The 5 rules that make your A/B Test SEO Safe

How to avoid breaking your SEO when doing A/B tests

“[…] we’re glad you’re testing! A/B and multivariate testing are great ways of making sure that what you’re offering really appeals to your users.”

– Google

We do A/B tests to improve the quality of our website and, ultimately, conversion. But we don’t want to lose traffic during the test or as a result from it. Low value pages, speed loss and crawl budget loss may cause a drop in the search results. Or do they?

Here we pinpoint the reasons why A/B tests could be bad for SEO and then give 5 rules to avoid this.

The bottomline: CRO and SEO aren’t meant to bite each other, but to work smoothly together for better results

Why could an A/B test be bad for SEO?

The 5 rules to avoid CRO from negatively impacting SEO

1. Do not allow CRO and SEO items to influence each other

2. Follow the guidelines communicated by Google

  1. No cloaking
  2. Use a canonical
  3. Use 302 and not 301 redirections
  4. Only run the experiment as long as necessary.

Read more here.

3. Make sure the control version is the one that’s really live

When you are experimenting with test versions, this shouldn’t cost you rank losses. Therefore, the test versions should never be those that are indexed.

It’s very important that the original (or control) version remains the canonical one indexed by Google. This because we don’t want to influence the ranking of that page during the test. When we’ll have the outcome of the test, we will be sure that (from a user experience point of view) that is the best version, and we can let that page become the canonical.

4. Communicate to all teams about your tests

Sharing your intentions saves a lot of time for teams trying to figure out why a website suddenly ‘changed’, or why users are reporting bugs, rankings are influenced, etc.

Things to tune with the teams involved:

5. Work with experts in both CRO and SEO

CRO and SEO by Bruce Clay, Inc (LICENSED UNDER CC BY 2.0)

CRO and SEO are different disciplines, often practiced by different teams in the company. To avoid the one from having an undesirable impact on the other, it’s important to work closely together, and:

If you follow the recommendations above, you’ll make sure that your A/B tests have no impact on your site in search results.