what are these guys up to.. their site updated.. OMG is the next big product about to drop, blah blah").. so I hope that out of the three methods, it's either an algorithm, or a small subset of google trustees/volunteers. But then again, our industry (digital cinema) is a typical and I'm sure no matter which method, this will work great for mom & pop selling Pokemon trading cards or whatever.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tomhudson (43916)

          I'm somewhat unclear on this, and I watched 80% of the flash demo linked above before getting insanely bored (mostly due to the pace) and letting my ADHD take over.

          OMG I must have ADHD as well - I couldn't stand more than 30 seconds of it - just clicked on every link in the left-hand side, saw it was "more of the same" ... and was out of there!

          Maybe if we want real information (like a web page that describes it) we should just google for it ... oops ... "google website optimizer" just returns articles

        • by tolan-b (230077) on Friday October 20, 2006 @08:26AM (#16515243)
          No the way it works is that you identify parts of a page that you want to experiment with with tags, include a javascript library on it and a conversion page, and then tell google what variations on the tagged item (alternate headlines for example) you want to test.

          When someone goes to that page, google will randomly select one of your alternate headlines and replace the original one with it. It'll then check if that person buys something (or subscribes or whatever).

          It then gives you a report of which variations lead to the most conversions.
    • by Jellybob (597204) on Friday October 20, 2006 @09:03AM (#16515619) Journal
      It's a tool for Adwords optimization - you give the application some blocks of your page, and several variations of the content for them, and then a percentage of your visitors get each version.

      This allows you to try out different sets of content, and see which one leads to the most conversions (software downloads, sales, enquiries etc.), and hopefully save some money at the same time. We have several clients you are spending over £1000/month on Adwords, and it really pays to be able to see what works.
    • Does a beta test that's limited to a small number of advertisers really constitute a launch? Title of this post seems a bit inaccurate.
    • by simontek2 (523795)
      Totally agree with you. I was reading it going, mmmkay, and its what? I think the Apple 1984 commercial was more descriptive.
  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:32AM (#16514511)
    Or enhancing advertisers' ability to get your eyeballs.

    Either way, it's not for us.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plover (150551) *

      it's not for us.

      My "google-analytics.com" Adblock Plus entry had pretty much ensured that it wasn't for me regardless.

      Now, if NoScript had "blacklisting" that would be even better. I currently don't like NoScript because of the bar that's constantly at the bottom of every site with scripts by google-analytics, tacoda, imrworldwide, omniture or hitbox (which is pretty much everyone.) Once I've visited a site I don't want to remember whether or not I've cleaned it up -- I'd use the presence of the warn

      • actually, google analytics does help you. Website statistics help the web master know what visitors do and do not want to see. Allowing google analytics to track your anonymous movement through a site ultimately leads to a more fulfilling user experience.

        At my job, I am rather far removed from the finances, yet I am supposed to decide what and how to market. Analytics lets me do that by tracking what sells, when it sells, etc.

        Does it help Google? Of course. But it also helps the webmaster of the sites you visit to create sites you want to see.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by xENoLocO (773565) *
          I agree google analytics is helpful. However, it also increased my page load times by a long shot, so it had to be removed. It simply doesn't serve fast enough.

          So I took a look at my netvibes homepage and now I use who they use, statcounter.com... it's simpler than google analytics, loads a lot faster, and you can see the results in real time.
          • I agree google analytics is helpful. However, it also increased my page load times by a long shot, so it had to be removed. It simply doesn't serve fast enough.

            Did you try putting the Javascript somewhere other than the <head>? Obviously that's the recommended place, but in fact most of the functionality still works if you bury the Javascript down as close to </body> as it will go, and that should have less effect on the effective[1] page load time.

            Rich.

            [1] By "effective" I mean the time until the browser can render the page for the user, rather than the total load time.

            • by lababidi (879163)
              it actually says in the google-analytics instructions to place it just above . I did it last night for a client's page.
            • by xENoLocO (773565) *
              Yeah, I put it where it belongs (right above the body tag), but that doesn't help for event attachments on window load.
        • by asuffield (111848)

          But it also helps the webmaster of the sites you visit to create sites you want to see.

          I fail to see why I should care. The ones who manage to create sites I want to see get my custom; the rest can go out of business as far as I care. Nothing here gives me reason to help people move from the second group to the first. If they can't create sites I want to see without this, somebody else will.

          Or, more briefly: Are they going to pay me for this? No? Then I'm not doing it.

        • by plover (150551) *

          Allowing google analytics to track your anonymous movement through a site ultimately leads to a more fulfilling user experience.

          I hate to burst your bubble, but I'm not looking for an "experience" on most sites. I'm looking for whatever it was that the referring link told me the site had. If it's a search, I probably used Google or Ask to do the heavy lifting. (I don't even use Microsoft's search link on MSDN because Google does a much better job indexing their site.)

