Tag Archive | "Ways"

Different ways voice search is affecting your brand

We live in a world where a large number of people like to engage with their favorite brands online, and business owners are understanding that now.

Today, a chunk of people find new products online and also place the orders online. However, a paradigm shift can be observed in how they approach this which is how we see more and more people searching for information on the web using voice-commands rather than textual queries.

1. Brand voice

AI has impacted lots of industries and the branding industry has not escaped its reach, nowadays we have machines that can create brands based on user inputs. However, while AI has made building a brand identity more accessible, it can also present a challenge, and one of these challenges is the rise of voice assistants.

The voice assistants we have today are finite in number. Some of the most popular options that we use are Google’s Assistance, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft’s Cortona. However, as artificial intelligence technology is becoming stronger, we will have a wider range of these services to choose from. When this happens, then the voice of the virtual assistant may interfere with a brand’s personality. For instance, if someone is using a female virtual assistant to look up information about a masculine brand, then it can hurt the brand’s impact. To tackle this problem, brands must keep these potential situations in mind. So, in this very example, a brand could alter the content that the voice assistance finds in a way that it’s able to retain the brand’s tone (masculine and rough) even if it’s in a female voice.

2. Consistency

Consistency is the key to successful branding – there is no denying that. However, you need to keep that in mind when you work with voice searches as well. For instance, you want to ensure that the tone and language used in the results of voice searches are optimized and in line with the brand book. These affect the following results returned by voice commands – product descriptions, social media content, ad copy, chatbot dialog, and more.

3. Payments

Virtual assistants are mainly used to find information on the Internet. However, service providers are also looking into new ways of using these services. For instance, Google Assistant now allows Google Pay users to send and receive money using voice commands. In the same way, payments leader MasterCard is aiming to bring its Masterpass online payment platform into Google and Amazon’s voice systems. So, what does this mean for the brands? Well, for one thing, they need to think about making provisions like this, that is, making payments easier and simpler with voice commands so that they can enjoy first-mover advantages.

4. Optimized content

What’s meant to be read doesn’t always sound good when voiced. For instance, if you define “SEO” on your blog by starting with the words “SEO is one of the most-effective digital marketing techniques used by brands today”, then you may fail to arouse the interest of the user if and when they search for the content using an appropriate voice command. However, if you ignore the introduction and focus on the main content by optimizing the content, then you can let the virtual assistant read something like “SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization which combines different kinds of techniques…” which is far more effective and engaging.

As you can see, voice search isn’t only making the lives of people around the world easier, but it’s also interfering with the practices of old and new brands. Those who are adapting to the changing trends have nothing to fear. However, the rest of them who have decided to remain unchanged can face all kinds of problems in the future.

Remember – branding isn’t just for big businesses. It doesn’t matter how big or small your company is, you need to take as many branding measures as possible. Naturally, voice search must be an integral part of the plan.

This is a sponsored post from PRchitects.

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6 Ways to Get More Organic Traffic, Without Ranking Your Website

Posted by ryanwashere

A few years ago, I wrote a post here that caught some attention in the community.

I argued Google appears to be ranking websites heavily based on searcher intent — this is more true now than ever.

In fact, it might be algorithmically impossible to get your website on top of the SERPs.

If you find your website in this position, don’t give up on SEO!

The point of “Search Engine Optimization” is to get organic exposure through search engines — it doesn’t necessarily have to be your website.

We can leverage the ranking authority of other websites pass organic referral traffic to our sites.

I’m going to give 6 times when you should NOT rank your website.

Prefer to watch / listen? I outlined all these points as a part of a recent keynote: https://youtu.be/mMvIty5W93Y

1. When the keywords are just TOO competitive

We’ve all been there: trying to rank a website with no authority for highly competitive keywords.

These keywords are competitive because they’re valuable so we can’t give up on them.

Here’s a few workarounds I’ve used in the past.

Tactic 1: Offer to sponsor the content

Ardent sells a product that “decarboxylates” cannabis for medicinal users.

There’s a ton of challenges selling this product, mostly because patients don’t know what “decarboxylation” means.

So, naturally, ranking for the keyword “what is decarboxylation” is a critical step in their customer’s path to conversion. Problem is, that keyword is dominated by authoritative, niche relevant sites.

