If you’re reading this, it’s too late. The news of Google Optimize’s untimely and eventual demise has cascaded across digital marketing channels and communications. Google Analytics’ exclusive AB testing platform for website and application optimization will have an expiration date, leaving CRO strategists and their clients in a mild panic to pivot.
Before you start to consider a drastic change in conversion rate optimization strategy, do not fret. Google has afforded practitioners and stakeholders time to build an exit strategy that should help make a transition less abrupt.
This blog post will help you understand what’s happening with Google Optimize in 2023, a brief timeline of what’s ahead, what you’ll need to consider most for your continued CRO strategy, and how to prepare for the sun to set on the platform this Fall.
I’ve also created a companion Youtube playlist for you to enjoy as you read the rest of this blog. Please enjoy. Or have a good cry.
We’ve Come to the End of the Road, Google Optimize
If I could turn back time, if I could find a way, I’d make Google break the news to all users who rely on Google Analytics and Optimize earlier.
At the time of publishing this article, Google announced it will sunset Google Optimize on September 30th, 2023. Eight months seems like a long time to shut down a pillar of the Google Analytics suite for many, and in some ways, it is, but we’ve learned that time can move fast.
Don’t be caught completely off guard by what’s ahead in the coming months. We can help provide some perspective on how to anticipate the changes Google Optimize and GA4 have in store.
Still, I Can’t Let Go
The impact of sunsetting Google Optimize will be felt heavily across a majority of websites. Convert.com discovered that 59% of around 280,000 domains they sampled use the Google Optimize snippet. Once deprecated, CRO teams and their clients should get comfortable with using a new testing platform that will affirm design changes in the name of optimization.
As a practitioner in the CRO space, I will fully admit that while our team plans to adopt a new testing platform to integrate with GA4, I plan to use as much Google Optimize as possible between now and its retirement. I will also fully anticipate a lot of challenging questions to come my way from those I work for.
As a client, stakeholder, or agency you should be inquiring about your CRO strategy teams’ plans with the news of Optimize’s deprecation.
Breaking Up is Hard To Do
The inevitable question we all will be faced with is, “What should we do?” or “What’s the plan?” One important thing to remember when discussing these questions is that time can be on your side as long as you have a plan in place to make a smooth transition to a new tool or strategy.
Think of All That We’ve Been Through
To make a successful jump to a new AB testing platform, a CRO team and clients/stakeholders should work together to have a plan in place for Google Optimize’s timeline. Here is a simplified example roadmap that can jumpstart that conversation and provide a foundation to collaborate on overcoming the challenges of Google Optimize’s depreciation.
|Actions with Google Optimize||Actions with a New AB Testing Tool|
|Q1 2023||– Continue tests and experimentations planned.|
– Export your reports’ raw data and keep it in a safe place, like Big Query.
|– Explore the costs and capabilities of the next tool to adopt for AB testing that fits your current CRO strategy and business needs.|
|Q2 2023||– Execute tests and experiments that will provide the quickest possible return on results and optimization.|
– Export any remaining data not already covered in Q1
|– Gain familiarity with the tool’s integration into the website and analytics platform, like GA4.|
– Stage and test how the tool integrates with your analytics.
– Implement the new tool as part of your development stack.
|Q3 2023||– Remove the Google Optimize snippet or tag from your website once tests and experimentations have ceased on the platform.||– Run experiments and tests and ensure no hiccups in data fidelity necessary to analyze results.|
Teams should also know that Google is allowing current users of Optimize in 2023 to continue testing and experimentation until it sunsets in September.
Can’t We Give Our Love Another Try?
For strategists looking to prolong their use of Google Optimize for at least the first half of 2023, there are a few details to keep in mind:
- Optimize will remain free for GA4 users from now until the sunset date of September 30th, 2023.
- Optimize features come with no additional cost within GA4.
- Users that renewed UA360 through H1 2023 will be able to review their tests and experiments on Optimize 360 until September 30th.
- Clients and practitioners should know that they can still use Optimize 360 with UA360 or Optimize via GA4 integration until the planned sunset date.
Come On, Everybody, Let’s Start Anew
Marketers who choose not to adopt a new AB testing tool lose the opportunity and potential to effectively optimize return on investments to digital marketing campaigns. A bigger risk of discontinuing AB testing entirely is eliminating the chances to remain competitive in your market. Any brand can earn traffic from organic and paid channels, but the most valuable audiences and customers are won with a CRO strategy and its AB testing platform to optimize a landing page and the customer journey.
