You haven’t started testing your site yet. But you want to. What do you do?

You can try starting with a free but good enough tool: Google Optimize.

It’s simpler than other tools in the market (e.g., Optimizely, VWO) but it has one advantage: native integration with Google Analytics.

There’s also a more advanced version of Google Optimize, as a part of Google Analytics 360 Suite. But you can forget about 360, if you’re not an enterprise. It starts at about $100k per year (not a typo).

Two main drawbacks of the free version:

  • You can only run 3 tests at the same time
  • No Google Analytics audience targeting.

This should be good enough to start though, and it can take you quite far before you need more sophisticated tools.

For more specific instructions, see the full article. Below, I’ll list all the steps, with a few highlights and screenshots.

Setting Up Google Optimize

  1. Creating an Account and Container
  2. Linking Google Analytics
  3. Installing the Google Optimize Snippet (hint: it’s trivial to do with Google Tag Manager)

Setting Up an Experiment

Experiment Types

A/B TESTS

This is the most common one, especially to start with. You compare two versions of the same page to see which one performs better… A vs. B, control vs. variant.

REDIRECT TESTS

Redirect tests are a type of A/B test, technically speaking. Instead of testing two versions of the same page, you’re testing two separate pages against each other. This is useful if you’re looking to test a complete redesign or even two different landing pages.

MULTIVARIATE TESTS

A multivariate test allows you to test multiple variants of multiple elements at the same time to see which combination produces the best results.

Variants

Configuration

OBJECTIVES

You will be able to choose from basic objectives like pageviews, session duration and bounces. But what makes Google Optimize awesome is that you can also choose from any of the Google Analytics goals in your linked account.

In the free version, you can choose one primary objective and two secondary objectives.

TARGETING

First, you choose the percentage of visitors to target and the weighting of visitors to target. Usually you have one variant, and you target 100% of your visitors, showing 50% of them the original, and 50% the changed version of the page.

Now for the good part. The “when”…

Here’s a high-level summary:

  • URL Targeting – Specific URLs.
  • Behavior Targeting – New vs. returning, specific referral sources.
  • Geo Targeting – Specific country, state, city, etc.
  • Technology Targeting – A specific device, browser, OS.
  • JavaScript Variable – Specific variable in the source code of the page.
  • First-Party Cookie – Users that have a cookie from your site.
  • Custom JavaScript – Based upon a value returned.
  • Query Parameter – Specific pages or sets of pages.
  • Data Layer Variable – Key values stored in the data layer.

Reporting

Reporting is another area where Google Optimize really shines. Even in the summary card, you get the experiment status and a summary of the results (so far): the leader (which variation is winning), improvement (how much better it is than the original version), probability to be best, etc.

A chart with how each variation is performing:

With native Google Analytics integration, you can go much deeper, slicing and dicing it with secondary dimensions, creating segments etc.

Conclusion

Google Optimize is relatively simple and it’s going up against established tools like Optimizely and VWO, but the value of the native integration is hard to ignore. Especially with a $0 price tag.

At the very least, if you haven’t tried A/B testing yet, create an account and run an experiment. Chances are you’ll get hooked on data.

The Beginner’s Guide to Google Optimize

PS. Without 3 concurrent tests limitation, I could use Google Optimize in all my projects. But it’s not enough for a serious use, so I don’t, unfortunately.