While Ardent should still build and optimize content around the subject, it might take years to rank.

When you’re trying to build a business, that’s not good enough.

We decided to reach out to those authoritative sites offering to “sponsor” one of their posts.

In this case, it worked exceptionally well — we negotiated a monthly rate ($ 250) to tag content with a CTA and link back to Ardent’s site.

Granted, this doesn’t work in every niche. If you operate in one of those spaces, there’s another option.

Tactic 2: Guest post on their site

Guest writing for Moz in 2015 put my agency on the map.

Publishing on powerful sites quickly expands your reach and lends credibility to your brand (good links, too).

More importantly, it gives you instant ranking power for competitive keywords.

As co-owner of an SEO agency, it would be amazing to rank in Google for “SEO services,” right?

seo-servce-google-search

Even with an authoritative site, it’s difficult to rank your site for the search “SEO service” nationally. You can leverage the authority of industry sites to rank for these competitive searches.

The post I wrote for Moz back in 2015 ranks for some very competitive keywords (admittedly, this was unintentional).

This post continues to drive free leads, in perpetuity.

moz-referral-traffic

When we know a client has to get visibility for a given keyword but the SERPs won’t budge, our agency builds guest posting into our client’s content strategies.

It’s an effective tactic that can deliver big results when executed properly.

2. When you can hijack “brand alternative” keywords

When you’re competing for SERP visibility with a large brand, SEO is an uphill battle.

Let’s look at a couple tactics if you find yourself in this situation.

Tactic #1: How to compete against HubSpot

HubSpot is a giant on the internet — they dominate the SERPs.

Being that large can have drawbacks, including people searching Google “HubSpot alternatives.” If you’re a competitor, you can’t afford to miss out on these keywords.

“Listicle” style articles dominate for these keywords, as they provide the best “type” of result for a searcher with that intent.

It’s ranking on top for a lot of valuable keywords to competitors.

As a competitor, you’ll want to see if you can get included in this post (and others). By contacting the author with a pitch, we can create an organic opportunity for ourselves.

This pitch generally has a low success. The author needs to feel motivated to add you to the article. Your pitch needs to contain a value proposition that can move them to action.

A few tips:

  • Find the author’s social profiles and add them. Then retweet, share, and like their content to give them a boost
  • Offer to share the article with your social profiles or email list if they include you in it
  • Offer to write the section for inclusion to save them time

While success rate isn’t great, the payoff is worth the effort.

Tactic #2: Taking advantage of store closures

Teavana is an international tea retailer with millions of advocates (over 200k searches per month in Google).

Just a few months ago, Starbucks decided to close all Teavana stores. With news of Teavana shutting down, fans of the brand would inevitably search for “Teavana replacements” to find a new company to buy similar tea from.

Teami is a small tea brand that sells a number of SKUs very similar to what Teavana. Getting in front of those searches would provide tremendous value to their business.

At that moment, we could do two things:

  1. Try to rank a page on Teami’s for “Teavana replacement”
  2. Get it listed on an authority website in a roundup with other alternatives

If you ask many SEO experts what to do, they’d probably go for the first option. But we went with the second option – getting it listed in a roundup post.

If we ranked Teami as a Teavana replacement — which we could do — people will check the site and know that we sell tea, but they won’t take it seriously because they don’t trust us yet that we are a good Teavana replacement.

How to pull it off for your business

Find a writer who writes about these topics on authoritative sites. You may need to search for broader keywords and see articles from authority magazine-like websites.

Check the author of the article, find their contact info, and send them a pitch.

We were able to get our client (Teami Blends) listed as the number-two spot in the article, providing a ton of referral traffic to the website.

3. When you want to rank for “best” keywords

When someone is using “best” keywords (i.e. best gyms in NYC), the SERPs are telling us the searcher doesn’t want to visit a gym’s website.

The SERPs are dominated by “roundup” articles from media sources — these are a far better result to satisfy the searcher’s intent.

That doesn’t mean we can’t benefit from “best keywords.” Let’s look at a few tactics.

Tactic #1: Capture searchers looking for “best” keywords

Let’s say you come to Miami for a long weekend.

You’ll likely search for “best coffee shops in Miami” to get a feel for where to dine while here.

