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A YEAR OF SEO SPLIT
TESTING CHANGED
HOW I THOUGHT
SEO WORKED
@dom_woodman
Hmm that did
nothing
Crushing
failure
Ooh traffic went up
All those links I’m building.
Hmm that did
nothing
Crushing
failure
Ooh traffic went up
How does SEO testing
work & what do you need?
Getting started & learning
how to think about testing
More than you wanted to know
about titles and metas.
Testing resource
heavy investments
Structured data &
dangerous assumptions
Risky business...
How testing changes
relationships
Conclusions
How does SEO testing
work & what do you need?
SEO split testing is template basedHere’s our example website
Home
Animals
Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
CatsCats
We want to test two templates for our animals pages
Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
CRO test - Different users, see different templates on the same pages
1
Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
CRO test - Different users, see different templates on the same pages
1
2
Cats BadgersDogs Unic...
Cats Dogs
SEO test - different users see the same templates on different pages
1
2
Cats Dogs
Cats Dogs
Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
SEO test - different users see the same templates on different pages
1
2
Cats Dogs Unicorns Bad...
Then we measure the change in traffic, e.g. 3% daily increase
LIABILITY
Rank
Search visibility
Total additional sessions
The fans show margin of error
The test is significant when the shaded area crosses 0
In this case it happened here:
There are two
graphs.
Control Variant
Black is organic traffic for the variant
Start date for the test
Take all the data to left and use that to make the model
The model of the variant is the blue line
We overlay them
Compare the model to the variant after the start date
In this case the black line is higher, it’s a positive test
A good model, fits with the variant before the start date
However this was my model. They don’t fit well.
How much traffic do you
need for SEO split testing?
Rule of thumb: you need roughly 1000 organic sessions a day to
the gro...
That model you
just saw, only had
~60 sessions a day.
Getting started & learning
how to think about testing
1
Some fluctuation but null.
2
Before
After
10.8% decrease
3
<img src="product1.jpg" alt="Home 6 Piece Towel Bale - Geo Grey /
Zest">
A model so perfectly null I thought I had forgotten to launch it
4&5
Thought leader.
PHD in AI.
Unbearably smug.
Before:
After:
A stunning 27% drop.
A 20% drop.
Can’t write
titles for shit.
Get a testing framework
You need to be able to iterate and learn from tests. Having a
shared framework, will help with thi...
You don’t need the why
Knowing the why is great (find it if you can), but you don’t need
it to take action.
@dom_woodman
More than you wanted to know
about titles and metas.
6
16
1. Reviews
2. Safety Information
Before
After
10% drop
7
Before
After
14.7% drop
Fast forward… more
tests happen.
Title tests usually change
traffic between ~5 - 15%
This stayed equivalent across site size and industry.
@dom_woodman
56% of all title tag
changes were negative
Around 37% were null and only 6% were actually positive. It’s really
hard to wr...
Writing titles
is just really
really hard.
You can’t stop testing
titles.
Titles exist in the context of the rest of a SERP, when everyone
copies your good title for...
Title/meta effects typically
appear in 2-4 days.
It’s also easy to validate the changes have been picked up
because you ca...
Heavy investment
SEO changes
8
We can render Javascript!
Javascript EnabledJavascript Disabled
Control
Javascript EnabledJavascript Disabled
Variant
6.2% increase.
5% increase
Visible content on the
initial page load matters
Although there is a lot subtlety to how Google renders JS, we
haven’t cov...
9
No effect/negative effect
Increase of 3.1%
SEO content sometimes
helps… :(
Damn it.
@dom_woodman
The same changes have
different effects on
different sites.
This is the big one. There really isn’t best practice.
@dom_wo...
(Assuming it was topically similar). We’ve saved clients a lot of
money, by showing they could reduce content without an e...
Structured data &
dangerous assumptions
10
Adding structured data to category pages
Increase of 11%
11
Increase of 11%
$$$$$$ - 150K additional
sessions a month.
How did your last year go?
12, 13,
14
Null.
Null.
Null.
