An Entirely Split-Tested and Optimized Business Strategy
Data driven is a term that a lot of businesses like to throw around, but what does it really mean?
Well essentially, it means that you will be making decisions based on pure data that comes from research and testing, rather than decisions that are based on hunches and emotion.
Often, we make the mistake of thinking that we know our audience. We might say to ourselves that because we would prefer a web page to be blue, so too must everyone else. We then make a change, and find that it actually hurts our profits.
So what do you do? You test. And this can help you to build a business strategy that absolutely cannot fail. To demonstrate, let’s see how you might conduct split tests (comparing two versions of something) and other tests in order to build an ideal business selling an eBook.
The Set Up
To get started, you are going to choose a digital product to sell, then create a sales page to sell it from. The digital product can be an eBook you bought the rights to, and the sales page will talk about how that eBook can help the readers.
You then choose your target demographic and you attempt to conduct some SEO on a related blog in a bid to get your sales page to the top of Google for a related search term.
You might also use some advertising in order to drive more sales.
As long as you make more money on average from each visitor than you spend, then this simply business model will generate income as you sleep. Pretty straightforward!
How to Win
Problem is, that countless people try this and fail.
Why? Because they choose the wrong eBook. They market to the wrong people. They set the price wrong. They aren’t good at persuasive writing. Or they don’t do their SEO correctly.
Testing can solve all these issues.
First, choose a product that you already know is selling well. Many PLR products will provide some sales figures you can go off. You know this book sells, so you know the product won’t be the issue.
Next, use split tests to create the ideal sales page with a high conversion rate (meaning a high proportion of people who land on the page go on to buy something from you).
A split test means you’ll make two identical copies of your sales page apart from one small difference (the headline, the size of the text, etc.). You then send half of your visitors to page A and half to page B and you see which version sells the most copies.
You can do the same thing with the price as well to get the idea price for your book!
Before you perform any SEO, try out the top of the SERPs for different keywords by using AdWords. You can then see which keywords have the right intent for your product BEFORE you invest a huge amount of time or money into SEO.
Finally, use split testing to write articles with the ideal SEO techniques. Do all this and your business model will evolve to become the perfect cash-cow!
How Long Should You Run a Split Test For?
In SEO and internet marketing, split testing is one of the most powerful techniques available to marketers. A split test essentially means taking two slightly different versions of a webpage or website, and then seeing which one performs best.
The reason this is so effective, is that it means you can make sure that a strategy or a change will be beneficial before you employ it across your entire site.
That means you can make smarter, data-driven decisions, and each one will improve your ranking, conversions and profits.
The problem is that many people don’t fully understand how a split test works, and they cut the experiment short prematurely. This ultimately results in skewed findings which can mislead you on the best way to act!
So how long should you run your split test, and why?
Why Length Matters for Split Tests
The ideal answer to the question of how long you should run a split test for is: indefinitely. The longer you can run the test, the more data you can collect, and the more accurate it will be.
The longer a split test runs for, the more data you can collect, and therefore the more likely it is to be accurate.
The reason for this has to do with what are known as confounding variables. A confounding variable is anything that you don’t control for, and this in turn can hurt your outcome.
Let’s say for example, that you have two versions of a website. On version A, you use one font, and on version B, you use another font. Your hope is to see if one of the fonts improves the amount of time people stay on your website, which should in turn also improve the SEO.
Half of the visitors are sent to version A, and half are sent to version B. You run the test for 48 hours.
But by sheer coincidence, a large proportion of the people who go to version A of the website happen to be from the UK. And let’s say for argument’s sake, that people from the UK prefer a particular font.
You have no way of testing for this, and therefore the results you get aren’t accurate. You assume that the new font is better, and you put it on every page of your website – thereby hurting your ranking significantly.
Had you run the test for five weeks though, then the likelihood of this being a sheer coincidence will shrink remarkably. Throwing a heads ten times in a row is unlikely, but throwing it 100 times in a row is so unlikely as to be safe to discount.
This is what you are aiming for with your split tests. You can never be 100% sure, but the longer the test runs, the more sure you can be.
The good news is that there are ways to test for significance, using - for example – a chi-squared test. This way, you get a number (called P), that will tell you precisely the likelihood of your study being a fluke. As long as it’s lower than 0.05, then you are good to act on the information.
