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Your Name | @Twitterhandle | #TechSEOBoost
SEO Experimentation
Brian Ta
Product Manager,
Coinbase
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
How to run SEO
experiments
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
About me
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Strava
Product Manager, Acquisition
Airbnb
SEO Lead
AngelList
Product Manager, Growth
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
what is SEO
experimentation?
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Assumptions:
1. You’re familiar with SEO
2. Organic traffic is already one of the
main drivers of your business
3. You have thousands of pages
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
it’s like any
normal a/b test
you’d run, but
cooler(and
different)
what can you test?
anything your heart
desires*
title tags
meta descriptions
image alt tags
content
any on-page element
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
it allows you to know,
with certainty, how
effective your changes
are
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
how is it useful?
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
it takes the
guesswork out
of SEO
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
You get to
learn and test
the boundaries
of SEO safely
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
how many of you knew this?
Airbnb SEO team has
known since 2017
this is a
competitive
advantage
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
when is it useful?
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
1. When you have something to
learn/test
2. If leadership wants you to
prove out your wins
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
experiment if
you have
something to
learn
Don’t test for the sake of testing
Ship often. Ship fast.
Run experiments as they’re needed,
not because you can.
Embody a growth mindset.
If you’re not learning, you’re failing.
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
opportunity
optimization
know the difference
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
How do we build
it?
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
By yourself. In-house.
→ The large majority of SEO experimentation
platforms use Javascript to do bucketing. 👎
→ Non-SEO specific experimentation platforms
don’t let you bucket by page.
→ The ones that don’t ask you to route through
their own CDN 👎
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Regular A/B Tests
→ They’re bucketed on the user level
→ Users will get the same experience on
the entire site
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Regular A/B Tests
control treatment
user
www.example.com/category/{pdp}
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
this obviously
doesn’t work
for seo
why doesn’t it?
Inconsistent
experience for Google
it’s not a consistent experience for
Google
If Google hits the same page multiple times, it’s going to get bucketed into control
or treatment, and will get an inconsistent experience.
experimentation platforms leverage
JS/cookies to do bucketing
This is not ideal for Google, as Google doesn’t execute JS everytime it crawls a
page and it doesn’t persist cookies across sessions
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
SEO A/B Tests
→ They’re bucketed on the page level
→ Users will get a different experience
based on the page they’re on
→ Google will get a consistent experience
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
SEO A/B Tests
control treatment
Googlebot
www.example.com/category/roses www.example.com/category/lilies
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Let’s get tactical
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Prerequisites
→ You’ll need the ability to bucket your
control and treatment on the page level
→ You’ll need the ability to track incoming
organic traffic to your site
→ You’ll need a decent amount of traffic to
your set of pages. ~5k organic traffic a day
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
bucketing your
control and
treatment on
the page level
how do I do this?
Programmatically or
manually
Programatically
Take the hash of the URL to decide whether it goes in control or treatment
Manually
If your site is small enough, you can manually define it yourself. Try your best to
make sure that organic traffic to both buckets is roughly the same
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
tracking
incoming
organic traffic
how do I do this?
Pulling from as close
to the data source as
possible
Don’t use GA
It’s sampled. I guess it’ll work in a pinch, but I wouldn’t trust GA data.
How’d we do it elsewhere?
Airbnb has a visitors table that logged every visitor and how they came into the
website. That’s what we used. Same with Strava
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Step 1: Design and Launch
→ Design, implement, and launch your
experiment.
→ Run one experiment at a time to start
→ Roll out your experiment to your entire
site
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Step 2: Wait
→ Let it run between 2-4 weeks
→ SEO experiments take longer than
normal A/B tests to show impact
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
seriously. wait.
why?
that’s just the nature of
running experiments. you
need time for the results to
settle.
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Step 3: Analysis
→ We’re going to look at the difference in
expected difference of traffic.
→ Compare the difference in traffic pre-
experiment, and the difference in traffic
post-experiment
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
measuring
difference in
difference
how do I do this?