The same changes have
different effects on
different sites.
This is the big one. There really isn’t best practice.
@dom_wo...
The same changes have
different effects on
different sites.
This is the big one. There really isn’t best practice.
@dom_wo...
Structured data has an
effect outside of rich
snippets
Occasionally we got big 10-15% wins on important templates, it
vari...
Periodically re-challenge
your beliefs
I was lucky to test a successful site first. In a different order, I
might’ve given...
15
Increase of 16%
16
5 star
much value
very marketer
so dollars
0.0% change. Again impressively null.
If you don’t have intent,
bells and whistles fail.
5 star rich snippets increased traffic by 16% on the right site with th...
Risky business...
17
<time itemprop="dateModified" datetime="{{date}}">
Updated on: {{date}}
</time>
8% increase
Freshness does matter.
But I wouldn’t recommend faking last modified dates...
@dom_woodman
Agile testing can help
you take larger risks.
If you can measure and quickly roll out/roll back a test, you can try
things...
How testing changes
relationships
18
BUSINESS
Synergy
Dynamic
Increase of 12%
Increase of 12%
Null. Go figure.
You don’t need to argue,
when you can test.
When you have solid testing framework and can build things quickly
and easily,...
Also null.
Happiness isn’t just up
and to the right
Instead the focus turns to other metrics like how many tests are we
running, how ...
A negative test you rolled
back is a bullet dodged
Negative tests feel like wasted time. Once you realise without
testing ...
You’re about to be
forced out of silos.
You’re going to need to coordinate and work tightly with product
and QA teams if y...
Conclusions
Hmm that did
nothing
Crushing
failure
Ooh traffic went up
The same changes have
different effects on
different sites.
Really can’t emphasize this one enough.
@dom_woodman
Get a testing framework.
Most tests fail or are null.
Having a framework will help you move faster and find those wins.
@d...
Testing will improve your
relationships.
You’ll have to spend less time arguing and it creates a culture of
curiosity.
@do...
Periodically re-challenge
your beliefs
You probably have some beliefs about what works or doesn’t work
which are wrong fro...
Making changes to sections of pages
on templates
● Making SEO changes with tag
manager
● Cloud flare edge workers
● Distil...
bit.ly/distilled-odn
@dom_woodman
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked
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SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked

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If you asked a UX professional whether users prefer one image or two on a blog post, they'd tell you to test it — trying to double guess users is foolish.

Yet for many companies, SEO has no testing at all, just endless reams of best practice and hand waving. Last year I changed role and got the chance to treat SEO differently, running over 50 tests across different websites. This session will give an insight into what worked, and just as importantly, what didn’t.

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SearchLove London 2018 - Dom Woodman - A year of SEO split testing changed how I thought SEO worked

  1. 1. A YEAR OF SEO SPLIT TESTING CHANGED HOW I THOUGHT SEO WORKED @dom_woodman
  2. 2. Hmm that did nothing Crushing failure Ooh traffic went up
  3. 3. All those links I’m building.
  4. 4. Hmm that did nothing Crushing failure Ooh traffic went up
  5. 5. How does SEO testing work & what do you need?
  6. 6. Getting started & learning how to think about testing
  7. 7. More than you wanted to know about titles and metas.
  8. 8. Testing resource heavy investments
  9. 9. Structured data & dangerous assumptions
  10. 10. Risky business...
  11. 11. How testing changes relationships
  12. 12. Conclusions
  13. 13. How does SEO testing work & what do you need?
  14. 14. SEO split testing is template basedHere’s our example website Home Animals Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
  15. 15. CatsCats We want to test two templates for our animals pages
  16. 16. Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers CRO test - Different users, see different templates on the same pages 1
  17. 17. Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers CRO test - Different users, see different templates on the same pages 1 2 Cats BadgersDogs Unicorns
  18. 18. Cats Dogs SEO test - different users see the same templates on different pages 1 2 Cats Dogs Cats Dogs
  19. 19. Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers SEO test - different users see the same templates on different pages 1 2 Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers Cats Dogs Unicorns Badgers
  20. 20. Then we measure the change in traffic, e.g. 3% daily increase
  21. 21. LIABILITY
  22. 22. Rank Search visibility
  23. 23. Total additional sessions
  24. 24. The fans show margin of error
  25. 25. The test is significant when the shaded area crosses 0
  26. 26. In this case it happened here:
  27. 27. There are two graphs.