If you own a coffee shop in Miami, that’s a difficult keyword to rank for – the SERPs are stacked against you.

A few years back we worked with a Miami-based coffee shop chain, Dr Smood, who faced this exact challenge.

Trying to jam their website in the SERPs would be a waste of resources. Instead, we focused on getting featured in press outlets for “best of Miami” articles.

local PR for links

How can you do it?

Find existing articles (ranking for your target “best of” keywords) and pitch for inclusion. You can offer incentives like free meals, discounts, etc. in exchange for inclusion.

You’ll also want to pitch journalists for future inclusion in articles. Scan your target publication for relevant journalists and send an opening pitch:

Hey [NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME]. Our agency manages the marketing for [CLIENT].

We’ve got a new menu that we think would be a great fit for your column. We’d love to host you in our Wynwood location to sample the tasting menu.

If interested, please let me know a date / time that works for you!

We pitched dozens of journalists on local publications for Dr Smood.

author info

It resulted in a handful of high-impact features.

local PR for links

Work with food service businesses? I have more creative marketing tips for restaurants here.

Tactic #2: If you have a SaaS / training company

Let’s say you work for an online training company that helps agencies improve their processes and service output.

There’s hundreds of articles reviewing “best SEO training” that would be a killer feature for your business.

Getting featured here isn’t as hard as you might think — you just have to understand how to write value propositions into your pitch.

Part of that is taking the time to review your prospect and determine what might interest them:

  • Helping get traffic to their site?
  • Discounts / free access to your product?
  • Paying them…?

Here’s a few I came up with when pitching on behalf of The Blueprint Training.

Hey [NAME],

My name is [YOUR NAME]…nice to meet you.

I’ll get to the point – I just read your article on “Best SEO Trainings” on the [BLOG NAME] blog. I recently launched a deep SEO training and I’d love consideration to be included.

I recently launched a platform called The Blueprint Training – I think its a perfect fit for your article.

Now, I realize how much work it is to go back in and edit an article, so I’m willing to do all of the following:

- Write the section for you, in the same format as on the site

- Promote the article via my Twitter account (I get GREAT engagement)
- Give you complimentary access to the platform to see the quality for yourself

Let me know what you think and if there’s anything else I can do for you.

Enjoy your weekend!

If you can understand value propositioning, you’ll have a lot of success with this tactic.

4. When you need to spread your local footprint

Piggybacking off the previous example, when performing keyword research we found Google displayed completely different SERPs for keywords that all classified what Dr Smood offered.

  • Miami organic cafe
  • Miami coffee shop
  • Miami juice bar

The algorithm is telling us each of these keywords is different — it would be extremely difficult to rank the client’s website for all three.

However, we can use other owned properties to go after the additional keywords in conjunction with our website.

Properties like Yelp allow you to edit titles and optimize your listing just like you would your website.

We can essentially perform “on page” SEO for these properties and get them to rank for valuable keyword searches.

The structure we took with Dr Smood was as follows:

When doing this for your business, be sure to identify all the keyword opportunities available and pay attention to how the SERPs react for each.

Understand which citation pages (Yelp, MenuPages, etc) you have available to rank instead your website for local searches and optimize them as you would your website.

5. When you need to boost e-commerce sales

The SERPs for e-commerce stores are brutally competitive. Not only do you have to compete with massive brands / retailers, but also sites like Amazon and Etsy.

Look, I get it — selling on Amazon isn’t that simple. There’s a ton of regulations and fees that come with the platform.

But these regulations are what’s keeping a lot of larger brands from selling there, aka, there’s an opportunity there.

Amazon accounts for 40% of online retail in the US (and growing rapidly). Not only can you get your Amazon to rank in Google searches, but 90% of sales on the platform come from internal Amazon searches.

In other words, Amazon is its own marketing engine.

While you might take a haircut on your initial sales, you can use Amazon as a customer acquisition channel and optimize the lifetime value to recoup your lost upfront sales.

Here’s how we did it for a small e-commerce client.

Tactic: Radha Beauty Oil

Radha Beauty sells a range of natural oils for skin, hair and general health. Our keyword research found that Amazon listings dominated most of their target keywords.

With clients like this we make sure to track SERP result type, to properly understand what Google wants to rank for target keywords.

