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SEO Split-Testing - Why and How

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Using a data-driven split-testing (A/B testing) methodology for SEO is a huge opportunity to make considerable (and measurable) improvements in organic search performance. It is a viable and achievable option for most teams.

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SEO Split-Testing - Why and How

  1. 1. SEO Split-Testing
 Why you should. How you can. What we’ve learnt. @TomAnthonySEO
  2. 2. But I wore the juice! McArthur Wheeler
  3. 3. ? Do you think lemon juice makes you invisible?
  4. 4. Do you think HTTP is better than HTTPS?
  5. 5. Are multiple schema.org entries a good idea?
  6. 6. Are 302’s really as good as 301’s?
  7. 7. Be careful with untested recommendations. Don’t blindly believe Google. !
  8. 8. So today I want to discuss 3 things How good are we at ranking factors? How to run tests & pitfalls to avoid Some of the tests we’ve been running
  9. 9. RANKING FACTORS
  10. 10. Search: future of tv advertising http://adage.com/article/media/future-tv/303508/
  11. 11. Search: future of tv advertising http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/04/television-advertising-native/
  12. 12. Search: future of tv advertising DA PA LRDs Rank http://dis.tl/rankq-1a 91 47 2 ? http://dis.tl/rankq-1b 86 57 9 ?
  13. 13. Search: future of tv advertising DA PA LRDs Rank http://dis.tl/rankq-1a 91 47 2 3 http://dis.tl/rankq-1b 86 57 9 8
  14. 14. https://www.jensinkler.com/fix-your-kettlebell-swing/ Search: kettlebell technique
  15. 15. http://www.mensfitness.com/training/pro-tips/perfect-kettlebell-swing Search: kettlebell technique
  16. 16. Search: kettlebell technique DA PA LRDs Rank http://dis.tl/rankq-2a 41 42 12 ? http://dis.tl/rankq-2b 76 44 20 ?
  17. 17. Search: kettlebell technique DA PA LRDs Rank http://dis.tl/rankq-2a 41 42 12 4 http://dis.tl/rankq-2b 76 44 20 6
  18. 18. http://www.macworld.co.uk/how-to/iphone/how-to-back-up-iphone-ipad-backup-3595444/ Search: do I need to backup my iphone
  19. 19. http://www.idownloadblog.com/2013/08/28/not-enough-icloud-storage-iphone-cannot-be-backed-up/ Search: do I need to backup my iphone
  20. 20. Search: do I need to backup my iphone DA PA LRDs Rank http://dis.tl/rankq-3a 77 59 16 ? http://dis.tl/rankq-3b 67 34 3 ?
  21. 21. Search: do I need to backup my iphone DA PA LRDs Rank http://dis.tl/rankq-3a 77 59 16 7 http://dis.tl/rankq-3b 67 34 3 5
  22. 22. How did we do compared to others?
  23. 23. We surveyed 2000 people for 10 queries
  24. 24. % of UK search result pairs predicted correctly 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Laypeople
  25. 25. % of UK search result pairs predicted correctly 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Laypeople <= 3 yrs SEO
  26. 26. % of UK search result pairs predicted correctly 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Laypeople <= 3 yrs SEO > 3 yrs SEO
  27. 27. % of UK search result pairs predicted correctly 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Laypeople <= 3 yrs SEO > 3 yrs SEO Coin flip
  28. 28. Surprisingly hard.
  29. 29. DeepRank
  30. 30. % of UK search result pairs predicted correctly 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Laypeople <= 3 yrs SEO > 3 yrs SEO Coin flip
  31. 31. % of UK search result pairs predicted correctly 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% Laypeople <= 3 yrs SEO > 3 yrs SEO Coin flip DeepRank
  32. 32. Our instincts aren’t great! We need data and ways to validate.
  33. 33. CRO Testing
  34. 34. All CRO teams run tests. If they didn’t you wouldn’t take them seriously.
  35. 35. Why is that not true for SEO teams?
  36. 36. SEO TESTING
  37. 37. IMEC Labs IMEC Labs Run experiments against the SERPs to understand aspects of Google’s algorithm.
  38. 38. Blog Post
  39. 39. Blog Post
  40. 40. You can do proper testing too!
  41. 41. RUN YOUR OWN TESTS
  42. 42. Blog Post - http://dis.tl/mark-post
  43. 43. ‘Traditional’ CRO A/B Testing is User Oriented
  44. 44. SEO A/B Testing is Page Oriented
  45. 45. SEO A/B Testing includes Googlebot
  46. 46. Introduction to SEO A/B Testing Blog Post
  47. 47. How Split-Testing Changes Consulting Blog Post
