Much of my job involves supporting a marketing department in web
stuff. A lot of the time this means finding and explaining new ways
to help them market. I've recently been looking at multivariate
testing, which is a big word to mean testing multiple variations
of a web page to see how effective they are.
To play with it, I've been using Google Website
Optimizer on my own site. If you go to my home page, you'll be presented with
one of four versions of the page. I count someone clicking on a blog
post as a "conversion", which is kinda contrived and you would
normally use something like a sale.
In case you're interested, the variants are:
It's all pretty contrived and I'm using a site that doesn't really
matter, but it's shown me how useful this tool is. If your site has
some kind of goal (sale, enquiry, some kind of interaction you want to
encourage) it's really incredible the effect some changes can
If you're marketing to mere mortals rather than geeks, seemingly
meaningless changes can have a huge impact. Making the buy button
bigger and brighter, putting in little bullet points to overcome their
objections, changing the location of things.
These multivariate testing tools allow you to test a bunch of
variations on a page. They could be radical changes, or really simple
ones. Different users will get different versions, and you can quite
happily track what's happened. The tools contain all sorts of
statistical crunching to allow you to see real patterns in the noise,
once enough data has been collected.
The example I'm using is pretty simplistic too. I've only changed
the front page, not the whole site. These tools allow you to track
users throughout a visit, so you could make a site-wide change and be
able to give the user a consistent experience throughout the visit,
then log conversions.
The great thing about this kind of tool is that, when the
marketroids come up with their latest "brilliant" idea, rather than
having to shoot it down with your mere logic, you can just say "sure,
let's test that out". I've always thought of marketing as the place
where failed salespeople go, because a salesperson is very easily
measured and marketing is traditionally quite hard to measure. Not
So my task in the near future is to shop this idea around our
marketing geniuses and start playing. I think it'll be actually quite
fun, because you can throw seemingly wild ideas at it, and see how it
goes with real people. The testable nature is actually quite
liberating, and should free you to try out your wacky ideas.
I'm quite looking forward to unleashing it on a really busy site,
and taking a crack at long
lists of changes to try.