Specifically, Amazon listings had the following SERP share:

  • First result = 27.3%
  • Second result = 40.9%
  • Third result = 35.9%

Fortunately, this client was already selling on Amazon. Unfortunately, they had a limited budget. We didn’t have the hours in our retainer to optimize both their e-commerce store and their Amazon store.

This data gave us the firepower to have a conversation with the client that our time would drive more revenue optimizing their Amazon store over their e-commerce platform.

We focused our efforts optimizing their Amazon listings just like we would an e-commerce store:

  • Amazon product titles
  • Amazon descriptions
  • Generating reviews from past customers
  • Building links to Amazon store pages

The results were overwhelmingly positive.

If you’re a newer e-commerce brand, an Amazon store gives you the opportunity to outrank giants like Ulta in Google.

6. When the SERPs call for video

Predator Nutrition is an e-commerce site that sells health and fitness supplements. They have their own private label products, but they’re mainly a retailer (meaning they sell other brands as well).

While performing keyword research for them, we found a ton of search volume around people looking for reviews of products they sold.

youtube-review-keywords

The SERPs clearly show that searchers prefer to watch videos for “review” searches.

There are a couple ways you can capture these searches:

  1. Create videos for your YouTube channel reviewing products
  2. Find and pay an influencer to review products for you

I prefer method #2, as reviews on third-party channels rank better — especially if you’re targeting YouTubers with a large following.

Not only are you adding more branded content in the SERPs, but you’re getting your products reviewed for targeted audiences.

Final thoughts…

This industry tends to romanticize SEO as a traffic source.

Don’t get me wrong, I love how passionate our community is, but… we have to stop.

We’re trying to build businesses. We can’t fall in love with a single source of traffic (and turn our backs to others).

The internet is constantly changing. We need to adapt along with it.

What do you think?

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5 Easy Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang

What’s the second most important part of your blog post after the title? Master copywriter Eugene Schwartz often spent an…

The post 5 Easy Ways to Open Your Blog Post with a Bang appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Four ways to use marketing feedback loop to optimize SEO efforts

This is a marketing strategy that may change everything you know about content marketing and SEO.

The customer feedback loop is an effective way to improve your offerings to your customers and modify what they get based on their feedback. It’s a business strategy that has been in existence for quite some time, but here, it’s refined towards content marketing and SEO.

Surely, there are ways you can make use of one of the most effective business and marketing strategy in human existence. And it’ll improve your content marketing and SEO efforts and help grow your brand. I’ll be taking a deeper look into the feedback loop, how it works in marketing and how you can apply this to your content marketing and SEO efforts.

What is a marketing feedback loop?

Firstly, let’s try to understand what marketing feedback loop is and how it works in the traditional marketing world. Done correctly, and with a well documented and measured process, the marketing feedback loop can improve your content marketing and SEO results.

According to HubSpot author, Caroline Forsey,

“A feedback loop is a process in which the outputs of a system are circled back and used as inputs. .. this refers to the process of using customer or employee feedback to create a better product or workplace.”

Marketers will understand that there are gems to be found in the feedback their businesses and products receive online. Both the positive and negative feedback you get, if utilized properly, can significantly transform how customers perceive and interact with your brand.

A marketing feedback loop is created when a business utilizes the responses they attract from a campaign effort or a product on the social web, and this can be later utilized in their marketing efforts. This may also include feedbacks from surveys and research campaigns.

Here, we’ll look at how it can be utilized to improve content marketing and SEO efforts.

How to create opportunities marketing feedback loop

Identifying opportunities for marketing feedback loop is just as important as how to make it work for you. Customers will take to social media to raise concerns or praises about your products and services where potential customers are actively participating in discussions that will determine whether or not to choose you over the competition.

Naturally, you’ll incorporate praises about your services into your testimonial campaigns to promote your business. These content are easily seen. Negative feedback, on the other hand, is where the treasure lies. And you will almost always miss them.

Below, let’s take a look at ways to identify marketing feedback loop and ultimately how you use it to improve your content marketing and SEO efforts.

