Successful SEO is often about experimentation. You’re like a scientist, testing different components of your website to see what gets the best results in search.
A/B testing, or split testing, is a smart tactic that businesses use to improve their campaign performance. It’s a particularly powerful tool for SEO, but you need to approach split testing carefully. The key is to change one factor at a time—while abiding by search engines’ rules—to see what gets the best results.
Why you need to A/B test SEO
When you A/B test your SEO, you’re changing one element at a time on your website and comparing its performance to unchanged pages. The thing is, split testing takes a lot of work and resources. Many brands don’t invest in A/B testing for that reason.
However, if you’re taking your SEO seriously, it’s time to overcome your fears of split testing. When you take a scientific approach to your SEO efforts, you’ll see benefits like:
- Cost reductions: Are your current SEO initiatives actually working? A/B testing helps you see which efforts are getting the most traction. Stop wasting money on things that don’t work and focus on what really moves the needle.
- Better decisions: Split testing allows you to test a small change first before rolling it out to your entire website. If you aren’t willing to risk your existing SERP rank, A/B testing can help you make more informed decisions.
- Increased organic traffic: Done right, A/B testing improves your SERP rank over time, bringing more organic traffic to your website.
- Saved time: Split testing is a more methodical approach to SEO. It helps you identify where your efforts will get the most results. Instead of trying tons of things, finesse your approach to be more focused and thoughtful. Know what works and adjust from there.
Put simply, split testing matters because it helps you get the most out of your SEO. Instead of crossing your fingers and hoping your SEO strategy will work, A/B testing helps you collect proof first.
3 best practices for A/B testing SEO
Many business owners are surprised that you can split test something like SEO. That’s because, while A/B testing is possible, it’s very difficult to do. If you do plan on split testing your SEO, we highly recommend working with an SEO agency. There are a lot of moving parts to SEO, and it can be more economical to let the professionals handle testing.
When it’s time to test your SEO initiatives, we recommend following these 3 best practices to get the most out of your testing.
1 - Follow the scientific method
Follow the scientific method to create a measurable and accurate test. This means you need to start with a hypothesis like, “Writing longer alt text will improve my traffic by 5% month-over-month.” The goal is to write a hypothesis that you can prove or disprove with testing.
Remember, the key is to test one variable at a time so you know which changes had an impact on y our SEO. Don’t run your A/B test if you’re trying a new marketing campaign, redoing your website, or any other big changes that could affect the test.
2 - Avoid duplicate content
You can’t create two identical pages to see which version ranks better in Google. Search engines will penalize you for duplicate content, which won’t end well for you, so never copy your content.
Instead, A/B tests your SEO by grouping web pages. For example, if you have a lot of product pages, test your hypothesis on 50% of your pages while leaving the other 50% unchanged. Yes, this makes it tough to determine how, exactly, changing your SEO factors influences your rank, but you need a control group to get an idea of what’s working.
3 - Test meaningful changes
So, what should you split test? You can change nearly any variable, but websites usually test factors like:
- Meta descriptions
- Page titles
- Calls to action
- Keywords in the copy
You’ll want to run your A/B test for at least 2 weeks to see if it’s working. Remember, change only one factor at a time so you can know for sure which changes worked.
You also want to look for statistically significant differences. For example, if there was just a 0.5% increase in performance in your experiment, is that really significant enough to rewrite all of your meta descriptions? If you do find a statistical difference, then you’re free to roll out the changes sitewide to see better SEO performance.
The bottom line
Split testing is already pretty complex, but when it comes to SEO, there are special considerations. A/B testing is a worthwhile endeavor, though, especially if you want to improve your SERP position and organic traffic. When it’s time to test your SEO, partner with a professional SEO agency to get the most out of your testing.
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