Marketing

Google Optimize is Sunsetting: What’s Next for CRO Programs?

By Tinuiti Team

For nearly half a decade, Google Optimize has served as an online tool utilized by marketers for split-testing and personalization, enabling them to optimize conversions and enhance the user experience of websites.

However, as of September 30, 2023, both Google Optimize and Optimize 360 will no longer be available. In the period leading up to this date, marketers can continue running tests, but any ongoing experiments and personalizations will come to an end.

If you have not yet considered your options for the upcoming September deadline, now is the time to start evaluating alternative solutions. To assist you in this process, our experts offer an unbiased perspective on the next steps you should consider.

 

Why is Google Optimize Going Away?

 

Google plans to invest in partnerships with platforms like Optimizely and VWO which can offer more robust capabilities than Google Optimize currently does. Their primary focus now lies in providing effective tools for improving the user experience, leveraging the power of Google Analytics 4 and other integrations.

According to Google’s statement:

“Optimize, though a longstanding product, does not have many of the features and services that our customers request and need for experimentation testing. We therefore have decided to invest in solutions that will be more effective for our customers.”

 

What Does the Google Optimize Sunset Mean for Marketers?

 

The initial response from marketers regarding this news may not have been overwhelmingly positive. However, the good news is that there are alternative options available for marketers to utilize before the sunset of Google Optimize. 

As previously mentioned, it is crucial for marketers to take action now and begin exploring these alternative solutions without delay to ensure a smooth transition before it becomes too late. 

 

Can I still use Google Optimize after September 2023?

 

Effective September 30, 2023, both Google Optimize and Google Optimize 360 will be deactivated. Any ongoing experiments or personalization campaigns will remain active until this date, but they will be discontinued once the service goes offline. 

 

Does this apply to Optimize 360?

 

Yes, the same applies to Optimize 360. It’s important to note that after September 30th, you will no longer have access to your experiments, and you will be unable to export or interact with them. Therefore, it is crucial to wrap up any necessary actions or data retrieval related to your experiments before the specified deadline.

 

How will Google Optimize impact my UA or GA4 setup?

 

If you’ve already completed the migration from Universal Analytics to GA4 – congrats! In that case, you can disregard this step. However, if you’re one of the companies who have yet to migrate (we sure hope you have by now) to GA4, it is advisable to consider including the migration of your A/B Testing tool along with it. By doing so, you can avoid the hassle of migrating from Optimize 360 to GA4’s Optimize, only to have to transition again after a few months.

 

What will happen to my historical Optimize data?

 

Google is encouraging all users to download their historical data from within the Optimize user interface before September 30, 2023. To download your historical data before the sunset date, see Export your Optimize report data. To access your historical raw data, use the Google Analytics Data API. Keep in mind, you won’t be able to access your experience inference results or your historical Google Analytics raw data after the sunset date.

 

Should I Keep A/B Testing After Google Optimize Sunsets?

 

The big question is for businesses that have been using Google Optimize’s free tool, is it now worth it to invest in a paid platform? Yes! 

Here’s why:

 

Which Tools Can Replace Google Optimize?

 

At Tinuiti, we’re objective in looking at A/B testing platforms for our clients. Ultimately, we recommend the tool that best suits our client needs.  Tinuiti’s CRO Strategist, Theresa Farr, dives into Tinuiti’s top picks for a Google Optimize alternative. 

Headshot of Theresa Farr

For businesses that are using Google Optimize, Tinuiti’s top two recommendations include VWO and Convert.com and here’s why:

1. Both platforms are established businesses (not startups reacting to the recent sunset) and they are among the first few testing platforms with a strong reputation.

2. Both platforms have sophisticated testing capabilities at an affordable price. VWO is now offering a FREE starter plan for up to 50k users per month.

3. Both platforms offer excellent customer service. 

4. They also provide the ability to run mutually exclusive experiments to prevent cross-contamination of data.

5. They have appropriate guardrails in place for security, privacy and compliance.

To learn more about what is covered in each platform (see below):

 

Now, let’s take a closer look at these two market-leading A/B testing tools for enterprise businesses that use experimentation and conversion rate optimization:

 

VWO

 

Founded in 2009, benefits of using VWO include:

Connectivity of Insights: This includes heatmaps, recordings, forms, and surveys so marketers can get testing ideas and also conduct post-campaign analysis. Pro-tip: If you already use Hotjar, however, that can be integrated with either VWO or Convert.com.

Easy to use interface: This is helpful for tasks such as segmentation and reporting. Additionally, you can also do variation level traffic allocation.

Support for Multi-armed Bandit Testing (MAB): This allows marketers to dynamically increase visitor allocation in favor of the better-performing variations of your experiments. Pro-tip: This is a great feature to help reduce the opportunity cost of running an A/B Test. 

 

Convert.com

 

Founded in 2008, benefits of using Convert.com include:

Built-in flicker prevention: They’ve conquered the dreaded flicker with a patent-pending SmartInsert technology. In fact, CXL ran a study that showed that Convert is one of the fastest A/B testing tools (ranked by time to load test variation).

Robust integration set: They have 90+ out-of-the-box integrations (compared to VWO’s 44).

Making a positive impact on the planet: Convert.com is climate-neutral certified (15x carbon positive) and a conscious business.

 

Google Optimize Alternatives for Small Businesses

 

For small businesses with limited or no budget for an A/B testing tool, we recommend the following options:

Utilize a free starter kit like VWO’s Free Starter Plan.

Implement Launch-and-Watch testing. Make a change to your website and compare data from one time period to another. Keep in mind that this method is less precise than A/B testing as it allows for external factors that can influence the results.

Consider user testing by hiring individuals to record their screens while attempting specific tasks on your website. This approach provides valuable insights into areas where users may encounter confusion or frustration. You can explore services such as UserTesting, Userbrain, and Trymata.

Conduct paid traffic campaigns that direct visitors to two different landing pages, and carefully track and analyze their performance to determine which one yields better results.

 

What’s Next for Google’s A/B Testing Capabilities?

 

Google and Optimizely have recently announced a collaboration related to GA4, but specific details regarding the implications of this collaboration have not been released yet.

Alex Atzberger, the CEO of Optimizely, expressed their commitment to assisting prominent brands in obtaining valuable data and remaining ahead of their customers’ evolving needs. He also mentioned the anticipation of welcoming Google Optimize customers into their community.

Considering that Google Optimize was free and Optimizely primarily catered to enterprise clients, this collaboration raises several questions about the potential beneficiaries. It remains unclear whether the collaboration is exclusively intended for Google Optimize 360 clients or if it will extend to a wider range of users. Further information is awaited to shed light on the specifics and the potential benefits that this collaboration will offer to businesses and users.

 

Next Steps

 

As the end of Google Optimize and Optimize 360 approaches, there’s no need to panic. During this period, marketers can still conduct tests, but it’s important to plan ahead for the September deadline. If you need guidance, Tinuiti’s experts are available to provide guidance and help you navigate next steps and the future of CRO together. 

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