  • Necessary tools: The first step to identifying opportunities for feedback loop is to actively monitor mentions about your brand on the web. This includes social media, blogs, and forums. In this case, the right tools, and people are what you need. Some tools to employ may include Mention, Radian6 and setting up Google Alerts for known names/keywords (or phrases) your brand is associated with.
  • Surveys: What’s better than the opportunity to secure valuable feedback? One that is solicited. Implementing surveys can help you to elicit feedback from your users right before they share it themselves. This will give room for you to identify potential issues and address them before they become problems.
  • The right person/team: Is someone on your team who determines how customers’ feedback should be responded to and what department gets to see and utilize it. This individual is responsible for its proper documentation as well. Naturally, they should be working very closely with the marketing department.
  • Interpreting constructive and negative customer feedback: Most times, when emotions run high with customers, constructive criticisms may come off as negative feedback. This may be perceived as an attack on your brand if care is not taken to analyze the issue — leaving you with a missed opportunity to improve on both SEO and content efforts. Instead of making a blanket judgment on the surface and writing of the complainant as a troll, look closely to identify what others may agree within their feedback. There, you’ll find your next content fodder and SEO hack.

How significant are feedback loops to content marketing and SEO?

Customers’ feedback can be looped into the whole brand experience output, which includes user experience(UX), answering the right questions on your website (enabling for richer content experience and broadens keyword opportunities).

Getting content marketing and SEO benefits from implementing feedback loop in your marketing would be a successful effort if done the right way. The following procedures will not only ensure you’re creating a better experience for your users but also gaining SEO advantage in the process.

Using a feedback loop to improve SEO – UX improvements

The most significant drawback to most businesses’ web presence is the user experience, and Google — growing ever-smarter with its constant algorithmic updates — is now effective at scoring a website’s rankings based on overall UX score. The best way for businesses to know how their UX measures up is through direct feedback from those using it. Here, customer feedback can be looped to the design team who can improve upon the website feel and accessibility. The result is a website with better UX and improved search rankings.

A feedback loop can prevent worthless content efforts

Say your content marketing team have been working tirelessly, analyzing trends and interviewing industry experts just to improve visibility and rankings. But the result is slow or abysmal. Here, the marketing team should be tasked to score through the complaints that have been left by your customers and come up with problem-solving content to line up your content calendar. This will not only directly address your users concerns but will help you see improved content marketing efforts.

Where have feedback loops improved SEO efforts?

In 2018, I and my partner at Effective Inbound Marketing, Ayodeji Onibalusi conducted a survey asking people to go visit our website and give feedback about what should be improved on. Majority of the responders wanted us to improve navigation and some others wanted us to produce more marketing content on the blog.

We incorporated the feedback loop by upgrading our content output and introduced breadcrumbs that’ll show the users how they navigated our website. These improvements saw our Alexa ranking move from 850,000 in December of 2018 to 272,000 as of today (August 2019) and our navigation improvement saw our users spend more time on site, dropping bounce rate by 50% and also increasing the number of pages visited per user. This has trickled down to our rankings, with terms like “Amazon” and “Russian Marketing” now driving users to our website.

Three takeaways from this

  • The smallest feedback loop implemented can have a significant impact on SEO
  • When implementing feedback loops, consider users satisfaction first
  • A feedback loop can be equally effective if solicited from users

The right way to use a marketing feedback loop to improve SEO

Getting marketing feedback loop right shouldn’t be tricky if you follow best practices. The core purpose of a marketing feedback loop is to use constructive complaints from your customers to improve your content marketing and SEO efforts. This can be accomplished by identifying their pain-points and incorporating this into your content and SEO campaigns.

Successful marketing feedback loop must follow these rules to positively have an impact on content marketing and SEO.

Is timely

Customers feedback should be looped to the right department as quickly as possible. Ideally, the customer should already get a response within the first hour, on the same channel. If it’s worth incorporating into a content, your content marketing team should already have a well-thought-out long-form content that addresses critical factors and answers questions such as:

– Was the complaint legitimate?

– Would other customers face this same issue?

– Was there a solution in place before?

– How did the company help the customer resolve the complaint?

– What did the company do prevent future customers from experiencing the same?

The medium of feedback should remain the same

Marketers should not make the mistake of addressing issues on different channels from where feedback originated from. Instead of providing a solution to a problem, this may escalate situations as the customer may assume you’re being defensive and trying to manipulate the situation.

