One of the biggest challenges of doing SEO is knowing whether the strategies you have put in place are providing a good return of investment in terms of better ranking, increased traffic, or more clicks from all over the internet. A common way of trying to do this is test-driven SEO. This process involved making an SEO change on a website, seeing how the change works, and learning what works so you can do more of it. However, there is a right and wrong way to go about this. So, when should you do SEO testing and when should you not?
After Implementing Best Practices
There are set best practices when it comes to SEO success. These can include aspects of both on-page and off-page SEO. Google is a black box that none of us understands, so it is almost impossible to know which best practices help move a website up or down since Google is always adjusting its algorithm.
There are also numerous ideas out there on what it takes to improve rankings in search engines. But with the understanding that Google likely uses different ranking criteria to rank different types of websites, it would be best to implement SEO best practices and evaluate if the changes you have made work on the pages you are targeting.
Once you see positive results, you can roll out these changes to the whole website. If not, you can move on to another strategy and repeat. By repeating this cycle, you will collect helpful insights that show what works and what does not on your website and niche. Long-term, you should see a snowball effect visualized by a growth curve in visitor numbers, clicks, and other key metrics.
Before Your Website Grows Too Large
One thing that seasoned SEOs understand is that Google and other search engines are quick to punish SEO mistakes but slow to reward you when you revert to the original formula. This is one of the reasons why SEO testing should be done on smaller websites or a few pages on larger websites.
When done on smaller websites, any negative effects of the changes made as part of the test can be reverted quickly. This is because fewer pages mean the website will be re-indexed faster, especially if you put in a request, which will help dissipate the effects of a failed strategy faster. On larger websites or a larger selection of pages, changes made as part of an SEO test can be detrimental due to the amount of time it will take to index all the pages that the test was done on.
So, if you would like to do SEO testing on a larger website, make changes on only a few pages. This way you can measure the results and see if the test worked. If it did, you can push site-wide changes. If not, simply revert without impacting the other pages on the website.
When Google Makes Changes
When Google makes changes to its algorithms, lots of websites end up being affected. While you might not see it immediately, there is a chance that your website will be affected by these changes. SEO testing does not make sense immediately after these changes are made because you might not have data to tell you how they affected your website, or even whether your website was affected.
Once you have enough data and understand how the latest algorithm change affected your website, you can start doing tests and experiments to either get your website to where it should be or to take advantage of the new changes. Unfortunately, this is the nature of doing SEO with Google in mind, and you might have to do this every time there is a change to Google’s algorithms.
When You Do Not Know What To Track
It is always a bad idea to do SEO testing when you do not have a concrete idea of what you are tracking. What you track during the test will be determined by the results you would like to see once you make permanent changes. That can be an increase in click-through rates, brand mentions across social media, increased site times, and more.
When you do not know what you should be tracking, you end up tracking too much or too little. This leads you to miss critical insights that might be what you were looking for in the first place. To ensure comprehensive tests, define what you need to track and how the changes you make as part of the test will impact test metrics.
For example, you may have a theory about the placement of keywords inside or outside brackets or parentheses on a YouTube video as part of your off-page SEO. What you need to track could be clicks on website links in the video description or watch time on the video. Tracking any other metrics such as how many times the video appears on the homepage might help your business, but it is not a direct part of the test.
Before You Learn From and Implement Changes From Your Last Test
The final step in SEO testing is learning from the data collected during the test and implementing anything that helps push positive results. There is an amount of time that should pass between the implementation of these changes site-wide and another SEO test. It does not make sense to do another test before you see how the changes from the last tests affect your website.
SEOs recommend that you collect data for ten days after making site-wide changes. This allows you to collect enough data to see whether the changes will start or you need to try again. Only when these changes are good should you do another test.
SEO testing, when done at the right time and in the right way, can be an incredible tool in helping your website grow. Knowing when it makes sense to do or not do testing could be the difference between ranking higher or tanking in the search results.