SEO Experimentation

In digital marketing and handling marketing strategy for ecommerce, experimentation and testing are some of the most important things to do that even scientists do as they compare and contrast different types of results and related factors while learning more about how the world operates. The same is true for search engine optimization or SEO as experimentation and the following testing allow those operating websites to receive those same benefits.

SEO Experimentation

What is SEO Testing?

SEO testing is the process of making changes to a website and measuring the impact on organic search traffic or rankings to optimize the site’s performance in search engines. It involves experimenting with different strategies like keyword targeting, content optimization, technical SEO, internal link building, backlinks, anchor text, formats, bounce rate, schema markup, etc., and evaluating results to determine the most effective tactics. The goal is to improve Google search engine results pages search rankings, Google’s algorithm, and increase click-through rates and organic traffic from search engines like Google.

Be selective in What You Test.

In order to achieve a successful SEO experimentation or run SEO experiments, it is essential to be selective with what you will be testing. Of course, you can experiment with and test an essentially infinite number of SEO strategies, but in most cases, you should only do so one at a time. If you were to instead change several elements of a webpage at a time and the resulting tests displayed significant results, you would not know exactly what caused those. It is important to remember your time and resources are not infinite, so allocate your efforts accordingly.

How to Test

When you test, you should follow steps similar to what those engaging in scientific testing do:

  • Identify Goals and KPIs: Determine what you want to achieve through testing – e.g. increase rankings, traffic, leads etc. Identify key metrics to track progress.
  • Select a Page or Group of Pages: Choose a representative sample of pages or sections of your site to test. Often landing pages, category pages, or important content pages are tested.
  • Form a Hypothesis: Make an assumption about how the changes you plan to test will impact the key metrics.
  • Implement Changes: Make modifications to on-page elements like title tags, meta descriptions, headings, content, etc. Technical changes like site speed optimizations can also be tested.
  • Run the Test: Allow sufficient time for changes to take effect – often 4-8 weeks for organic search changes on Google search results. Use tools like Google Analytics to measure impact.
  • Analyze Results: Evaluate if the changes helped achieve your goals and moved the key metrics as expected. Statistical significance testing can validate results.
  • Iterate and Expand: Learn from the test results to plan new optimization tests. Scale successful changes wider across the site.
  • Monitor and Retest: Continuously monitor key metrics and retest elements periodically. SEO is an ongoing process as search algorithms and best practices evolve.

SEO Testing Tools

Here is a brief overview of some common SEO testing tools:

  • Google Search Console – Provides data on indexation, clicks, impressions, and performance for keywords you target. Helps test the impact of on-page changes. You can track changes using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
  • Google Analytics – Tracks detailed traffic data, conversions, and other metrics to measure the impact of SEO changes. You can track changes using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.
  • Rank Tracking Tools – Tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, and keyword.com show rankings for target keywords to help track the impact of SEO tests.
  • A/B Testing Tools – Optimizely, VWO, Google Optimize, etc. help SEO split testing different page elements like copy, layouts, etc.
  • Heatmaps – Hotjar, CrazyEgg, and Inspectlet generate heatmaps to see on-page interactions and test engagement.
  • Keyword Research Tools – Help find relevant keywords to target by using tools like LowFruits to track search volume and competition.
  • Technical SEO Tools – Test site crawlability, indexing, duplicate pieces of content, and other technical elements using a tool like Screaming Frog.
  • Dedicated SEO Testing Tools – SEOTesting.com automates tedious SEO testing and experimentation with robust reporting to help identify and measure the most effective SEO changes for higher rankings and traffic.

The right set of tools provides data to accurately test changes made to pages and content in order to optimize SEO and increase organic search traffic.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is highly effective for optimizing PPC landing pages because it allows you to experiment with different elements on a landing page to increase conversions from your PPC ads:

  • Headlines and Copy: Test different headlines, calls-to-action, and body copy to see which resonates best with your target audience. This helps improve click-through and conversion rate optimization (CRO).
  • Layouts and Design: Try different layouts, color schemes, image placements etc. to determine which variant encourages more user action through observing user behavior. Good page design boosts conversions.
  • Offers and Content: Test promoting different offers, discounts or content assets on the landing page. The right offer/content can boost conversions.
  • Forms and Buttons: Experiment with different form fields, placements and call-to-action buttons to reduce friction in the conversion process.
  • Page Speed: Faster loading pages improve user experience. Test optimizations like image compression, caching, lazy loading, etc., to boost conversions.