          Unfortunately, google analytics

          • The bar you call crap is part of the user experience- the user experience which leads you to believe that it is crap.

            If you come to my site and leave immediately, it tells me you didn't see what you wanted to see. By coupling that with inbound links, I can track down where my problems are.

            I think you're confused as to what "user experience" means, somehow. It is the experience a user has when using a piece of software. If you think a part of the site is crap, that doesn't make it not part of the user exp
            • by plover (150551) *
              A couple of points. First, I'm only one web surfer. I realize that, as in politics, my opinion counts for one iota more than nada -- my surfing patterns are most likely a part of a statistical anomaly, and don't model the behavior or the mainstream surfers. If you are the sort of web designer who analyzes behavior, you'd probably overlook my navigational choices as deviations anyway. And I'm fine with that -- I realize that I navigate quite differently than the rest of the horde. Should you code to my
      • by Res3000 (890937)
        You can remove that bar, I'm actually not sure where it is (I'm at work and have to surf with the screwed IE), but you can disable it and then you only have the little icon in the bar that shows you if NoScript is blocking scripts or not.
        • by ncc74656 (45571) *
          I'm at work and have to surf with the screwed IE

          As long as flashsticks aren't banned at your location, you should be able to use Portable Firefox [portableapps.com].

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Spliffster (755587)
        "I currently don't like NoScript because of the bar that's constantly at the bottom of every site with scripts by ... "

        Mozilla products are very nice because of their customisation possibilities. You can do the following:

        1. open Dom inspector
        2. File > Instepct a window > [select any window just not a document]
        3. Search > Select Element By Click
        4. click on the annoying element
        5. Profit!!! ... just kidding

        then see how you can identify it, if it has a n ID attribute this would be the easiest way, oth
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      Or enhancing advertisers' ability to get your eyeballs.

      Either way, it's not for us.


      Who's "us?"

      I'm not so unhappy that some small-time creators of very interesting web sites can at leats afford to pay for their hosting by generating some targeted clicks along the way. If you can't even stand those simple text Google ads tucked below an article or off on the edge of the page offsetting the overhead of running a niche web site, you're pretty cranky. I've get to see a g-powered ad that even came close
  • by Rik Sweeney (471717) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:33AM (#16514519) Homepage
    This'll be great, I can analyse Slashdot and post the results in the comments section along with some helpful suggestions, +5 Funny here I come!

    *Clicks link*

    *Clicks Sign up*

    *Starts filling in form*

    *Notices that signing up to Ad Words is required*

    *Notices that adding a phone number is required*

    *Gives up and decides to just post the results of W3C's HTML Validation Service instead*
  • Yes.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:43AM (#16514551)
    ..but is it beta?
  • This may be useful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by x-vere (956928) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:49AM (#16514585) Homepage
    I think this is cool. Google Adwords is somewhat of a statistical pain in the butt. I've spent hours upon hours of my life analyzing keywords, click rates, etc. for pushing more traffic to various sites on the web. If this tool eases that pain, even just a little, I say it is a good thing. Google needs us to succeed with AdWords as much as we want to succeed.
  • Mixed Feelings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sv-Manowar (772313) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:52AM (#16514599) Homepage Journal
    Google giving advice is always going to help two sets of people - those who already have websites and want to optimise them, and those who are attempting to create websites to rank highly. If we look at why people creating websites usually want to get them to rank highly google the reasons are primarily monetary, which means that this tool is mainly giving advice to those who are trying to displace older (and possibly better sites). Say I have site A. which is dedicated to mountain biking news and has been running since 1997 with messageboards, news etc and hasn't been optimised for the best google rankings and we have Site B. which was created 3 months ago and uses RSS syndication to just serve up content from other sites and monetising it with something like adsense is the main point, then which should really rank higher in Google? I'm thinking A because it is more of a legitimate site.

    I think there is a point where trying to rank highly in Google is OK for wanting to growth in your site, but if Google continue to give out such tools then surely people will start producing sites that match exactly what it wants to see in order to get traffic. I'm starting to think that it shouldn't be sites that have to be optimised for Google to rank them highly, but Google to be optimised to pick up the best sites for each search term instead of landing pages or shells that are just there for advertising revenue.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Step 1: Create a myspace page for the mother of someone you wish to disparage.
      Step 2: Get it to rank highly for "fat", "skank", or another appropriate pejorative
      Step 3: Enjoy their sweet sweet tears. If possible lick them right off their face.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hanwen (8589)
      you're completely off the mark here. This product aims to increase effectiveness of an adwords campaign, ie. getting people to buy your stuff after they've gone to your website.
         
    • This is not a tool to help people increase their sites ranking in Google. It's a tool for customers who pay Google for advertising to help those advertisers drive up revenue by converting more visitors (those who notice the advert and click through) into paying customers by making their sited better at driving customers into making a purchase.
    • I join your call for Google to double check their tool to make sure it "won't be evil". It would really suck to get even more web-squatters and content thieves.