How Split Testing Can Save SEO’s Reputation
Ten years ago, writers all around the web were announcing ‘the death of SEO’. Google had been changing its algorithms, meaning that nobody could be certain that what once worked would still work. Therefore, no one could necessarily put any trust in the advice of their SEO professionals. SEO was dead. Right?
Of course not. SEO specialists adapted and found new strategies, and the industry continued on thriving.
But fast forward 10 years and we’re STILL hearing the same message: ‘SEO is dead!’ they cry.
This time they’re talking about Google’s move toward AI. Its focus on things like natural language and SML markup.
Of course, they are wrong again. But that’s not really the point. The point is that some businesses and other would-be-clients have heard this cry, and they now believe it.
And the many poor-quality SEO companies out there aren’t doing anything to help matters. When an SEO agency conducts an SEO audit and tells a bunch of site owners that they need to make a hundred tiny changes – only for those changes to then prove pointless – it hurts our reputation.
And when an SEO company promises they can get a company to the top spot on Google and then fails to do so, that trust in the industry is eroded just a little bit more again.
The Erosion of Trust
So, what does split testing have to do with anything?
Well, companies have been promising the world when it comes to SEO for years. That’s intentional, and it’s hardly going to change.
But SEO companies that are trying to do right by their clients and actually not affecting any positive change… that’s a real problem. And it’s one we need to fight tooth and nail.
In one huge study conducted by a well-known SEO company, it was found that 30-40% of all the actions recommended in a typical SEO audit… actually have no noticeable impact on search rankings!
Think about this for a minute: companies are being told to go to great lengths to carry out frustrating changes, and half the time they amount to nothing! Again, is it any surprise that these same companies are losing faith in SEO as a tool?
Worse, is that an SEO technique that works for one client has been shown to sometimes not work for a very similar one! That’s the exact same technique. So, what are we supposed to do?
Enter Split Testing
The answer is split testing.
Split testing is the process of taking an existing set of web pages, splitting them into two groups, and then making a small change to just one of those groups. This way, you can carry out a controlled experiment and see if the change works.
If it does, then you accept the change, and you adopt it on all the other pages as well.
If the change has no effect, or has a negative effect, then you ignore it.
This strategy is perfect because you now know for sure ahead of time, that your strategy will work. And you can show this to clients.
If every SEO were to use this approach, eventually the entire reputation of our craft would be restored! We can dream!
How to Make Failure Impossible in Business
Perhaps the most serious mistake that is made across all types of business, is acting on hunch. The issue is that many business owners will make decisions based on what they think people want to see. Worse, they might make those decisions based on what they want to see.
Let’s take a simple example. When a site owner is redesigning their blog, they might choose to use a new font. As they do, they might look at a selection of different fonts, and then choose the one that they like the most.
The problem is that just because they like the font the most, that doesn’t mean that everyone else will as well – or that it is the best font for their site.
As such, they might well change the font, only to find that it actually puts people off of visiting their page or spending long on there. And as a result, they may find that they end up losing a huge amount of traffic and money.
Make Failure Impossible
This is why everything must be TESTED and checked. There are a few ways that an SEO can check that this decision is the right one before they go ahead.
One is to perform market research. Rather than just pick a font, you might first speak with a cross section of your audience, attempting to choose an audience that will be reflective of the general public.
From there, you can then choose the font that is most likely to please your audience.
Better yet, why not use a split test? A split test is a test that involves creating two different versions of a website, and then seeing which one performs best. In this case, you might create one website with one font, and another with another.
You would then wait and see which one performs best in terms of low bounce rates, high conversion rates, CTRs etc.
This is even smarter than doing market research. Why? Because what people want from their websites doesn’t necessarily correlate with what will improve engagement the most. With a split test, you can measure only the metrics that matter to you in a real world setting.
In this way, you make failure impossible.
What do you do when you can’t make failure impossible? You make it fast!
What I mean by this, is that you should never spend months working on a website project without knowing for sure that it will be successful.
So many people come up with a ‘great idea for a website’ then work on it for years, only to release it and see no success.
The problem is that they never verified the idea (i.e. asked for preorders or signups to gauge interest) and they invested lots of time with no reason to believe their idea would be a hit. Remember, you shouldn’t act on a hunch!
