SEO tests are a critical component of any SEO strategy.

After all, after you've implemented site changes in an attempt to boost search traffic, you need to have a proper understanding of whether or not those changes had a positive effect.

But it’s not always easy to decide what to test…

This blog post will teach you different tests you can run to increase your SEO performance.

Let’s get started.

What Is SEO Testing?

SEO testing is the process of determining which website elements lead to better performance on the search engine results pages (SERPs). The results can then be used to determine if the respective changes should be implemented further, or undone.

When I say SEO testing, I'm referring to testing areas of a page where a change to design, phrasing or configuration may lead to better performance in search results (that is, gives your web page higher rankings and, ultimately, more clicks).

Recommended Reading: SEO Split Testing vs. Standard A/B Testing: What's the Difference?

There are different types of tests that you can run:

  • User tests: measuring how search engine users interact with page elements, like calls to action.
  • Time-based tests: running a test for a given period of time to see how the change impacts KPIs. This is recommended for when you have a single page that cannot be tested against a control page, like a product landing page.
  • SEO split testing: grouping pages into test and controls and implementing changes on the pages in the test group only.

SEO Split Testing vs. Standard AB Testing -- Draft

Why Test in SEO?

By now, you've likely noticed how difficult it is to define a single, surefire way to rank well in an organic search.

The Google algorithm consists of hundreds of ranking factors, after all, but as Kevin Indig points out: 

Google also adjusts the weight of these signals based on the query.”

This means that it’s not enough to follow an SEO checklist of best practices to rank well and provide a positive user experience.

Enterprise marketers look at SEO like a science: they form a split test hypothesis of what may bring in positive results and run tests to either prove or disprove those hypotheses and inform their SEO strategies.  

This way, you can confirm what works for your site, vertical, and most importantly, audience.

Pro Tip: Search engine optimization should always be looked at as search experience optimization: always strive to give your users the best experience.

As practitioners, we can never be sure how a particular strategy or technique we use is going to work. We know how it’s supposed to work, but too many variables might affect the desired outcome.

This leads to a predictability dilemma, but there is one way to find out what works (and what doesn't): SEO testing.

Testing in SEO allows you to …

Justify Projects

Often SEO projects are labor intensive for development or marketing teams. Consider a broad SEO project like "refresh blog posts” or "increase page speed."

While both projects may be good for SEO and potentially for your search engine rankings, it’s hard to justify the internal cost at face value.

With testing, you can break it up and "test" on some pages (like one blog category or one page speed improvement) to prove the success before rolling out to larger projects.

Save Time

With an SEO test, a configuration or tactic can get a proper evaluation to see if it's worth continuing or scaling the project site-wide, allowing resources to be spent on other projects.

Earn Buy-In

Testing helps get more done. A well-measured SEO test that shows a market opportunity and growth potential is more likely to get internal support.

You can prove the ROI of your projects before you bring them to the dev team so you have a solid business case in support of your recommendations — and to ensure they don’t get stuck in the dev queue!

Recommended Reading: Does A/B Testing Negatively Affect Search Engine Optimization?

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What Can You Test in SEO?

There are no limits to what you can test in SEO. 

Because you can work on almost every on-site and on-page SEO element, you can also test their effect on your rankings and other metrics.

Recommended Reading: Best SEO Split Testing Metrics

#1. Meta Tag Data

Test and validate different metadata to improve the click-through rate. This could mean altering your title tag or meta description (although with SEO testing, it’s best to test one element at a time to prove out its success). 

Here are some changes you can make to your metadata:

  • Target keyword placement
  • Including numbers, product counts, or current prices 
  • Length
  • Add or remove brand name
  • Emotional language (negative superlatives) 
  • Deals/specials

Title tags and meta descriptions can have a huge impact on CTR. Remember, after a Google search is made, users can see the metadata of a page as a part of a search listing in addition to the page's URL (but it's not a guarantee that Google uses your copy!).

This can either draw in their click, or keep them scrolling — which is why it’s so crucial to monitor the changes closely!

In fact, case study research shows the overall positive trend of CTR resulting from adjustments to the metadata over time. These changes wouldn't have been implemented if it weren't for tracking and testing the results.

Ready to test your metadata? Start here: Improve Search Visibility with a Title Tag Test

Test Method: Time Testing or SEO Split Testing

#2. Schema / Structured Data 

Adding structured data to your search listing can give you a rich result on the SERP. This is a great way to increase your search visibility and real estate (i.e. take up more space).

Structured data is also easy to test because it can be applied using JSON that doesn’t disrupt the main code of the page.  

There are plenty of schema types that can result in rich results. You may be familiar with:

  • FAQ schema 
  • Star schema 
  • Review schema

Look at this listing that’s implemented the FAQ schema:

FAQ Schema Example on the Google SERP(This SERP listing takes up more real estate with the FAQ schema.)

It certainly increases the listing’s real estate, but does it increase CTR? 

Put all the pages receiving the structured data into a Page Tag and find keywords for a test group (ideal keyword here should rank less than 7, in the running for the Answer Box). Keywords should also be selected that show any associated Rich Snippets you may be targeting with structured data such as Price, Ratings or Reviews.

