Conquer SEO A/B Testing in 2024: Free Checklist & Guide (+Template!)

SEO is a complex beast with no perfect formula, and it can sometimes be tough to know what changes you make to your website impact its performance and ranking. 

That’s where A/B testing comes in. 

A/B testing or split testing is a powerful tool for measuring changes that positively impact your website’s performance. When paired with SEO, it’s a game changer. 

Here at Single Grain, we’ve found that even small changes can lead to better visibility, more visitors, click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversions. 

In this guide, we’ll go over each step of the SEO A/B testing process, how to get started, what tools you should use, and how to interpret the results.

Let’s get started!

P.S: Scroll to the bottom to download our free SEO A/B testing checklist!


TABLE OF CONTENTS:


Why Bother With SEO A/B Testing Today?

What is SSEO A/B testing?

A/B testing or split testing is incredibly valuable if you’re looking to improve your website’s visibility, learn from your audience, gain an edge over competitors, and improve your conversion rates. 

In digital marketing, split testing is commonly used for PPC campaigns or to analyze user behavior in tools like Google Analytics, Clarity, Hotjar, Convert, and others. It involves changing one variable — such as webpage copy or image — to pick the one that generates the most conversions. 

Performing regular A/B tests can also protect your website from being negatively impacted by changes caused by external factors that are out of your control, like when Google released a core update to prioritize useful content over obviously AI-generated content, which affected many websites’ organic traffic:

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Using A/B testing for your SEO efforts can help fine-tune your SEO strategy and improve your website’s performance. 

SEO split tests don’t have to be complicated, especially if you opt to use SEO testing software to run experiments, implement changes to your control pages and variant pages, and measure the results.  

But, according to Semrush, 68% of marketers don’t test their SEO strategies before making changes. The excuses? They haven’t found the right tool, they can’t find the time, and they don’t have a budget:   

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None of the above should be barriers. Today, many easy-to-use testing tools fit various budgets and needs. The time spent on testing is worth it because it leads to better outcomes and efficiency. 

Not only will conducting SEO tests maximize your site’s potential, but it also ensures your site aligns with ever-evolving search engine guidelines.

Want SEO A/B testing advice? Single Grain’s SEO split test experts can help!👇

Yaniv Masjedi
CMO, Nextiva

Their expertise has helped Nextiva grow its brand and overall business

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8-Step Checklist for SEO Split Testing

Now that we’ve gone over the why, let’s take a look at the how.

How to best execute an SEO A/B test will depend on the size of your website, what web page elements you want to test, and how easily you can roll back changes. 

This 8-step checklist will guide you through setting up and executing effective SEO split testing, helping you make data-driven decisions that enhance your online presence. 

Let’s dive in and explore the steps to optimize your SEO efforts!

1. Set a Goal

The first step is to decide what you want to achieve. Are you trying to increase the time visitors spend on your web pages? Optimize your site for search engine bots? Or maybe you want more people to click on a call-to-action button? 

Your goals should be specific, measurable, and tied to your overall business objectives. This clarity will help you design more effective tests and clearly see whether the changes you make are working. 

Here’s how to get started:

  • Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Begin by pinpointing exactly what you want to improve through your A/B testing. This might include metrics like organic search traffic, click-through rates from search results pages, or specific conversion metrics related to SEO efforts.

SEO KPIs by Single Grain

  • Set specific targets: Once you have your KPIs, define what success looks like for each. If you’re aiming to improve click-through rates or how much traffic a page gets, decide on the percentage increase you are targeting. For example, increasing click-through rates by 5% within three months might be a tangible goal.

2. Choose an A/B Testing Tool

Picking the right tool is paramount for conducting an effective SEO split test. There are many tools available that can help you set up, run, and analyze tests. 

Here are four we love: 

Convert is an A/B testing tool designed for optimizing websites through data-driven experimentation. It’s one of the tools we use for our clients here at Single Grain because it offers features like visual editing for creating variations without needing deep technical knowledge, advanced targeting to specific user segments, and detailed analytics to measure the impact of different versions on user behavior and conversion rates. 