Look at the difference
in traffic before
launch, and difference
after launch
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Step 4: Conclude
→ You can conclude if the experiment has
run for more than two weeks, and if your
results are statistically significant*
*if you have someone to tell you that. If not, just launch it if it looks good
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Let’s design an
experiment
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Setting the stage
We’re a Growth PM at Figma on the
Community team, and we want to grow
the organic traffic coming into the
Community pages
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Current title tag: {name of file | description of file that
gets truncated}
<title>Figma - iOS & iPadOS 14 UI Kit for Figma |
<p>Excited to share the latest iOS &amp; iPadOS 14 UI Kit
for Figma!</p><p><br></p><p>---</p><p><...</title>
Step 1: Designing the experiment
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Title tag to test: {name of file | tags}
<title>Figma - iOS & iPadOS 14 UI Kit for Figma | 14,
alert, apple, dark, emoji, ios, iphone, kit, light</title>
Step 1: Designing the experiment cont’d
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
We’ll do a straight A/B test with 50/50
treatment versus control to ALL
Community File pages.
Step 2: Rollout
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Title tag experiments are usually impactful. I’d
probably wait two weeks before running an
analysis.
Step 3: Wait
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
We’ll look at the expected difference in traffic if
you hadn’t run the experiment (control group)
and compare it against the difference that you
see now that you’ve made the change
(treatment). I’ll work with a data scientist to
make sure that we’re pulling data from our
visitors table.
Step 4: Analysis
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
If results are positive and are statistically
significant, I’d launch to 100%. If it’s neutral, or
inconclusive after a month, you can use your
own judgment on whether or not you want to
launch it.
Step 5: Launch
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Document your learnings, and start thinking about
other experiments you can do.
Step 6: Iterate
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
things to keep in
mind
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
impact of experiments
will decay. +5%
increase in traffic won’t
last forever
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
don’t be afraid to ship
neutral experiments.
experiments are to
inform your decision.
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
experimentation should
not be slowing you
down
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
have a good
growth/experiment
culture. ideate. iterate.
test. launch.
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
The Growth Process
Bottoms
Up Ideation
Grouping &
Prioritizing
Experiment
Scoping
Opportunity Scoping
Experimentation & Learning
Rapid
Prototyping
Experiment
Execution
Insights &
Sharing
Research
& Analysis
Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost
Thanks!
@fanfavorite_bta

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How to Run SEO Experiments

  • 1. Your Name | @Twitterhandle | #TechSEOBoost SEO Experimentation Brian Ta Product Manager, Coinbase
  • 2. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost How to run SEO experiments
  • 3. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost About me
  • 4. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Strava Product Manager, Acquisition Airbnb SEO Lead AngelList Product Manager, Growth
  • 5. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost what is SEO experimentation?
  • 6. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Assumptions: 1. You’re familiar with SEO 2. Organic traffic is already one of the main drivers of your business 3. You have thousands of pages
  • 7. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost it’s like any normal a/b test you’d run, but cooler(and different) what can you test? anything your heart desires* title tags meta descriptions image alt tags content any on-page element
  • 8. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost it allows you to know, with certainty, how effective your changes are
  • 9. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost how is it useful?
  • 10. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost it takes the guesswork out of SEO
  • 11. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost You get to learn and test the boundaries of SEO safely
  • 12. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost how many of you knew this? Airbnb SEO team has known since 2017 this is a competitive advantage
  • 13. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost when is it useful?
  • 14. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost 1. When you have something to learn/test 2. If leadership wants you to prove out your wins
  • 15. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost experiment if you have something to learn Don’t test for the sake of testing Ship often. Ship fast. Run experiments as they’re needed, not because you can. Embody a growth mindset. If you’re not learning, you’re failing.
  • 16. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost opportunity optimization know the difference
  • 17. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost How do we build it?
