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Once upon a time, an SEO strategist decided to revamp their company’s SEO strategy thinking that the changes would bring a flood of organic traffic and higher ranking for their website. 

Spoiler alert!

The new strategy failed outrightly and the overall SEO performance deteriorated. Hence, they decided to undo the changes and go back to the old ways. 

Does this sound familiar? 

Is your current SEO strategy struggling to attract the desired web traffic from search engines?

Guess what? Nearly 91% of the content fails to get any organic traffic from Google which dominates the search engine industry with a staggering 92% market share

Sometimes it can be frustrating to invest a lot of time and effort without getting targeted results from your updated SEO strategies. However, there’s a solution that can save you from wasting your resources on SEO changes that may go wrong. 

Enter: SEO testing. 

It allows you to run SEO experiments and see how the changes will perform on sample pages from your website so that your entire site is not affected due to the trials.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how you can test your SEO strategy with the right methods and testing tools.  

Let’s jump right in. 

What is SEO Testing?

SEO testing is the process of tracking and analysing the impact on your key SEO performance metrics caused by the changes you make to your website. 

You can conduct these tests for individual pages, sections, or an entire website. Then, evaluate its effect on your click-through rate, organic traffic, ranking, conversion rate etc. 

The Importance of Testing Your SEO Strategy

As a business owner, would you like if your website ranks higher in SERPs but doesn’t give you any commercial benefits? 

Get out of here, you’d say!

The main reason you invest in SEO is that you want to drive more traffic to your site and convert them into customers and thereby increase your revenue. So you may want to keep upgrading your SEO strategy to avail maximum benefits.

However, rolling out the site-wide SEO changes can be an expensive affair. That’s why it’s better to test waters with one foot — testing the changes on sample pages — before taking the plunge. 

That said, here are some of the key benefits of running SEO tests on your site.

  • Shows you real results: SEO tests give you the actual data so that you don’t have to rely on guesswork. It’s as simple as black or white. If tests succeed on sample pages, it’ll work on other pages too because you test the live pages.  
  • Reduces your costs: As discussed, if you make SEO changes across the site and it doesn’t work, that costs a lot of time and money. But if you test the changes first, you’d only apply the changes that succeeded. It saves your costs of revising your SEO strategy time and again.
  • Limits the damage: Since you’re testing only sample pages, if things go wrong the entire site’s SEO performance is not affected. Moreover, it’s easier to nullify the failed changes on fewer pages than the entire website.   

Types of SEO Tests

When it comes to SEO testing, the A/B test is the recommended practice. The rest of the methods are obsolete and lack accuracy. 

SEO A/B Testing

SEO A/B testing — also known as split testing — is the most suitable method to project the outcomes of your SEO changes. 

For the SEO split test, you’d divide web pages into two groups: the control group and the variable group. The control group are the existing version of pages and stays the same. Whereas the variable group is the one with proposed changes that we’ll run through tests.

Once the test period is over, you would analyse the results. The test is successful if the variable group’s organic performance increases.

How to Conduct an SEO A/B Test?

SEO split tests are ideal for websites with heavy traffic and lots of pages of the same template. For instance, sites like:

  • eCommerce
  • Job portals
  • Travel booking
  • Media and publication
  • Web directories, etc.

With that said, here’s a five-step process to test various components of your SEO strategy.

  1. Select Pages to Test

The first step is finding the pages with the same structure and design. 

For easy understanding, we’ll take a hypothetical example here:

Let’s say, you’re running an eCommerce website for office furniture & workplace supplies. And you want to run the SEO A/B tests on the product category “Ergonomic Office Chairs”.  

  1. Create a Hypothesis

The next step is to form a hypothesis. To put it simply, here you decide what you want to change on the pages and you predict how it will affect one or more SEO performance metrics you track for your site. 

For instance, a hypothesis for our case could be:

“Shortening the product descriptions shall result in a 12% increase in organic traffic on ergonomic office chairs product pages.”

