A/B testing in SEO, or “split testing”, is a process of making two versions of the same content, showing them to the same audience segment, and comparing their performance.
When we’re planning to implement some changes to our website, it’s good to know if they would even make sense in the eyes of our audience, before we fully commit. To gain that insight, we have to test how different segments of our audience respond to the changes. We’re showing them the A version and the B version in random order and measuring the impact of one versus the other version. The version that got a better response, is the one worth investing in.
Simply put, A/B testing is a method of comparing two versions of a web page, in order to see which one performs better.
A/B testing for SEO divides pages into two groups. For example, you can design two pages to have the same layout, design, and color scheme. The only difference is that one of the pages will have a different headline or call-to-action button. This allows you to see which version is more effective at attracting users and increasing conversions this way.
The goal is to improve the conversion rate by creating a more effective web page.
A/B testing is an important SEO technique because it can help you understand what your audience wants and needs and what will work for them. It can also help you identify the best keywords for your site and how to optimize your website for conversions.
Here are some of the main issues you can run into with website testing:
Cloaking: Cloaking occurs when test versions look very different and search engines see a significantly different version of a page than users do. Cloaking violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can result in your site’s rankings being demoted or removed entirely from organic search.
Page duplication: Google has an algorithm called “Panda” which penalizes websites that have duplicate content. Having multiple, nearly identical sets of pages available to search engines without proper management can lead to duplication issues.
Inconsistent redirects: With A/B testing, which serves different URLs based on the user and session, search engines may see the main URL at times but be redirected to another URL at others. This can lead to confusion about which page should be indexed as the primary one.
There are a few tips that can help improve the SEO A/B testing process and make it more efficient.
- Ensure that the primary content of a page you want to rank with is served to Google.
- Create pages that aren’t too significantly different to one another.
- For pages with multiple test URL variations, use the rel=”canonical” tag.
- Use caution when using noindexing or blocking test URLs
- When running split tests that require redirection, use 302 redirects.
- Keep the original page and make content updates there as needed.
- Only run tests for the length of time needed.
- Tests should be avoided during major site changes.
If you follow these tips accordingly then testing shouldn’t impact your SEO.
A/B testing in SEO entails strategically testing components of your webpage.
Usually, you’ll choose one design element from your website and change the first page to reflect that change. Then you’ll show one version of the page to half of the people who visit your website and another to the other half. When enough people have visited both versions of your website, you can determine which version received the most engagement from visitors.
You can make informed decisions about what changes to make by changing only one element at a time.
For example, you can test everything from the copy in SERPs to the content on your landing page. The end goal is to identify which factors have the highest impact on your SEO Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and conversions.
The goal is to learn whether changes made to the page improve its performance. If so, then those changes can be implemented on all other pages with similar content or design.
An SEO test is composed of five parts:
- Selecting a group of pages to test on
- Creating a hypothesis
- Bucketing pages into control and variants
- Making the change
- Measuring the results
On a final note, even if you don’t care about making changes to your page, A/B testing helps you identify trends and changes in visitor behavior.