Testing SEO of a Website
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There’s no denying how important a good website is for businesses. These digital pages provide users a way to find businesses they might not normally discover while also allowing many business models to exist that couldn’t before Digital Age.
However, as people build more websites, the need to stand out matters. While great content and page organization helps, testing how optimized your website is for search engines matters, too. Let’s look at what goes into search engine optimization (SEO) testing for websites and find out how you can start testing website SEO for your business.
What is SEO Testing?
Search engine optimization testing (SEO testing) is a technical performance test of your website or a web page that determines how well the site or page is at attracting organic traffic.
SEO refers to the steps website authors, and administrators can take to improve their website’s ability to show up on search result pages across certain keywords. These keywords come from the words entered by users into the search bar of a search engine. Websites taking the steps needed to rank high on search pages receive more traffic due to their likelihood of being seen by users.
The Benefits of SEO Testing on Your Site
Digital marketing understood a long time ago that SEO helps a website’s ability to generate traffic. Regardless of what that website wants traffic for, utilizing SEO brings more viewers to your website.
The reason SEO does this comes down to organic search traffic. Many websites utilize practices that encourage users to become repeat visitors. Newsletters, subscription models, habit-forming design features, and so on all help to convert new users into returning ones.
However, you cannot have a returning visitor without first bringing them to your site as a new visitor. Given how relevant search engines are to the average user’s web experience nowadays, with many browsers offering a search engine as a default home page, it is clear that building your website for SEO best practices is the right choice.
Who Should Do SEO Testing For Their Website?
While many websites can benefit from using SEO testing to improve their traffic, the truth is that not all websites will be in a place to take full advantage of SEO.
First of all, websites that don’t receive much traffic won’t benefit much from SEO testing. Testing methods for SEO require websites to receive tens or hundreds of thousands of organic visits per month before the effects of SEO testing are clear.
Most of this comes down to smaller websites requiring their time elsewhere to drive their traffic up. After all, why would you want to spend hours tracking data and organizing tests when you could instead focus on optimizing your website’s performance or improving your marketing?
The other reason to avoid SEO testing small websites is the math behind the testing. Small websites do not pull enough traffic to generate statistically significant results. SEO testing on a small website could give false information due to the low sample size.
Overall, if your website still needs time to spin up a healthy amount of traffic, you should focus on generating more traffic overall before optimizing for SEO testing.
The Basics of SEO Tests
Before diving into the best practices for SEO testing or tools like Google Analytics, let’s look at some of the foundational concepts of SEO testing:
The Features You Should Test
Not at parts of a website will contribute equally to improving your website. Rather than testing every facet of your website, there are several features that we know can improve your SEO ranking.
Some of those features include:
- Meta titles: Also called the title tag or page title, this HTML element helps web pages like landing pages get recognized by search engines.
- Meta descriptions: These short descriptions display underneath links in search result pages and help further distinguish a web page or blog post.
- Structured data: The way your website organizes its data can help or hinder your website’s readability to search engines
- Copy length: The length of the content on the web page can affect how readily search engines parse through it
- Titles and headings: Relevant titles and headings with the proper HTML tags make a blog post or similar website content easier to read and more organized for search engines
- Images: Pictures with descriptions further improve a search engine’s ability to read a website
- Videos: Much like with images, videos and relevant descriptions help web pages rank higher
- Internal links: Links to other pages on the website show that you want to relate everything together instead of creating random pages
The Metrics You Should Watch
Without measuring your SEO performance results, you won’t know if the changes you make to the features listed earlier are effective.
- Clicks: This metric can include clicks from organic traffic or through hyperlinks on a target web page
- Impressions: This value indicates how often your website shows up in search results
- Result page position: Also called your SEO ranking, this position shows which slot you show up in on average for a target keyword or search query
- Click-through rate: This metric measures how often people click on your link from another page or the results page of a search engine
- Number of ranking keywords: Websites can rank for more than one keyword, meaning that this value will show you how many keywords your website relates to
You won’t measure the same thing for every change you make or test you run. Identifying what you want to happen with the changes you make will indicate what metrics you’ll need to look at to qualify your results.
Best Practices for Website SEO Testing
Not every practice in SEO testing will give the best results. If you want to make the most out of your SEO testing, you’ll want to follow these steps:
Pick Pages or Keywords Search Engines Receive
Ideally, you want to rank your website along high-traffic, low-competition keywords. Given how many websites are out there now, finding these keywords will be almost impossible. So, the next best thing you can do will be to pick keywords that have a good amount of traffic and relate to what your website is about.
