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CRO Tools Head to Head: Optimizely vs. VWO

February 14, 2017
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Conversion rate optimization involves a little creativity and a lot of science. Like the biologist in a laboratory, a CRO specialist needs the right tools to conduct experiments and improve your site conversions.

Two popular tools in any CRO arsenal include Optimizely and Visual Website Optimizer (VWO).

Both software packages combine a suite of powerful features to test your websites and make changes based on the results.

But which one is right for you?

In the following guide we will talk about the tests both software packages perform, as well as compare the software in more detail.


What Types Of Tests Work Well For CRO?

Conversion rate optimization involves a lot of testing. You’ll need to determine not only which tests to run, but how long to run the test before making permanent changes to your site.

Related: Is Your Site Optimized for Conversion?

Four basic tests will help you determine what works best for your visitors and make changes accordingly.

  • A/B or Split Testing: Creates two versions of a page (Version A and Version B) to test small changes. These tests usually only test one element (headline, call to action, etc.) to determine the most effective version of the element.
  • Multivariate: Create several versions of your pages to determine the most effective combination of elements. For larger changes.
  • Multi-Page or Split URL: Visitors are sent to two different URLS with two completely different designs of a landing page. These tests are for significant changes like the overall design.
  • User Testing: Real people give feedback about the site. Collects qualitative data from real people to determine what works and what is unclear.

CRO services


Optimizely is a suite of several different tools to increase conversions for your site.  Instead of being an individual software package, each tool is a separate program and requires an additional subscription.

The most recent version (Optimizely X) includes the following software:

Full Stack

For the geeks in the audience, Optimizely Full Stack is just for you. This software suite is for larger companies with an army of developers who want to run their own experiments (Optimizely’s word for test) on any devices.

It works with a variety of languages and gives IT full control over the testing process.

Web Experimentation

This is where you’ll gain access to the testing features and reports. Optimizely uses a simple visual interface that allows you to create A/B, multivariate and multi-page tests.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a CRO Agency

Optimizely teamed up with statisticians from Stanford to come up with a way to make numbers meaningful. Traditional statistics don’t work with real time changes as well, and Optimizely claims their Stats Engine eliminates those issues.

Web Personalization

E-commerce site visitors don’t have the same goals in mind. Optimizely’s Web Personalization allows you to create different versions of the same page based on these goals. If you know your site visitor is interested in running shoes, your page will serve content based on those interests.

The same Stats Engine available in Web Experimentation shows you how well your personalized content is working.

Web Recommendations

If your customers are looking at a particular product or piece of content on your site, Optimizely Web Recommendations shows these customers related resources to help increase conversions.


Have an Android or iOS app? Optimizely mobile combines experimentation with personalization to optimize your app. Turn more window shoppers into serious customers by making real-time changes without waiting for Google Play or Apple App Store approval.



As televisions move closer to computers with web connectivity, Optimizely OTT gives you the ability to test your over the television apps.


While each software component includes its own features, some common features in Optimizely are worth noting.

Stats Engine

CRO specialists love numbers. But the problem in today’s uber-connected world lies in the way we view those numbers. Traditional statistics don’t take real-time data into account. That’s why Optimizely worked with Stanford statisticians to come up with a sequential statistical model.


Optimizely allows A/B, multivariate and multi-page testing in its Web Experimentation software. It’s unclear which tests are available in Mobile and OTT, but some testing components are available.


Web experimentation integrates with a variety of analytics and heatmap tools to allow a deeper investigation into what’s working for your pages and apps.


Visual Website Optimizer (VWO) calls itself “the world’s easiest A/B and split testing optimizer.”

Like Optimizely, VWO runs tests on your website and provides reports to help you improve your design. It also uses a small snippet of code to integrate seamlessly.

Related: Basic CRO – Page Elements & Testing Opportunities

But the biggest difference between VWO and Optimizely is that it is one software package. Optmizely requires subscriptions to each component.

The biggest draw of VWO is that it is more of a visual way to run tests on your site.

As the name implies, you don’t need to know how to code to make changes to pages.



VWO includes several different features. Enterprise users also get a dedicated account manager, on-site hosting, onboarding, and training, as well as advanced targeting, security and segmentation options.


Three types of tests are available through VWO:

  • A/B testing
  • Multivariate
  • Split URL

A/B Testing is best for small changes. Create two versions of the same page and then see which one works the best. In A/B testing, make one change at a time to determine which generates the best conversion rate.

Multivariate tests allow you to make hundreds of versions of the same page to figure out what combination of elements works best for your site.

Split URL testing is ideal for major design changes. Website visitors are sent to two completely different versions of a page to determine which layout works best.


VWO’s editor allows you to create campaigns that measure page performance intuitively. These campaigns include testing, reports or personalization.


