SEO case studies can be big or small.
But it's SEO testing that helps us understand how the algorithm works.
Here are six SEO tests to experiment with (and some mini case studies of the impact they might have for you).
1. Title Tag SEO Testing
Testing and optimizing your title tags can lead to higher click-through rates (CTRs) and better rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Title tags are critical for SEO because they provide a concise summary of the content on your web page. They also serve as the clickable headline on SERPs, which directly impacts CTRs.
Higher CTRs signal to search engines that your content is relevant and valuable, potentially leading to improved rankings.
Six Title Tag Tests Examples 👇
This article from SEO clarity notes six suggestions for title tag experiments. Here they are in brief:
- Short vs. Long Titles: Test shorter title tags that focus on the product name or keyword against longer titles that include emotional words, unique selling propositions, and other elements to determine which is more effective in driving clicks.
- Keyword Placement: Experiment with placing the target keyword at the beginning, middle, or end of the title tag to find the optimal position for improving rankings and click-through rates.
- Brand Name Inclusion: Depending on your brand's popularity, test adding or removing your brand name from the title tag to assess its impact on click-through rates and user engagement.
- Negative Superlatives: For non-sales pages, experiment with using negative superlatives (e.g., worst, never) in the title tag to test if these perform better in attracting clicks and engagement.
- Numerals in Titles: Test the inclusion of numbers in your title tags to make them more attention-grabbing and appealing to users.
- Action Words and Ad Copy: Experiment with using action words and incorporating ad copy ideas inspired by PPC ads in your title tags to increase click-through rates and drive traffic.
2. Meta Description SEO Testing
Crafting compelling and keyword-rich meta descriptions can improve your CTRs and overall SEO performance.
Meta descriptions are the short snippets of text that appear below your title tag on SERPs. They provide users with a quick overview of your content, influencing their decision to click or not.
Optimizing meta descriptions with relevant keywords and engaging language can entice users to click on your link, leading to higher CTRs.
"A meta description tag generally informs and interests users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about."—Google
Meta Title Testing Example - 6.5% Increase in CTR
In a fascinating case study, an e-commerce website in the Netherlands decided to test the impact of tweaking its meta descriptions.
The goal? To see if changing the call-to-action (CTA) and adding unique selling points (USPs) would better match user search intent and boost clicks.
“Based on SERP research, we hypothesized that switching from “Order your coffee machine from Blokker for the best price” to “Buy your coffee machine from Blokker for the best price” would better match the search intent of the user. We've also included "✓Free returns ✓Can also be picked up" as USPs to trigger the user to click on our search result.”
The experiment, powered by SplitSignal, involved 300 category pages, divided into a variant and control group. Over 21 exciting days, the results revealed a noteworthy 6.5% increase in clicks for the variant pages featuring the modified CTA and added USPs. Amazingly, the test reached a 95% statistical significance in just eight days!
The in-depth analysis showed that the clicks surge was due to changes in user behavior, while rankings and impressions remained stable. This captivating study underlines the importance of playing with different elements in meta descriptions to stand out and skyrocket organic performance. So, don't be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you!
3. Header Tag Optimization Testing
Optimizing your header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.) can improve your content's structure, readability, and SEO performance.
Header tags are crucial for organizing content and making it more accessible to both users and search engines. They help divide your content into logical sections, allowing readers to easily navigate through your page.
Additionally, header tags enable search engines to understand the hierarchy of your content and identify relevant keywords.
Header Testing Example
In this experiment by PageOptimizer, researchers aimed to find out if a page with two optimized H3s could outrank pages with only one optimized H2.
The experiment explanation is a little complicated to decipher. But essentially, they created five identical pages targeting a made up keyword, so they could own the top 5 search results.
The key differences were:
- The experimental page featured two H3s containing the keywords
- While the benchmark pages had one H2 containing the keywords
Everything else was kept the same.
“Similar to the previous experiment, immediately after keywords were removed from H2s and added to the H3s, the variable page (previously ranked #3) dropped to the bottom. At this point, the goal was to continue adding keyword optimized H3s to the variable page until its ranking increased.”
“At the start of the experiment, the variable page containing two H3s dropped in rank below the rest of the pages that contained only one H2 and a regular paragraph line optimized for the keyword. In spite of additional H3s being added to the page, the variable page never moved.
This test was run three times, and the result stayed the same – it was impossible to beat one H2 with multiple H3s, just like it was impossible to beat the H1 with H2s no matter how many were added to the page.”
In short, two H3s do not outweigh a H2.
This means that H2 and H3 signals are distinct in Google's algorithm. This means that trading a bunch of H2s or H3s for something with a higher signal just won't work.
When optimizing your pages, don't forget to analyze your competitors' H2s and H3s to have a similar balance for your own pages, as Google seems to reward this approach.
4. Internal Linking SEO Testing
Implementing a well-structured internal linking strategy can enhance user experience, reduce bounce rates, and improve your website's overall SEO.
Internal links connect different pages within your website, creating a cohesive and user-friendly structure. By strategically placing internal links, you can guide visitors to relevant content, increase their time spent on your site, and encourage conversions. Additionally, internal links help search engines understand your site's architecture and prioritize essential pages.
Example - Internal Linking Testing
In an SEO test by Search Pilot, researchers added links to lower-level category pages on a grocery website and observed the impact on organic traffic for both higher and lower-level category pages.
“Iceland Groceries has a site architecture with three “levels” of categories. For example, they have their “Frozen” category (level one), within that they have “Frozen Fish & Seafood” (level two), which then has various level three categories like “Frozen Fish Fillets & Steaks”.