Instead then, the better option would be to build a bare-bones and very basic version of that website. If the website does well, then you will spend more time bulking it up to be amazing. If it doesn’t, then you should move onto something else quickly. No harm done!
How to Use Google Analytics for Split Testing and Smarter SEO
Google Analytics is a free tool from Google that is used by nearly every SEO professional and webmaster. That should tell you something about just how important and valuable it is. And it should tell you that you really need to get set up with it as well!
Google Analytics provides analytics, as the name suggests. This means that you’ll be able to see how many people visit your site, how many come from one source or another, what those people do on your page, and MUCH more.
This can be help you to make better choices about how you proceed with your future SEO decisions, and it is essential if you want to try your hand at split testing.
Read on and we’ll explore precisely how to use Google Analytics for split testing.
To get started, you’ll first need to set up a Google Analytics account. You can log into the tool by using your regular Google account, and from there you’ll need to add accounts for each site you want to use.
When you do this, you’ll start by entering the name of the account, the name of the website, and the URL. From there, you will get a tracking ID. You’ll want to paste this onto each of your pages, which will in turn allow Google Analytics to get stats from them.
The good news is that if you have a WordPress site, then you can do this very easily by installing one of several plugins. A good one to use is Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. This will not only make it easy for you to set up your tracking code, but will also mean that you can easily view advanced settings through your WP dashboard.
You’ll be asked to add an access code, which you can do as easily as clicking a button, signing into your Google account, and then copying and pasting it.
Using Google Analytics
So now you have Google Analytics, exactly what do you do with it?
The stat you will likely look at most often is the Audience Overview. This will show you who has been viewing your site and a graph at the top will show you how many users you get on a daily basis. A pie chart will show you how many of those are returning visitors.
Acquisitions tells you where your traffic comes from and how the source will impact their behavior. For instance, you might find that traffic coming from Google is more likely to have a higher bounce rate, but also more likely to convert.
A real time tab on the left shows you how many people are on your site at any given time. Conversions lets you set up goals such as sales, and then see what percentage of visitors are converting and carrying out their goals.
All this data will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t for your website. As a result, you’ll be able to make smarter, data-driven decisions that will ultimately lead to more success. And it’s very encouraging seeing those numbers go up!
How to Use Redirects for Split Testing Without Hurting Your SEO
Redirects are a crucial aspect of split testing in many cases.
A redirect is essentially a piece of code that will take visitors immediately to a different page. In a split test, this works by sending half of the visitors to a different version of your web page, so that you can then track which version of that web page works best and make sure to keep the one that works better.
The problem is that redirects can hurt your SEO if you do them incorrectly. So read on and we’ll see how to avoid letting that happen.
The Danger of Split Testing
The reason that split testing can be potentially harmful for SEO, is that some webmasters use it in a malicious way. Specifically, they do something known as ‘cloaking’, which means that they intentionally hide the true nature of their website to make more sales, or to push an agenda.
For instance, they might create a website with great SEO and get to the top of the SERPs for ‘fitness tips’ and then redirect that site to an affiliate product to make money. Google understandably doesn’t like this, and so it will penalize sites it suspects of that practice. Your job is to use redirects without raising a red flag.
Another risk is that using a redirect will slow down the load times of your website. Seeing as page load speed is one of the critical factors that Google considers in its current search algorithm, that can really hurt your progress.
How to Split Test Safely
So how do you go about split testing safely and using redirects so that they won’t harm your site?
One tip is to make sure that you use the ‘canonical’ attribute. Using canonical tells Google that one version of your web page is THE main version, and it will therefore know that you’re not trying to trick it or spam the system.
Adding this is extremely easy and can be done with just a little bit of HTML.
Another tip is to use a PHP redirect rather than a HTML one. For those unfamiliar, this basically means the code will run on the server rather than in the browser. That in turn means that Google won’t be able to see the difference at all between the two versions.
One thing you absolutely must not do, is to block robots from viewing one version of your page in the HTaccess file. This is a logical method that you may think to use, but it can actually end up doing more harm than good in the long term.
