- SEO A/B testing allows site owners to understand whether the changes they make to their website have a positive impact on keyword rankings.
- Anything on a website can be A/B tested, but the best variants to test are those that have a direct relationship to Google’s ranking algorithm.
- How site owners can best execute an SEO A/B test will depend on the size of their website and their ability to easily roll back changes.
- If an A/B test proves that a specific optimization is effective, a site owner can more confidently incorporate identical or similar changes to other pages of their website.
For SEO strategists, it is sometimes difficult to know which of the many changes we make to our websites actually impact their overall SEO performance. Moving websites from page 10 to page 2 can usually be accomplished by following SEO best practices, but the trek to page 1? That requires far more granular attention to the specific changes we make to our landing pages. Enter SEO A/B testing, one of the best ways to narrow in and understand the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of specific optimizations.
Many digital marketers are comfortable using A/B testing features in their PPC campaigns or to analyze user behavior in Google Analytics, but fewer are incorporating this powerful strategy to better understand which of their on-page optimizations have the greatest impact on keyword rankings.
SEO A/B testing can seem intimidating, but with the right tools, it’s actually fairly simple to perform. Not only does A/B testing help SEOs identify the most impactful optimizations, but it also gives them a way to quantify their efforts. Although SEO A/B testing is more often utilized by advanced SEO strategists, site owners who are comfortable working on the backend of their website have a great opportunity to elevate their SEO strategy through well-structured A/B tests.
What is SEO A/B testing?
When it comes to controlled experiments, testing two variants is the fundamental building block from which all other testing is built. A/B testing is simply measuring how a single variant impacts an outcome. In the case of SEO, the outcomes are either better, worse, or static keyword rankings.
It doesn’t take much to get started. You’ll need Google Search Console for one (the absolute truth of your SEO rankings), as well as two clearly defined variants you want to test out. Lastly, site owners need to have a dev or staging environment where they can save a version of their website prior to the SEO A/B test just in case the changes do not produce the desired results.
Best use cases for SEO A/B testing
Anything can be A/B tested on our websites, but for SEO purposes, certain site elements are more likely to result in keyword rankings improvements because of the weight they carry in Google’s algorithm. For that reason, the below elements are the best use cases for SEO A/B tests.
Choosing title tags is so important and has a huge impact on search results. Title tag changes are very impactful from a rankings perspective because they directly influence click-through-rate (CTR). Google has a normalized expected CTR for searches, and if your landing pages continually fall below the mark, it will negatively impact your overall chances of ranking.
For those websites that already have a lot of keywords on page one and are therefore getting lots of impressions, A/B testing meta descriptions can be really beneficial. Like title tags, they directly impact CTR, and improving them can result in significantly more clicks and thus better rankings.
If you can, it’s good to add schema markup to all of your web pages (you miss all the shots you don’t take!), but if certain pages on your site still don’t have schema.org markup, adding it can be a great use case for an A/B test.
Internal links communicate to Google site architecture, and they also distribute PageRank across our websites. Getting internal links right can produce dramatic keyword ranking improvements, particularly for larger websites with thousands of landing pages. Focus on header and footer links because of how much they shift PageRank. For websites with product pages, you can use A/B testing to find the best anchor text for your internal links.
Adding good content to your landing pages is always beneficial because longer content implies topical depth. Using a landing page optimizer tool can help you improve the semantic richness of your content, and a subsequent A/B test empowers you to measure whether Google positively responds to those quality signals.
Large groups of pages
For ecommerce sites or those who may add a large group of pages all at once, you can use A/B testing to measure whether those pages are crawled and indexed in a way that positively or negatively harms your existing rankings.
There are certain elements of information architecture that are more specific to SEO. Google likes page experience features like jumplinks and carousels, so understanding the impact of adding these features to your web pages is another reason to perform an SEO A/B Test.
Whenever you make core technical changes to your website, A/B testing is a great way to measure how those changes impact keyword rankings. It also helps prevent your site from experiencing a significant rankings drop in the long-term.
The types of SEO A/B testing
There are a few different types of A/B tests that you can execute on your website. It will largely depend on the number of landing pages you have as well as the category of variants you are testing out.
A then B
The most basic form of A/B testing, this type of test will simply compare the performance of a single page with one different variant. This type of A/B test is better for smaller sites and easier to implement, particularly if you’re confident that the changes are in the right direction.
This type of A/B test allows for far more statistically significant results and can be executed on large sites with hundreds to thousands of landing pages. Instead of measuring a single variant on a single page, pick two page groups of similar pages (I recommend at least 50 pages per cohort) and change the variant on all of those pages.
