A/B Testing is a great way to test that the website content that your offering appeals to your users. There are minimal risks associated with split testing however it is important to remember that to determine which version of your page is the best, you will need to send a percentage of your traffic to your test page.
Why A/B Test
A/B testing allows you to determine which version of your website is working better in terms of reaching your goals. Ultimately resulting in increases in leads, hits, click through rates, etc. It allows you to conduct an experiment on virtually anything and implement the outcome that engages the majority of your consumers – enabling you to optimize your website to exactly what increases your conversion rates.
A/B Testing + SEO
Google backs split testing and offers the option to conduct an experiment through Google Analytics. However, you may be wondering what search engine robots see on your site when you are conducting an A/B test? Will experimenting with different content change how your site ranks?
In order to minimize the impact on your website’s search performance while conducting split testing, follow these four steps:
1. Don’t Cloak
Cloaking refers to deceiving robots by showing them a different set of content than you are showing to human users on your website. In other words, hiding content from robots so as to not damage your website’s visibility.
2. Don’t Index Test Pages
Ensure to not index your test pages, as your original page is your ideal page (until the experiment proves otherwise of course). By allowing search engines to index your test page, you risk the chance of your test page – which is not necessarily here to stay – to be indexed on Google, which can damage your conversion rates.
3. Use rel=“canonical”
rel=”canonical” tells search engines the preferred version of a page. Use this when running an experiment with multiple URL’s to indicate to the search engine that the original URL is preferred to the one being tested. Not using rel=”canonical” can cause duplicate content issues which may cause Google to drop or remove one of the pages out of its index because of the similarity of the content. This can result in your original (and perhaps better) page to be removed from Google’s index and in turn affect your website’s visibility.
Because I’m a WordPress user myself, I suggest using the Yoast Plugin for WordPress to set your original page as the canonical URL when split testing a certain page. As well as to set your test pages to noindex as mentioned above.
4. Use Caution When ‘Removing’ Page A
Once finished running your test, if the test shows that page B outperforms page A, your automatic response will be to delete page A and implement page B. However, don’t forget that the test page is not yet indexed and deleting the original page will leave users with a 404 error when they click on your original page on search engines. It is important to either:
1 – Redesign the original page to duplicate the content and design of the test page.
2 – Index the test page and redirect page A to page B.
I recommend using the Redirection WordPress Plugin to easily redirect your test page directly from your dashboard.
How A/B Testing can Help you to Optimize your Website
We know that adhering to and optimising your website to Google’s ever changing algorithms can improve your website’s visibility. We also all know that content (good content) is an extremely important factor to properly optimize your websites for Google. AND finally, we all know that a combination of good, up to date content and an appealing website design encourages users to visit and re-visit your website.
That being said, website traffic affects our website’s visibility on Google. The more users that visit and spend time on your site, the more likely it ranks highly on SERPs. Conducting content experiments to see what engages and appeals to users and then implementing them will increase your website’s overall visibility.
In basic terms, don’t guess what will encourage users to visit and spend more time on your website, prove it!