If complaints are generated on social media, the complaints should be acknowledged on the same medium. Then support can take it up from there either through DMs or tickets. After which marketing feedback loop should be implemented once there is satisfaction, and then a campaign can be created out of it.

Must address concerns generated through implemented changes

For example, if users complain about the inability to access your products due to lack of breadcrumbs and poor navigation features — like the absence of a search tool, a short term solution may be to point them to categories or help them identify tags. But going further to introduce the features that’ll create a better experience would serve a longer-term purpose.

Changes implemented may be the focus of marketing feedback loop campaign

If the above approach is implemented, then a content marketing campaign around the customer’s feedback and the success achieved would be a welcome step. This would not only help attract more users through content marketing but would also show your brand as a listening one.

Conclusion

Getting content marketing and SEO right is critical to the success of your business if you’re competing online. Then the goal is to discover strategies that’ll keep your efforts successful and help you serve your users better. Marketing feedback loop helps you get this done.

Have you tried using a marketing feedback loop to optimize your SEO efforts? What results did you get?

Femi Haastrup is Founder and CEO of Femtrup LLC. He can be found on Twitter @Femihaastrup.

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Little-Known Ways to Write Fascinating Bullet Points

Oh, those magical bullet points. What would blog posts, sales letters, and bad PowerPoint presentations be without them? Bullet points…

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17 Perceptive Ways to Persuade with Modern Copywriting

Fads and platforms come and go, but one fact endures: Copywriting is the mechanism that allows businesses to make money…

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5 Ways You Might Mess up When Running SEO Split Tests

Posted by sam.nemzer

SEO split testing is a relatively new concept, but it’s becoming an essential tool for any SEO who wants to call themselves data-driven. People have been familiar with A/B testing in the context of Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) for a long time, and applying those concepts to SEO is a logical next step if you want to be confident that what you’re spending your time on is actually going to lead to more traffic.

At Distilled, we’ve been in the fortunate position of working with our own SEO A/B testing tool, which we’ve been using to test SEO recommendations for the last three years. Throughout this time, we’ve been able to hone our technique in terms of how best to set up and measure SEO split tests.

In this post, I’ll outline five mistakes that we’ve fallen victim to over the course of three years of running SEO split tests, and that we commonly see others making.

What is SEO Split testing?

Before diving into how it’s done wrong (and right), it’s worth stopping for a minute to explain what SEO split testing actually is.

CRO testing is the obvious point of comparison. In a CRO test, you’re generally comparing a control and variant version of a page (or group of pages) to see which performs better in terms of conversion. You do this by assigning your users into different buckets, and showing each bucket a different version of the website.

In SEO split testing, we’re trying to ascertain which version of a page will perform better in terms of organic search traffic. If we were to take a CRO-like approach of bucketing users, we would not be able to test the effect, as there’s only one version of Googlebot, which would only ever see one version of the page.

To get around this, SEO split tests bucket pages instead. We take a section of a website in which all of the pages follow a similar template (for example the product pages on an eCommerce website), and make a change to half the pages in that section (for all users). That way we can measure the traffic impact of the change across the variant pages, compared to a forecast based on the performance of the control pages.

For more details, you can read my colleague Craig Bradford’s post here.

Common SEO Split Testing Mistakes

1. Not leaving split tests running for long enough

As SEOs, we know that it can take a while for the changes we make to take effect in the rankings. When we run an SEO split test, this is borne out in the data. As you can see in the below graph, it takes a week or two for the variant pages (in black) to start out-stripping the forecast based on the control pages (in blue).


A typical SEO split test — it often takes a couple of weeks for the uplift to show.

It’s tempting to panic after a week or so that our test might not be making a difference, and call it off as a neutral result. However, we’ve seen over and over again that things often change after a week or two, so don’t call it too soon!

The other factor to bear in mind here is that the longer you leave it after this initial flat period, the more likely it is that your results will be significant, so you’ll have more certainty in the result you find.

A note for anyone reading with a CRO background — I imagine you’re shouting at your screen that it’s not OK to leave a test running longer to try and reach significance and that you must pre-determine your end date in order for the results to be valid. You’d be correct for a CRO test measured using standard statistical models. In the case of SEO split tests, we measure significance using Bayesian statistical methods, meaning that it’s valid to keep a test running until it reaches significance and you can be confident in your results at that point.

