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Better Web Pages with Google
A new partnership between the search-engine giant and content management systems gives end users a tool for Web-page testing.
Posted Jun 16, 2008
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Google launched its Website Optimizer Technology Partner (WOTEP) program last Thursday, designed to help overcome the challenges of using the search-engine giant's optimization technology in conjunction with an existing content-management system (CMS). Previously, Web-site owners were able to use Website Optimizer, which continues to be available at no cost, as long as they incorporated Google's JavaScript tags onto their Web pages. According to Google's corporate blog, however, the partnership program will allow Google and the CMS providers that have signed up -- there are six thus far -- to offer site owners A/B and multivariate testing functionality, specific documentation, technical support, and the ability to automate the process of adding Website Optimizer tags into the source code of (a process that may not be difficult, but is undoubtedly time-consuming).

According to the Google blogpost, written by Jon Stona of the company's Website Optimizer team, the advantages of the program are threefold:

  • saves CMS platforms millions of dollars in internal development costs to deliver A/B and multivariate testing solutions;
  • empowers site owners with a more accessible solution to help improve their Web sites; and
  • provides access to testing tools, encouraging the production of better Web pages, and in turn, a better overall Web experience for customers.
Rob Lamb, director of customer and partner development at Clickability, one of the charter participants in the WOTEP program, lauds the Website Optimizer as an extension of his company's existing Web analytics platform. The partnership was a unique experience for the CMSes and Google -- the search-engine giant had originally presented the solution to Web designers, agencies, and consultancies in mind, expecting that those entities would conduct Web-site testing for their respective clients. "Neither of us knew what would come out in the end," Lamb recalls. "It ended up being a spectacular tool."  

Most people, Lamb says, are using this solution on pages where there's high customer interaction, such as a registration page for a white paper or a company event. Google advises companies to avoid launching multiple Web sites to test their relative performance. It's about the subtle changes, Lamb says -- a big or small picture, a link on the left or right side -- that can bring significant improvements in customer conversion. What's different about Google's solution is that its tests allow site operators to conduct the analytics of multiple page versions and see the changes in real time, as opposed to traditional testing where analytics are conducted for each page individually and then compared.  

Nevertheless,as more customers begin to deploy the tool, Lamb says that he expects the uses of Website Optimizer may evolve to serve more than just direct conversion events. "Our customers are asking, 'Can I use this to drive page views?' 'Can I drive nonconversion events?' I think there are a lot of ways to apply this tool above and beyond what Google intended it for," he says, adding that Google is still developing its application programming interface (API) for Website Optimizer. When those roll out, he anticipates even greater capabilities for CMSes and for site operators.  

"The most interesting aspect of this release," Lamb concludes, "is how it affects the search-to-sale process." A company's Web site is its public face -- the first place this generation of Web-reliant customers is headed when they want to learn more. With Website Optimizer, companies can also better integrate their CRM and CMS applications to promote conversion rates. "If you have a great Web-to-lead page, but the Web page you've got stinks...[then] you're not going to really have a lot of great success," Lamb says. "It's not just about twisting [your site] to make someone click on something to give you a lead anymore." In other words, you can optimize a Web site to direct prospects and viewers around the site in a way that gets them where you want (e.g., to the automated self-help pages instead of straight to your customer contact center number).  

Currently, six CMS providers are involved in Google's WOTEP program:

  • Clickability;
  • Emovendo's PageVester;
  • Ingeniux CMS "Enterprise 2.0" Software platform;
  • Internetrix Freestyle;
  • Marqui; and
  • Valtira.
In addition the those six charter partners, Google has invited other potential partners to learn more about the program.

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