A/B (Split) Testing and SEO

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Note: A/B testing is sometimes referred to as split testing. We’ll use both, mainly for our own SEO 😉

Is A/B testing bad for SEO?

No :), In fact, Google and other search engines recommend split testing, and even have their own tools to enable split testing. But there are a few key points to be aware of.

Cloaking, don’t do it!

“Cloaking is the practice of presenting a version of a web page to search engines that is different from the version presented to users, with the intention of deceiving the search engines and affecting the page’s ranking in the search index.” This may not be your intention, but trying to show bots a specific version of your site, when there are other variations available on the internet will be detected and penalized.

KEY TAKEAWAY

Let Google see both variations of your site just as a website viewer might.

Keep in the Spirit

Google says “Your variation pages should maintain the spirit of the content on your original pages.”

KEY TAKEAWAY

Use split testing to test messaging of your core idea, not new ideas entirely.

Avoid redirects

Creating full page redirects are an easy way of showing two alternate pages. Redirects themselves aren’t a problem – but they need a few extra steps, that many people forget to implement. Dont forget these things or you might be harming your SEO.

  • Include a canonical attribute on your variations, and point them back to the original URL.
  • Do not block Google on your variation pages.
  • Use Javascript to create a 302 redirect, rather than server-side redirects, or 301 (permanent) redirections.
  • After a test is complete:
    • Implement the most useful changes
    • Remove your variations, and create a 301 (permanent) redirection from your test URL’s back to your main URL.

KEY TAKEAWAY

Be careful, and follow the steps to avoid redirection SEO issues.

Watch you don’t affect your loading times

SEO is affected highly by how fast your website loads. Javascript also tends to slow down the loading of a page, which is the recommended way of doing A/B testing…. what gives?

It’s true, poorly coded Javascript can heavily slow your site and as a result SEO. Make sure that your page loads fast and your split test Javascript is loaded asynchronously to keep your site from slowing down.

Minimize the amount of data you are changing on the page

Google doesn’t mind changes, but testing things that remove your high ranking content like heading tags, descriptive text and images will affect your SEO.

KEY TAKEAWAY

If you test a heading tag, make sure your variation is also a heading tag and so on. Also, dont replace larger chunks of information than is necessary.

Don’t test for too long

If you run your test for an excessively long time (months is our rough estimate), Google will eventually think you are trying to deceive it – which will have a negative impact on your SEO.

KEY TAKEAWAY

When your test is complete, be sure to remove the losing variations, and stop the test. If you aren’t getting enough traffic to do your AB test in a month or two, it might be too soon to AB test.

That all sounds great, how do I do it?

There are a number of A/B testing services available, and many of them follow the above ideas. If you are using Beaver Builder, take a look at our A/B testing plugin – it follows the above rules, and only takes 100 seconds to set up!

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