SEO and Multivariate Testing – Be Aware

Multivariate Testing (MVT henceforth), the art of testing more than one page element in a given space of time simultaneously (almost) has proven its worth to me over the years on numerous projects.

Gone are the days of testing single page variants and instead we can now test numerous permutations of pages with various page elements in a fraction of the time required for simple A/B/n testing. However this does introduce an interesting element of concern to us SEOs, concerned not only with ensuring page content converts but also that the page performs at capacity as far as Search Engine Robots are concerned.

So with your MVT tool serving many variants of various parts of your website, have you considered the impact on your SERPs? Many of the MVT tools do recognise a bot from a web browser, but have you actually checked your tool? The effect that this could have is profound.

Take this example; your site is highly indexed and you’re running MVT iterations on your homepage. Your MVT tool is not segmenting robots out of the tests and the Search Bots see different layouts every day (because your site is visited every day). All that hard work you, the SEO guru, spent on optimising the homepage for maximum SEO performance may well be compromised and undermined by way of changing layouts and content.

Even if the Search Bots are being filtered out, what if the winning permutation of the [Home/Product/Insert Name] page reduces the effectiveness of your page in the eyes of the Bots? This is a crucial aspect of MVT that is often overlooked.

My advice? Unless you’re also responsible for MVT, ensure you are fully aware of what is being tested and the impact any new layouts will have on your SEO strategy. After all, increasing page conversion yet decreasing traffic may leave you spinning your wheels in the sand…

What are your experiences? Would love to hear of other real-life examples

Affiliate marketing – the long-tail approach

My biggest earning affiliate marketing website exists within a highly competitive sector: travel. The website itself targets the uk market which is a small playing field with a large number of players. Ranging from OTAs (Online Travel Agents), holiday providers, private and franchised accommodation providers, from hotels through to caravans, cottages, cruise ships and B&Bs and of course a mass of well run, fully established affiliate sites it could easily put many new players off joining the ranks.

My approach as with all projects is to start small, test the waters and then take a call on whether to continue or scrap it. I was close to scrapping this particular venture 4 months in but persevered to see average page impressions each month hitting 50k. With an average of 10k UVs (unique visitors) a month that is an average of 5 pages viewed per visitor per visit.

Traffic is acquired primarily through SEO (search engine optimisation). I have PPC (pay per click) campaigns set up ready to drive more volume but the website is still in learning mode, to find out which keywords are driving traffic and converting into a sale (for free).

The point of interest raised from analysing the keywords, is the level of brand traffic this website is attracting. That’s not to say it is outperforming the brands for which I’m promoting holidays for, but that I am plugging a gap in the SERPs (Search engine results page) for those brands.

This is a crucial area for affiliate marketers without a strong niche – it can be done. What the big brands don’t have time for is chasing that 20% of long-tail traffic when the 80% of short and part long-tail they already acquire is turning over the majority of their revenue… and this is where affiliate marketing can work with the brands to complete the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction.

The majority of my efforts have gone into on-site SEO to begin with. By creating a strong search architecture, it allows for the website to continually take advantage of a well structured, robot friendly infrastructure together with the ability to maintain the daily content release process without the need to concern oneself with the technicalities of SEO. It is for this reason the daily content management of the site is out of my hands as is the on-site SEO, leaving time for more off-site SEO. This is the key to enhanced and sustainable search engine positioning.

This has also given me a rich dataset of top performing keywords to build a successful PPC campaign from whilst earning its own marketing budget. Therefore in year 2 of its operation I aim to double income by both increased SEO traffic (domain age, authority etc) and highly targetted PPC campaigns…. and whilst that’s all going on I know a thing or 2 about conversion and retention I’ve yet to utilise.

I shall keep you ‘post’ed!

Depesh