How To Test a Completely New Website

Test a Completely New Website

If you have designed a completely different website (for example an ecommerce shop) setting up a Split URL experiment is great for testing if the new design/structure has a positive impact and slowly gives it more traffic (10% at a time). We use a split URL experiment for this.

Step 1: Set Up a new subdomain

We have seen that setting up a subdomain with the new website can confuse users and lower conversion rates. can lower trust and hurt conversion rates. We have seen clients using the following "trick" - http://wwvv (the last two are "v") making it look like "w" in many browsers and avoiding too much confusion for the users.

Step 1.1: Add the new subdomain into the project's settings

Make sure the newly created subdomain is allowed to be part of the project by adding it to Active Websites in the Project Settings.

Step 2: Use rel=canonical attribute instead of noindex meta tag

As of the current date (June 2018), Google, in their document "Best practices for website testing with Google Search" recommends using rel=“canonical” rather than a noindex meta tag.  Their explanation is that you "don’t want search engines not to index your homepage, you just want them to understand that all the test URLs are close duplicates or variations on the original URL and should be grouped together, with the original URL as the canonical. Using noindex rather than rel=“canonical” in such a situation can sometimes have unexpected bad effects".


Step 3: Get SSL certificate in place on new subdomain

The checkout has to be secure on both domains so make sure you verify that your subdomain has a secure checkout. You will surely lower conversions by sending SSL warnings from your new site to the user.

Step 4: Create a New Experiment

In your Experiment Dashboard you will find the (plus) icon in the top right that indicates you can make a new experiment (see screenshot below)

Step 5: Select Split URL Experiment

Choose the Split URL experiment type (see screenshot below)

Step 6: Add Variations

By default we add your main URL as the original in the wizard.  You will need to add the variation URL(s) yourself. The traffic will be split evenly between your original and all variations. In the example below (see screenshot) we set it up to redirect every path on to the same path under Regular expressions are being used (see below):

Step 6: Need Regular Expressions (Optional)?

Unless you want to test one individual page against one or more other pages, regular expressions are needed. You need to define a pattern for your original URLs and which pieces (matches) are going to be transferred to the variation URL. In the above example, we'll capture everything that comes after the domain and add that into the variation URL. See more on regular expressions:

When the "Support Regular Expressions" option is checked, a link to a regular expression checker is displayed, making it easy to test regular expressions without leaving the screen. 

Step 7: Verify Audience

When you click Save you will go to the Experiment Summary next. Verify the Audience.

Step 8: Verify Goals

In this same Experiment Summary you can change a lot, but to focus on the basics we just verify that goals are set up properly.

When URLs for the websites are different; for example the checkout has a different URL, consider using an advanced goal which monitors 2 URLs at the same time (see image below).

Step 8: Launch Experiment 

Don't forget to add the code to your site. Now launch your test by Activating it.

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