Here, we have a clear idea of what we’ll change on selected pages and the expected results.

However, ensure that your hypothesis is not just a random guess but a well thought out scenario where you can establish the relationship between cause and effect. 

  1. Sort Pages into Control and Variable Groups

Now, you need to divide selected pages into the control and variable groups. 

This is a crucial but misunderstood part of SEO testing. To get accurate test results, make sure:

  • Both groups have similar levels of web traffic.
  • Both groups have statistical similarities. For example, up-down cycles or seasonal trends in demand. 

Considering the above conditions, we divided the “ergonomic office chairs” product pages into control and variable groups. 

As discussed earlier, we’ll keep the control group as it is. And for the variable group, we will shorten the product descriptions to test the effect of change on organic traffic. 

Some SEO testing tools (discussed in the penultimate section) have a feature that automatically creates control and variant groups according to the above criteria. So you can also consider using them.

  1. Apply the Changes

Now that we have decided on the control and variable groups, it’s time to apply the proposed changes on variant group pages. 

Once you make the changes, two different templates will be live on your website:

  1. “Ergonomic office chairs” pages with unchanged product descriptions (Control)
  2. “Ergonomic office chairs” pages with new shortened product descriptions (Variable)

It’s important to consider that though there are two templates, there’ll be only one version of each page. We are not creating duplicate pages to test. 

  1. Measure Results

Once the test period is over, evaluate the results. If you’re using an SEO testing tool, then it’ll generate the test analysis reports including the graphs for easier interpretation. 

Otherwise, you can analyse the outcome of tests with Google Analytics and Google Search Console

Since the above example is hypothetical, we wouldn’t have the real data to measure the results. 

However, if the variable group pages would get more traffic as per the hypothesis, you can consider that test is successful. And you can replace the old product descriptions with the new shorter version on all the “ergonomic office chairs” pages. 

On the other hand, if you observe a negative effect in variable group traffic, you would need to undo the changes and restore an earlier template. 

What SEO Elements can you Split Test?

While you can literally test any on-site or on-page SEO elements, we have outlined some of the factors that impact the key SEO performance metrics like:

  • Organic traffic
  • Organic rankings
  • SERP visibility
  • Click-through rate
  • Average time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversions, etc.

Let’s dive in.

Meta Titles

Meta titles or title tags are usually one of the first things your users see in search results when they enter their query in search engines

seo testing meta titles

While meta titles do not directly impact your organic rankings, they certainly influence your click-through rates (CTR) as they help searchers select the relevant content from search results.

Nonetheless, Google algorithms consider CTR when determining the SERP positions. Thus, meta titles contribute to rankings indirectly.  

Hence, you can consider split-testing your meta titles to improve your CTRs. You can test your meta titles with experiments like:

  • Increasing or decreasing its length
  • Title with and without your brand name or 
  • Adding or removing numeric values in the title tag

So you can test your variable group pages with the above changes to see whether it helps you increase your CTRs. 

Meta Descriptions

A meta description is an HTML tag that you find right underneath the Meta titles. As the name suggests, it briefly describes what the page is all about. 

Like meta titles, they help your users to understand the content and context of your web page with more details than title tags. Thus, it’s an opportunity to convince searchers to click your page over your competitors’ by writing a compelling meta description.  

You can run A/B SEO tests for meta descriptions by:

  • Using action words like “learn more”, “download free template” etc.
  • Active voice vs passive voice
  • Experimenting with character length

Here, the idea is to make the description more relatable to your target audience. So think of ways you can improve it for them, test its effects on CTRs of sample pages, and implement if it’s beneficial. 

Content Format 

Once the user clicks the search result and visits a page, it’s the content that makes the visitor stay longer on site. 

Content relevance is of prime importance as it satisfies the user search intent. So it’s indisputable that users will quickly leave if your content doesn’t meet searcher’s requirements. Thus, your bounce rate may shoot up.