This common form of experimentation has the same core mechanisms of an A/B test, but it increases the number of variants being tested. Multivariate testing can be great for measuring user behavior, but it is less effective in measuring search performance when you’re trying to discover whether a specific optimization has a direct impact on keyword rankings.
How to perform an SEO A/B test
The easiest way to do A/B tests is by using site snapshots and rollbacks. Basically, you take a site snapshot, make the change to your site, and sit back for a week and watch what happens. If the change to the site has improved your SEO, you’ll see it in your benchmarking. If you’ve made a mistake, then you just roll back to a previous version of your site and move forward with different optimizations.
Here is a simple step-by-step process of an SEO A/B test:
- Take a site snapshot or do a site backup prior to implementing changes so you can return to a previous version of your website if the change is not effective
- Determine the variant being tested (for example, title tag, schema.org, and the others) and make the change to a page or cohort of similar pages
- Wait 7-14 days to determine the impact of the change
- Compare the keyword rankings for the variant page/s to the original. This can be done in Google Search Console or a Google Search Console Dashboard
If the optimizations are impactful, you can proceed with making similar changes to other pages of your site. More targeted changes like adding keyword-rich title tags and meta descriptions won’t necessarily directly translate to other pages. However, more technical optimizations like schema.org and information architecture can be implemented across the entirety of your website with more confidence if an A/B test proves them impactful.
Some practical advice for SEO testing across hosting environments
The way you proceed with step one will depend on your dev and staging environment. If you’re hosting on DigitalOcean, you can take site snapshots. If you’re on WPEngine, you can choose a site backup to restore from. For the best in class, try Version Control from Git, which allows you to roll back to any version of your website.
Version Control is like Track Changes on a Word Document, but the history never gets deleted. With Version Control, even if you delete something or change it, there is a chronology to all of the changes that have been made — when a line of code was created, when it was edited — and you can roll back at any time.
It’s also important to make sure all of the in-development pages and test environment pages on your site have the robots no index tag. Some SEO specialists might tell you that adding the pages to your blocklist in robots.txt or with on-page rel canonical tags would be sufficient, but at LinkGraph I’ve seen numerous examples where pages or subdomains were added to robots and continued to be in search results for months. Just adding a canonical tag is insufficient at blocking the dev domain from crawling and indexing.
The best strategy is to use the robots no index. The even better strategy is to use both robots no index and rel canonicals for added protection.
How long does it take to know whether the variant was effective?
How long you wait to measure your A/B tests will depend on how often Google crawls your website. If you test parts of your domain that aren’t crawled often, you may have to wait longer in order for Google to actually see your changes. If you’re changing primary pages that Google crawls frequently, you can likely see whether those optimizations had any impact within 7-14 days.
When done correctly, A/B testing can be a powerful way to refine your SEO strategy toward maximum results. Not only can A/B testing help site owners make more data-driven decisions, but it can also help SEO strategists prove the value of their work to clients or executive leadership who may be wary of investing in SEO.
Manick Bhan is the founder and CTO of LinkGraph, an award-winning digital marketing and SEO agency that provides SEO, paid media, and content marketing services. He is also the founder and CEO of SearchAtlas, a software suite of free SEO tools. You can find Manick on Twitter @madmanick.
The post How to perform SEO A/B testing in Google Search Console appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
YouTube has long allowed its users to test new features and products before they go live to a wider audience. But in a recent change, YouTube’s latest series of experiments are being limited to those who subscribe to the Premium tier of YouTube’s service. Currently, paid subscribers are the only ones able to test several new product features, including one that allows iOS users to watch YouTube videos directly on the home screen.
This is not the same thing as the Picture-in-Picture option that’s become available to app developers with iOS 14, to be clear. Instead, YouTube says this feature allows users who are scrolling on their YouTube home page to watch videos with the sound on while they scroll through their feed.
Two other experiments are related to search. One lets you filter topics you search for by additional languages, including Spanish, French or Portuguese. The other lets you use voice search to pull up videos when using the Chrome web browser.
None of these tests will be very lengthy, however. Two of the three new experiments wrap up on October 20, 2020 for example. The other wraps on October 27. And they’ve only been live for a few weeks.
In years past, YouTube had allowed all users to try out new features in development from a dedicated site dubbed “TestTube.” In more recent years, however, it began to use the website YouTube.com/new to direct interested users to upcoming features before they rolled out publicly. For example, when YouTube introduced its redesign in 2017, users could visit that same website to opt-in to the preview ahead of its launch.