The reporting feature of VWO doesn’t just track conversion rates. These reports automatically generate and use graphs and charts to show trends and performance over time. You can track multiple goals at the same time, as well as track revenue on each version you create.

If your account includes segmenting options, you can dive deep into your reports to discover the most profitable website visitors. Use this information to target specific customers and generate more revenue.


Two types of analytics are built into VWO:

  • Heatmaps
  • Click analytics

Heatmaps show you where people click the most. The red areas are the most popular areas of your page. Not only do you see the most popular parts of the page, but you’ll discover the most distracting page elements that may not be part of your conversion strategy.

The click analytics break each section of your page into individual elements. Your analytics report gives you the number of times each element was clicked on. This allows you to see what parts of your page are the most popular.

Because these tools are part of VWO, there’s no need to integrate third-party tools. Optimizely does not include a heatmap in their package.


VWO was built to show you how your website performs across all platforms. Their visual interface simulates the mobile experience so you can see how your pages look on mobile devices and tablets as well.

The software also integrates with major CMS like WordPress and Drupal, major shopping carts like WooCommerce and Magento, as well as analytics and phone tracking software.

Simple Setup and Maintenance

Setting up VWO to work with your site is similar to Optimizely. It includes proprietary asynchronous code that installs on your site. The code loads at the same time as your site to avoid loading speed issues. If there is any problem with loading time, they will show your default page.

Because collaboration is common during the CRO process, standard plan subscriptions allow up to five users and two sub-accounts. Enterprise plans include an unlimited amount of users and sub-accounts. Different roles can be assigned permissions to access only certain areas of the account.


CRO tools like VWO and Optimizely are moving past testing and into more advanced features like customization.

If your account allows you access to advanced targeting, VWO can personalize website content shown to visitors based on fifteen different variables. While behavior and location are the most common types of targeting, you can also use referring URLs and other factors to increase conversions from specific visitors.

Like other elements of your web pages, personalization can be tested to see which offers are most attractive to a particular type of visitor.


VWO includes an IdeaFactory of over 100 different actions you can take to improve the CRO process. These ideas are unique to your industry and include insights on how to make changes to your testing, personalization, and analytics to get the most out of the software.

The software also includes a landing page analyzer that asks 21 questions about your landing page to determine the strength of the page.

Real user feedback is also available. VWO includes the ability to ask anonymous website visitors questions about your site in a poll or open-ended format, providing the opportunity to collect valuable qualitative data from real website visitors directly through the software.


VWO employs a simple pricing structure. Unlike Optimizely, every plan includes the same basic features, but Enterprise level plans include more support and advanced reporting and targeting.

The two levels of plans include Standard and Enterprise, with a flat monthly fee for each. Standard plans have two types, Startup (up to 10,000 monthly visitors) and Business (up to 300,000 monthly visitors).

Standard plans currently start at $49/month, and Enterprise plans begin at $999/month.

The Winner: VWO

Both software packages have some common components, mainly in the testing categories.

It’s clear that Optimizely is the most complete solution, allowing companies to test conversions on websites, mobile apps, and even television-based apps.

But Optimizely lacks a built-in heatmap, and it is unclear how much data their Stats Engine actually provides beyond basic information. It’s also missing a user feedback and testing component.

Related: VWO – A Foolproof Tool for Your CRO Needs

Also, their complicated pricing structure and multiple software packages are a significant investment. Not to mention the team of people you would need to implement them.

VWO provides what you need without the bloat.

Their simple pricing and one-size-fits-all software package take the hassle out of figuring out what you need to get started.

While VWO doesn’t provide support for mobile or OTT apps like Optimizely, it’s a solid investment that is easily maintained by one person or a small team. The features are clearly spelled out on their website, and there’s no ambiguity about what’s included.

For individuals, small businesses, and entrepreneurs, VWO is the clear winner. Optimizely is too bloated and complicated for one person or a small team to manage.

Optimizely has its place, though. It makes sense for gigantic enterprises and large international conglomerates as these companies have the people and financial resources in place to manage this powerful tool.

Wrapping Up

After reviewing both software packages, it’s clear that CRO tools are moving from testing to implementation. With the addition of personalization and targeting, it’s reasonable to expect them to also move from conversion optimization to revenue optimization.

The difference between optimizing conversions and revenue lies in decisions about product pricing. It’s possible to increase revenue with lower conversions by a simple change in price.

For example, if your website has 5,000 visitors and 1,000 of those visitors buy a $5 product, your site conversion rate would be 20% and revenue would be $5,000. But if only 500 of those customers bought a $20 product, your conversion rate would drop to 10% but revenue would increase to $10,000.

By targeting relevant visitors and personalizing content, this will become easier than ever.

Just remember that no matter what tool you choose, follow current best practices and be realistic about the amount of time it will take to see results. There’s no magic bullet for CRO. But patience and a willingness to continuously improve are your best allies.


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