Google will soon begin offering AdWords advertisers a new tool to experiment with a variety of different landing page layouts in order determine which one gains the most conversions from site visitors. 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.
Site publishers will be provided code to drop into their landing page, tagging layout elements and content for tracking by the Optimizer. The tool will then allow publishers to create multiple versions of that landing page that are served up randomly to visitors entering the site via AdWords promotions. As visitors interact with the different versions of the page, publishers are given detailed reports on visitor activity organized by version and page section. You’ll be able to see which sections are most important relative to others, which versions of the page see the highest increase in conversions and make changes to layout accordingly.
Once you determine a layout and design that works best, you’ll be able to stop the experiment and have that version served to all visitors incoming from AdWords. New experiments can be begun at any time as long as the Website Optimizer code is left in your page code.
Yahoo! was just catching up with the AdWords model with the first release yesterday of their next generation advertising platform, code named Panama. Microsoft’s Ad Center has slowly begun inviting advertisers into a similar platform of its own this summer. Today’s offering from Google could help AdWords maintain its lead in the innovation department. I’ve thought for some time that there is plenty of room for Yahoo! and Microsoft to take market share from AdWords by offering a better price cut, better customer service or some type of solution to click-fraud. While that’s still true, if WebSite Optimizer works as advertised I think it will be a very compelling service for small publishers. Better conversion rates are good news for everyone involved and this is a very logical way to make that happen.