2. Testing groups of pages that don’t have enough traffic (or are dominated by a small number of pages)

The sites we’ve been able to run split tests on using Distilled ODN have ranged in traffic levels enormously, as have the site sections on which we’ve attempted to run split tests. Over the course of our experience with SEO split testing, we’ve generated a rule of thumb: if a site section of similar pages doesn’t receive at least 1,000 organic sessions per day in total, it’s going to be very hard to measure any uplift from your split test. If you have less traffic than that to the pages you’re testing, any signal of a positive or negative test result would be overtaken by the level of uncertainty involved.

Beyond 1,000 sessions per day, in general, the more traffic you have, the smaller the uplift you can detect. So far, the smallest effect size we’ve managed to measure with statistical confidence is a few percent.

On top of having a good amount of traffic in your site section, you need to make sure that your traffic is well distributed across a large number of pages. If more than 50 percent of the site section’s organic traffic is going to three or four pages, it means that your test is vulnerable to fluctuations in those pages’ performance that has nothing to do with the test. This may lead you to conclude that the change that you are testing is having an effect when it is actually being swayed by an irrelevant factor. By having the traffic well distributed across the site section, you ensure that these page-specific fluctuations will even themselves out and you can be more confident that any effect you measure is genuine.

3. Bucketing pages arbitrarily

In CRO tests, the best practice is to assign every user randomly into either the control and variant group. This works to ensure that both groups are essentially identical, because of the large number of users that tends to be involved.

In an SEO split test, we need to apply more nuance to this approach. For site sections with a very large number of pages, where the traffic is well distributed across them, the purely random approach may well lead to a fair bucketing, but most websites have some pages that get more traffic, and some that get less. As well as that, some pages may have different trends and spikes in traffic, especially if they serve a particular seasonal purpose.

In order to ensure that the control and variant groups of pages are statistically similar, we create them in such a way that they have:

  • Similar total traffic levels
  • Similar distributions of traffic between pages within them
  • Similar trends in traffic over time
  • Similarity in a range of other statistical measures

4. Running SEO split tests using JavaScript

For a lot of websites, it’s very hard to make changes, and harder still to split test them. A workaround that a lot of sites use (and that I have recommended in the past), is to deploy changes using a JavaScript-based tool such as Google Tag Manager.

Aside from the fact that we’ve seen pages that rely on JavaScript perform worse overall, another issue with this is that Google doesn’t consistently pick up changes that are implemented through JavaScript. There are two primary reasons for this:

  • The process of crawling, indexing, and rendering pages is a multi-phase process — once Googlebot has discovered a page, it first indexes the content within the raw HTML, then there is often a delay before any content or changes that rely on JavaScript are considered.
  • Even when Googlebot has rendered the JavaScript version of the page, it has a cut-off of five seconds after which it will stop processing any JavaScript. A lot of JavaScript changes to web pages, especially those that rely on third-party tools and plugins, take longer than five seconds, which means that Google has stopped paying attention before the changes have had a chance to take effect.

This can lead to inconsistency within tests. For example, if you are changing the format of your title tags using a JavaScript plugin, it may be that only a small number of your variant pages have that change picked up by Google. This means that whatever change you think you’re testing doesn’t have a chance of demonstrating a significant effect.

5. Doing pre/post tests instead of A/B tests

When people talk colloquially about SEO testing, often what they mean is making a change to an individual page (or across an entire site) and seeing whether their traffic or rankings improve. This is not a split test. If you’re just making a change and seeing what happens, your analysis is vulnerable to any external factors, including:

  • Seasonal variations
  • Algorithm updates
  • Competitor activity
  • Your site gaining or losing backlinks
  • Any other changes you make to your site during this time

The only way to really know if a change has an effect is to run a proper split test — this is the reason we created the ODN in the first place. In order to account for the above external factors, it’s essential to use a control group of pages from which you can model the expected performance of the pages you’re changing, and know for sure that your change is what’s having an effect.

And now, over to you! I’d love to hear what you think — what experiences have you had with split testing? And what have you learned? Tell me in the comments below! 

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