Professional marketers discover breakthrough strategies through A/B testing in SEO. No matter how much experience you have in marketing, there is a chance of unexpected outcomes. Marketing is a lot like the comedic discipline. It involves knowing your audience enough that you can say a joke and it will land. Know your audience too little and you risk appearing inaccessible. Know your audience too much and you risk appearing unoriginal. There’s a sweet spot somewhere between that, where marketing can truly be its most effective.
And like any skilled profession, developing a good marketing strategy requires practice. A/B testing in SEO allows marketers to do just that. Finding the sweet spot to obtain high standings on SERPs is no easy challenge. There are a few primary search engines and a plethora of ways to design a website. A/B testing in SEO allows marketers to put some of these components under a microscope to understand their effect better. A/B testing in SEO shows that the minute details are much more important than what meets the eye. They just might be the keys to unlocking remarkable SEO results.
In this article, we will discuss the A/B testing process in SEO. We will provide some suggestions for how to compare key SEO components. This will give you the information you need to make more informed decisions that will lead you closer to the SEO sweet spot.
What is A/B Testing in SEO?
A/B testing in SEO (also known as split testing or bucket testing) is a method of comparing two search engine optimized entities against each other. The goal in doing so is to see which entity performs better. SEO professionals can conduct A/B testing for a number of digital products like newsletters to social media pages, but most typically, it refers to the comparison of webpages. This is because websites are easier to measure and manipulate in order to achieve a desired search engine result placement.
In essence, A/B testing is a marketing experiment. In this case, two or more webpage variants are tested against one another by being displayed to random users. Various analytical methods are used to determine which page variation works better for a specific conversion goal.
Why Conduct SEO Tests?
Marketing, like many other sectors, desires to create a strategy that is unique to its customers. This often means that marketing procedures and methods will need to be updated to account for any changes In customer wants and needs over time. A/B testing is a fantastic approach to improving a marketing tactic through SEO. This is because the testing directly compares a variation against its current state. This allows professionals to ask specific questions about changes to their website. They can then collect data and make an informed decision about how to proceed.
For example, say there is a B2B technology company that wants to improve their sales lead quality as a result of campaign webpages. The company decides to achieve this goal by conducting A/B testing in SEO. They will create a new webpage with changes to SEO components such as the headline, image organization, links, call to action, and overall layout. They will then measure these changes against their original predecessors for effectiveness. This will hopefully drive their new sales strategy.
Ultimately, A/B testing takes the guesswork out of conversion and website optimization. It enables professionals to shift conversations that are inquiry-based, “we think,” to data-based, “we know.” By measuring the impacts that these SEO variables have on your metrics, you are more likely to ensure that every chosen change can produce positive outcomes.
The Split Testing Process
In this section, we will discuss the general outline for how to conduct an A/B test for your business or organization.
Your current historical analysis should provide an insight into where you can begin optimizing. Typically, it helps to begin with high traffic areas on your website or app because they allow you to collect data faster. You should also look for pages with low conversion rates or high drop-off rates that can be improved.
Identify Your Goals
Your conversion goals are the means that you use to determine whether or not the variation in testing is more successful than its original version. A conversion goal can be anything from clicking a button or link to more product purchases or e-mail signups.
Generate a Hypothesis
After you have decided on a goal, you can begin creating split testing ideas and hypotheses. Make sure to think about how they will better the current version of your digital platform. Prioritize your ideas and hypotheses on an organized list according to the expected impact and difficulty of implementation.
Create Two Distinct Variations
Take your original platform and make a copy with specific adjustments. This might be changing the color scheme, interchanging the element structure on a webpage, hiding navigation tools, or something entirely new! You can do this on your own, or you can use an external A/B testing software (like Optimizely). Many of these services make manipulating these elements easy and quick. Finally, take the extra step to QA (quality assurance test) your two variables to make sure they would work as expected.
Run the Experiment
Make your experiment live and wait for the visitors to come and participate! At this stage, visitors should be randomly assigned to either the control or the variation of the experiment. Measure, count, and compare the metrics of user interaction to determine how each variable performed.
Analyze the results
Your experiment is now complete. Time to analyze its results. The split testing software you utilized will display the data from the experiment that will show you the difference in performance between the two versions. They will tell you if there is a statistical significance in difference as well.
A/B Testing and SEO
Google has stated that it permits and actually encourages split testing. Additionally, they have said that performing A/B testing will not present a risk to a website’s search rank. However, it is possible to jeopardize your search rank by using a testing tool for a purpose such as cloaking. Here are some of Google’s tips to make sure that this does not happen:
- No cloaking – Cloaking involves showing search engines different content than what a typical user would see. It can result in your site being demoted or removed from search results. To prevent cloaking, do not abuse visitor segmentation. This will display different content to Googlebot based on an IP address or user agent.
- Utilize rel= “canonical” – Let’s say you run a split test with multiple URLs. In this case, you should use the rel = “canonical” attribute. It will point the variations back to the original page. Doing so will help prevent the Googlebot from confusion by thinking that there are multiple versions of the same page.
- 302 directs over 301 directs – This is for if you run a test that redirects an original URL to a variation URL. Using a 302 (temporary) redirect is better than a 301 (permanent) redirect. This will prevent Google from testing URLs and maintain the index of the original URL.
- Run experiments only as long as necessary – If you run an experiment longer than it needs to, especially in front of many users, you run the risk of painting yourself as deceivable by search engines. Google recommends that website operators remove all test variations as soon as they are done with a split experiment. They also suggest avoiding experimentation that is unnecessarily long.
Three Main Takeaways from SEO Testing
There are a multitude of reasons as to why your business can benefit from SEO split testing. Let’s go over three main takeaways that you can benefit from by conducting split experimentation.
- Justification for further investment in promising areas – One of the most positive outcomes of A/B testing is that it can provide a clear insight into SEO and marketing ROI. When you can pinpoint what is exactly leading to a conversion goal, it is easier to justify specific choices related to investment.
- Avoidance of disastrous outcomes – When it comes to A/B testing, one of the main purposes is to create an informed opinion through data collection. It is certainly not wise for marketers and sales professionals to blindly make a large change to their website and assume that they will be indexed correctly. Instead, it is best to make small changes and track their effect. Sometimes these changes are beneficial and other times they are unhelpful. SEO Split testing prevents disastrous and monumental outcomes by focusing on specific SEO elements.
- Promotes ongoing growth – A/B testing in SEO is not exclusive to a certain time period. It can occur at any point throughout the life of a business. Engaging in SEO split testing is a positive step towards growth. It reminds companies that they should take the time to make conscious and informed decisions. SEO testing promotes a growth mindset. It helps professionals focus on tangible differences that they can make to make the overall company more successful.
- What is split testing?
- Why should you conduct SEO tests?
- Why is A/B testing important?
- How do you do A/B testing?
- What are the main takeaways of A/B testing?