Google’s “Optimize sunset” email on Monday, January 23 expressed that they “understand the value of A/B testing for marketers and will be sharing new ways to bring experimentation at scale to businesses in the coming weeks.” They also expressed that they are “excited for the vision for A/B testing within Google Analytics 4.”
While there are no further details of what testing within GA4 could look like compared to our experience with Google Optimize, now is not a time to wait and see. Veteran digital marketers may recall the early 2010’s when Google Analytics UA tried integrating testing within the platform with “Content Experiments.” The testing and reporting tool proved to be clunky and rudimentary at best before Google Optimize became the tool of choice to integrate and use for the past 5 plus years.
But Don’t Look Back in Anger
Not only will the news of Google Optimize’s retirement be a stressful time for digital marketing strategists to overcome, but there will be exciting things ahead for how CRO is shaped for the future! Tools and testing methodologies used by countless UX teams and their optimization strategies are within your reach to explore!
You Might Find a Better Place to Play
Continued use of a testing platform is a must for your digital marketing strategy. Forecasts suggest the market is growing more competitive as budgets are reassessed and tightened. Despite any challenges ahead for CRO, there is optimism from Google and the UX community that can make adapting to the climate easier.
Google promises “new opportunities” that await teams using GA4 after Optimize is deprecated. Google also ensures that they want a more seamless experience for users of GA4 to integrate with their AB testing platform of choice. Use the example roadmap from earlier to start finding out what that new test strategy looks like and how it will complement your optimization initiatives.
Use this opportunity to explore UX research as part of your digital optimization strategies as well! Portent is more than familiar with UX research methods that can lead to meaningful improvements to a digital strategy. Learning more qualitative information about visitors’ experiences on your websites in a research environment has valuable insights that can’t be gleaned from quantitative AB testing that lead to no statistical significance.
And for That, I Say Thank You, Next
So, what happens next in finding your own successor to Google Optimize before it sunsets? We can recommend a few tools that may be suitable for your future CRO testing endeavors.
Great for: Growing Small Businesses and Self-Starters
Widely recognized and praised, VWO came right out of the gate as one of the first testing platforms to offer a free version! For small businesses and strategies that heavily relied upon Google Optimize’s pricetag, the VWO Testing Starter Plan was a sight for sore eyes. “The plan will be free for users for up to 50k tested visitors a month and available for $199 a month for users for up to 100K monthly tested visitors.”
Great for: Enterprise-Level Businesses and Strategy
Easily one of the most recognizable tools in the CRO strategist world, Optimizely is now capitalizing on the opportunity to offer Google Optimize users a discount for platform and migration services. For power users with development experience, Optimizely offers a “full stack” solution that will satisfy some of the most complex AB testing strategies.
Great for: Exploring a Powerhouse Platform to Try
Convert is another comprehensive solution for CRO strategists that want the ability to test to their heart’s content with fewer limitations to the number of concurrent tests or designated conversion goals. The platform offers two new plans starting at $99/month per month for up to 50k unique visitors to your tests with support from and access to an online forum. Doubling the monthly capacity of unique visitors to your tests will cost $199/month and includes email support.
Great for: E-commerce and Large Scale, Comprehensive Analytics
Dynamic Yield is one of the most highly rated and premium “Experience OS” environments in the market that prides itself on being the best cross-channel data merging platform. to best understand user data across numerous experiences like e-commerce or lengthy lead nurturing funnels. Expect some premium pricing to go with premium support and interface.
Yet, I Know I’ll Think of You Each Step of the Way
I hope this blog post will give you everything you need to start a digital marketing and optimization life without Google Optimize. You are now equipped with the knowledge of how Google Optimize will ride off into the sunset, a roadmap to plan and implement a new AB testing tool, and some alternative strategies to explore in the wake of these sudden, big changes to CRO strategy.
Portent’s CRO team is hard at work preparing for these big changes. If you’re lost, you can look and you will find that our team is ready to help you with your optimization needs for 2023 and beyond.
I hope navigating Google Optimize’s sunsetting treats you kind. I hope you have all you’ve dreamed of. I’m wishing you joy and happiness in your continued CRO testing endeavors.