5 Key Best Practices for SEO Testing
There’s a vast difference between the unknown and the unknowable, however. Marketers can use testing to unveil the relationship between specific page-level variables and search rankings. Read on to learn more about:
- The value of SEO testing.
- Five SEO testing best practices.
- Eight SEO tests you can try on your own site.
The added value of SEO testing
It’s both risky and expensive to implement a change across your entire site, so it behooves you to evaluate the impact of changes before committing them in-masse. Using an SEO testing approach, you can change a single page or a group of pages and track the results. Overall, SEO testing gives you a competitive edge against more established players in your industry.
Using a framework for running SEO tests will allow you to base decisions on data instead of opinions.
These updates can help match current expectations while receiving more traffic, increased click-through rates, and higher keyword rankings. As a martech consultancy, we’ve found SEO testing to be amongst our most impactful offerings.
For instance, thrice-monthly tests with a tech SEO client in the wellness industry resulted in traffic growth many times its initial performance.
SEO testing best practices
The way SEO testing works is, you first form a hypothesis. For instance, “Due to Google’s apparent dislike of the overuse of <strong> tags, removing them from our keywords will likely benefit their SEO.
Then, you only change one variable at a time. For instance, one shouldn’t remove <strong> tags while making significant changes to the body content. Any resulting changes would be impossible to attribute to the right variable.
SEO testing best practices throughout this process are used to ensure reliability. They allow us to get directional data about our test results that we can act on with confidence. Here are some SEO testing best practices to implement:
1, Measure more than rankings
SEO rankings say something about how search algorithms interpret your site structure and content, and they certainly scale as traffic and other metrics improve.
Still, your end goal is better serving your users, so they remain on pages longer and are more attracted to click and interact with the website. Ultimately, clicks are a more meaningful measure of success than the numerical ranking doled out by Google.
You derive an additional brand awareness benefit by differentiating yourself from competitors. While this benefit may be hard to measure, sales generally follow familiarity.
2, Evaluate pages for inclusion in SEO testing groups
You’ll also want to make sure that the pages you include in your searches aren’t continually moving up and down in rankings. This is a sign of volatility that could interfere with the results’ accuracy, potentially leading you to incorrect conclusions.
Moz’s Rand Fishkin recommends including pages that place between the eight and thirtieth result; too high, and the competition is too tough to isolate single variable changes. Too low and subtle changes will be hard to notice.
3, Know your tools
So long as you have a trustworthy analytics tool, you don’t need a dedicated testing tool to get started. But if you’re looking to do more than dip your toes in the water, or turn SEO testing into a service offering, you’ll want a tool to help establish and track tests.
One tool you can use is SEOTesting; it works with control groups and AB tests. Since it’s narrowly focused on SEO tests and experiments—instead of covering everything SEO, it makes the job much easier, helping users track changes, suggest complementary keyphrases, and perform historical tests. What’s more, it’s quick to learn, packs in clear visualizations of test results, and the team behind it has published a testing guide to help you dive deep.
4, Get the control variable right
It’s essential to ensure that your control group and your experiment group share the following characteristics:
- Relative performance on search engines
- Content format
- Link profile
5, Repeat tests to ensure your results are accurate
Much like scientific experiments need experimentation to rule out the interaction of unforeseen variables, SEO tests require repetition, too. If you see that a given test is working, move it to other groups of pages or other keyword groups or subject matter.
Try out these SEO testing best practices and ideas [recap]
To recap, we covered five best practices for SEO testing:
- Measure more than rankings
- Evaluate pages for inclusion in SEO testing groups
- Know your tools
- Get the control variable right
- Repeat tests to ensure your results are accurate
The point of SEO testing isn’t exclusively about raising rankings and getting more clicks. It’s about gaining concrete knowledge of how audiences interpret your content, how well you respond to their curiosity, and what the web’s largest gateway values.