Testing in SEO offers a data-driven way to know what works best to advance your organic search program and drive KPIs.
There are a number of tests you can run (here are a few SEO testing ideas for you to try) to gather data. Then, those results can be used to help prioritize projects or to earn buy-in from key stakeholders, or even the dev team!
Of course, we understand the importance of SEO testing, but what do SEO industry thought leaders have to say about it?
Here are industry experts’ takes on the importance of SEO testing.
Recommended Reading: SEO Split Testing vs. Standard A/B Testing: What's the Difference?
What SEO Experts Have to Say About Testing
#1. Martijn Scheijbeler
When you think of SEO as search experience optimization instead of search engine optimization, you realize that chasing the algorithm is a fruitless endeavor.
As an industry, we should aim higher and become more proactive instead of being storm-chasers after every algorithm update. We can figure out what works across multiple sites instead of worrying about every comma/period in John Mueller's latest tweets.— Martijn Scheijbeler (@MartijnSch) October 17, 2022
SEO testing allows you to do just that. Instead of chasing the algorithm, you prioritize what works for your audience. More importantly, testing reveals what works for your site.
Gone are the days of generalized SEO checklists. Testing is your way to figure out what’s worth implementing further, and what’s not worth keeping around.
#2. Kevin Indig
In an increasingly competitive world of search, testing lets you compete. SEO is largely a zero-sum game: while one person will earn organic traffic, the other won’t.
As Kevin Indig explains on Jason Barnard’s podcast, Brand Search (and Beyond), “If you don’t do SEO testing these days, your chances of succeeding are very, very low.”
That’s not all. Kevin also points out that there is constant change and evolution to the Google algorithm — so much so that no single person understands it in its entirety (another reason not to try to beat it). For this reason, you can’t generalize, but rather, you should test!
With the nuances of the SERPs from vertical to vertical, if you’re not split testing, you’re shooting in the dark.
#3. Nick Swan
Nick Sawn puts it simply: “SEO testing shows you what actually works.”
That’s not all. His article also highlights the thoughts of a few consultants as well. Here’s what they had to say.
Suganthan Mohanadasan, Digital Marketing Consultant: “A good SEO test gets rid of all ‘guesswork’ when it comes to making significant changes to content.”
Brad Smith, Founder, Codeless: “ … discover what works best for you (instead of reading someone else’s best guess.)”
Nick Leroy, Nick LeRoy Consulting: “It might only take 1-2 successful tests to generate enough incremental revenue to justify several months of an SEO retainer costs.”
Recommended Reading: SEO Testing Framework: Prioritizing What to Test and When
#4. Aleyda Solis
If you’re asked for an SEO recommendation on a complex situation, don’t feel pressured to explain right away, says Aleyda Solis.
Instead … test!
Don't feel pressured to give an answer to any SEO question or a recommendation for a complex scenario right away: It's ok to say "Let me assess to establish what's the best in this context" so you can check with documentation, other projects/team members, or run a TEST first... pic.twitter.com/Pngznqif61— Aleyda Solis 🇺🇦 (@aleyda) April 29, 2022
In this context, testing also lets you learn something new.
#5. Lily Ray
As Lily Ray explains, testing helps you understand whether or not a site change is worth keeping as it relates to your KPIs.
She exemplifies this point with the FAQ schema — while the impressions of a page with the structured data may increase, traffic may actually decrease.
There are ways to mitigate the losses in traffic using FAQ Schema, as I indicate in the article. But yes - if Schema results in less (meaningful) traffic for your site, it may be worth removing. This is why testing is important. (That said, your competitors may use it anyway)— Lily Ray 😏 (@lilyraynyc) August 22, 2019
#6. Areej AbuAli
Areej AbuAli says that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. In this vein, SEO testing helps to know what to work on next, and what needs to be tweaked.
She offers a helpful framework: Test → Learn → Iterate.
I remind myself it's a marathon not a sprint and I spend time working on more high impact initiatives.— Areej (@areej_abuali) January 9, 2022
"Test --> Learn --> Iterate" is usually my process.
#7. Dan Taylor
What about a real-life use case of SEO testing?
Dan Taylor was able to use testing to determine that blocking the indexing of product detail pages affects the rank performance of category pages.
From testing, yes.— Dan Taylor (@TaylorDanRW) April 1, 2022
PLP lists PDPs, so therefore PLP has value as users will want to see product.
Blocking PDP from the index/Google, reduces "perceived value" of the PLP
#8. Loren Baker
Loren Baker connects SEO experimentation to Google algorithm updates. As we saw earlier, no one knows for sure what the algorithm consists of.
And yet, when there is an algorithm change, SEOs want to know what they’ll have to do differently in order to provide that value to users. This is where experimentation comes in, Loren notes.
This approach to testing also means understanding your vertical and your site at a deeper, date-driven level.
A tweet from Loren adds to his emphasis:
I love experimentation in SEO.— lorenbaker (@lorenbaker) April 12, 2021
Just because it hasn't been done before doesn't mean it won't work.
Experimentation and testing new ideas is a cornerstone of the SEO team at SEJ.
#9. Will Critchlow
Will Critchlow says that SEO testing gives you statistical evidence that a change is or isn’t worth fully investing in.
As an example, he explains using copy from a professional copywriter versus boilerplate copy. They tested the change from boilerplate copy to unique, page-specific copy to see if it would be worth making that investment across a larger set of pages.
#10. Kate Miller
Kate Miller explains how SEO testing helps attribute success to organic search and SEO versus other marketing channels.
This, in turn, can be used as buy-in for more SEO projects and initiatives.
No matter their reasons, these experts agree that it’s important to test in SEO. Here’s a summary of what these industry influencers have to say:
- Be more proactive to algorithm updates.
- Find what works.
- Remove guesswork.
- Create your own best practices (instead of following generalizations).
- Justify the organic channel and earn buy-in.
- Verify your recommendations before you share them with your team.
- Determine if a site change is working.
- Prioritize your next projects.
- Try new things (and monitor the results).
- Collect statistic evidence.
- Correlate success to the SEO program.
Those are all pretty great reasons to start SEO testing. If you’re looking to implement tests at scale, you can now do so all without the dev team.