You want to increase your rankings on Google.
And I don’t blame you.
SEO is a great way to generate passive traffic and quickly build your business.
In fact, the higher position you claim on the search engine results pages (SERPs), the more clicks you’ll receive. That’s true across the board.
But if you want to increase your rankings on Google, you need to create a practical plan based on what you know works.
It’s one thing to try to increase your rankings. It’s quite another thing to succeed at it. In other words, there’s a big difference between doing SEO and doing the right SEO.
Everyone’s business is different, and each SEO strategy should reflect the needs of the business. That said, there are things you can do that are more likely to succeed than others.
One of the best ways to determine which SEO strategies you should use is to run consistent SEO experiments.
This helps you find what works for your business to get a leg up on the competition. I’m here to help you figure out how to do it.
But first, let’s talk about what a good and reliable SEO test looks like.
What Is SEO Experimentation?
SEO experimentation is a process that involves taking distinct SEO strategies and testing them to see which ones work best.
Experimentation is the heart and soul of digital marketing and SEO. By trying different things, you can see which strategies have the biggest impact.
Of course, you shouldn’t just start testing anything and everything. That’d be a waste of time and resources. Instead, focus on using data to create ideas you think may boost your SEO. Then, test them out to see if they actually work.
For example, you may want to learn more about long-tail keywords and how to better incorporate them into your marketing strategy.
Collecting data about keywords, such as search volume distribution, will help you make more informed hypotheses before and during your experiments. After all, long-tail keywords are less competitive and more defined, which means you’ll get more targeted traffic to your content based on the search volume:
That’s just one example. SEO experimentation might also involve testing:
- Link-building strategies
- Content formats (e.g., infographics, long-form, videos, etc.)
- Keyword combinations
- Meta descriptions
- Title tags
- Schema markups
Conducting SEO experiments such as these helps you determine how to optimize your SEO efforts most effectively to increase your search rankings, improve web traffic, and drive more conversions.
Tools for SEO Experimentation
There are a lot of SEO experimentation tools, each with pros and cons. Some of the popular tools for SEO experimentation include:
- Google Search Console: Helps you understand how Google crawls and indexes your site, making it easier to optimize for search performance.
- Semrush: Lets you look at competitors’ strategies, track keyword rankings, and complete website audits.
- Moz Pro: Offers various site optimization tools to help you audit, find keywords, analyze links, and more.
- Google Trends: Makes it simple to find popular keywords and develop ideas for topics or content creation.
- Ahrefs: Helps identify content gaps, track keyword rankings, and analyze backlinks to promote your site.
- A/B testing: Lets you compare two versions of a website or website element to see which performs better in terms of various metrics.
- Hotjar: Gives you heat maps and visual representations of user behavior on your website, showing where you can improve user experience (UX).
- Ubersuggest: Makes it easy to analyze competitor sites, research keywords and content ideas, and analyze backlinks to improve search engine rankings.
- Google Optimize: Helps with A/B testing, multivariate testing, and personalizing web content based on your users.
- AnswerThePublic: Identifies popular queries related to specific keywords to help you develop content with user intent and search engine visibility in mind.
- Google Analytics: Gives data on site traffic, conversions, and the impact of SEO processes.
- Optimizely: Helps you experiment with website changes to improve conversions and UX.
When you choose an SEO experimentation tool, always consider the size and complexity of your website first. Also, some tools are more expensive than others. Keep your budget in mind when looking at the different features each option offers.
How to Run a Successful SEO Test
Running consistent SEO tests can help you determine which methods work for your business and which don’t.
To put it another way, you need to know how to run a scientific test.
And the best way to learn how to do that is by memorizing (or at least referencing) the scientific method.
There are six parts to any reliable scientific test.
- Ask a question you want an answer to.
- Make a hypothesis. This is your guess as to what’s going to happen.
- Run the experiment and get the data.
- Analyze the data.
- Draw a conclusion from the findings.
- Report your results.
Don’t skip any of these steps when building your test. You want your test to be reliable, and you definitely want to be able to make changes based on the results.
But you can’t do that if you run a shoddy test.
A/B testing is the most common way to run experiments and measure results in marketing.
With A/B testing, you set up two scenarios with only one difference and test them simultaneously. Then, you see which performs better.
A/B testing is a far better method than trying to measure the results of this page one month and that page the next month (and then comparing the two).
Different time periods will create different results, so this is likely comparing apples to oranges. In other words, if you run the pages at different times, then the difference in performance might not be because one page was better than the other.
