It’s one of the most powerful tools in an online publisher’s arsenal but it’s one that few make effective use of. I’m talking about multivariate testing.

As part of its effort to turn its business around, Yahoo is using multivariate testing extensively on its homepage to figure out which combinations of content and features produce the best results.

According to Yahoo’s new CEO, Carol Bartz, Yahoo has tested 141 different versions of its homepage. As one of the most trafficked homepages on the web, Yahoo is hoping that it can benefit by figuring out which of the homepages it’s testing keep users around longer, not only boosting the value of the homepage itself but potentially giving Yahoo a greater opportunity to get users engaging with all of its services.

What’s truly amazing: according to PaidContent.org, Yahoo’s homepage currently uses 33 different code bases (that’s something Bartz wants to change). That means that its testing may be quite complex depending on how different the homepages being tested are from one another.

Needless to say, that Yahoo is using multivariate testing on an overly complex homepage that is built using a less-than-ideal hodgepodge of code bases hints at just how important Yahoo feels getting its homepage ‘right‘ is.

And that’s a good lesson for those of us whose homepages are a bit simpler. Thanks to the wide availability of multivariate testing tools, some of which are free, there’s no excuse not to get into the act. Increased user satisfaction, usage growth and increased revenue are just some of the benefits I’ve personally seen achieved with even the simplest of A/B testing and it will be interesting to see what the results of Yahoo’s multivariate testing are on the Yahoo homepage, and its bottom line.

Photo credit: Yodel Anecdotal via Flickr.