Optimizely is known for its user-friendly interface and robust testing capabilities. You can use it to run A/B and multivariate testing to experiment with different variations of your website for SEO optimization. 

VWO (Visual Website Optimizer) is another option if you want to see the effect of a few key differences. It offers a variety of tools for split tests, including calculators for determining how long to run an A/B test, statistical significance, and the correct sample size to achieve a smart decision. 

AB Tasty is an optimization platform that offers a suite of tools for A/B testing and allows you to easily create and manage tests from right from your browser. It has features to help you improve the user experience on websites, mobile apps, and connected devices. 

3. Pick Your Test Variables

The next step is to choose what variables to test. The variables you select should have a strong hypothesis behind them about how they could impact user behavior and, ultimately, your site’s SEO performance. 

Start by identifying pages that receive a significant amount of traffic. This ensures you have enough historical data for tracking and achieving statistically significant results. Use your analytics tool to pinpoint which pages get the most visits.

Next, pick and set up your test variables. Here are some variables we’ve experimented with and seen success: 

🎯Title Tags

Test different title tags to see which are more effective in attracting clicks from search SERPs. This could be as simple as removing your company’s brand name from the title tag.

At Single Grain, we focused on improving our click-through rate (CTR) from search engine results pages (SERPs) by testing title tags. We updated the tags on some low-performing pages, shortening them to stay within the 60-character limit and adding the top keywords these pages ranked for. 

This led to significant improvements: in 8 out of 11 cases, CTR increased by 58% to 1233% within 30 days. 

Encouraged by these results, we are now expanding this strategy to all poorly performing pages. We also plan to use AI to test new titles and descriptions for each page continuously. 

This ongoing, AI-driven testing will help us stay relevant and adapt to changing search trends and algorithm updates.

🎯Meta Descriptions

Altering meta descriptions can impact click-through rates. They provide a summary of a page’s content, and optimizing them can entice users to click on your link in search results. 

For example, you could experiment with adding specific keywords as we did in this example using “SEO techniques”:

meta descriptions example

A well-written meta description may not directly impact your site’s rankings, but a higher CTR can improve your search engine performance. Clear and accurate descriptions also help users find the content they’re looking for, reducing bounce rates. 

🎯New Content 

Adding fresh content to your landing pages can increase on-page engagement and time spent on the page.

To enhance traffic, engagement time, scroll depth, and keyword rankings, we worked with a client to add new content to their homepage. We identified target terms based on keyword research to diversify rankings with non-branded terms and drive new traffic. 

We used Clarity heatmaps to analyze user interactions on the old homepage, addressing fall-offs and dead clicks to boost engagement time and scroll depth. 

In 45 days, we achieved the following:

  • Improved homepage sessions by 23.7%
  • Increased new users by 20.72%
  • Boosted engagement time per session by 7.28%
  • Improved keyword rankings by 44%

For non-branded keywords, 18% now rank in the top 10, driving a combined 6,790 monthly searches. Although the homepage did not see an increase in “get quote” conversions, organic traffic overall saw a 28.57% increase in conversions during this period.

In short, adding new content works and it’s a variable worth testing. 

🎯Refresh Old Content

If you’re not in a position to add new content, then you could consider refreshing your old content in line with SEO best practices. 

To enhance CTR from SERPs, we used AI-assisted content and editing to improve low-performing pages. We targeted pages with low CTRs, outdated content, or underperforming content. 

By implementing AI optimizations, we expanded and improved existing content, targeting new and existing terms to gain better rankings and traffic. We also updated meta titles and descriptions to boost SERP visibility. 

Since starting this strategy in May 2023, we’ve seen the following improvements across all optimized test pages:

  • Increased clicks by 431%
  • Improved average keyword position by 10.7%
  • Increased average CTR by 2.2%

🎯Checkout Flow Updates

Checkout flow updates are another crucial test variable in A/B testing for improving conversions. 