But with A/B testing, you can make real and practical assumptions about the content you put out and how it influences your rankings.
Now that you’re familiar with the scientific method and A/B testing, you’re ready to run some of your own experiments. Here are 10 you should consider giving a shot.
Experiment #1: Test the Impact of Nofollow Links
While many marketers hate nofollow links with a surprising passion, they might not be as bad as you think. Many websites and online case studies report seeing remarkable results from nofollow links. In some cases, they have helped both web traffic and rankings.
Whether you have that same experience or not, one thing’s for sure. You won’t know how nofollow links impact your website unless you generate a few and run tests to see what happens.
Remember—this is what SEO experimentation is all about.
To find which websites use nofollow links, you can use the Chrome extension, NoFollow.
This extension circles any nofollow links in red when they’re active.
Simply visit a publication you want to receive a backlink from and see if their hyperlinks receive a dotted red line that looks like this.
If it does, then you’ve found a great place to host your nofollow link.
Generate a backlink from the publication and watch how your rankings perform. Pay extra attention to any improvements you see in how the page with the backlink ranks.
Try to avoid generating any other backlinks during the experiment’s duration so you can gather high-quality results with fewer variables.
Experiment #2: Test the Impact of Social Signals
You probably know how powerful social media can be for your business.
You also probably know social media can help you reach new audiences and drive leads, traffic, and revenue.
But did you know social media can also help your SEO?
Why does Google care so much about what you do on social media? Because your activity (or lack thereof) on social media helps Google determine if you are active online beyond simply keeping your website updated.
There’s a multitude of inactive websites on the internet. People often create their sites with the best of intentions but then stop using them.
Google wants to make sure you’re not one of those people.
And producing consistent social signals is a great way to show them you’re active.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. You can do something similar to what I do on my social accounts after I publish a blog post. Here’s one example of how I do it:
And here’s another example.
You can turn your social signals into an experiment. Try increasing the amount you post on social media for a couple of weeks to see how your rankings change. You might be surprised at just how influential your social media accounts can be.
Experiment #3: Test the Intent of Different Keywords
You (hopefully) already know this, but some keywords perform better than others.
Some keywords receive thousands of searches every month, while other keywords receive only tens or hundreds.
But that isn’t the only important thing to note when you choose target keywords for your business. You also need to think about the intent behind those keywords.
What are people actually looking for when they are searching for those keywords?
For example, consider someone who searches for something like this:
That person is in a far different place than someone who searches for this:
One could be good for your business, while the other might do little to increase your overall return on investment (ROI) and company-wide revenue.
This means you need to pay attention to the audience’s intent behind the keywords you target. Which audience is most valuable to you? Ideally, you’ll target the ones with high-value audiences.
I recommend SEO experiments to find out which keywords are most lucrative for your business.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Which keywords are bringing in customers?
- Which ones are bringing in leads?
- Which ones are bringing in traffic?
Experiment #4: Test an AMP for Your Website
Google’s accelerated mobile pages (AMP) websites are more important than ever. These strip down pages to their essentials to enhance speed and performance—factors essential for success on mobile.
In a nutshell, Google ranks mobile pages instead of desktop versions of your website. It’ll use the mobile version to determine quality and relevance instead of the desktop version whenever possible.
With the recent rise of mobile use and mobile web browsing, Google wants businesses to take mobile-friendliness seriously.
AMP is one attempt at doing so.
You can use Google AMP to create a website you optimize for mobile users, as these sites load instantaneously.
Here’s an example of how this looks on a SERP:
Try creating an AMP version of your website and a normal page if this makes sense for your website. Then see which ranks better.
If the AMP version wins, then you know which page to prioritize designing and maintaining. Otherwise, you can stick with your current strategy.
Because Google prioritizes mobile-friendly web pages, this is a test you need to run if you haven’t already designed a mobile-friendly website.
People are browsing on their smartphones, and Google wants to make searching the internet easy for their users.
After doing this experiment, you might find you rank better with AMP than without it.
Experiment #5: Test the Impact of Load Speeds
When was the last time you tested how fast your website loads?
If you’re like most marketers, you don’t test your speed very often.
After all, that’s your dev team’s responsibility, right?
Your website’s load speed directly impacts how Google ranks you on the SERPs, so it should be a big concern for marketers.
The faster, the better.
The slower, the worse.
That’s true for more than just SEO. It’s also true for people surfing the internet.
Everyone—including you—hates waiting on a website to load.
When you’re browsing the Internet, you either want answers or entertainment. The last thing you want to do is watch a loading screen for more than five seconds while you wait.
