Google Optimize: Google’s New A/B Testing Product

Google Optimize: Google’s New A/B Testing Product

Dennis van der Heijden
September 21, 2015

Recently I learned about a project Google is working on Google Optimize. The replacement of Google Analytics Content Experiments that was replacing Google Website Optimizer with a new feature inside Google Tag Manager (GTM).

It’s unclear if this project will be in one of Google’s first paid versions of Google Tag Manager Premium of being a free addition to the platform, maybe we will hear during Google’s Unveil event February 29th. With Google Ventures’ current investment in Optimizely rumors say they might acquire and not finish developing it alone.

Updated September 28th, 2016: Free Google Optimize is now available

Updated March 17th, 2016: Google Optimize 360 is now live

Updated October 1st, 2015: Google Optimize Beta is now confirmed

Hacking Google Tag Manager for A/B Testing Today

You don’t have to wait until 2016 for Google Optimize, you can start A/B testing today with Google Tag Manager. Martijn Scheijbeler and Simon Vreeman worked on a project for The Next Web that you can find here on GitHub.

[Tweet “.@TheNextWeb #ABtesting platform gave superpower to #googletagmanager and @googleanalytics”]

The Dutch Martijn and Simon documented the exact A/B testing program for The Next Web and did a great job. The duo runs around 200 experiments a year so they know their way around  A/B testing. They wanted to save money on third party A/B testing tools (guess they’ve never seen Convert Experiences’ pricing).

Martijn explains: “We run all of our testing through Google Tag Manager with custom JavaScript to make the needed variants and to check if a user is already in a certain variant of an experiment.

Coding is done through a browser Web inspector. Since we run our experiments with jQuery, it’s easy to add or change current DOM elements on our pages.

If we need a new data element we’ll load it from the back-end and hide the element to make sure it won’t interfere with the original variant and tests are activated by using filters to target the user segments v.s. pages. For example: Desktop – Article Pages.

If a certain test requires data from our back-end then code is inserted and hidden in the body to make sure it can be used by a variant but won’t have any impact on original variants.”

Google Optimize

Jules Stuifbergen another Dutch optimizer and analyst at the Online Dialogue gave an interesting presentation at Conversion Hotel 2014 where he went in detail in this presentation on how they use Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics to launch experiments and save money on A/B testing tools. An interesting concept and less complicated setup than at The Next Web used. You will find the Slideshare presentation below.

Last on this list of suggestions on how to get Google Optimize hacked together before its live comes from Simo Ahava (this one is not a Dutch but a Finish guru) a Senior Data Advocate at Reaktor. He wrote down his detailed proof of concept of Google Optimize here.

[Tweet “”Another way to utilize the complexity of GTM’s #JavaScript wizardry” -@SimoAhava at @Reaktornow”]

Google Optimize Under NDA

Update: Sept. 22 – 1:25pm Pacific. Since the release of this post Twitter exploded and we see some interesting talks between people that have also heard about Google Optimize but might be under NDA. See this interesting short twitter conversation between some experts in Google Analytics.

Google Optimize under NDA

Google Optimize Pricing

The last stand-alone product from Google in this niche was Google Website Optimizer, the service was terminated back in 2012 and replaced with an integrated little and weak brother Content Experiments inside Google Analytics. Now Google Optimize will be back as premium product but will it be a paid or free product?

If this will be rolled out as part of Google Analytics Premium Suite it makes sense that Google Optimize will be a free feature of the Enterprise solution for A/B testing. We have also heard that it will be part of a new premium offer of Google Tag Manager (GTM) so that will get you back 100,000 USD a year, is this your new A/B testing platform? Will you be getting this new Google Optimize?

Is Google Building Google Optimize or Buying Optimizely?

Google Optimize New AB Testing Tool

Google is working on the next A/B testing tool using Google Tag Manager will if develop it alone or buy Optimizely?

There has been a constant increase in acquisitions in the A/B testing space and it seems it’s a space that gets a lot of interest from investors and marketing suites to complete their platforms. Oracle bought Maxymiser in August 2015 and Flipkart acquired Appiterate only four months before that and Qubit quickly announced the integration with the new Appiterate to compliment their platform with mobile features.

Last year Dropbox bought E-Commerce A/B Testing Service Predictive Edge and then shut it down, it is believed that Dropbox made this move for their own team and not to run predictive edge for future. VentureBeat wrote an interesting report analyzed the market and Stewart Rogers said in that report:

Whether via acquisition, adding features, or via a completely new tool, the next big CRO vendor will be one that offers A/B(n) split testing, multivariate testing, heat mapping, scroll mapping, web analytics, funnel analysis, mobile analytics, user testing, expert feedback, and concept testing — across all content delivery types/channels (website, mobile, email etc.)

People with knowledge of the industry share their opinion on Google buying Optimizely: Vinay Bhagat, Co-founder & CEO of TrustRadius says:

“Google does have its own embedded AB testing tool – Google Content Experiments but it’s a weak solution compared to pure play solutions like Optimizely… so I expect that they will invest in AB testing at some point – either organically or via acquisition. If they do acquire, Optimizely would definitely be a good target.”

Google Ventures already has a minority stake in Optimizely when they joined the first and second funding rounds of almost 100 million dollars rounds that Optimizely raised but was surprisingly absent in the last round. But is Google the only company interested in Optimizely?

Dima Korolev ex-Facebooker and current advisor to A/B testing tool SplitMetrics think there are more candidates that are interested in buying Optimizely, Bhagat of TrustRadius also responded on this and said:

“Likely. Unless Facebook does it first.” Facebook also made steps to enter the industry of A/B testing with Airlock but never made the move to optimize outside of their platform and with Google Ventures having shares in Optimizely there will be hard fight between Facebook and Google to acquire Optimizely if it ever get’s to that point.

Whatever Google Optimize will be exactly and how it will be presented to the market we don’t know. But it is believed that will be an interesting addition to the A/B testing market. Welcome back Google!

Originally published September 21, 2015 - Updated April 15, 2019
Dennis van der Heijden
Co-founder and CEO of, Dennis is a passionate community builder and out of the box thinker. He spends his time innovating to make Convert Experiences better. Learn about his journey as an entrepreneur and leader on the SaaS Club podcast.
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