Pages receiving this test and winning the associated Rich Snippet should receive an increase in CTR and outperform their expected CTR based on their ranking position.

Again, this is another opportunity to boost the user experience – starting right on the SERP!

We tested the FAQ schema to see the impact on search visibility and CTR. Look at the results to see if it’s something you think you should implement, too.  

Even better: you don’t need to be a developer to implement schema. Use a schema markup generator to create and deploy schema with a few clicks.

Test Method: Time Testing or SEO Split Testing

#3. Answer Box

Something that's come up a lot lately is using different content formats to try to win Answer Boxes

There's no real "do this and you'll end up in the Answer Box," but you can test out things like adding lists to content to make it more Answer Box-friendly so the listing can appear at the top of the search results page. 

Select keywords that are already ranking, say, in the top 5 for the test before making content or technical updates to optimize for this listing.

Test Method: Time Testing

#4. Content Coverage and Relevancy

Adjust your body copy to cover a topic with more authority. 

Our clients personally use our AI-driven content writer, Content Fusion, to realize better rankings and more impressions over time. 

See how enterprise brands use Content Fusion to win big: Drizly Finds 92% Higher CTR on Top-Performing Pages With Content Fusion.

To accomplish this, take the keywords or pages where you rank within striking distance (just off page 1) and tag them for the test.

Optimize each page in the tag with suggestions from Content Fusion.

(Use an AI-driven content writer to cover a topic with authority.)

Bonus: Use Traffic Potential to forecast the benefit of improving the content in the tag if there's a need to demonstrate the business case beforehand.

Test Method: Time Testing

#5. Content Format 

The way you present your content to readers after they click through can have a significant impact on metrics like bounce rate and time on page. 

Again, everything comes back to the user experience. 

Here are some on-page elements that you can test in your body format:

  • Content Length

A good test is to experiment with short versus long formats of the content, or simply adding more relevant or semantically related keywords.

  • Headlines

Do users scroll through? Does it capture attention from the beginning?

  • Presentation

Is there enough white space? Do users prefer a glossary in the form of anchor text at the top of the page?

Test Method: User Multivariate Testing

#6. Engaging Elements

Engaging elements like pictures and videos can be a huge bonus for the end user experience, but be mindful of their effect on page speed.

You can run a test to see if these elements are essential, or if this dampens page speed enough to have users bounce. 

Videos can also be tested to see whether or not they appear in the video carousel on the SERP, which can be a great way to earn more visibility.

Test Method: User Multivariate Testing

#7. Calls to Action

You’re probably already familiar with this challenge: When do CTAs perform best?

Maybe you earn more conversions when there is a clear CTA at the top of the page instead of half way through the content. The opposite could be true, too. 

The beauty of SEO testing is that everything is specific to your site. 

Another consideration with CTAs is the form they’re presented in. Conversion results may differ if the CTA is presented as a button or an in-line text link.

Test Method: Time Test, SEO Split Testing, and User Multivariate – depending on the desired KPI improvement

#8. Internal Links

Internal links act as the glue that connects your pages and topic clusters together, but where do your internal links get the clicks that lead visitors deeper into your site? (This would minimize your bounce rate.) 

Or, how does the anchor text used impact users’ experience or that page’s overall rankings?

Remember that unlike backlinks, you have direct control over your internal links.

An SEO test can answer all of these questions and lead you to the most effective approach

Test Methods: User Multivariate Testing (for user engagement), and SEO Testing for content or ranking effects on linked-to pages

#9. User Experience

There are endless ways to enhance the experience of a website. From the variations in presenting content, to colors, and format.

Try mobile improvements and page speed if it’s possible for only a portion of pages to receive the enhancement.

But remember, the user experience begins with proper usability! (A site audit can help with this, although if you deal with smaller website SEO, you can use individual SEO tools, like an SEO checker, to check for usability issues).

Test Method: User Multivariate Testing

Best Practices of SEO Testing

While many SEOs have testing methods they prefer most (A/B, multivariate, on/off), enterprises need to be cautious with, when, and how they test. All companies buy into the need for testing, but visibility can drop fast and recover slowly.

Recommended Reading: The Right Way to Do SEO Split Testing

Here’s how we see large enterprises approach their testing:

  1. Test in small batches. Pick one, a few, or a section of pages to test.
  2. Test non-strategic pages first. A full-blown content test on your #1 traffic page is a huge mistake!
  3. Try isolating web browsers to test the smaller traffic population. If you know the majority of your traffic comes from Chrome or Edge, try directing traffic from Firefox to your test to mitigate user impact.

If you're an seoClarity client, you can follow along with our blog post on how to run an SEO test with seoClarity.


Proper testing and measuring the impact of SEO enhancements is critical to any SEO campaign. They are useful for building new projects and learning the impact of site optimizations, and also site updates happening outside of requests from the SEO team.

Capturing SEO improvements and projects as "tests" can go a long way in building a high performing SEO program. Like a tree falling in the forest: If an SEO breakthrough occurred, but there was no testing approach in place to perceive the impact, did it really happen? 

Rest assured knowing that your various SEO decisions have an impact on search visibility.

<<Editor's note: this post was originally published in November 2021 and has since been updated.>>