Digital Marketing, SEO

How to Measure the Impact of SEO Changes: A Guide to SEO Split Testing

seo split-testing

Split testing, also called A/B testing, is used to find out which version of a website, email, ad, or marketing campaign is better. Marketers can see which version generates the most interest, clicks, and conversions by randomly showing each to different groups of people.

Marketers like us benefit greatly from split testing because it helps us determine which versions of a piece of content, message, or call to action perform best with our target audience. Marketers can boost return on investment (ROI), boost customer engagement (CX), and ultimately increase revenue for their company by testing and optimizing the campaigns.

Understanding the SEO Split Testing

Increasingly, the success of a brand’s marketing strategy today appears to be based on how well it does in search engine rankings, which in turn determines how many people visit the brand’s website.

Today’s marketing increasingly centers on attracting the attention of search engines, which in turn increases website traffic.

But everyone knows that Google changes its algorithms a lot every year (with smaller changes every three months). These shifts may affect your SEO strategies in general, and not always in a pleasant way.

When conducting SEO split testing, similar web pages will be split into two groups. Then, you implement the change in one group (the variant) while keeping the other group (the control group) unchanged.

Finding ways to increase your page’s organic traffic is the main goal of SEO split testing.

Difference between SEO Split Testing and CRO

Digital marketers utilize CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) testing and SEO A/B testing as two strategies to improve website performance.

The main difference between the two is that SEO A/B testing uses the same groups of pages and changes only half of them to see how it affects search performance. On the other hand, CRO testing creates different versions of a single page to see how changes affect how users act on it.

SEO Split Testing

SEO A/B testing tries to increase the number of people who visit a website by making technical changes that improve its ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs). Instead of creating variations of a single page, SEO split testing changes half of identical groups of pages while leaving the other half unchanged. This lets the technical changes stand out, and the improvement or decrease in search performance can be directly linked to the technical changes.

CRO Split Testing

By making a website better for the user, CRO testing is used to increase the number of visitors who become customers. Part of the process is finding parts of the website that aren’t doing well, getting data from web analytics and surveys, coming up with hypothesis, and putting out different versions of pages to test those hypothesis. Data is analyzed after the test to determine how the changes affected user behavior. If a hypothesis is statistically significant, the changes are applied to multiple pages.

While both Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) split testing are valuable techniques that can help marketers optimize a website’s performance, the primary focus of CRO testing is on enhancing the user experience and increasing conversions, while the primary focus of SEO testing is on increasing the website’s visibility and ranking in search engines and thereby increasing organic traffic.

Why should you run testing for your SEO campaign?

Several advantages can be gained from running an SEO split test. Making sitewide changes can be expensive and they can even harm your rankings if you are uncertain where to implement those changes. However, with split testing, you can save money by only testing one page at a time.

Another compelling reason to run an SEO test is because algorithms are changing. Whenever search engines update their algorithms, it is crucial to test out the new features to ensure your website remains relevant and is well-recognized. By identifying the new features integrated into the latest algorithm changes, you can set up your split testing to evaluate them.

Proactively monitoring how algorithm changes affect your SEO efforts can help you stay ahead of your competitors. By doing an SEO split-testing experiment, you can make minor strategic changes to the pages of your website, which will improve the user experience in the long run. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of users visiting your website.

2 Types of SEO Testing

A/B Split Testing

In a statistical SEO split test, pages with similar goals are split into control and variant groups, and the differences between the two are tracked. Unlike time-based testing, results can be analyzed within 14 to 42 days, eliminating the need to wait for a specific period of time. This allows you to draw conclusions from the data in a more timely manner.

Time-Based

A time-based SEO test does exactly what it sounds like.

It happens when you make changes to a set of pages and then wait a certain amount of time before measuring the results.

With this way of testing, there is no need to separate pages into control and variant groups. Instead, you can compare data about organic traffic from a control period before the test to data about traffic collected after the time limit has passed.

How to run a successful SEO test

As an SEO Specialist or expert, you have two ways to deal with bad things that happen to your website. You can either make changes after the fact or do split-testing to make sure that your website works well from the start.

In this guide, we will explore how you can run SEO split-tests without the need for complex coding, a team of data scientists, or developer assistance. 

Here are some things you can do to ensure a successful SEO test:

1. Determine your testing goal and choose the right metrics

The first step in any SEO testing project is to define your testing objectives. This step ensures that you know exactly what you want to achieve with your testing efforts. Without a clearly defined goal, it can be difficult to measure the success of your SEO testing and determine whether your efforts were effective.

Your testing goals will be based on your specific business goals and the parts of your website you want to improve.

For example, if you want more people to visit your site, your testing goal could be to find and implement changes that improve your search engine rankings or click-through rate. If, on the other hand, you want to get people to spend more time on your site, your testing goal could be to find and make changes that make it easier for people to use, like making it easier to navigate or loading pages faster.