Finally, you might decide to use a tool or app tom handle the whole process for you. This is fine, but it’s important to make sure the one you choose understands the concepts above and won’t hurt your ranking. A good choice is Optimizely. This will use the canonical tag, and redirects pages very quickly to avoid slow loadspeeds.
The Ultimate Quick SEO Cheat-Sheet
SEO might be a completely foreign concept to you. This stands for Search Engine Optimization, and essentially is a set of practices that are designed to help a website perform well on Google. That means reaching the top of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and getting lots of clicks (CTR = click through rate).
But how precisely do you go about this? What are the key things you need to be doing as a new site owner? This site will jump into the very basics and give you just enough information to start doing SEO right, without paying for a pro or spending years reading.
In order to be successful on SEO, you need to create a website that Google can find and understand, and a website that Google things is high quality. To make a website Google can find and understand, you need to make sure lots of sites point at your page – ideally sites that are in the same niche (subject matter) as you.
At the same time, you need to think about what you want people to search for in order to find your website, and you need to subtly include that term in your content and your files. You should also make sure that your site is structured with lots of internal links, and that you fill out such things as your meta description.
Don’t overuse your keywords as this can make it looks as though you are trying to ‘game’ the system and trick Google.
For the second part – demonstrating that your site is high quality – you need to try and keep visitors on your page for as long as possible, and you need to include lots of good content. You should also ensure your site loads quickly and that it is easy to use on any device.
Finally, getting lots of high quality links to your page will help with this as well – because it will show to Google that other people recommend your site.
Keeping all this in mind, there are a number of simple steps you will need to follow if you want to conduct good SEO. Here are they:
Research popular search terms
Write posts around these subjects and attempt to use the key terms with a density of around 1-3% (meaning that percentage of your content is made up from them)
Keep content fairly long, between 800-1,500 words
Place key terms in your article title, one header, and the first and last paragraph of your poss wherever possible
Put the key term in your meta description
Write blogs for other sites where possible and ask them to link back to you in return
Choose sites that are popular with Google and that appear in their featured and news sections
All this will help you to conduct good SEO and put you on the right path. From there, you can start looking into more advanced techniques, such as split testing and using analytics.
Top Split Testing Mistakes
Split testing is a simple but powerful concept in SEO, and something that every professional in the industry should understand how to use. Essentially, a split test means taking two slightly different versions of the same website or web page, and then seeing which version behaves better.
The better performing one becomes the version you keep, and you then try introducing another new tweak in the same way.
By using split testing repeatedly, you can make a series of data-driven decisions that will be guaranteed to help your site climb the ranks of Google.
But while this can be hugely effective, it’s important to make sure you don’t make any common mistakes. Split testing done well is game-changing for all the right reasons. Split testing done poorly can result in incorrect data at best and completely destroy your website at worst!
Read on to learn what some of those area, and how you can avoid them.
Generalizing Your Findings
One of the most common mistakes that SEOs make when using split testing, is to generalize their results to all websites. This is actually one of the things that we have learned as an industry from using split tests: techniques that work on one website won’t necessarily work on another.
In fact, the same technique won’t necessarily work twice even on the SAME website!
With that in mind, you shouldn’t think you can run a single experiment and then be done. You need to keep testing new strategies in order to ensure that you are doing the best thing for that specific site, in that specific moment.
Not Including a Canonical Tag
There are different approaches to split testing, but one of the most common involves using a redirect. This will push half of your visitors automatically to an alternate version of the same page, but the problem is that it can end up confusing Google and potentially leading to your getting penalized.
The solution is to include the canonical attribute on one version of the webpage. This earmarks that page as being the ‘main’ version, which in turn will ensure that Google doesn’t think you’re trying to pull the wool over its eyes or spam the SERPs.
Not Running the Test Long Enough
Another common mistake is to only run the test for a short time. The problem with this, is that the data you collect could be the result of pure chance. The smaller the ‘sample size’ (the fewer the impressions), the less able you will be to draw any conclusions from your findings.
For this reason, you should make sure that you run your test for long enough in order to know that the results are what we call ‘significant’ in mathematical terms.
Not Backing up
Finally, you should ALWAYS make sure to back up your webpages before you begin. If you are making changes to your pages for purely testing purposes, then it is crucial to ensure you can reverse those changes if you need to.
What is AB Testing in SEO?