It’s quite easy to test your website’s load speed.
Using a free tool like Pingdom is one way to do this.
Just type in your URL and click the “START TEST” button on the right side of the screen.
I tested socialmediaexaminer.com to see how it performs as an example. Pingdom gave it a score of 78:
If you run this test on your website and receive an F, D, or even a C, you might want to consider decreasing the file sizes on your website and cleaning up the code so your website runs smoother.
After all, the faster and smoother it runs, the lower your bounce rate and the better your rankings.
You definitely need to test your load speed so you’re not missing out on a good SERP position for such an easily avoidable reason.
Experiment #6: Test the Impact of Writing Compelling Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
The more compelling your title tags and meta descriptions are, the more people will click on your result on Google.
Plus, the more people click on your result on Google, the better your ranking.
But what exactly are the title tag and meta description?
Here’s what they look like on Google’s results:
Really, you should think of those pieces of content as sales copy.
You’re trying to sell the click. You’re trying to make people choose your result over someone else’s.
Make it compelling, and make every word count.
You want to land on the right side of that graph to get better rankings.
I know. I know. It’s easy to breeze over this part of SEO.
It feels like such a drag. You already created an amazing piece of content. You don’t want to have to test the meta description and title tag for each piece of content.
But it’s well worth your time.
Run tests on different meta descriptions and title tags to see which receives the most clicks.
Then, try to replicate the good and get rid of the bad.
That’s the only way you’ll get people to click on your result over the others.
Experiment #7: Test the Impact of LSI Keywords
Chances are you already include loads of keywords in your content.
You’ve done the keyword research and determined which keywords are the most important to target. You know which ones receive the most searches every month and even the intent behind those keywords.
What if you’re still not ranking, however? What gives?
Well, the problem might be that you’re not paying attention to latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords.
You don’t want to include just your primary keywords and call it done. You also want to add LSI keywords within your content.
Just include them a little bit less. They should supplement your other keywords and content, not replace your existing hard work.
You can find some great LSI keywords directly from Google’s suggestions if you start typing in your primary keyword.
To test how those keywords can impact your current rankings, take one of your website pages that’s already ranking quite well.
Then, go into the content and sprinkle in a few of these LSI keywords.
Give Google time to crawl the page again and see how that affects your rankings.
Does the page go up? Does it stay in the same position? Does it go down?
You won’t know unless you try. If it does help, then you just came across an SEO gem and an easy way to increase your website’s ranking.
Experiment #8: Test the Impact of Updating Old Content
What if there was a quick and easy way to increase the rankings of old content?
Well, there just might be.
It’s as easy as revisiting old posts, changing just a couple of things, and clicking the “update” button.
Why is this so important?
Because Google wants to show recent results. The Helpful Content Update released at the end of 2022 impacts websites on a global scale. Google wants you to create high-quality, relevant content, and keeping your content current is a big part of that.
Plus, when you update your old pieces of content, Google sees your page as being published recently rather than years ago.
It’s an easy way to increase your rankings in one fell swoop, and it can help a lot when people search for things like this:
That’s the idea, at least. You’ll only know if it works if you try it for yourself.
Many sites now do this with their posts, updating them so they appear more recent than they are. For example, the popular finance and investing website Investopedia updates its blogs regularly:
This SEO experiment is as simple as watching how your rankings improve when you update old content.
Does it help?
If it does, then it’s an easy way to increase your rankings and benefit your business.
Experiment #9: Test Adding FAQs
You know about rich snippets in search results. However, do you know how they get there? The answer lies in structured data markups.
While there are a few ways to add structured data to your web pages, FAQs add a lot of value. They feature questions your audience likely already has and gives them the answers—all in one spot.
By including FAQ schema markups on blog posts or landing pages, you can increase your chances of getting a rich snippet. It’ll look something like this on a SERP:
The questions and answers you include in an FAQ section matter, and you should mix in high-volume keywords to impact conversions.
Ubersuggest is my tool for winning at SEO, as it helps uncover high-value keywords for your content.
Let’s say you sell coffee beans online. You want to create an FAQ for a web page about the benefits of drinking coffee. You can use Ubersuggest to get content or keyword ideas as you plan your FAQs. Here’s an example:
With this data, you can form ideas about what people mean when they search these terms or view this content. What answers do they want? What’s the intent behind their searches?
In this case, we see people are interested in coffee grinders, coffee shops, coffee recipes … even how healthy coffee is for them to drink. These are all valuable areas to give attention as you form a relevant, user intent-based FAQ section for rich snippets.