Previously, the only way to navigate between these levels was through the main navigation. For this test, we added additional linking between level two and level three categories, by including buttons with links to level three category pages at the top of the level two category pages.
The hypothesis was that by increasing the internal linking between these pages, we’d see an increase in traffic to level 3 category pages due to additional PageRank being passed on to them through internal links, and an increase in traffic to level 2 category pages due to improved relevancy signals.”
Contrary to expectations (their Twitter audience voted it would have zero impact), both levels experienced an uplift in organic traffic.
“Not only was this test positive, but it was one of our most positive tests to date resulting in a 25% uplift to organic traffic across level two and level three category pages - an additional estimated 9,200 organic sessions a month.”
The study showed that improved internal linking positively impacted the pages being linked from. They note that the success of this test is likely due to the enhanced information architecture and clearer crawl paths for both Google and users.
5. Schema Markup SEO Testing
Implementing schema markup can increase your website's visibility on SERPs and potentially lead to higher CTRs.
Schema markup is a form of structured data that helps search engines better understand your content.
By adding schema markup, you can enhance your SERP listings with rich snippets, such as review ratings, product prices, and event details. These rich snippets make your search listings more attractive and informative, which can encourage users to click on your link.
FAQ Schema Markup Experiment
SearchPilot experimented with FAQ schema in 2020.
Adding FAQ schema allows you to win more SERP real-estate (example below).
However, they found Google would only allow one type of snippet at a time. So adding FAQ schema removed the “review” schema pictured below.
They found this combo is no longer allowed (pictured below)
So which should you go for? FAQs or Reviews?
“Adding FAQ schema is the change that has been the most consistently positive across all our test types, with 67% of all FAQ schema tests we’ve run having been positive.
These tests typically show uplifts in organic traffic from 4-15% (a slightly wider range than we reported before), but in one instance we saw a 25% uplift from adding just FAQ schema to existing FAQ content!”
While Google may be evolving continuously, and reducing FAQ schema, it’s worth running your own experiments with schema to see impact on CTR.
Related read: How to Add Internal Link Schema
6. Content Optimization and A/B Testing
Continuously optimizing your content through A/B testing can lead to better engagement, higher dwell time, and improved SEO rankings.
Content is the foundation of your SEO strategy, and regularly updating it with fresh information and valuable insights is essential.
By conducting A/B tests on different content variations (e.g., headlines, formats, visuals, etc.), you can identify what resonates best with your audience.
Improving your content based on these insights can lead to better engagement, longer dwell times, and higher search engine rankings.
Content Optimization SEO Test Example
In this introduction experiment run by the team at Typeform, this Typeform article went from page 2 to position 3 in 1 hour.
What did they change?
They removed their more narrative driven introduction with an introduction that got immediately to the point (listing the findings of the article up front).
We believe this worked because it helped the article hit search intent ASAP, which builds trust with the reader and improves dwell time as they decide the article is worth their time.
20 SEO Testing Examples - More Tests to Run
I asked Chat GPT4 to think of of 20 SEO experiments you can implement to increase your website traffic.
Here's its suggestions:
- Title Tag Variations: Test different title tag variations, including the use of power words, numbers, and questions to see which version attracts more clicks.
- Meta Description Length: Experiment with longer and shorter meta descriptions to determine the optimal length for engaging users and improving click-through rates.
- URL Structure: Test different URL structures, such as shorter URLs, keyword-rich URLs, or descriptive URLs, to see which performs better in search rankings.
- Keyword Density: Experiment with different keyword densities in your content, balancing readability and keyword relevance to find the sweet spot for ranking.
- LSI Keywords: Incorporate Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords in your content to improve topical relevance and boost rankings.
- Content Length: Test different content lengths to determine the optimal word count for better user engagement and search rankings.
- Multimedia Elements: Experiment with adding images, videos, and infographics to your content to increase engagement, dwell time, and shares.
- Anchor Text Variations: Test various anchor text variations in your internal and external links to optimize your link profile and improve rankings.
- Mobile-Friendly Design: Experiment with different mobile-friendly design elements, such as responsive layouts or accelerated mobile pages (AMP), to enhance the user experience and increase mobile traffic.
- Featured Snippet Optimization: Optimize your content to target featured snippets by including question-based subheadings and concise, informative answers.
- Voice Search Optimization: Test voice search-friendly content by using conversational language, long-tail keywords, and structured data markup.
- Social Share Buttons: Experiment with the placement, design, and number of social share buttons on your website to encourage more sharing and increase referral traffic.
- Calls-to-Action (CTAs): Test different CTA variations, such as button colors, text, and placement, to improve conversion rates and generate more leads.
- Blog Post Frequency: Experiment with different publishing frequencies to determine the optimal posting schedule for maximizing traffic and engagement.
- Content Types: Test various content formats, such as listicles, how-to guides, case studies, and interviews, to identify the types of content that resonate best with your audience.
- Schema Markup: Implement and test different schema markup types to improve your search listings with rich snippets and potentially increase click-through rates.
- Localization and Internationalization: Experiment with localization techniques, such as hreflang tags and localized content, to target specific regions and languages.
- User-Generated Content: Encourage user-generated content, such as reviews, comments, or guest posts, to increase user engagement and attract more traffic.
- Exit-Intent Popups: Test exit-intent popups to capture leads, promote special offers, or encourage social sharing before users leave your website.
Remember to carefully track and analyze the results of each experiment to identify the most effective strategies for increasing traffic on your website.