In one client test, we identified product pages as a core opportunity to boost conversion rates for a contact lens provider. We conducted a full-scale study to understand industry trends, page design, CRO, and usability of top ecommerce players like Zappos and Amazon.

Using heat mapping and Google Analytics, elements such as CTA shape, CTA messaging, sticky buttons, and more were tested and implemented. These enhancements resulted in a 5–10% increase in conversions across product pages.

Updates included:

  • Moving product USPs higher above the fold (e.g., UV protection, naturally hydrating lenses)
  • Including a progress indicator bar
  • Showing the client’s brand first in the selection dropdown
  • Reducing the number of steps in the checkout flow (from 5 to 3)
  • Adding multiple payment methods (e.g., Apple Pay, Google Pay)
  • Including an “Edit your prescription” button on the checkout page
  • Moving the “Add a promo code” option further down the checkout page to reduce cart abandonment

🎯Image Alt Text

Tweaking your image alt text is another variable that can have helpful results. Review the images on the pages you’re testing and add keywords (where logical; no stuffing!) to the alt text:

It’s a small change, but it helps search engines understand the content of your images, which can enhance your site’s ranking and visibility. Additionally, alt text ensures that visually impaired website visitors can understand the content through screen readers. 

Here are some best practices for writing image alt texts: 

  • Be descriptive and specific. Clearly describe the image and include relevant details that convey the image’s content and context. So for example, instead of “picture of a dog,” use “Golden Retriever playing in a  park.” 
  • Use keywords wisely. Try to incorporate relevant keywords that match the content of the page and avoid keyword stuffing. 
  • Keep it concise. Keep the alt text to under 125 characters if possible and don’t use phrases like “image of” or “picture of.” Directly describe the image without adding unnecessary words. 

🎯Calls to Action (CTAs)

Changing the wording or position of calls to action is a common test variable in SEO experiments that can significantly improve your conversion rates: 

Screenshot 2019 05 03 at 14.32.25

Create multiple versions of CTAs when you run SEO experiments and see what works best. Some best practices for CTAs include: 

  • Be clear and direct: Use straightforward language that leaves no doubt about what action you want the user to take. For example, “Sign Up Today” or “Buy Now.” 
  • Create a sense of urgency: Encourage immediate action by incorporating time-sensitive language like “Get It Now” or “Don’t Miss Out” to prompt quick responses. 
  • Highlight the benefit: Emphasize what the user will gain by using phrases like “Get Your Free Guide!” or “Access Exclusive Content.”
  • Design for visibility: Make your CTAs stand out on the page by using bold fonts, contrasting colors, and ample whitespace. Position it prominently where users can easily see it, such as at the end of a blog post or in a sidebar. 

🎯 Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are a navigation aid that helps users understand where they are within your website’s hierarchy. Shortening breadcrumbs, particularly for ecommerce product pages, can produce meaningful results: 

Adding breadcrumbs to category pages improves user experience and makes it easier for search engines to navigate your site. 

Start with the homepage or landing page and then use descriptive but clear and concise labels for the breadcrumb trail. Make sure they are clickable to allow users to easily navigate back to previous pages.  

Once you’ve chosen your test variables, you should: 

  • Develop hypotheses for each element: For each element you choose to test, develop a hypothesis about how changing it could improve performance. For example, you might hypothesize that a more action-oriented title tag will increase the click-through rate for a specific page.
  • Document baseline performance: Before you make any changes, record the current performance of the pages you’re testing. This includes metrics relevant to your KPIs, like current search rankings, click-through rates, and any other relevant analytics. This baseline data will be crucial for comparing the performance of your test variants:

Control and Variant Graph by Single Grain

Doing all of the above sets a strong foundation for effective SEO A/B testing. It’ll help you understand what changes have the most impact and why certain elements influence user behavior and SEO outcomes.

4. Create Variants

With your variables picked, the next stage is to divide the pages you’re testing into control and variant groups to see which performs better. 