Besides the topic relevance, your content format also plays a significant role in improving or hindering users’ experience on your web pages.  

Hence, you can consider tracking your average session time and bounce rates by split testing elements like:

  • Content length: You can experiment with long-form vs short-form content. 
  • Presentation: Breaking up text in sections vs longer blocks of text, leaving more white space vs condensed content, etc.

Titles and Headings

The titles and heading tags on your pages help search engines understand the content on the page. If you’re following SEO best practices, you would be having the main title or H1 and breaking up your content with multiple subheadings (H2s and H3s).

seo testing titles and headings

Image Source

You can run SEO A/B tests for these titles and heading tags to check if it helps you increase your SERP visibility, organic traffic, and rankings. Try testing:  

  • Position of the title tag 
  • More vs less use of subheadings
  • Using keywords in titles
  • Length of main title and subheadings

Visual Content

Visual content like images, videos, and infographics add to the user experience and also help your web pages rank higher in search results.  

At the same time, they may also impact your page speed if they’re not optimised for search engines. You may also want to ensure that your website has a persistent connection that allows the transfer of multiple files in a single connection and increases the site speed.  

Remember, page speed is a direct ranking factor for Google algorithms.

Hence, you can run SEO split tests to see if these elements are improving your organic traffic and ranking by improving the user experience or if it’s hurting your page speed and increasing your bounce rate.

Also, consider testing your visual content to see if they appear in SERP carousels which improves your search visibility. 

Internal links guide your users and search engines to other contextually related pages on your website. 

On one hand, they can help you improve your site’s user metrics like bounce rate, dwell time, pages per session, etc. Concurrently, they also assist Google to understand your site structure. 

So you can perform A/B experiments like: 

  • Shallow vs deep links
  • Changing link anchor text or altering its length, or
  • Pages being linked to

Thus, you can gain insights into your SEO metrics and adopt changes that worked best consistently during the test period.

Schema Markup

When you look at Google’s SERP, you also find rich results — starred rating, reviews, top stories, FAQs, etc. — besides the organic results.   

You can optimise your web pages for such rich results by schema markup. It’s a method to guide Google to feature the additional valuable information from your pages on the SERP. Thus, your brand gets to occupy more space on the SERPs. 

seo testing schema markup

So you can run experiments like:

  • Optimising for schema markup 
  • Changing the structured data types

If your schema split-tests are effective, you can implement similar changes on other pages of your site. 

User Experience

Users are the topmost priority for search engines. So anything that improves your user experience, it’s rewarded by Google in the form of SERP visibility and rankings. 

There are many tactics to improve user experience (UX) on your website. You can try and experiment for UX tests such as:

  • Website design elements
  • Using images
  • Mobile speed and responsiveness, etc. 

Also, conduct periodic SEO audits to spot and fix any UX design elements that may hamper your SEO performance. 

Calls to Action

Calls to Action (CTAs) on your pages are directly related to your conversion rates. CTAs can be in the form of buttons or links that prompt users to take a specific action.

You can conduct various CTA experiments to improve your conversion rate. Here are some of the tests to consider: 

  • CTA placement
  • Microcopy of CTA
  • CTA visual elements like shapes, colours, etc.

Besides the specific SEO testing tools, most A/B testing tools also offer a feature that can help you split test your CTAs.

Best SEO Split Testing Tools

Now that we know what SEO elements to test and how to test them, let’s take a look at some of the SEO testing tools that can help you automate SEO testing and make your life easier. 

Here they are. 

SearchPilot

SearchPilot automates your SEO A/B testing to a great extent. Once you have selected the group of pages and the changes you wish to test, it automatically splits the pages into control and variable groups based on the statistical similarities of the pages.

Then SearchPilot analyzes the performance over the test period. If you find the SEO test to be successful, you can implement changes to the rest of the pages directly through the SearchPilot platform.  

