Running PPC campaigns or testing an email is deemed the most challenging task in digital marketing. But do you know what is more difficult? A/B testing for the SEO landing pages. Things become tougher if you are taking help from the Google Website Optimizer.
If this scared you and you are planning to ditch A/B testing already, think again. When I was running a marketing recruitment agency, I was not paying much attention to A/B testing. However, I soon learned about its importance. So before I share how it helped me, let’s learn about what it is, and some terms that will come in handy.
What is A/B Testing?
People also refer to A/B testing as split testing. During this test, you change one or more features of your test page and compare the results with the original page’s performance. After you have a look at the results, you can analyze and decide whether you want to make the changes or not.
In case, the audiences’ response is overwhelming, you would want to try the test page. The ‘A’ in the test is your original page while the ‘B’ is the test page. There is nothing much complex about a simple A/B testing. A very straightforward test that will display the comparison before you. Some of the most common features that people test using the split test are CTA messaging and the color changes.
What is Multivariate Testing?
Multivariate testing is more complex when compared to A/B testing. This type involves the simultaneous testing of various sections on a single landing page simultaneously. Here, you get to test the multiple combinations of a single page. And you will have to decide which one receives the best response.
Companies use this approach to optimize their landing pages better. Multivariate testing also gives you insights about how the various elements of a page are working together. It throws light on the impact of one element on the other. Some of the common combinations that companies test include the many combinations of images and headlines. Apart from that, combinations of buttons and body text also get tested quite often.
Impact of A/B and Multivariate Testing on SEO
You might be wondering that what is the need to get into such complexities and why do companies need to carry out these tests. The answer lies in the great impact that these tests are capable of having on SEO. In most of the cases, these tests will have a positive and favorable impact. However, if you are not aware of how to manage them well, these tests can even have a negative impact on SEO.
There are many reasons for the tests going wrong and not giving the expected results. Some of them include:
Cloaking – In case there is a huge variance among the test versions and the search engine sees a very different version of the testing age, cloaking occurs. This can demote your website’s ranking. The worse yet is that your website can even get removed from the organic search altogether as a result of cloaking.
Page duplication – If your website’s pages are identical to each other, the search engine will treat them as duplicates. Hence, creating problems.
Inconsistent redirects – If your web pages keep redirecting to other pages, then that can pose problems as well.
What do Search Engines Want?
Because it is SEO aka Search Engine Optimization, you have to listen to what the various search engines expect from you. Only then will you be able to conduct A/B and Multivariate testing with success.
According to Google, it is the stability and consistency that matters the most. Google hates getting redirected to another page whenever the search engine crawls your test page. Everything that the search engine sees after visiting the page is what it thinks the audience will see as well. And that is how it is. Therefore, anything that causes inconvenience of any kind gets labeled as a red flag from Google. Thus, affecting your test.
As far as Bing is concerned, it is no different than Google when it comes to the stability of the website. According to the reps of Bing, you should run a test over a course of weeks and not hours to get a fair comparison.
How can I Improve My Tests?
Serve the Primary Content
Make sure that you feed Google the primary content that you wish to have a ranking for. If the original page contains a section that is missing in the test page, then Google will not accept this. It cannot access the page to make a fair comparison. Avoid Cannibalization and be very careful when it comes to title tags, internal links, and body content.
Not Very Different Pages
No doubt that if you wish to test something different, the test page will need some tweaking. However, you should be careful when making these changes. The two pages should not come across as very different from each other. In case they are, it gets labeled as cloaking and you would have to request a manual action to get it fixed.
In case a split test involves redirection, then you should use a 302 redirect between the test URLs. This tells the search engine that the redirect is temporary. Thus, sending a message to include the original page in the index.
Retain the Original Page
Preserving the links’ equity is essential. If you run your test on the various URLs and your test page performs better than the original, you should not just go about switching the original page off. Instead, consider updating the old page with the changes that received a positive response on the new page. In case, this option is not available, you can always bring 301 redirect t to use.
Run Tests When Necessary
You might get tempted to run tests for a long period. However, it will do you no good. Run the tests as long as it is necessary for you too. This will help ensure that you have enough data gathered to make a fair comparison.
When I had to introduce a webpage on my site highlighting the importance of talent acquisition strategies, I remember creating 2-3 variants of it. Then I let the test run for 2 months. It was a great success because I took care of everything.