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April 4, 2007

Google Aiding Your Search Engine Optimization Efforts

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There’s always rumbling in the forum debating whether or not Google approves of webmasters performing search engine optimization on their sites or if Google simply views it as them "cluttering up" the search engine results page. For all you non-believers out there, I’d say Google’s recent actions are a clear sign that they have happily boarded the search engine optimization train. Choo, choo!

(Sorry…)

You may remember back in October when Google launched a free tool nicknamed Google Website Optimizer into private beta that allowed lucky testers to compare and switch out different site content to determine which version was more effective at turning visitors into customers. At the time, Google touted it as "the third leg" in the primary-colored Google stool that includes Google AdWords and Google Analytics. Well, today Google Website Optimizer is available to everyone. Rejoice in your ability to easily complete A/B testing. Huzzah!
According to Google, Website Optimizer:

"Helps online marketers increase visitor conversion rates and overall visitor satisfaction by continually testing different combinations of site content (text and images). Rather than sitting in a room and arguing over what will work better, you can save time and eliminate the guesswork by simply letting your visitors tell you what works best."

In short, it allows you to use a piece of JavaScript to track activity and see which version of your site is better able to convert visitors. It makes it easy to do what you should have been doing all along – continually testing and improving your site.

There’s been some debate over whether or not this is some form of cloaking, but Danny Sullivan covers the topic extensively over at Search Engine Land, so I’ll leave that to him. Personally, I’m more interested in the three-stool approach to search engine optimization Google has set up for site owners. With AdWords, Analytics, and an easy way to switch pages in and out to find the copy that produces the most conversions, it’s a clear sign to naysayer’s that Google is encouraging site owners to create better, more targeted optimized sites. There is a purpose being search engine optimization and it’s not just that we have nothing better to do on a Saturday night. Optimization makes sites better, it doesn’t clutter up the search results. Anything that dismisses that idea and legitimizes this industry to optimization as a viable investment is a positive thing in my book.

In a separate but equally optimization-friendly venture, Google AdSense has begun offering up monthly optimization reports for advertisers complete with little "tips" to help them monetize your site. If you’re thinking, "Huzzah, this means I can fire my optimization company", think again. The tips may be helpful for newbies just learning about search engine optimization, but for the rest of us, you’re not going to hear anything you didn’t already know. Especially when Google’s most common tip to advertisers seems to be to increase the number of ad units on their page. Um, yeah, I’ll take that into consideration.

Newbies may also have a difficult time taking advantage of the monthly optimization reports if they’re running more than one search engine optimization project since Google doesn’t specific which tip goes to which campaign. It’s probably good enough to serve as a starting place though and get site owners thinking about their sites.

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3 responses to “Google Aiding Your Search Engine Optimization Efforts”

  1. handsome rob writes:

    A/B split and multivariate testing can be a powerful tool… but only if used properly. Tests not conducted with a stable control group (even if only in mind or on paper) and in a vacuum where other industry and/or traffic quality factors are held constant lose value quickly. I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I wonder what effect all of this testing will have on the quality score of webmasters’ landing pages (and, following shortly, their CPC).

  2. Meredith Smith writes:

    Great article, Lisa!
    We just posted an article outlining how to get your Google Website Optimizer experiments reporting in your Google Analytics account for much more in-depth info at http://www.roirevolution.com/blog/2007/04/google_website_optimizer_and_google_analytics_use.html.
    As super-excited as I am about the Website Optimizer, this makes it just a touch cooler in my opinion :-)

  3. Jeff Horsager writes:

    The Google Website Optimizer actually goes beyond simple split or a/b testing. It is a multivariate testing tool that allows for concurrent testing of up to 8 intra-page variables (like copy, graphics, and forms). It not only tells you which elements were better, but which combination of elements was the most effective in driving conversions. Pretty cool. I have written an article on getting started with GWO at http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2007/04/increase-conversion-rates-with-the-google-website-optimizer.html



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