SEO elements it can test:

  • Meta titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • HTML structure 
  • Content on page
  • Internal links 
  • Structured data, and more

Pricing: Quote on request

SplitSignal

SEMrush has developed SplitSignal for SEO professionals primarily to solve the challenges related to SEO testing. 

With this tool, you can run SEO split tests on various website platforms without any complex coding requirements. It also demonstrates what SEO elements are directly causing changes in organic traffic. 

SEO elements it can test: 

  • Titles tags
  • Meta data 
  • Header tags
  • Move, delete, add elements tests, etc.

Pricing: Available on request

SEO Scout

SEO Scout’s  A/B testing tool primarily focuses on helping you improve your click-through rates. In addition, they also offer a comprehensive SEO suite with features such as keyword explorer, rank tracking, SEO performance reporting, and internal link analysis. 

This tool can automatically test the changes on your variable groups for selected SEO elements. 

SEO elements it can test:

  • Page titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • Other on-page elements

Pricing: Free 7-day trial and then prices start from $49/month

RankScience

RankScience specialises in technical SEO and also offer an exclusive SEO A/B testing tool. You can integrate a custom JavaScript on your site and run the HTML changes tests that impact your organic traffic and rankings. 

SEO elements it can test:

  • Title tags
  • Meta tags
  • Header tags
  • Image alt-text
  • Other on-page changes

Pricing: Quote on request

ClickFlow

ClickFlow is a simple content optimisation and SEO split testing tool. It mainly focuses on measuring the effectiveness of your web pages to increase organic traffic to your site. 

ClickFlow lets you test single or multiple URLs against each other as per your subscription. 

Besides, it also has a feature called “content decay” that alarms you when traffic starts declining from your important pages. 

SEO elements it can test:  

  • Meta descriptions 
  • Meta titles

Pricing: Starts at $109/month for sites having up to 10,000 Google Search Console clicks per month. 

SEOTesting

Besides the traditional time-based and split testing, SEOTesting offers a host of other SEO services. Some of them include historical SEO testing, group SEO tests, search intent highlighting, on-page content optimisation and many more. 

You can integrate it directly with your Google Search Console to record the changes on variant group pages and evaluate the results.

SEO elements it can test:

SEOTesting guides you through the testing and optimisation processes but it doesn’t make changes on your behalf. Hence, this tool is useful for you only if you can create control and variable groups and make the changes. 

Pricing: 14 days free trial. After the trial period pricing starts from $30/month.  

RankSense

RankSense is an automated tool that helps you generate optimised titles and descriptions for web pages according to the text on the page.  

Additionally, it also tracks the results of the variant pages and reports them to you so that you know which changes are worth implementing on other pages of your site. 

SEO elements it can test:

  • Meta descriptions 
  • Meta titles
  • Other on-page elements

Pricing: Quote on request

Google Optimize

Google Optimize — a tool that falls under Google Marketing Platform, allows you to run multiple kinds of tests such as A/B tests, multivariate tests, and personalised tests.  

You can feed your pages as a part of a ‘Container’ and run tests on the aspects that you want to optimise and improve on your website. 

The personalisation feature helps you tailor unique experiences for your customers, and test their success in achieving the desired marketing goals. 

SEO elements it can test:

The tool can test all the parameters that are measured and monitored by Google Analytics. However, this tool is predominantly used by businesses and enterprises that want to create and experiment with highly personalised website experiences and measure the results of those experiments.

Pricing: Optimize (Free), Optimize 360 (Quote on Request)

Closing Thoughts

As we conclude this post, it’s important to note that testing your SEO strategy and evaluating its effect on performance metrics is crucial for SEO campaigns. 

Though it may look a little complex, it’s worth investing time and resources because successful SEO tests are like hidden gems. You try multiple tests and a few succeed. But when that happens, it boosts your organic traffic and ranking significantly.

Needless to say, this traffic eventually converts into paying customers.  

So, you should ensure that you run SEO split tests before implementing major SEO changes across all the pages. And with the above SEO testing tools, it’s easier than ever. 

 

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