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How Website Testing Helps You With Google: Part 1

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A number  of ways exist to ensure your website performs well – great content, an intuitive design and lots of marketing or advertising – but top of the list has to be website testing. It is only by studying user behavior on your site that you can understand what is appealing, what’s working, and what’s not.

Website testing can be a one-off exercise conducted when the site is first launched, or more helpfully, applied as an on-going task. It should be used to provide guidance on new page layout, content formats and landing page effectiveness, particularly when you have an important new addition to the site, your products or service offering. Conducted properly, website testing can be used to track which versions of a page encourage the most users to do what you want them to do – be that add something to a shopping cart, fill in a contact form or subscribe to a newsletter. By rotating different versions of the page and then studying which one is most successful in achieving your goals, you’re able to increase the effectiveness of your website and make sure it is working as hard as possible to help your business post a stronger bottom line.

The process of website testing can be extrapolated as much as you need, meaning when the most successful version has been determined, the process of testing begins again with further tweaks to the page monitored and analyzed. A continual round of testing in this manner pushes the site forward, continually gauging what the customer wants and then presenting it to them on the page to get every last possible conversion from site traffic.

There are two standard approaches to testing and deciding which one you plan to use is the first step in making your site more engaging and more successful;

AB Testing: AB Testing literally means testing page A compared with page B. If you opt to go down this route, you’ll create two versions of the page you want to test. Page A will have one URL and page B a second, unique URL. Imagine you want to test a new product page. Page A has a bunch of pictures and not much text. Page B has lots of text and only one or two images. You need to know if your customers respond better to images or if they want all the nitty-gritty details before they commit to buy. You set up your test so that half of the time, visitors clicking to visit the product page are sent to version A. And the second half of the time, they are redirected to page B. You can then compare the number of sales recorded per page to see which is the most successful.

Multivariate Testing: Multivariate testing requires less manual input than AB testing. Rather than creating two versions of the page at two different URLs, changes will be made dynamically to a single page. To carry out multivariate testing you’ll need to invest in a specialist software package. The good news is that when you have made the buy, there’s no limit to the number of pages you can use multivariate testing on, meaning you can potentially turbo charge the selling power of every single page on your domain.

The software will do most of the hard work for you when you have completed set up, making it an easy way to test large sites. It will change the page, adding different headers, images and buttons in varying combinations to website visitors. It will then analyze the effectiveness of each version, telling you how to set out the page for maximum conversions.

When you have decided which method of testing best suits your needs, it’s important to ensure that your testing program does not upset your relationship with Google. Testing needs to be conducted according to a set series of principles in order to keep on the right side of the search engine’s best practice guidelines.  We’ll cover these guidelines in part two of this article.

Image: Testing by Shutterstock

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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