  28. 28. Control Variant
  29. 29. Black is organic traffic for the variant
  30. 30. Start date for the test
  31. 31. Take all the data to left and use that to make the model
  32. 32. The model of the variant is the blue line
  33. 33. We overlay them
  34. 34. Compare the model to the variant after the start date
  35. 35. In this case the black line is higher, it’s a positive test
  36. 36. A good model, fits with the variant before the start date
  37. 37. However this was my model. They don’t fit well.
  38. 38. How much traffic do you need for SEO split testing? Rule of thumb: you need roughly 1000 organic sessions a day to the group of pages you’re testing. @dom_woodman
  39. 39. That model you just saw, only had ~60 sessions a day.
  40. 40. Getting started & learning how to think about testing
  41. 41. 1
  42. 42. Some fluctuation but null.
  43. 43. 2
  44. 44. Before
  45. 45. After
  46. 46. 10.8% decrease
  47. 47. 3
  48. 48. <img src="product1.jpg" alt="Home 6 Piece Towel Bale - Geo Grey / Zest">
  49. 49. A model so perfectly null I thought I had forgotten to launch it
  50. 50. 4&5
  51. 51. Thought leader. PHD in AI. Unbearably smug.
  52. 52. Before:
  53. 53. After:
  54. 54. A stunning 27% drop.
  55. 55. A 20% drop.
  56. 56. Can’t write titles for shit.
  57. 57. Get a testing framework You need to be able to iterate and learn from tests. Having a shared framework, will help with this. @dom_woodman
  58. 58. You don’t need the why Knowing the why is great (find it if you can), but you don’t need it to take action. @dom_woodman
  59. 59. More than you wanted to know about titles and metas.
  60. 60. 6
  61. 61. 16
  62. 62. 1. Reviews 2. Safety Information
  63. 63. Before
  64. 64. After
  65. 65. 10% drop
  66. 66. 7
  67. 67. Before
  68. 68. After
  69. 69. 14.7% drop
  70. 70. Fast forward… more tests happen.
  71. 71. Title tests usually change traffic between ~5 - 15% This stayed equivalent across site size and industry. @dom_woodman
  72. 72. 56% of all title tag changes were negative Around 37% were null and only 6% were actually positive. It’s really hard to write a good title. @dom_woodman
  73. 73. Writing titles is just really really hard.
  74. 74. You can’t stop testing titles. Titles exist in the context of the rest of a SERP, when everyone copies your good title format (and they will) you’ll have to mix it up again. @dom_woodman
  75. 75. Title/meta effects typically appear in 2-4 days. It’s also easy to validate the changes have been picked up because you can scrape it from the SERPS. @dom_woodman
  76. 76. Heavy investment SEO changes
  77. 77. 8
  78. 78. We can render Javascript!
  79. 79. Javascript EnabledJavascript Disabled Control
  80. 80. Javascript EnabledJavascript Disabled Variant
  81. 81. 6.2% increase.
  82. 82. 5% increase
  83. 83. Visible content on the initial page load matters Although there is a lot subtlety to how Google renders JS, we haven’t covered here. @dom_woodman
  84. 84. 9
  85. 85. No effect/negative effect
  86. 86. Increase of 3.1%
  87. 87. SEO content sometimes helps… :( Damn it. @dom_woodman
  88. 88. The same changes have different effects on different sites. This is the big one. There really isn’t best practice. @dom_woodman
  89. 89. (Assuming it was topically similar). We’ve saved clients a lot of money, by showing they could reduce content without an effect. Reducing content on non-article pages was often null. @dom_woodman
  90. 90. Structured data & dangerous assumptions
  91. 91. 10
  92. 92. Adding structured data to category pages
  93. 93. Increase of 11%
  94. 94. 11
  95. 95. Increase of 11%
  96. 96. $$$$$$ - 150K additional sessions a month. How did your last year go?
