What is A/B Testing & How Does It Affect My Site’s SEO

A/B testing is a common practice used by developers and SEO’s looking to improve the user experience of their website. It involves using two variations of a webpage that display the same content and running tests to see which version converts at a higher rate, or otherwise results in the action that it is designed for. However, SEO’s also know the impact that duplicate content can have on your site’s optimization, which leads to the question; does A/B testing affect my site’s SEO and how can I stop that from happening?

Google’s Stance on A/B Testing

Google as a company is focused on improving user experience as much as possible, which is why they are constantly updating their algorithms to improve the results that users are shown. Therefore, it is no surprise that Google supports A/B testing on sites, and encourages it especially in the instances where it improves user experience. However, they do have a code of conduct to ensure that the testing goes smoothly and doesn’t affect your site’s SEO. Google actually offers their own A/B testing mechanism, called Google Optimize, which uses Javascript to manipulate the page and show different results to different users in order to conduct the testing. Google offers a list of specifications for the testing, including allowing Google’s bots to crawl both variations of your page.

Google also recommends that you do not create a page that is vastly different from the original. If it is too different, it will not only be difficult to tell what had the greatest impact on your conversion rate, but furthermore, Google may recognize it as an attempt to manipulate your site which could result in site penalties.

However, with all of that being said, Google does support and encourage A/B testing to improve your site’s experience, and if done correctly, it will not impact your site’s SEO. Be sure to read Google’s list of recommendations to ensure you aren’t penalized for your testing.

A/B Testing With Redirection to a New URL

This is another possibility, although it can result in serious penalties if you’re not careful. Here’s what to look out for if you plan on running A/B testing with a new URL.

  • Do not block the variations with no index tags, simply mark the original with a canonical tag. This will both allow Google to crawl your content and make sure it isn’t fraudulent, while also informing them that the content on your page is taken from the original, which exists on your site.
  • Redirection with a 302 or Javascript redirection, which Google will understand is temporary. This will prevent them from updating your indexing, as they recognize that it won’t be there for long.
  • Once the test is done, be sure to add the elements that worked on page B to page A and set up a permanent 301 redirect from Page B to A, or a 302 if you plan on running more tests with the URL in the future.

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