AB Testing – also sometimes referred to as split testing – is a technique used in SEO to make data-driven decisions. This powerful strategy can help to avoid mistakes, and ensure that you make only the best decisions when it comes to your marketing.
Not familiar with the concept? Then you are potentially missing out in a big way. Read on, and we’ll explore precisely what AB testing is, and why it’s such an important concept.
Essentially, AB testing means taking two versions of something and seeing how they compared. So in this case, we will take two versions of the same web page and then see how they perform. You can then choose to keep the version that performed best, and you can take lessons from that version to apply to your future pages.
This is a concept that is commonly used in sales. If you are selling a product from a landing page, then you will probably have a sales script that is designed to convince people to buy from you. The script probably talks about the virtues of the product, then tells the reader to buy at the end.
Depending on how you write that page, you might find that 1% of visitors buy from you, or 2%. That equates to a big difference in profit and is more than worth spending time perfecting. That means you need to make the page as well written as you can, which means making endless tiny decisions.
What font should you use? What heading? Just how in-your-face should the marketing speak be?
The good news is that none of these decisions need to be based on guesses or hunches. You can split test them. Take two versions of the same page and make one change to one of them. Now use a redirect and send half of your visitors to the tweaked version of the page and half to the basic version.
Over time, you’ll be able to see which version of the page performs best. From there, you can then adopt the version that performs better, and ditch the other version.
In SEO, the same rules apply, but you are now looking at how making a small change might impact on your ranking in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). If you increase the keywork density from 2-3%, does that help your page rank higher, or drop lower?
Of course, you can’t use a redirect in this case, seeing as your page can only rank on Google once.
What you will do instead then, is to take a handful of web pages and split them into two groups. One group gets the changes, the other does not. You then see which group performed best, and you use that to inform the way you create and design all your future pages.
Using this strategy, you can learn how to perform perfect SEO for your site, and avoid what might otherwise be serious mistakes.
Why SEO is Becoming Almost Impossible, and What to do About it
SEO is now the most complicated and difficult it has ever been. Google has been changing the game for years now, and it’s only getting harder all the time.
If we want to survive and thrive in the SEO/digital marketing industry then, we need to adapt and be smart. In this post, you will learn precisely how this is happening and the steps you need to take.
If you read that title and thought that this was going to be a post about the dangers of SEO, then don’t worry. IN truth, Google’s agenda is nothing sinister – it just doesn’t always align with what our agendas might be.
Specifically, Google is not particularly interested in helping you to get to the top of the SERPs. In fact, Google isn’t interested in helping site owners at all! Rather, Google wants to help its users – the people who search using it – in order to find the content they want quickly and easily.
Moreover, Google wants to make this interaction more natural and organic. Google now considers itself to be an ‘AI first company’, meaning that Google Assistant is very much its main focus.
Google Assistant can do many things – from controlling the lighting in your home to helping you order a taxi. But it’s coup de grace, is in helping you to answer questions and find answers – which it does by using search to return answers.
Google doesn’t just want to find keyword matched websites when someone types in “how to burp baby”, rather it wants to be able to provide useful snippets of information in a conversational manner, when someone asks “hey Google, how do I burp my baby?”.
That means that traditional keywords don’t work the way they once did. And it means that Google now wants to see more natural language on your website, not to mention useful additions such as rich snippets that it can use to more easily trawl your content.
Moreover, Google still wants you to provide great quality content for visitors to your website to read. It still wants fast-loading sites with entertaining information and news.
And of course, Google is incredibly vague about how it looks for all of those things.
One of the things that makes this hardest of all, is just how mixed this can make the different signals you get from Google.
For example, Google still wants you to use search terms in your content. Okay. So, you diligently do your keyword research, pick your term, and then insert it into your text in a subtle manner.
But you chose a keyword that doesn’t lend itself well to LSI (natural language terms) and so it doesn’t get as much love as it could. Moreover, you find that your readers don’t particularly appreciate the use of keywords and it ends up hurting your bounce rates.
That is to say that more people end up leaving your site immediately, which hurts SEO.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, as the title might have hinted at – the solution is to be smart and data driven.
By using split testing, you can trial every decision you make first in order to see whether it affects your SEO in a positive or negative way. Once you’ve done that, you don’t need to guess any more.
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