  97. 97. 12, 13, 14
  98. 98. Null.
  99. 99. Null.
  100. 100. Null.
  101. 101. The same changes have different effects on different sites. This is the big one. There really isn’t best practice. @dom_woodman
  102. 102. The same changes have different effects on different sites. This is the big one. There really isn’t best practice. @dom_woodman THIS TIME I ACTUALLY LEARNED IT
  103. 103. Structured data has an effect outside of rich snippets Occasionally we got big 10-15% wins on important templates, it varied wildly and was mostly null (never negative). @dom_woodman
  104. 104. Periodically re-challenge your beliefs I was lucky to test a successful site first. In a different order, I might’ve given up on my hypothesis, before finding the right site. @dom_woodman
  105. 105. 15
  106. 106. Increase of 16%
  107. 107. 16
  108. 108. 5 star much value very marketer so dollars
  109. 109. 0.0% change. Again impressively null.
  110. 110. If you don’t have intent, bells and whistles fail. 5 star rich snippets increased traffic by 16% on the right site with the right intent. When the intent wasn’t there, they appeared, but did nothing. @dom_woodman
  111. 111. Risky business...
  112. 112. 17
  113. 113. <time itemprop="dateModified" datetime="{{date}}"> Updated on: {{date}} </time>
  114. 114. 8% increase
  115. 115. Freshness does matter. But I wouldn’t recommend faking last modified dates... @dom_woodman
  116. 116. Agile testing can help you take larger risks. If you can measure and quickly roll out/roll back a test, you can try things you might not normally feel comfortable doing. @dom_woodman
  117. 117. How testing changes relationships
  118. 118. 18
  119. 119. BUSINESS Synergy Dynamic
  120. 120. Increase of 12%
  121. 121. Increase of 12%
  122. 122. Null. Go figure.
  123. 123. You don’t need to argue, when you can test. When you have solid testing framework and can build things quickly and easily, testing is easier than arguing and removes arguments from a relationship. @dom_woodman
  124. 124. Also null.
  125. 125. Happiness isn’t just up and to the right Instead the focus turns to other metrics like how many tests are we running, how can we improve the testing process. @dom_woodman
  126. 126. A negative test you rolled back is a bullet dodged Negative tests feel like wasted time. Once you realise without testing you probably would’ve rolled out, it feels a lot better. @dom_woodman
  127. 127. You’re about to be forced out of silos. You’re going to need to coordinate and work tightly with product and QA teams if you’re not already. @dom_woodman
  128. 128. Conclusions
  129. 129. Hmm that did nothing Crushing failure Ooh traffic went up
  130. 130. The same changes have different effects on different sites. Really can’t emphasize this one enough. @dom_woodman
  131. 131. Get a testing framework. Most tests fail or are null. Having a framework will help you move faster and find those wins. @dom_woodman
  132. 132. Testing will improve your relationships. You’ll have to spend less time arguing and it creates a culture of curiosity. @dom_woodman
  133. 133. Periodically re-challenge your beliefs You probably have some beliefs about what works or doesn’t work which are wrong from blind chance. Re-test them. @dom_woodman
  134. 134. Making changes to sections of pages on templates ● Making SEO changes with tag manager ● Cloud flare edge workers ● DistilledODN General useful posts on testing frameworks & velocity ● Hypothesis framework ● Running a weekly growth meeting Do it yourself How does split testing work? ● How does SEO split testing work? Examples ● Pinterest - Demystifying SEO with experiments ● Etsy - SEO title tag testing Measuring SEO split tests ● Google’s original causal impact paper ● A DIY tool for measuring SEO split tests ● A walkthrough of the R Causal Impact library
  135. 135. bit.ly/distilled-odn
  136. 136. @dom_woodman

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