In this article, we will see in detail about below topics on SEO split testing.
- What is AB Testing in SEO?
- How Split Testing Can Save SEO’s Reputation.
- How Long Should You Run a Split Test For?
- Top Split Testing Mistakes.
- The Ultimate Quick SEO Cheat-Sheet.
What is AB Testing in SEO?
AB Testing – also sometimes referred to as split testing – is a technique used in SEO to make data-driven decisions. This powerful strategy can help to avoid mistakes, and ensure that you make only the best decisions when it comes to your marketing.
Not familiar with the concept? Then you are potentially missing out in a big way. Read on, and we’ll explore precisely what AB testing is, and why it’s such an important concept.
Essentially, AB testing means taking two versions of something and seeing how they compared. So in this case, we will take two versions of the same web page and then see how they perform. You can then choose to keep the version that performed best, and you can take lessons from that version to apply to your future pages.
This is a concept that is commonly used in sales. If you are selling a product from a landing page, then you will probably have a sales script that is designed to convince people to buy from you. The script probably talks about the virtues of the product, then tells the reader to buy at the end.
Depending on how you write that page, you might find that 1% of visitors buy from you, or 2%. That equates to a big difference in profit and is more than worth spending time perfecting. That means you need to make the page as well written as you can, which means making endless tiny decisions.
What font should you use? What heading? Just how in-your-face should the marketing speak be?
The good news is that none of these decisions need to be based on guesses or hunches. You can split test them. Take two versions of the same page and make one change to one of them. Now use a redirect and send half of your visitors to the tweaked version of the page and half to the basic version.
Over time, you’ll be able to see which version of the page performs best. From there, you can then adopt the version that performs better, and ditch the other version.
In SEO, the same rules apply, but you are now looking at how making a small change might impact on your ranking in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). If you increase the keywork density from 2-3%, does that help your page rank higher, or drop lower?
Of course, you can’t use a redirect in this case, seeing as your page can only rank on Google once.
What you will do instead then, is to take a handful of web pages and split them into two groups. One group gets the changes, the other does not. You then see which group performed best, and you use that to inform the way you create and design all your future pages.
Using this strategy, you can learn how to perform perfect SEO for your site, and avoid what might otherwise be serious mistakes.
How Split Testing Can Save SEO’s Reputation
Ten years ago, writers all around the web were announcing ‘the death of SEO’. Google had been changing its algorithms, meaning that nobody could be certain that what once worked would still work. Therefore, no one could necessarily put any trust in the advice of their SEO professionals. SEO was dead. Right?
Of course not. SEO specialists adapted and found new strategies, and the industry continued on thriving.
But fast forward 10 years and we’re STILL hearing the same message: ‘SEO is dead!’ they cry.
This time they’re talking about Google’s move toward AI. Its focus on things like natural language and SML markup.
Of course, they are wrong again. But that’s not really the point. The point is that some businesses and other would-be-clients have heard this cry, and they now believe it.
And the many poor-quality SEO companies out there aren’t doing anything to help matters. When an SEO agency conducts an SEO audit and tells a bunch of site owners that they need to make a hundred tiny changes – only for those changes to then prove pointless – it hurts our reputation.
And when an SEO company promises they can get a company to the top spot on Google and then fails to do so, that trust in the industry is eroded just a little bit more again.
The Erosion of Trust
So, what does split testing have to do with anything?
Well, companies have been promising the world when it comes to SEO for years. That’s intentional, and it’s hardly going to change.
But SEO companies that are trying to do right by their clients and actually not affecting any positive change… that’s a real problem. And it’s one we need to fight tooth and nail.
In one huge study conducted by a well-known SEO company, it was found that 30-40% of all the actions recommended in a typical SEO audit… actually have no noticeable impact on search rankings!
Think about this for a minute: companies are being told to go to great lengths to carry out frustrating changes, and half the time they amount to nothing! Again, is it any surprise that these same companies are losing faith in SEO as a tool?
Worse, is that an SEO technique that works for one client has been shown to sometimes not work for a very similar one! That’s the exact same technique. So, what are we supposed to do?
Enter Split Testing
The answer is split testing.
Split testing is the process of taking an existing set of web pages, splitting them into two groups, and then making a small change to just one of those groups. This way, you can carry out a controlled experiment and see if the change works.
If it does, then you accept the change, and you adopt it on all the other pages as well.
If the change has no effect, or has a negative effect, then you ignore it.
This strategy is perfect because you now know for sure ahead of time, that your strategy will work. And you can show this to clients.
If every SEO were to use this approach, eventually the entire reputation of our craft would be restored! We can dream!
How Long Should You Run a Split Test For?
In SEO and internet marketing, split testing is one of the most powerful techniques available to marketers. A split test essentially means taking two slightly different versions of a webpage or website, and then seeing which one performs best. The reason this is so effective, is that it means you can make sure that a strategy or a change will be beneficial before you employ it across your entire site.
That means you can make smarter, data-driven decisions, and each one will improve your ranking, conversions and profits.
The problem is that many people don’t fully understand how a split test works, and they cut the experiment short prematurely. This ultimately results in skewed findings which can mislead you on the best way to act!
So how long should you run your split test, and why?
Why Length Matters for Split Tests
The ideal answer to the question of how long you should run a split test for is: indefinitely. The longer you can run the test, the more data you can collect, and the more accurate it will be.