  48. 48. 3 Steps to DIY SEO Split-Tests 1. Create two buckets of pages. 2. Make a change to all pages in one bucket. 3. Analyse which bucket performs better.
  49. 49. 1. Create two buckets of pages. A good DIY approach is using GA segments. Easy to make (see link). Suggestion: Create Segments by category (e.g. blog tag, product category).
  50. 50. 2. Make a change to all pages in one bucket. Control Variant This will be your variant bucket. Utilise your CMS where possible. Ask Dev for scalable approach.
  51. 51. 3. Analyse which bucket performs better. A naive approach can just compare absolute traffic, if you had a close match before. But needs a big uplift and hard to create such Segments. Better approach is using Google's Causal Impact library — read this great Lunametrics post. Variant Control
  52. 52. DistilledODN Your Server Your Home Page CDN Distilled ODN Your Optimized Home Page
  53. 53. SOME TESTS WE’VE RUN
  54. 54. ConcertHotels.com
  55. 55. ConcertHotels.com: Test Setup ~20,000 location category pages Pages Title: <<Location>> Hotels, NY | ConcertHotels.com H1: <<Location>> Hotels Before (Control) Title: Hotels near <<Location>>, NY | ConcertHotels.com H1: Hotels near <<Location>> After (Variant)
  56. 56. ConcertHotels.com: Results 2.5 weeks to get to significance. Gradual improvement in organic performance leading to steady amount of higher traffic. Results
  57. 57. SmokyMountains.com
  58. 58. SmokyMountains.com: Test Setup ~100 lodging pages Pages schema.org markup: @type “WebSite”. Generic on all pages. Before (Control) schema.org markup: @type “LodgingBusiness”. Customised to each page. After (Variant)
  59. 59. SmokyMountains.com: Results Fewer test pages than previous test, so it is less smooth but is detected much quicker. Traffic uplift here is estimated to be ~5%. Results
  60. 60. iCanvas.com
  61. 61. iCanvas.com: Test Setup ~3200 artist category pages Pages meta description: Shop our selection of canvas prints by Banksy, each hand-stretched over museum-quality bars and printed with brilliant, fade-resistant inks. Free shipping and returns. internal links: ~50 self referential links Before (Control) meta description: Banksy Prints on Canvas, including There Is Always Hope Balloon Girl, Life Is Beautiful and others. Free shipping and returns. internal links: <removed> After (Variant)
  62. 62. iCanvas.com: Results 2 weeks to get significance. Number of pages is between the previous tests: a few days to be noticed but quite smooth. Results
  63. 63. SOME OTHER TEST IDEAS
  64. 64. Tabbed vs Flat
  65. 65. Breadcrumbs ! ! !
  66. 66. Remove Interstitials
  67. 67. We removed all the ads from pages. Immediate uplift. Ad revenue was 1%. Clear ROI.
  68. 68. Build a library of tests
  69. 69. POTENTIAL PITFALLS
  70. 70. You can’t assume traffic equality between “buckets” of pages This is why we build a counterfactual comparison using control pages. Use Google’s Causal Impact library to do it yourself.
  71. 71. Pay attention to: Amount of traffic & number of pages These two factors will determine how quickly you can test and what size uplifts you can detect.
  72. 72. New pages that appear during tests The simplest approach is to just ignore all new pages that didn’t exist before the test started.
  73. 73. Different pages can have different seasonality For example, “roses” pages on valentine’s day. You need to cut outliers.
  74. 74. You could damage conversions, so pay attention to those metrics too. Tag people in your analytics depending if they arrive on Control or Variant
  75. 75. Run Null Tests Verify your test framework. Check for false positives.
  76. 76. RECAP
  77. 77. CROs are testing, we should too! I love testing!
  78. 78. You make me so happy, Tom Boss Friendly! Get Attribution! Get Dev Time!
  79. 79. Small site? Use Mark Edmondson Tool Bigger site? Use an A/B Approach
  80. 80. Thanks! @TomAnthonySEO
  81. 81. www.distilledodn.com DistilledODN allows you to test exactly which changes to your website will result in an uplift in traffic from search engines. Our new SEO A/B Testing platform is available. @TomAnthonySEO
  82. 82. Image Credits • Buckets - mamarazzi • Rose - alicelingching • Girders - JFB119 • Rubiks - Wallpaperzone

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