So far, in this series on overlooked SEO skills, we’ve covered the importance of developing your communication skills and learning how to learn. And while both of these are incredibly important pursuits – for anybody, not just for SEO marketers – there’s one final skill I want to discuss with you…
In fact, I hinted at this last skill in my post on learning, but today, I want to break things down on this topic into even further detail. Are you ready to hear what the final most overlooked SEO skill is?
I’ve made plenty of mentions both here and on the Single Grain website about how important the process of A/B split testing is to a website’s success. But the thing is, that’s only the tip of the barrel when it comes to testing.
What you have to keep in mind is that nearly all of the different SEO best practices we take for granted today have been identified through the process of testing. When Google’s search algorithms were first launched, webmasters didn’t just know that building backlinks and optimizing their anchor text with keywords would help them to achieve higher natural search results placements.
Hell, at that very start of things, webmasters didn’t even know what keywords were to begin with!
While Google has always offered some glimpses (however brief) into the inner workings of its algorithms, and a certain amount of SEO knowledge can be gleaned from studying the company’s patents and patent applications, much of what we consider to be generally accepted wisdom today comes from men and women who experimented, took risks and then tied their successes back to specific SEO techniques.
With that in mind, if you aren’t running regular tests – both on your website and in your regular life – you’re missing out on some really tremendous opportunities to improve your overall online and offline performance. Here’s how to get started making testing a bigger part of your life:
Start with standard split testing
First of all, if you’ve never run a test before, don’t think that you need to go out and try the wackiest thing you can think of. To get into the testing mindset, there’s nothing better than a good, old-fashioned A/B split test.
If you aren’t familiar with the process, A/B split testing involves changing up a single variable on your website in order to see which version (whether your original control option or your experimental version) results in the highest number of goal completions. As an example, you could decide to test the specific wording of the headline on your website’s sales page and measure whether your initial headline or your test version results in more sales overall.
Once you established a winner in this single trial, you could then go on to test even more headline versions – or other variables on your website altogether – in order to hone in on the combination of website elements that results in the best possible results on your site.
If you’re already comfortable with this basic process, expand your website testing efforts by moving onto multivariate testing – which will allow you to test several combinations of variables at once, generating results in much less time. Both the A/B and multivariate split testing procedures can be carried out using the free Google Analytics Content Experiment tool, though there are plenty of third-party software systems out there that can be used as well.
Really, if you do absolutely nothing else after reading this article, take a few minutes to set up a single A/B split test on your website. Savvy webmasters frequently use the phrase “always be testing” with good reason, so start generating this powerful website data today!
Try new things entirely
Now, it’s important to recognize that running split tests on your website – whether you make use of the A/B or multivariate protocols – has one major weakness. While the data you generate can be extremely useful when it comes to making measurable website improvements, you’re still only running tests according to standard SEO wisdom.
And unfortunately, so is everybody else! While you can tweak your pages and optimize your on-site content all day long, the reality is that – unless you think outside of the box – you’re still using the same SEO best practices that everybody knows about. For this reason, it can be incredibly difficult to get your site to stand out – especially if you operate in a highly-competitive, well-optimized niche.
Really, the only way to break out of this pack is to try entirely new things.
If you’ve always optimized your meta tags according to the same SEO guidelines that every SEO blog publishes on a regular basis, why not try something different next time? Or, if you’ve always built a specific type of links, why not extrapolate what makes your chosen link type successful and see if you can find these characteristics in another type of link?
Of course, there are a couple different things you’ll want to keep in mind while doing this:
- As with the A/B split testing method, you’ll only want to experiment with one “out there” SEO technique at a time. If you try seventeen different things and see an improvement in your website’s results, it’ll be impossible to pin your success on a single technique – meaning that you’ll have to continue to apply all these same methods to new sites until you can isolate the one variable that’s made a difference in your site’s performance.
- Also, be aware that it’s totally possible to screw up your site and wind up with a penalty when you work outside of the box. Obviously, it’s a good idea to avoid “new things” that clearly conflict with Google’s terms of service, but otherwise, you’ve got to accept this risk in exchange for the ultimate reward of discovering new SEO techniques before anyone else can use them in your industry.
Expand the testing process to your personal life
Finally, once you’ve got the hang of the testing mindset, you’ll find that it naturally starts to creep over into other areas of your life. If you’re used to breaking down complex things like websites into a series of smaller tasks that can be optimized, you’ll start to intuitively see the potential for testing other systems within your life.
As an example, it’s a default nutrition recommendation that we shouldn’t eat more than 1,200 calories a day if we’re trying to lose weight. But if you think about it, all of our bodies are different and function at peak efficiency in response to different parameters. Through the process of testing, I found out that, while I lose weight at 1,200 calories a day, I lose muscle as well. By testing different diet and exercise combinations, I found a much better nutritional strategy that helped me to lose – and keep off – more than 40 pounds.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to testing, so I’d like to challenge you to start looking at everything in your life – including both your website and all aspects of your personal life – from a scientific mindset that views everything as “testable.” Trust me, once you get in the habit of doing this and start seeing results, you’ll find it hard to stop optimizing everything you can get your hands on!