Google Optimize – The Optimisation Tool to Kill Other Optimisation Tools?
A few months ago (March 2017), Google officially took their optimisation tool out of their beta program and made it publicly available to everyone. If you don’t know what an optimisation tool is, it’s software that allows you to run optimisation tests (A/B, split, and multivariate) so that you can improve the conversion rates of your website or mobile app.
They launched it with two versions, a free version called Optimize and an enterprise version called Optimize 360. This is akin to Google Analytics which is also free and also has an Analytics 360 version for large enterprise.
Like Google Analytics, is Google Optimize going to take over and become the de facto tool for conversion optimisation? I’m sure that is the plan although there are a few key differences that might stop it from doing so.
Google Optimize vs. The Others
How does Google Optimize compare to other optimisation solutions out there such as Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) and Optimizely? First and foremost, Google Optimize is free, so its not comparable to the others as they are paid solutions. So we have to look at it from a value for money perspective.
What they have in common?
There are common features with all three solutions. These are:
- Easy set-up – Set-up for these tools is fairly straight forward. If you have analytics on your website, the process is the same. It involves adding a few lines of code to all the pages of your site. With Google Optimize, it’s integrated with Google Tag Manager so you setting up Optimize is even easier as you don’t even need to update code.
- Visual editor – All three solutions have easy to use visual editors for you to create the variations you want to test. Optimize requires you to download and install a Chrome extension for the editor so you have to use Chrome.
- Experiment previews – All three allow you to preview your variations across different devices so you can ensure they look exactly how you want before launching your experiments.
- Test types – They all allow you to run split, A/B and multivariate tests although Optimize has limits that we’ll discuss below.
You should find the above features in any sound optimisation tool. Now we start looking at Optimize’s advantages and disadvantages.
The main advantage of Google Optimize is it’s native integration with Google Analytics. What this provides is a single platform to view your site performance and experimentation results. It also allows you to select your testing objectives based on Google Analytics goals, which presumably have already been set-up. This makes for experiment set-up simpler and easier. However, if you don’t use Google Analytics, then this isn’t an advantage at all.
The second main advantage is that its free. Who doesn’t like free right? Well, it is free from a financial cost perspective but I’m sure Google benefits in the data that it accumulates from experiments and with the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, it could be very useful in them developing an optimisation solution that can automatically optimise your experiments for you.
There are a number of disadvantages with Google Optimize’s free version. However, all of them disappear if you sign up for Optimize 360, the paid version. However, at a price tag that usually exceeds $1,000/month, it is not an economical solution for most. Here we look at some of the disadvantages of the free version.
- Number of simultaneous experiments – Optimize’s free version limits users to running only 3 experiments at any one time. This is unlikely to be a show stopper if you’re a conversion optimisation newbie who is just dipping in your toes. However, for serious optimisers, this is fairly limiting as you would want to run as many experiments as possible to get as big an uplift as possible.
- Number of goals per experiment – Optimize limits the number of goals to measure for each experiment to 3. This isn’t a significant issue, even for serious optimisers, because you should really only need 2-3 goals to determine a winner.
- Multivariate testing – Optimize limits variations in your multivariate tests to 16. This is fine for small multivariate tests but probably isn’t sufficient for larger tests where you’re testing more than 4 elements within a page.
- Not real-time data – Optimize experiments don’t receive and report data in real-time. For high traffic sites, this becomes more annoying as you’re unable to make timely decisions on your experiments.
- On-page analytics – Optimize relies on Google Analytics for site analysis and identification of site issues to resolve. Whilst good for understanding cross site experience, it isn’t good for on-page analysis. Tracking tools such as Hotjar provide for these valuable on-page insights that allow you to develop better performing variations. Features such as heatmaps, scrollmaps and form analysis come in-built with VWO so a separate on-page analytics solution is not required.
All of the above disadvantages disappear except for the real-time data issue if an user upgrades to enterprise version. However, the step up in cost is too large if you’re starting off with the free version.
Optimize is a great solution for beginners who are just getting started with conversion optimisation and have small to medium sized websites. Given its price tag of $0, it provides the basic capabilities that will allow users to dip their toes in with optimisation.
For intermediate users or users who want to take optimisation to the next level, going with a low priced version of VWO is probably worth the investment. Starting at $59/month for 10,000 pageviews and other plans available to address higher volume testing, VWO provides a much more cost-effective way of scaling your conversion optimisation efforts.
If you really want to go from zero to big improvements quickly, you should consult with a conversion optimisation expert to figure out what’s best for your site, develop a testing strategy and implement the necessary tools so that you can generate returns quickly. Talk to us today to find out more.
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.