Setting specific goals for your SEO testing will also help you decide which metrics to track and analyze. By aligning your testing objectives with your key performance indicators, you can ensure that you are measuring the metrics that are most important to your business (KPIs).

2. Determine the Templated Pages in your Site Structure

If you want to do a reliable SEO experiment on your website, you need to have pages that are already set up. These pages should have a consistent intent and format throughout the site.

Blog posts on content or media sites, category and product pages on eCommerce sites, and destination pages on travel sites are all examples of pages that are already set up.

For an SEO split test to be worth it, your site needs to be large enough to give statistically significant results. The more templated pages you have and the more organic traffic you send to those pages per month, the more reliable the results of your experiment will be.

3. Select Elements to Test

The next step is to determine which SEO elements to test. This can be done on the basis of a concrete theory or a simple hunch that you want to validate through testing.

When deciding which elements to test, you have several options.

You could, for example, remove a brand name from the title tag, add “shop now” to the meta description, add review schema markup to a landing page, use keywords in image alt text, or shorten breadcrumbs for eCommerce product pages.

Other elements to consider may include:

  • title tags
  • meta descriptions
  • headings
  • content structure
  • URL structure
  • call-to-action (button, text, color, shape, etc.)
  • alt text
  • videos or images

4. Set a Hypothesis

The hypothesis should be divided into three sections: what is already known, what is believed to be true, and what can be learned through testing.

When structuring the hypothesis, one can use an existing framework or develop one’s own. The key is to ensure that the hypothesis clearly defines what the experiment is expected to learn.

For example, consider the following hypothesis for an SEO split testing experiment:

“We know that pages with call-to-action phrases are more likely to be clicked on than pages without them, so we believe that adding a call-to-action to our category pages will increase organic traffic. We will test this by adding call-to-action phrases to the category pages of the variant group and comparing organic traffic differences to the control group.”

5. Divide the Pages into Control and Variant groups

With your hypothesis in place, it’s time to divide the pages into control and variant groups.

The control group is made up of original pages that won’t be changed in any way, while the variant group is made up of pages where the changes you want to test will be made. It is important to evenly distribute the number of pages between the two groups.

The goal of the control and variant groups is to have pages with similar objectives. 

If you are running a test on product pages, for example, both groups should have the same goal: to encourage customers to purchase that specific item. The test’s goal is to determine which version of the page produces better results: the original or the modified version.

To make sure the test is reliable, use the following criteria to choose pages for the control and variant groups:

  • Both groups should have comparable levels of organic traffic.
  • Both groups need to be statistically similar, meaning they should be trending up or down at similar times.

By using these criteria, you can make sure that changes in organic traffic are not the result of outside factors that might favor one group over another. 

6. Monitor and analyze the results

Once the test has been set up and put into action, the next step is to keep a close eye on the results. One method is to monitor how the changes appear in the search results. It can be difficult to detect these changes manually, but once you notice that Google has picked up on the changes in the test groups and is displaying them in the SERPs, it’s time to start monitoring.

It is generally advised to run the test for at least two weeks to allow Google time to properly index the changes. During this time, it’s important to keep an eye on rankings and traffic for both the test group and the control group. This allows you to compare the two and determine whether the changes were positive or negative.

While an SEO platform can make this process much easier, Google Search Console and Google Analytics can also be helpful. Keep in mind that the timing of the test is very important, since organic site traffic can change a lot depending on the day of the week or other factors.

The test can be classified as positive or negative when there is a clear difference between the test and control groups. If no divergence is discovered, the test is considered indeterminate. To ensure that the results are reliable and meaningful, a significance level must be established.

By keeping a close eye on the test and analyzing the data, you can learn important things about your website’s SEO performance and make decisions about how to make it better.

7. Refine your SEO strategies

To wrap up the process of SEO testing, it’s crucial to measure the outcomes. However, a number of variables, such as website traffic and the metrics you’re trying to measure, will affect the timing for this.

Usually, it’s best to wait at least 2–4 weeks to reach a level that is statistically significant. The suggested time frame for measurement usually ranges between 21 and 28 days.

Once sufficient time has elapsed, compare the results of the variant pages with those of the control group pages to determine whether the impact was positive, negative, or neutral.

By doing this, you can find out if your theory was correct and learn how to improve your SEO strategy in the future.

Split testing in SEO is a great way to fine-tune your overall SEO strategy and gain confidence in your approach. You can use what you learn from split testing to make similar changes to other pages, which will increase your website’s organic traffic.

Remember to always stay curious, keep testing, and never stop improving your website’s performance.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how to improve your website’s SEO and performance, please don’t hesitate to contact us at contact@kathlinvirtualassistant.com. Our team of experienced SEO professionals is ready to help you achieve your goals and grow your business.

Read next blog: Is SEO dead? Is AI the new SEO?

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