      That said, I disagree with your implied premise that people who use Google's search are so completely naive and unsavvy. I also think you're wrong that Google's new tool is as powerful as many would think based on the little they say.

      On the first point, people don't just query "mountain bike", to use your example. They'll search for something more
      • This tool seems to let you improve your score on the first (and less important) part of the process.
        No, this tool helps you pick the best wording/image/layout for AdWords landing pages - i.e. the specific pages you buy AdWords links to. It's unrelated to your search results
    • by suggsjc (726146)
      You bring up a good/interesting dilemma/debate. What *should* matter the most? I know you may have just thrown that hypothetical situation together, but would imagine that it might have some connection to a personal experience.

      Last I checked it ain't 1997 anymore and technology, especially web related technology, has changed a lot over the past 9 years. So to turn the tables on you, should site A continue to be rewarded for the service it produced way back when or should site B that is current, up-to-dat
    • by jimbojw (1010949)

      > surely people will start producing sites that match exactly what it wants to see in order to get traffic

      This already happens - in fact, there are companies that will help you do it (for a fee). Hittail [hittail.com] for one example.

      I am serious... and don't call me Shirley.

      • by miklevin (979012)
        > This already happens - in fact, there are companies that will help you do it (for a fee). Hittail for one example. There is no fee. Even after we are out of beta, basic usage will be free. The beauty is that you don't pay until the service has helped to make you successful and put you in a position to do so.
    • How did this get rated "+5, Insightful"?

      First off, although it's called "Google Website Optimizer" it's about optimizing your website to get the highest number of orders ("conversions" in marketingspeak) from people who land on your site (eg, from an Adwords campaign), not about getting higher Google search rankings.

      "If we look at why people creating websites usually want to get them to rank highly google the reasons are primarily monetary, which means that this tool is mainly giving advice to those who are
  • by noname4444 (972861) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:54AM (#16514609)
    Google's new website optimizer suddenly quits after being run against MySpace [myspace.com]. It's been reported the optimizer was later heard weeping, as well as muttering "the horror."
  • by Channard (693317) on Friday October 20, 2006 @06:57AM (#16514627) Journal
    .. how about they send some kind of robot around their search listings, to delist any page that is little more links to another page. I've been looking for something and found links to a site that's basically links, which links to another site made up of links etc..
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why don't they also fix their caching policy,
      when you set a page to "noindex" in the metatags
      google does not display a index or cache of the page
      (which is what it should do).

      After a few months though, if you change the content
      of the webpage and remove the "noindex" metatag,
      it magically displays the cache of the page you told
      it to not index!! (what it shouldn't do)

      Similiar problems occur when telling the robot to
      "noarchive" (index page but do not cache)

      So basically google saves the page when you told it
      not t
  • Since when did Google Analytics have heat maps?
  • I got a bogus AdWords account, just never added billing info. I have considered trying AdWords and paying for it with my AdSense money, they should have that as a payment option, to just take it from AdSense... For web site analysis I use WebCEO anyway, but I can't help but want to check out a new tool, overall, I love the direction Google is going, I use Google Office, just used their photo album thing to show friends vacation pics, use analytics for traffic analysis...it's cool stuff.
  • From my firefox browser, after clicking on the demo, I was unable to open the "Sample reports" and "Documentation" links.
    Closing the "demo" tab allowed one of the other links to be opened.
    Is this optimal design?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    > ..but what is it?

    Classic "look at the monkey tactics" making you believe you get your money's worth from Adwords - very rarely true in my experience. What they really need is a means of stopping fraudulent clicks by 'Google Network' advertisers.
  • by 1sockchuck (826398) on Friday October 20, 2006 @09:17AM (#16515785) Homepage
    This tool is most helpful for companies who buy a lot of AdWords and route the the clicks to optimized "landing pages" that present a focused marketing pitch. From what I've seen, the Optimizer's real value is to help these AdWords buyers figure out which of their landing pages is producing the best performance in routing readers to their product pages. Getting that kind of data in a quick, user-friendly fashion will have value to these folks.
  • by a.d.trick (894813) on Friday October 20, 2006 @09:27AM (#16515911) Homepage

    And the winner is: w3.org [w3.org]. The CSS section [w3.org] is probably the most useful part of it, but the whole thing is heartily recommended. To test you level of optimization there is an automated tool for HTML markup [w3.org] as well as one for CSS [w3.org].

  • But I spat out my coffee when it said "Make this bike yours" with a picture of a woman...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Google will soon be more of a problem to web users than help. Here is how my bitter taste with Google became sour. We share a computer at home and my sister and parents do not change the settings (on shared PC) much. While I enabled Javascript the other day, she had to call me on cellphone at work since no web pages were loading (mozilla). I drove back and did a check. Something to do with google syndication or analytics. This machine is clean of spyware. So I reset the browser and all was okay again. The

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