Google officially endorses the practice of A/B Testing. They are glad you’re testing! A/B testing is a great way of making sure that what you’re offering really appeals to your users.
So, will serving different content variants change how your site ranks? The answer is no. Testing poses no inherent risk to your site’s search rank. However, you’ll still need to take a couple of precautions to ensure that your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not negatively impacted (because of a misuse of your testing tool as an attempt to deceive search engines).
Here are some guidelines Google provides for running an effective test with minimal impact on your site’s search performance:
Cloaking is the practice of presenting a version of a web page to search engines that is different from the version presented to users, with the intention of deceiving the search engines and affecting the page’s ranking in the search index.
Some examples of cloaking include:
- Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, while showing a page of images or Flash to users
- Inserting text or keywords into a page only when the User-agent requesting the page is a search engine, not a human visitor
Your variation pages should maintain the spirit of the content on your original pages. Those variations shouldn’t change the meaning of or your user’s general perception of that original content.
Only run the experiment as long as necessary
The amount of time required for a reliable test will vary depending on factors like your conversion rates, and how much traffic your website gets; Nelio A/B Testing will tell you when you’ve gathered enough data to draw a reliable conclusion. Once you’ve concluded the test, you should update your site with the desired content variation(s) as soon as possible.
The recommendations above should result in your tests having little or no impact on your site in search results. Small changes, such as the size, color, or placement of a button or image, or the text of your “call to action” (“Add to cart” vs. “Buy now!”), can have a surprising impact on users’ interactions with your webpage, but will often have little or no impact on that page’s search result snippet or ranking.