A/B testing is great, but be careful not to damage your SEO.
A/B split testing is a great conversion optimization technique that is used to make sure you are providing your audience with the best user experience and turn your hard won organic traffic into something more. But whether you are aiming for more email sign ups, lead generation or extra purchases, it is very important to make sure you are not messing up your SEO in the process.
While you are optimizing your site conversion rates using the A/B testing technique there are 2 Pitfalls you’ll definitely want to avoid to make sure you don’t damage your organic traffic.
PITFALL #1: Duplicating your Content across pages
When you carry out an A/B test, you basically compare the performance of two different versions/layouts of the same page. This is very much a straightforward exercise when using the Google Experiment Tool or Optimizely Tool, but in many cases the content for Page A and Page B might be similar and only varying imagery or layout. Having same content across the two pages and with many A/B testing tools not automatically blocking search engines from indexing your test pages might accidentally lead to duplicate content being indexed in the search engines. In that case you will end up with same page being ranked twice on the search engines.
PITFALL #2: Getting the Wrong page Ranked
This will probably not be an issue if you are running a quick and short A/B testing exercise. However, in other instances when you run a long term test, you might end up with the test page becoming more popular and with more inbound links than the original page. Now this is not bad at all! The only downside is that this test page might be the one that doesn’t really convert into the leads that you’re seeking.
How to avoid these two pitfalls?
Avoiding these two pitfalls is not very hard task and it can be easily done using Canonical tags and 301 redirects.
Using Canonical tags will guide the search engines by pointing out which page is the original and which is test page. It’s a great SEO application that will enable you to give all of the SEO credit for a page to another version of the same page without having to bug your Dev team with redirects.
Once you are done with the split testing and you identify the most optimized page, you can remove the canonical tag and create a 301 redirect to the winning page. This will ensure that all inbound links and traffic to the losing page are not lost and redirected to your selected page.