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Google gets personal with Optimize update

November 5, 2018
Jon Bauer

Google Optimize, a website optimization tool included in the Google Marketing Platform, has been used by thousands of webmasters to conduct A/B testing and improvement tracking. These features have proven invaluable to businesses, allowing for targeted experiments aimed at improving user experience and website performance. Google has now added personalization features, narrowing the capabilities gap between this free tool and commercial competitors.

The new personalization features can be used as a means to deploy a winning A/B experiment version or as a standalone feature to personalize content. In previous versions of “Optimize”, marketers had to manually deploy a winning experiment as a code or data change, or deploy as a separate experiment that targeted all users since Optimize does not allow changes to experiments once started. Similarly, personalizing content was a workaround at best. Targeting options for personalization in the free version of Google Optimize have steadily improved. They include mainstays like URL, referrer, cookie value, and device type, as well as some slick integrations with other Google Marketing Platform data such as Geography (using the Google Ads Geo Targeting API), Ad Groups, and Google Tag Manager data layer variables. Targeting by Analytics Audiences is still reserved for the paid version, Optimize 360.

A Word of Caution

We strongly recommend partnering with an experienced professional when setting up Google Optimize. While it’s possible to deploy the Optimize plugin via tag management solutions alone, it’s not recommended and will likely result in increased load time and the user experience nightmare known as the Flicker of Original Content (FoOC), when an original page is briefly displayed before the alternative appears. Poor implementation may lead to conflicts with tagging, analytics, and other JavaScript based libraries. In short, the byproducts of poor implementation are the opposite of the platform’s intent.

Other Options

Google is not the only solution for A/B testing and content personalization. VWO has been offering A/B and personalization for several years now. Optimizely is another option, albeit at a premium price.

On the enterprise end of the spectrum, all-in-one solutions such as Adobe Experience Platform and SalesForce Marketing Cloud have these features baked in, but are saddled with other modules which may not be necessary.

Contact us today to talk more about how we can optimize your website and apps to make sure they’re allowing a personalized experience for every visitor and customer.

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