Now, the site is being used to promote other limited-time tests.
YouTube says the option to test the features was highlighted to Premium subscribers a few weeks ago within the YouTube app. It’s also the first time that YouTube has run an experimentation program tied to the Premium service, we’re told.
Contrary to some reports, however, it does not appear that YouTube’s intention is to close off all its experiments to anyone except its paid subscribers. The company’s own help documentation, in fact, notes this limitation will only apply to “some” of its tests.
YouTube also clarified to TechCrunch that the tests featured on the site represent only a “small minority” of those being run across YouTube. And they are not at all inclusive of the broader set of product experiments the company runs, according to the company.
In addition, non-Premium users can opt to sign up to be notified of additional opportunities to participate in other YouTube research studies, if they choose. This option appears at the bottom of the YouTube.com/new page.
YouTube says the goal with the new experiments is two-fold. It allows product teams to receive feedback on different features and it allows Premium subscribers to act as early testers, if they want to.
Premium users who choose to participate can opt into and out of the new features individually, but can only try one experiment at a time.
This could serve to draw more YouTube users to the Premium subscription, as there’s a certain amount of clout involved with being able to try out features and products ahead of the general public. Consider it another membership perk then — something extra on top of the baseline Premium tier features like ad-free videos, downloads, background play and more.
YouTube, which today sees more than 2 billion monthly users, said earlier this year it has converted at least 20 million users to a paid subscription service. (YouTube Premium / YouTube Music). As of Q3 2020, YouTube was the No. 3 largest app by consumer spend worldwide across iOS and Android, per App Annie data.
Tinder announced this morning it will begin to test video chat in its mobile dating app with some members in select worldwide markets, including in the U.S. The feature, which allows Tinder matches to go on “virtual” dates when both opt in, will first be available to users in Virginia, Illinois, Georgia and Colorado in the U.S., as well as in Brazil, Australia, Spain, Italy, France, Vietnam, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Peru and Chile, also with some members.
Parent company Match had first promised it would introduce video chat in Tinder as part of its Q1 2020 earnings report and touted the feature as a way Tinder was evolving its business in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The company had also then detailed the pandemic’s impact on its app, which had slowed Tinder user growth in the quarter as social distancing requirements and government lockdowns went into effect.
Tinder ended Q1 with 6 million subscribers, up from 5.9 million in December 2019 — meaning it only added 100,000 paid subscribers during the quarter. For comparison, in the year-ago quarter it added 384,000 paid users. Tinder’s average revenue per user (ARPU) also grew just 2%, mainly due to purchases of à la carte features, not subscriptions.
Tinder says it had tested video at various times before the COVID-19 outbreak, but said it never saw significant adoption. The pandemic has changed things, however. Today, Tinder allows users to search for matches worldwide through its Passport feature, making its dating app more of a social network. Meanwhile, Tinder users who do want to date now feel almost forced to use video for their early interactions instead of going on briefer “getting to know you” coffee or drink dates, as before.
Without a video option in the app, these users often turned to third-party apps like Snapchat or other video chat apps for these early connections. Meanwhile, daters who prioritized a video option may have even made the switch to rival Bumble, which has offered video for a year. Facebook also recently said it would add video for its Facebook Dating users, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, forcing Tinder’s hand.
The new feature itself is simple to use. Once two people have matched and are chatting in the app, they can indicate they’re ready to move to a video session by tapping the new video icon. The clever part is that the feature itself isn’t enabled until both matches opt in. The company notes that Tinder users won’t be informed if a match toggles on the video chat feature. The idea is to wait until the discussion comes up naturally, as it often does in a text-based chat.
When both users have toggled on video chat, they have to agree to ground rules before the chat begins. Tinder says calls should remain “PG,” with no nudity or sexual content. The chats are also supposed to stay “clean,” meaning no harassment, hate speech, violence or other illegal activities. Users also agree calls will need to be age-appropriate, meaning without minors involved.
The feature, which Tinder calls “Face to Face,” is enabled on a match-by-match basis, not universally for all matches.
How exactly Tinder plans to properly moderate what appears to be a fantastic new solicitation platform remains less clear. In addition, Tinder’s move to embrace video means it could be putting sex offenders in front of the camera. As an investigative report last year from ProPublica found, most of the Match-owned dating apps, including Tinder, were not screening for sexual predators.
For now, Tinder says users are asked to review the call when it wraps.