A/B testing landing pages helps identify the right elements to maximize ROI from PPC ad spend. The continuous process of experimentation and optimization takes the guesswork out of landing page design. Statistical significance testing validates that the higher converting variant isn’t due to random chance. Overall, A/B testing landing pages is critical for improving PPC campaign performance.

A/B testing is better leveraged for PPC than SEO because, with PPC, you can control which traffic goes to specific landing page variants, allowing for accurate testing. With SEO, you don’t have control over which users or searchers land on variant A vs B, making it hard to attribute search traffic to a specific variant and accurately analyze performance. PPC allows you to split traffic between variants and definitively see which one converts better.

Examples of Experiments

You can test just about any element of your SEO strategy. Here are a few of the more common experiments that those who are looking to improve their SERP results take advantage of.

1. Changing Meta Titles and Descriptions

Meta titles or SEO title and descriptions oftentimes play pivotal roles in your website’s CTR, which is why this type of SEO experimentation is so important despite them not being direct ranking factors. As important as everything else is, perhaps the most important factor is CTR, and anything that increases that not only directly helps your website grow but also communicates to Google the high value of what you offer.

So, experiment with the types of meta titles and descriptions that you use and see what happens and how those compare with other styles. Doing so can involve changing the types of words that are being utilized and increasing or decreasing the lengths of those titles and descriptions.

2. The Impact of Updating Old Content

If you update previously uploaded content, you should, in nearly all cases, see a noticeable improvement in your SERP results, as Google tends to value recent content much more so than it does older pages. Of course, this is highly dependent on the quality of the update, but if it improves the page, updating it is normally a good thing, and this experiment can test just how significant of a change it is for you.

3. Experimenting With Page Word Counts

There is a balance that many analyze as far as weighing the value of having longer pieces on their websites and making the sacrifices necessary to do that.

In general, Google tends to prefer webpages that are wordier, partially because, assuming that those pieces are on topic, informative, and interesting, readers usually remain on those pages for longer time periods and partially because that longer content provides Google with more information about that page. Conversely, there is the time and money that goes into creating that longer, more extensive content.

As a result, you should consider experimenting with different word counts and seeing just how those affect things SEO-wise. See if doing so would be of enough increased value for you to regularly produce content that includes more words or if it might not be worth the extra expenses and time commitment to do so.

4. Find easy wins!

Going after easy SEO wins first allows for quicker traction, learnings, and incremental traffic that builds momentum. Easy optimizations provide fast results to help identify what works. This efficiency enables scaling up to harder keywords over time.

  • Easier to Rank: find less competitive keywords that are easier to rank for–could be short-tail or long-tail; it requires less effort to outrank competitors, so tests yield faster results. You can find keyword difficulty by using SEO tools like Ahrefs and LowFruits.
  • Strike Position: Optimizing keywords that need a little help. This is also known as “striking distance” keywords. With minor improvements, you can often rank on page 1 for these keywords. Provides quick wins and traction with less workload.
  • Step-Up Keywords: Ranking for more mid-tail, low-competition keywords is a stepping stone to eventually ranking for more competitive keywords and building momentum incrementally before tackling harder keywords.
  • Identify Gaps: identify missing topics on your page, improving your page will fulfill search intent for readers. Which maximizes ROI on time and budget by focusing on “low-hanging fruit”
  • Resource Efficiency: Optimizing easier keywords gives the most “bang for your buck” when resources are limited. This prevents wasting resources optimizing hard keywords before learning what works.

Overall, the efficiency and payoff of easy SEO wins enables more progress per dollar and hour spent, conserving time and budget.

5. Importance of Images

Of course, having images throughout your website is one of the most important things that you can do, but more factors are important than simply using them. Also essential is how they are displayed. For example, where they are situated on a page and how they break up a piece of writing influence your SERP. In fact, the wording of the associating file names and any accompanying alt text affect things as well.

Truly Experiment

Yes, you should take advantage of common SEO strategies in your experimentation and testing processes to see what works best for you, but also feel free to truly experiment, meaning thinking outside of the box. SEO, by its nature, is always evolving, most notably with the changing of algorithms, and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, and it can pay to utilize an evolving SEO strategy.

Conclusion

It is important to continuously analyze and update your SEO strategies, and experimentation and testing play important roles in that process. Think about different ways that you can change how your website is formatted and see how those alterations could improve or, for that matter, decrease the quality of the SERP results that its various web pages experience.


Published on: 2024-01-10
Updated on: 2024-01-18

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.