The reason for choosing these keywords comes down to sample size. You want to run your tests on keywords that will provide enough visible difference between your two methods without running into the risk of your margin being accounted for solely by statistical significance.
In other words, you don’t want keywords that get a small amount of traffic because you won’t be able to tell if your changes or random chance made the difference.
Form A Clear Testing Hypothesis
Before you can set out with your testing, you need to know what you want to achieve with your new strategy first. Going into SEO testing without a clear direction of what you want to do means you won’t get results related to your preferred outcome.
Now, that doesn’t mean you’ll get the results you want with testing. But, constructing your test parameters with the goal you have in mind will make it clear what your results say when you get them.
For example, you might want to change the verbiage of your titles to improve their emotional appeal and thus generate more clicks. Already with that sentiment, you know what variable you want to change and what you want the outcome to be. From here, you’ll create the titles you want to use and the content to go with it, and wait to see how the new pages do over the next month.
Actionable hypotheses give tests a clear direction to go and outcomes that relate to the overall goal.
Test One Variable at a Time
Part of the scientific method is that you should study one variable at a time. Doing so allows a test to clearly show what effect that variable has on outcomes for a test. SEO testing can use the same principle for the same reason as a scientist - to see if your hypothesis holds.
This concept exists in most fields looking for objective results. Even economists and lawyers refer to this concept with the phrase ceteris paribus, Latin for other things equal. Keeping things consistent save for one variable ensures you receive results with no complicating factors.
Know What You Want to Optimize For
Knowing which outcomes will give you the best results for your end goal will give you better results than just applying a generic SEO strategy to your website. Knowing how a user’s query affects your website and the intent behind the query matters more than you may know.
For example, optimizing for low-volume keywords related to your industry could be the difference between ranking low and ranking high on a results page. If you know that users searching those keywords tend to purchase a good or service not long after searching, these low-volume keywords might be the best thing to optimize for.
High-volume keywords are another story. SEO testing on these keywords might allow a website to focus on improving its click-through rate or impressions rather than its search engine rankings.
The point here is that you need to know along which parameters you want to improve your website’s SEO. Understanding how keywords and query motivation go far in developing an SEO test.
Utilize Split Tests Where Possible
Also called AB testing, split tests refer to SEO tests where you run comparisons between a new group of pages with a new SEO strategy and compare them to previous pages. With the two-page groups in place, you can track relevant metrics to see which set of pages performs better over time.
Folks with a marketing background will notice that this is different than standard AB testing, where two new concepts run at the same time. This difference comes down to how Google indexes websites.
Google doesn’t like it when websites have multiple groups of webpages on the same site indexed for almost the same thing. Spam sites did this in the past to try and trick Google into ranking their pages better, forcing Google to knock websites that try this strategy.
So, instead of running multiple new groups, you compare new pages or blog posts against old ones to see how they perform. It isn’t a perfect reproduction of traditional AB testing, but it helps show how your new strategy affects your metrics all the same.
Test For The Right Duration
Finally, the last practice you’ll want to consider is how long the test duration will be. Testing a new idea for too long can hurt your efficiency or discovery rate, while a short test won’t generate enough results to be worth the time and resources invested.
In general, four to six weeks is the industry average for SEO testing.
SEO Testing Methods
With the best practices explained, you should also think about what type of testing method you want to use for your SEO testing. These methods measure different metrics, meaning they won’t fit in all testing situations.
Still, here are some of the common methods used in SEO tests:
SEO Serial Test
SEO serial tests are among the first tests created for optimizing websites. These tests involve making one change to a single page type across a website and monitoring the changes in organic traffic to those pages over time. Testers also tend to review changes to page ranking in these tests and include that data along with the changes to organic traffic.
In general, these tests take a long time to conduct. Commonly, months of testing time and data collection are important to ensure that the changes work the way they were intended and aren’t the result of a fluke or Google algorithm updates.
Still, these tests are useful to those with the time and size to commit to them. Something as simple as a new title format or the addition of meta descriptions in these extended tests can lead to massive changes in organic search traffic to the page group.
Time-Based SEO Testing
For a finer tuning of your website’s SEO, you can look to time-based tests. Rather than changing all the pages in a page group, you change one page instead and track its progress over time.