In a pop-up, users who finish a video call will be asked whether they would go Face to Face again. Here, they’ll also have the option to report the user, if needed. These sorts of retroactive rating systems don’t do much for anyone who feels unsafe in the moment, of course, and it’s not clear to what extent Tinder will step in to police calls in progress.
Asked for specifics, Tinder declined to share. (In an earlier report, Tinder CEO Elie Seidman suggested Tinder would use machine learning models to monitor chats.)
Also unclear is to what extent Tinder would step into to stop what may otherwise be consensual sexual activity, including of the paid variety.
Tinder doesn’t seem worried about these off-brand use cases for video chat, however. It says it recently surveyed around 5,000 members in the U.S. and around half of them have already had video dates with a match off its platform over the past month, indicating a willingness to try video for online dating. In addition, 40% of Gen Z members said they wanted to keep using video as an initial step before agreeing to meet in real life, even when places like restaurants and bars were re-opened.
“Connecting face-to-face is more important than ever, and our video chat feature represents a new way for people to get to know one another in-app no matter their physical distance,” said Rory Kozoll, head of Trust and Safety Products at Tinder, in a statement about the launch. “Face to Face prioritizes control to help our members feel more comfortable taking this next step in chats if and when it feels right for them. We’ve built a solid foundation, and look forward to learning from this test over the coming weeks,” Kozoll added.
The feature is launching in testing only starting today, in select markets.
Rocket launch startup Astra, which had been attempting to claim DARPA’s prize for successful demonstration of flexible space launch capabilities until earlier this month, will not be moving forward with an attempted flight of its launch vehicle this week as planned. The company’s “One of Three” rocket ran into an “anomaly” during pre-launch testing in preparation for its flight this week, and the schedule for a make-up launch are currently is currently up in the air.
“Astra’s launch vehicle “One of Three” suffered an anomaly following an otherwise successful day of testing in Kodiak in preparation for a launch this week,” explained Astra CEO and founder Chris Kemp via email. “Fortunately, our own hardware was the only thing harmed, and our team is already hard at work to determine the root cause so that we can improve the vehicle’s design. As a result of yesterday’s anomaly we will no longer be attempting a launch this week. We do intend to attempt another launch from Kodiak once conditions with coronavirus improve and we have resolved the cause of yesterday’s incident.”
Astra’s launches are set to take off from Kodiak Launch Complex, which is located a the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. The company had challenges with weather conditions leading up to its attempts to win the $ 2 million DARPA prize, the deadline for each expired at the beginning of March, but the anomaly yesterday had to do with the vehicle hardware itself, and not external conditions. Local news additionally reported this morning that while the emergency response triggered by the anomaly had ended, the “areas is still hazardous and should be avoided” according to Alaska Aerospace CEO Mark Lester.
Kemp also cited the current coronavirus crisis in his statement to TechCrunch, and while that doesn’t look like it contributed to any technical issues, the ongoing global pandemic definitely seems likely to impact any attempted work that would involve repairs or rescheduling the launch at this time.
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By now, the venture world is wary of blood testing startups offering health data from just a few drops of blood. However, Baze, a Swiss-based personal nutrition startup providing blood tests you can do in the convenience of your own home, collects just a smidgen of your sanguine fluid through an MIT manufactured device, which, according to the company, is in accordance with FDA regulations.
The idea is to find out (via your blood sample) which vitamins you’re missing out on and are keeping you from living your best life. That seems to resonate with folks who don’t want to go into the doctor’s office and separately head to their nearest lab for testing.
Most health professionals would agree it’s important to know if you are getting the right amount of nutrition — Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide epidemic affecting calcium absorption, hormone regulation, energy levels and muscle weakness. An estimated 74% of the U.S. population does not get the required daily levels of Vitamin D.
“There are definitely widespread deficiencies across the population,” Baze CEO and founder Philipp Schulte tells TechCrunch. “[With the blood test] we see that we can actually close those gaps for the first time ever in the supplement industry.”
While we don’t know exactly how many people have tried out Baze just yet, Schulte says the company has seen 40% month-over-month new subscriber growth.
That has garnered the attention of supplement company Nature’s Way, which has partnered with the company and just added $ 6 million to the coffers to help Baze ramp up marketing efforts in the U.S.
I had the opportunity to try out the test myself. It’s pretty simple to do. You just open up a little pear-shaped device, pop it on your arm and then press it to engage and get it to start collecting your blood. After it’s done, plop it in the provided medical packaging and ship it off to a Baze-contracted lab.