Here’s how to effectively create and manage these variants:

  • Design variations: For each element you’ve picked, create two versions: the original (control) and an alternative (variant). For instance, if you’re testing title tags, one might say, “Top 10 Tips for Healthy Eating,” while the variant could be, “Discover the Best Healthy Eating Tips Today”:

Screenshot 2019 06 21 11.50.47

  • Use best practices in variant design: When designing variants, apply SEO and user experience best practices to make meaningful changes. For title tags, ensure they are concise, use relevant keywords, and are enticing to the user. For content changes, make sure they provide value, are readable, and are structured logically.
  • Keep variants limited: It’s important to test one change at a time to clearly understand how that specific change impacts performance. If you alter multiple elements simultaneously, it becomes difficult to discern which change drove any differences in user behavior or SEO performance.
  • Implement variants correctly: Use your chosen SEO A/B testing tool to set up the variant and control group on your site. Ensure that each variant page is served randomly to an equal segment of human users and record how users react. This randomization helps provide unbiased results and a clearer understanding of how each variant performs.
  • Document everything: Keep a detailed record of what variants you create, why you chose them, and how they are structured. This documentation will be invaluable when analyzing the test results and understanding which elements contributed to a successful outcome.

By methodically creating and managing variants, you ensure that your SEO A/B testing is structured and that each test provides valuable insights. This careful approach helps pinpoint exactly what changes are most effective at enhancing your site’s SEO and user engagement.

5. Run the Test

Running the test is as simple as taking snapshots of what your website looks like at present, creating and launching variants, and then waiting to see what happens. 

Here’s the step-by-step process to execute your SEO A/B testing:

  • Take snapshots: Before implementing changes, take snapshots and create a backup of your site. You could use Git for version control, for example. That way, it’ll be easy to roll back the changes if the test flops. 
  • Launch the variants: Deploy both the original and the variant versions to your audience using your selected SEO A/B testing tool. Ensure each visitor segment receives only one version to maintain the integrity of your test.
  • Set a timeline: Determine how long you will run the test. Typically, a test duration of 2–4 weeks is enough, depending on your website traffic levels and how often search engines crawl your website. 
  • Monitor the test: Regularly check the performance of both versions during the testing phase and collect data. Look for any technical issues that might affect the results, such as page loading problems or unexpected user behavior.

Control and variant graph for SEO a/b tests by Single Grain

  • Document the progress: Keep detailed records of any observations and metrics during the test period. You’ll need this data to analyze the test results and make informed decisions.

By carefully running your test, you can ensure that the data you collect is reliable and that your findings will provide clear insights into which page variant performs better in terms of SEO and user engagement.

6. Analyze the Data

This is the hard part because it can be difficult to interpret the results. In fact, according to Semrush, more than half of companies that run SEO A/B tests admit they can’t decide on a clear result: 

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Analyzing the data accurately may seem like a herculean task, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Here’s how to proceed:

  • Collect and compile data: Gather all the data from your testing tool regarding the performance of each variant. Focus on the key metrics that were identified as part of your goals, such as click-through rates, bounce rates, or conversion rates.
  • Evaluate performance: Compare the results of each variant against the baseline and each other. Look for significant differences in performance that align with your testing goals. It’s important to determine not just which variant performed better, but also why it performed better based on the data.
  • Check statistical significance: Tools like Optimizely provide built-in features to help you assess the significance of the results. 
  • Summarize findings: Create a clear, concise report that summarizes the findings. Include visual aids like graphs or charts to illustrate how different variants performed compared to the baseline. This report should convey the effectiveness of the tested elements and any trends or patterns that were evident.

By analyzing the test data you can draw accurate conclusions that can guide further SEO and content strategy adjustments.

7. Make Decisions Based on Data

After analyzing your test results, it’s time to make informed decisions and implement changes based on the data. 