This testing method might seem like a major timesaver over serial testing since it only involves the use of one web page. However, outside factors can come into play when performing a time-based test.
For example, updates to the algorithm, seasonal trends in search traffic, and other changes made to the website during that period can affect the results of this test. You may decide to make one change to a web page that ends up receiving a lot of internal links back to it, resulting in inflated numbers as the web page receives more internal visitors rather than organic ones.
Time-based tests are useful for small-scale changes or initial ideas. Scaling up from a time-based test generally involves going to a serial test or moving on to split testing.
AB Testing or Split Test
Finally, when running SEO tests, your final popular option is AB testing or split testing. This testing method tends to be the go-to method for many website optimizers since it offers comparative results without requiring changes to entire page groups.
A split test involves serving up two web pages, or groups of pages if desired, to the search engine. One group represents a control, which reflects the SEO practices of your website currently. The other group contains the change you think will improve your SEO metrics and rankings. You then track the traffic of these groups over time to see how they perform.
This type of testing doesn’t work on all websites, but it functions well for many. eCommerce sites and other service websites tend to receive clear results when performing AB testing, making it a worthy investment for those businesses.
How to Choose Which SEO Checker is Best for You
SEO tools come in many forms. However, an SEO checker can run SEO tests on your website and provide feedback about what to do to improve them. These tools tend to provide an SEO score for content you submit. This SEO score is a numerical summary of how well your content performs in organic search queries.
However, not every SEO tester is equal to others. Some focus on specific industries or search engines to improve your website’s SEO. Google Analytics provides useful information for ranking in Google but not for other search engines like Bing.
Choosing the best SEO tool for your website depends on several factors:
- Testing options: Not all SEO testing tools provide the same level of SEO testing, meaning you have to match an SEO checker with your testing needs
- Budget: Whether you use free tools or premium services, an SEO checker won’t help you if it falls outside your business’s budget
- Tech integrations: Many SEO checkers have integrations with other analytics platforms like Google Analytics and Google Search Console, making aligning these integrations with your other services matter
So, the best tool to use for your website will depend on how it fits into your business's unique circumstances.
Measuring Your SEO Test ROI
With your SEO test in place, it’s time to see how the SEO test performed. However, there’s more to improving SEO than just watching numbers go up. After all, businesses wouldn’t care about SEO if it did not provide some tangible benefit to the company or website as a whole. This is why calculating your SEO ROI is important.
SEO ROI just refers to your return on investment for engaging in SEO testing. While the term comes from economics, the phrase here just means how much money the SEO testing provides as a result of suggesting changes or discovering better ways to rank in results pages.
At its core, calculating your SEO ROI requires knowing how much you spent engaging in the test and how much extra revenue came in, thanks to the changes from the test. Whether you calculate this every month or throughout some other period will depend on your business and how long the SEO test took.
After these calculations, you’ll have a number presenting how much more you made thanks to the SEO testing results. You and your business can then decide if the money spent on SEO testing was worth it or not. Generally, large websites engaging in a few optimization tweaks can see double-digit percentage differences in their traffic and revenue, though.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the common questions out there about SEO testing and related topics:
How do I test my website for SEO?
The easiest way to SEO test your website is with an SEO testing tool. Most of these SEO tester tools use your Google Search Console account to track search results and rankings for you. There are dozens of SEO checkers out there, meaning the best choice for you will depend on you and your website’s needs.
How do I know if SEO is working?
Without looking at metrics, you won’t know if the changes you made to your website affected your SEO or not. Looking at data such as impressions, click-through rate, page rankings, and more will show you if your SEO strategies worked or if there is still more work to do to improve your SEO.
How do I audit my website for SEO?
An SEO audit is different than SEO testing. SEO audits are a process where a person or service reviews your website’s SEO strategy and determines what your SEO issues are. SEO testing involves taking two different strategies and comparing their results to one another.
Both automated tools and paid services can provide an SEO audit, but some research from a website author or admin is needed to select the best one for your business.
SEO testing offers website owners a way to improve their traffic through increasing organic search visitors. The testing methods used in SEO testing show ways for website owners to change how they structure or craft their websites, improving the chances search engines place them higher on search result pages.
While not all SEO tests will generate positive results, the process of making changes tends to work out in the long run. When combined with online tools and services dedicated to SEO, many websites can find some way to improve their rankings with a little experimentation.