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3 Mistakes Made by Companies While Running SEO Split Tests

Search Engine Optimization | Nov 26, 2019

SEO split testing is a growing concept that has slowly but gradually created a rave amongst SEO professionals in recent times. Today, it has become a vital cog for any SEO service company in the USA that wishes to call itself data-driven. A/B testing has been around for long. Now, they have started to apply this concept in SEO. The reason for that is it assists the company to grow more organic traffic.

How Important Is SEO Split Test?

Several organizations today are implementing SEO A/B testing tools to test SEO recommendations. The insights that can be derived from these tests can provide vital information that can yield favorable results for your online business. No doubt, running SEO split tests is the mantra of the day. However, certain companies are failing miserably at this endeavor.

Here, in this write-up, we have highlighted some of the prominent mistakes made by companies while running SEO split tests. 

However, before we proceed with the mistakes, it is essential to address one crucial question that you might have at this stage: What exactly is SEO Split testing?

We do not blame you for not having an answer to this question. Honestly, there are only a few selected individuals who are aware of this concept.

But, the good news is that we are going to dispel the truth right here, right now!

What Exactly Is SEO Split Testing?

When it comes to SEO split testing, the one thing that it gets compared with the most is CRO testing. In this type of testing, there is a direct comparison between control and variant version of the page (it can also be a group of pages) to check which one of the two performs better. This can be done by assigning your users into different buckets and showcasing each bucket as a distinct version of the website.

While in the case of SEO split testing, the ultimate objective is to determine which version of the page will perform better when it comes to organic search traffic. In case you adopt a CRO-like approach to bucketing users, it would not yield the right results. The reason being, Googlebot will be able to see only one version of the page. 

To counter this situation, SEO split tests are conducted on bucket pages. Here, a section of the website which follows the same page template is taken into consideration. Next, changes are made to half of the pages in that section. Next, the impact of traffic is measured for all the variant pages in comparison to the forecast on the basis of the performance of the control pages.

Now that you have understood the concept of SEO split tests, as promised, let’s divert our attention to common mistakes made by companies while running SEO split tests.

The 3 Most Common Mistakes Made While Running SEO Split Tests

#1 Stopping the Split Testing Within a Short Span of Time

If you are an SEO professional, you will definitely know that it takes time for the changes to show their effect on the search engine rankings. It takes about a week or two for the variant pages to start out-stripping the forecast on the basis of the control pages.

You should not panic in a week or so because the test will not show much difference during that period. However, it has been found several times that things alter after a week or two, so, from experience, we say not to stop the split testing too soon!

The other thing that you need to keep in mind is the fact that the longer you leave the test open after the initial lull period, the likelihood of getting significant results is higher.

Now, if you are from CRO background, chances are, you are shouting at the top of your voice saying, “IT IS NOT OKAY TO LEAVE A TEST RUNNING FOR SO LONG. IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE AN END DATE BEFORE STARTING THE SPLIT TEST TO VALIDATE THE RESULTS!”

This is true in the case of the CRO test, which can be measured with the help of standard statistical models. While SEO split tests are measured with the help of Bayesian statistical methods. These methods allow you to continue running the test until you reach a significant result of which you are confident.

#2 Testing Pages That Do Not Have Adequate Organic Traffic / The Sample Size of Such Pages Is Small

It is vital to run split tests on pages that are getting high traffic volume. So, if a site section with similar pages does not get a minimum of 1000 organic sessions daily in total, it becomes difficult to get precise results from the split test.

In the case of less traffic than that, the tests that you run will not showcase any positive or negative test for sure, and there will be uncertainty involved. If the traffic is more than 1000 sessions daily, you will see a minor uplift. 

Apart from that, it is important to ascertain that the traffic is evenly distributed across the number of pages. If more than 50% of the organic traffic of your site is generated by only three to four pages, it shows that the test can be influenced by the fluctuation of these pages’ performance so in a way it does not give concrete answers.

The end result would be that the modifications that you are testing for will get swayed by an irrelevant factor. Hence, it is essential to have your traffic well-distributed across the site section. This way, if there are any page-specific fluctuations, they can be evened out, and the effects that you measure are genuine. 

#3 Bucket Pages in an Arbitrary Manner

When it comes to CRO tests, it is a general practice to assign users randomly to either control and variant groups. This is recommended when you have identical groups having a large number of users involved. On the other hand, in an SEO split test, there is a much more comprehensive approach utilized.

If you have a site that comprises of a very large number of pages, having evenly distributed traffic, a random approach towards bucketing will suffice. However, most of the time, it has been found that websites contain several pages that get more traffic while others receive less. On top of that, certain pages have different trends and spikes in traffic; this can give useful insights, especially for particular seasons. 

To ensure that the control and variant groups are statistically identical, you need to ensure that they have:

  1. Similar total traffic levels;
  2. Similar distributions of traffic between pages within them;
  3. Similar trends in traffic over time;
  4. The similarity in a range of other statistical measures. 

Wrapping Up

These are some of the prominent mistakes made by companies while running SEO split tests. To get the right online visibility for your website, we suggest you avail professional SEO services from a reputed company and take your business to the pinnacle of success. So, tell us how excited are you to run SEO split tests on your website?

Harshal Shah

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