I will say it is certainly more convenient to just pop on a little device myself — although it might be tricky if you’re at all squeamish, as you’ll see a little bubble where the blood is being sucked from your arm. For anyone who hesitates, it might be easier to just head to a lab and have another human do this for you.
The price is also nice, compared to going to a Quest Diagnostics or LabCorp, which can vary depending on which vitamins you need to test for individually. With Baze it’s just $ 100 a pop, plus any additional supplements you might want to buy via monthly subscription after you get your results. The first month of supplements is free with your kit.
Baze’s website will show your results within about 12 days (though Schulte tells TechCrunch the company is working on getting your results faster). It does so with a score and then displays a range of various vitamins tested.
I was told that, overall, I was getting the nutrients I require with a score of 74 out of 100. But I’m already pretty good at taking high-quality vitamins. The only thing that really stuck out was my zinc levels, which I was told was way off the charts high after running the test through twice. Though I suspect, as I am not displaying any symptoms of zinc poisoning, this was likely the result of not wiping off my zinc-based sunscreen well enough before the test began.
For those interested in conducting their own at-home test and not afraid to prick themselves in the arm with something that looks like you might have it on hand in the kitchen, you can do so by heading over to Baze and signing up.
Twitter users are getting more control over which comments are visible in the conversations they start.
The company has been testing and talking about this feature since earlier this year, but starting next week, Twitter will actually roll it out to users in Canada.
As you can see in the GIF below, when you’re looking at replies to your tweets, you’ll be able to select any of them and hit the “hide reply” option. However, as the name implies, these posts won’t be fully removed from Twitter, just hidden from the default view — everyone will still be able to tap on a gray icon to view hidden replies.
Here’s how Twitter’s Michelle Yasmeen Haq and Brittany Forks explain the feature:
Everyday, people start important conversations on Twitter, from #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, to discussions around #NBAFinals or their favorite television shows. These conversations bring people together to debate, learn, and laugh. That said we know that distracting, irrelevant, and offensive replies can derail the discussions that people want to have. We believe people should have some control over the conversations they start.
As my colleague Sarah Perez noted previously, the current implementation is open to at least two criticisms — one, that it could allow users to hide critical viewpoints or fact-checking of their tweets (maybe quote-tweeting will be the better strategy moving forward), and two, that it still forces people to wade through potentially trollish or hateful content in order to hide replies.
Haq and Forks emphasize that Twitter is still looking for ways to improve the feature: “By testing in one country we want to get feedback and better understand how this tool can improve before it’s available globally.”
And yes, the timing of the news is a little awkward, coming right after Twitter went down for about an hour.
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Twitter shut down Dom Hoffman’s app Vine, giving away the short-form video goldmine to China’s TikTok. Now a year and half since Hoffman announced he’d reimagine the app as V2 then scrapped that name, his follow-up to Vine called Byte has finally sent out the first 100 invites to its closed beta. Byte will let users record or upload short, looped vertical videos to what’s currently a reverse-chronological feed.
the byte beta we’ve been running with friends and family *feels* exactly like the vine friends and family beta, down to the weird but appealing randomness of the videos. that’ll change as we expand, but it’s a pretty good sign pic.twitter.com/rBbQrNtTJ7
— dom hofmann (@dhof) April 22, 2019
It will be a long uphill climb for Byte given TikTok’s massive popularity. But if it differentiates by focusing less on lip syncing and teen non-sense so it’s less alienating to an older audience, there might be room for a homegrown competitor in short-form video entertainment.
Hoffman tells TechCrunch that he’s emboldened by the off-the-cuff nature of the beta community, which he believes proves the app is compelling even before lots of creative and funny video makers join. He says his top priority is doing right by creators so they’ll be lined up to give Byte a shot when it officially launches even if they could get more views elsewhere.
For now, Hoffman plans to keep running beta tests, adding and subtracting features for a trial by fire to see what works and what’s unnecessary. The current version is just camera recordings with no uploads, and just a feed with Likes and comments but no account following. Upcoming iterations from his seven-person team will test video uploads and profiles.
One reassuring point is that Hoffman is well aware that TikTok’s epic rise has changed the landscape. He admits that Byte can’t win with the exact same playbook Vine did when it faced an open field, and it must bring something unique. Hoffman tells me he’s a big fan of TikTok, and sees it as one evolutionary step past Vine, but not in the same direction as his new app
Does the world need Vine back if TikTok already has over 500 million active users? We’ll soon find out of Hoffman can take a Byte of that market.
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