Keep in mind that Google wants you to showcase information users find helpful. It may be beneficial to look at pages that already rank in the top spots and see what questions they answer for inspiration.
Monitor the impact by tracking where your page lands on SERPs before and after the FAQ schema markup. If you aren’t getting the results you want, you can adjust the questions or responses as you see fit.
Experiment #10: Test Deoptimizing Certain Pages
I know this sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but trust me. This is an SEO experiment you may want to try if you have other pages you want to boost on SERPs.
For instance, let’s say you have one page that doesn’t rank well and another page that’s close to ranking at a higher position. These pages are on similar topics, so if you deoptimize one and focus on optimizing the second, that second page may get a better spot.
This is also a useful test if you want to gauge the resilience of your web pages. You can see which areas need improvement by running an SEO experiment that intentionally creates different obstacles for the page.
Plus, deoptimizing certain pages can actually help your website as a whole. Over-optimized pages are bad for SEO because they:
- Create a poor user experience.
- Are slower to load.
- Attract penalties from search engines.
While this is a valuable SEO experiment to try, proceed with caution. Why? Because it can negatively impact the user experience and affect website performance when done incorrectly.
If you plan to deoptimize, carefully choose the pages you’ll tackle and monitor the impact consistently for the best results. And if you need guidance, a web developer or an SEO expert can help.
How to Measure Your SEO Experiment Results
You can’t know if your SEO experiments are successful if you don’t measure the results. So, to make sure you know the impact of your tests, you should track key performance indicators (KPIs).
First, figure out which KPIs you need to track. You may want to look at organic search traffic, click-through rates, bounce rates, or conversion rates. The KPIs you choose depend on your hypothesis.
Next, look at the baseline before you start the experiment. See where your KPIs are before making changes so you can easily measure the results.
After you implement the changes, you can track your KPIs during and after the SEO experiment to see if there is a positive or negative impact. Tools like Ubersuggest or Google Analytics give insights into several different KPIs.
This data will help you draw conclusions about how effective your tests were and whether you should revise and start again (failure) or implement those updates on a bigger scale (success).
An SEO Experiment in Action
Say you run a camping supplies company marketing team, and you want to conduct an SEO experiment for the website. You want to see what happens if you create more in-depth, informative long-form content related to your top-selling tents.
To start, consider the KPIs you’d like to track. For this effort, it makes sense to track organic search traffic, conversion rates, and time on the site. Using tools like Google Analytics or Google Search Console, you can determine the baseline numbers for these KPIs before making any changes.
Once you have your baseline data, you should craft those informative blogs or product pages and post them on your site. Once they’re live, track the KPIs for a set length of time (usually about a month) to identify any increases or decreases from your baseline metrics.
If you notice a big increase in organic traffic, increased conversion rates, and users spending more time on your site, you can consider the updates a success. With this information, you could implement this change on a larger scale to tackle other top-selling products and continue tracking those same KPIs.
It may sound complex, but it’s simple when you use the right tools.
Give yourself plenty of time during these SEO experiments. As many marketers know, these changes don’t happen overnight. With more time, you can get more meaningful results.
An SEO experiment provides useful information, but only when done correctly. You first need to figure out what you want to test and which KPIs you’ll measure to track success. Then, implement your changes and see if there is a positive or negative impact on performance. With this in mind, you can analyze your results and draw conclusions about the experiment’s effectiveness.
Running SEO experiments lets you try different strategies and ideas to improve your website’s SERP ranking and overall performance. When you measure these experiments, you can see what works so your website performs at its ideal level.
You’ve probably thought to yourself, “I wonder what would happen if …” at some point about your website. SEO testing gives you the chance to test those theories and figure out which tactics help your website. Using data, you can run tests, make changes, and measure results to find the best strategy.
With higher rankings come more clicks.
But you don’t just receive more clicks when you climb to position one. You also receive more traffic, leads, and customers.
And that means your business thrives.
That’s what you want to happen, right?
You don’t pursue SEO just because it sounds fun. You do it because it can legitimately benefit your company, lifestyle, and revenue.
But you can only do SEO right if you run tests to see what works and what doesn’t.
Try experimenting with everything I’ve mentioned here, including social signals, keyword intent, LSI keywords, updating old content, and deoptimizing specific pages.
Some of these will work for your website. Others may not have much impact.
But it’s not until you’ve tested them and tracked your marketing metrics that you’ll be ready to iterate, strategize, and create an SEO formula to crush the competition.
What SEO experiments are you going to run this year?
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