Here’s how to proceed:

  • Select the winning variant: Determine which variant met or exceeded the performance targets set in your goals. This is the variant you will consider implementing to your entire site.
  • Understand the impact: Review why the winning variant performed better. Analyze elements like user engagement, SEO metrics, and overall user satisfaction. Understanding the reasons behind the success helps you apply these insights to other areas of your site.
  • Plan for implementation: Decide how to implement the successful changes across relevant pages of your website. Ensure that the implementation will not disrupt user experience or other ongoing marketing activities.
  • Prepare for further testing: Often, one round of testing leads to new questions and hypotheses. Plan for additional tests that can further refine and optimize your website’s performance. Consider testing other elements based on the insights gained.

By making data-driven decisions, you ensure that the improvements you make are likely to enhance your website’s effectiveness and SEO performance, leading to better user experiences and potentially higher conversions.

8. Monitor Results Post-Implementation

The final step in the SEO A/B testing process is to continuously monitor the results after implementing the winning variant across your site. 

Here’s how to effectively track and adjust:

  • Implement changes broadly: Roll out the successful variant to applicable pages across your site. Ensure that this implementation is done smoothly and without causing issues with existing page functionality.
  • Track performance continuously: Use your analytics tools to monitor how the changes affect your site’s overall performance. Pay special attention to the metrics that were part of your initial testing goals, such as search engine rankings, user engagement, and conversion rates.
  • Identify any issues: Keep an eye out for any unexpected negative impacts from the changes, such as increased bounce rates or lower user time on the page. If issues arise, be prepared to revert to the original version if necessary and investigate what went wrong.
  • Iterate and optimize: SEO and website optimization are ongoing processes. Use the insights gained from this round of testing to inform future tests and optimizations. Continuously refining your approach will help you stay ahead in a competitive digital landscape.

By consistently monitoring the results and being proactive about further optimization, you can ensure that your website remains aligned with best SEO practices and continues to meet the evolving needs of your audience.

Ready to Try SEO A/B Testing? 

SEO A/B testing is a valuable strategy for any website aiming to enhance its performance and user engagement. It can work quite well, so much so that 4 out of 5 marketers see an increase in organic traffic after performing an SEO test: 

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By following the steps outlined in our checklist — from defining clear goals and selecting the right tools, to creating variants, and running tests — you can systematically (and confidently!) improve your site’s search engine optimization and user experience.

Remember, the key to successful SEO A/B testing is consistency and a willingness to learn and adapt based on data. Start small, learn from each test, and continue refining your approach. Embrace the process, and watch your site grow and succeed!

To streamline your testing process and ensure optimal performance of your SEO strategies, use our FREE step-by-step SEO A/B testing template in Google Sheets.

👉 Click Here for Your SEO A/B Testing Checklist – Free Template 👈
Be sure to save a copy to your computer first!

Need help with SEO A/B testing on your site? Single Grain’s SEO split test experts can help!👇

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Related Video

SEO A/B Testing FAQs

  • How to do A/B testing for SEO?

    A/B testing for SEO involves comparing two webpage versions for a positive or negative test to determine which ranks better. Start by defining a goal, such as increasing site traffic. Create two variants with different titles, descriptions, or layouts. 

    Using tools like Google Search Console, direct traffic to both versions without affecting your SEO. Track metrics like views, clicks, and rankings. After a testing period, analyze which version achieved better results and apply those successful elements to your site.

  • How to do SEO testing?

    SEO testing involves experimenting and creating multiple versions of the same page to see how they affect search engine rankings. Start by defining the goal of your test and then make controlled changes to elements like internal links, meta tags, content, or site structure on a test page. Use tools such as Google Search Console to monitor how these changes impact key metrics like click-through rates and search rankings.

  • How to perform A/B testing?

    A/B testing involves comparing two versions of a webpage to determine which performs better. Start by identifying the element you want to test, such as a headline, image, or call to action. Create two versions of the page and then use A/B testing software to randomly serve these versions to different visitors and track their interactions.

If you were unable to find the answer you’ve been looking for, do not hesitate to get in touch and ask us directly.
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