The longer a split test runs for, the more data you can collect, and therefore the more likely it is to be accurate.
The reason for this has to do with what are known as confounding variables. A confounding variable is anything that you don’t control for, and this in turn can hurt your outcome.
Let’s say for example, that you have two versions of a website. On version A, you use one font, and on version B, you use another font. Your hope is to see if one of the fonts improves the amount of time people stay on your website, which should in turn also improve the SEO.
Half of the visitors are sent to version A, and half are sent to version B. You run the test for 48 hours.
But by sheer coincidence, a large proportion of the people who go to version A of the website happen to be from the UK. And let’s say for argument’s sake, that people from the UK prefer a particular font.
You have no way of testing for this, and therefore the results you get aren’t accurate. You assume that the new font is better, and you put it on every page of your website – thereby hurting your ranking significantly.
Had you run the test for five weeks though, then the likelihood of this being a sheer coincidence will shrink remarkably. Throwing a heads ten times in a row is unlikely, but throwing it 100 times in a row is so unlikely as to be safe to discount.
This is what you are aiming for with your split tests. You can never be 100% sure, but the longer the test runs, the more sure you can be.
The good news is that there are ways to test for significance, using – for example – a chi-squared test. This way, you get a number (called P), that will tell you precisely the likelihood of your study being a fluke. As long as it’s lower than 0.05, then you are good to act on the information.
Top Split Testing Mistakes
Split testing is a simple but powerful concept in SEO, and something that every professional in the industry should understand how to use. Essentially, a split test means taking two slightly different versions of the same website or web page, and then seeing which version behaves better. The better performing one becomes the version you keep, and you then try introducing another new tweak in the same way.
By using split testing repeatedly, you can make a series of data-driven decisions that will be guaranteed to help your site climb the ranks of Google.
But while this can be hugely effective, it’s important to make sure you don’t make any common mistakes. Split testing done well is game-changing for all the right reasons. Split testing done poorly can result in incorrect data at best and completely destroy your website at worst!
Read on to learn what some of those area, and how you can avoid them.
Top Split Testing Mistakes
Generalizing Your Findings
One of the most common mistakes that SEOs make when using split testing, is to generalize their results to all websites. This is actually one of the things that we have learned as an industry from using split tests: techniques that work on one website won’t necessarily work on another. In fact, the same technique won’t necessarily work twice even on the SAME website!
With that in mind, you shouldn’t think you can run a single experiment and then be done. You need to keep testing new strategies in order to ensure that you are doing the best thing for that specific site, in that specific moment.
Not Including a Canonical Tag
There are different approaches to split testing, but one of the most common involves using a redirect. This will push half of your visitors automatically to an alternate version of the same page, but the problem is that it can end up confusing Google and potentially leading to your getting penalized.
The solution is to include the canonical attribute on one version of the webpage. This earmarks that page as being the ‘main’ version, which in turn will ensure that Google doesn’t think you’re trying to pull the wool over its eyes or spam the SERPs.
Not Running the Test Long Enough
Another common mistake is to only run the test for a short time. The problem with this, is that the data you collect could be the result of pure chance. The smaller the ‘sample size’ (the fewer the impressions), the less able you will be to draw any conclusions from your findings.
For this reason, you should make sure that you run your test for long enough in order to know that the results are what we call ‘significant’ in mathematical terms.
Not Backing up
Finally, you should ALWAYS make sure to back up your webpages before you begin. If you are making changes to your pages for purely testing purposes, then it is crucial to ensure you can reverse those changes if you need to.
The Ultimate Quick SEO Cheat-Sheet
SEO might be a completely foreign concept to you. This stands for Search Engine Optimization, and essentially is a set of practices that are designed to help a website perform well on Google. That means reaching the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and getting lots of clicks (CTR = click through rate).
But how precisely do you go about this? What are the key things you need to be doing as a new site owner? This site will jump into the very basics and give you just enough information to start doing SEO right, without paying for a pro or spending years reading.
In order to be successful on SEO, you need to create a website that Google can find and understand, and a website that Google things is high quality. To make a website Google can find and understand, you need to make sure lots of sites point at your page – ideally sites that are in the same niche (subject matter) as you.
At the same time, you need to think about what you want people to search for in order to find your website, and you need to subtly include that term in your content and your files. You should also make sure that your site is structured with lots of internal links, and that you fill out such things as your meta description.
Don’t overuse your keywords as this can make it looks as though you are trying to ‘game’ the system and trick Google.
For the second part – demonstrating that your site is high quality – you need to try and keep visitors on your page for as long as possible, and you need to include lots of good content. You should also ensure your site loads quickly and that it is easy to use on any device.
Finally, getting lots of high quality links to your page will help with this as well – because it will show to Google that other people recommend your site.
Keeping all this in mind, there are a number of simple steps you will need to follow if you want to conduct good SEO. Here are they:
• Research popular search terms
• Write posts around these subjects and attempt to use the key terms with a density of around 1-3% (meaning that percentage of your content is made up from them)
• Keep content fairly long, between 800-1,500 words
• Post regularly
• Place key terms in your article title, one header, and the first and last paragraph of your poss wherever possible
• Put the key term in your meta description
• Write blogs for other sites where possible and ask them to link back to you in return
• Choose sites that are popular with Google and that appear in their featured and news sections
All this will help you to conduct good SEO and put you on the right path. From there, you can start looking into more advanced techniques, such as split testing and using analytics.