  • 18. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost By yourself. In-house. → The large majority of SEO experimentation platforms use Javascript to do bucketing. 👎 → Non-SEO specific experimentation platforms don’t let you bucket by page. → The ones that don’t ask you to route through their own CDN 👎
  • 19. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Regular A/B Tests → They’re bucketed on the user level → Users will get the same experience on the entire site
  • 20. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Regular A/B Tests control treatment user www.example.com/category/{pdp}
  • 21. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost this obviously doesn’t work for seo why doesn’t it? Inconsistent experience for Google it’s not a consistent experience for Google If Google hits the same page multiple times, it’s going to get bucketed into control or treatment, and will get an inconsistent experience. experimentation platforms leverage JS/cookies to do bucketing This is not ideal for Google, as Google doesn’t execute JS everytime it crawls a page and it doesn’t persist cookies across sessions
  • 22. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost SEO A/B Tests → They’re bucketed on the page level → Users will get a different experience based on the page they’re on → Google will get a consistent experience
  • 23. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost SEO A/B Tests control treatment Googlebot www.example.com/category/roses www.example.com/category/lilies
  • 24. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Let’s get tactical
  • 25. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Prerequisites → You’ll need the ability to bucket your control and treatment on the page level → You’ll need the ability to track incoming organic traffic to your site → You’ll need a decent amount of traffic to your set of pages. ~5k organic traffic a day
  • 26. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost bucketing your control and treatment on the page level how do I do this? Programmatically or manually Programatically Take the hash of the URL to decide whether it goes in control or treatment Manually If your site is small enough, you can manually define it yourself. Try your best to make sure that organic traffic to both buckets is roughly the same
  • 27. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost tracking incoming organic traffic how do I do this? Pulling from as close to the data source as possible Don’t use GA It’s sampled. I guess it’ll work in a pinch, but I wouldn’t trust GA data. How’d we do it elsewhere? Airbnb has a visitors table that logged every visitor and how they came into the website. That’s what we used. Same with Strava
  • 28. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Step 1: Design and Launch → Design, implement, and launch your experiment. → Run one experiment at a time to start → Roll out your experiment to your entire site
  • 29. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Step 2: Wait → Let it run between 2-4 weeks → SEO experiments take longer than normal A/B tests to show impact
  • 30. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost seriously. wait. why? that’s just the nature of running experiments. you need time for the results to settle.
  • 31. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Step 3: Analysis → We’re going to look at the difference in expected difference of traffic. → Compare the difference in traffic pre- experiment, and the difference in traffic post-experiment
  • 32. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost measuring difference in difference how do I do this? Look at the difference in traffic before launch, and difference after launch
  • 33. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Step 4: Conclude → You can conclude if the experiment has run for more than two weeks, and if your results are statistically significant* *if you have someone to tell you that. If not, just launch it if it looks good
  • 34. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Let’s design an experiment
  • 35. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Setting the stage We’re a Growth PM at Figma on the Community team, and we want to grow the organic traffic coming into the Community pages
  • 36. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Current title tag: {name of file | description of file that gets truncated} <title>Figma - iOS & iPadOS 14 UI Kit for Figma | <p>Excited to share the latest iOS &amp; iPadOS 14 UI Kit for Figma!</p><p><br></p><p>---</p><p><...</title> Step 1: Designing the experiment
  • 37. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Title tag to test: {name of file | tags} <title>Figma - iOS & iPadOS 14 UI Kit for Figma | 14, alert, apple, dark, emoji, ios, iphone, kit, light</title> Step 1: Designing the experiment cont’d
  • 38. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost We’ll do a straight A/B test with 50/50 treatment versus control to ALL Community File pages. Step 2: Rollout
  • 39. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Title tag experiments are usually impactful. I’d probably wait two weeks before running an analysis. Step 3: Wait
  • 40. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost We’ll look at the expected difference in traffic if you hadn’t run the experiment (control group) and compare it against the difference that you see now that you’ve made the change (treatment). I’ll work with a data scientist to make sure that we’re pulling data from our visitors table. Step 4: Analysis
  • 41. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost If results are positive and are statistically significant, I’d launch to 100%. If it’s neutral, or inconclusive after a month, you can use your own judgment on whether or not you want to launch it. Step 5: Launch
  • 42. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Document your learnings, and start thinking about other experiments you can do. Step 6: Iterate
  • 43. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost things to keep in mind
  • 44. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost impact of experiments will decay. +5% increase in traffic won’t last forever
  • 45. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost don’t be afraid to ship neutral experiments. experiments are to inform your decision.
  • 46. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost experimentation should not be slowing you down
  • 47. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost have a good growth/experiment culture. ideate. iterate. test. launch.
  • 48. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost The Growth Process Bottoms Up Ideation Grouping & Prioritizing Experiment Scoping Opportunity Scoping Experimentation & Learning Rapid Prototyping Experiment Execution Insights & Sharing Research & Analysis
  • 49. Brian Ta | @fanfavorite_bta | #TechSEOBoost Thanks! @fanfavorite_bta