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.
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.
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:
Note that should you try this method, you’ll first need to update your permalinks to avoid breaking links.
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.
Not all content is evergreen, though. For pages that have timely relevance, update them with new facts and updated context.
John Reinesch is a co-Founder and SEO Director at Chosen Data. Living on Long Island, he’s data-driven, loves a complex Google Sheet, and goes deep in his research. The resulting strategy files, automations, and execution quality have led to just as many snowballing charts about revenue from organic traffic as the amount of lifetime AppSumo deals he owns.
1. Measure more than rankings
If your pages already use cornerstone structure, test by reorganizing the main navigation or featuring content pillars on your homepage.
Using a framework for running SEO tests will allow you to base decisions on data instead of opinions.
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.
2. Evaluate pages for inclusion in SEO testing groups
How should you change your meta titles?
To recap, we covered five best practices for SEO testing:
3. Know your tools
You derive an additional brand awareness benefit by differentiating yourself from competitors. While this benefit may be hard to measure, sales generally follow familiarity.
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.
9 ideas for SEO tests you can run
People understand stories on a deep level. Try more story-centric headlines to attract searchers’ attention better; any increased traffic from them can lead to higher rankings, creating a snowball effect.
1. Experiment with meta titles and meta tag formats
The theory behind this one is similar to that of share tags and comments. Google and users compare dates on their search results and may naturally favor newer ones, regardless of whether such content is evergreen.
Among the most popular and useful SEO tests, meta titles, and meta tags form the first impression your site gives to searchers, making their optimization crucial.
Then, you only change one variable at a time. For instance, one shouldn’t remove <strong> tags while making significant changes to body content. Any resulting changes would be impossible to attribute to the right variable.
Remember, you’re not just writing for search engines. You want to rewrite meta titles and meta tags to be more click-worthy. Done right, and searchers may be more likely to select your page, even if it’s not the top result. The ensuing traffic boost may then lead to an increase in rankings as well.
Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to cover the specifics. The following eight tests cover a variety of SEO variables. Your mileage may vary.
Note that the optimal blog post length is between 1,000 and 1,500; bringing shorter pages into this range is in your best interest.
6. Add or restructure internal links
Poor performance in these measures demonstrates that visitors to your site aren’t finding information relevant to their search. It’s an excellent opportunity to add content that may better answer a searcher’s questions and make pages more accessible for consumption.
Content is king. When all else fails, or when pages don’t perform well enough to conduct other tests, it’s time to upgrade core content.
And we also covered nine examples of SEO tests to run on your site:
7. Perform significant content upgrades
After HubSpot optimized its content catalog, it saw monthly organic searches rise an average of 106%.
While adding relevant internal links willy nilly is better than adding no links at all, you should apply some methodology here. Cornerstone structure, also known as the concept of pillar content, is a highly effective means of arranging your content’s subject matter in an organized, intuitive manner.
- Time on site
- Pages per session
- Bounce rate
However, merely including more visual content may not get you the results you’re looking for. Such content should be relevant and add true value for those looking for specific answers to their search queries. Lean on unique, compelling, and relevant content. For more help, see our image SEO guide.
- Enhance scalability and readability
- Add new sections that answer a broader range of questions
- Expand pages to more comprehensively cover your subject matter
- Insert table of contents
- Insert an internal link structure to join together topics that are alike
Despite years spent learning the ins and outs of SEO, no marketer knows the exact weight of the more than 300 variables calculated in Google search results—including Google engineers. The company’s advice has been relatively consistent on the matter—create high-quality original content and get inbound links from high authority sites—but this still leaves a lot to the imagination.
For instance, thrice-monthly tests with a client in the wellness industry resulted in traffic growth many times its initial performance.
8. Remove bold tags
SEO rankings say something about how search algorithms interpret your site structure and content, and they certainly scale as traffic and other metrics improve.
Some SEO tests appear to show that bolding keywords causes bad rankings. If you already have a habit of artificially strengthening content with such tags, now might be a great time to see what happens once they’re removed.
9. Modify URL structure by removing dates
URLs can provide significant search indexing benefits, provided they’re concise and contain clear keywords. While the former best practices have been known, SEO experts have recently started suggesting the dates often structured into URLs may be getting in the way of better indexing.
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.
One noteworthy test, by Harsh from ShoutMeLoud, found that removing dates from URL structure helped his search rankings. Another test raised traffic 30 percent, according to SEO writer Nathaniel Towar.
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.
Identify pages that perform poorly among the metrics Google values most highly:
Try out these SEO testing best practices and ideas [recap]
Much like the pre-penguin keyword stuffing of days past, it appears the gods at Google no longer smile upon <strong> tags either.
- 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
Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too do marketers regard uncertainty.
- Experiment with meta titles and meta tag formats
- Change keyword-focused headlines to narratively pleasing titles
- Place or remove external links
- Play with social buttons and comments
- Descriptive content, images, and videos
- Add or restructure internal links
- Perform significant content upgrades
- Remove bold tags
- Modify URL structure by removing dates
Internal links are a great way to help search engines understand the hierarchy of your content. That’s just one of the reasons why 42% of SEO experts spend so much time building internal and external links.
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[add a data visualization image here — Straight Line analysis]