Before you start: what do you know about SEO split-testing? If you're unfamiliar with the principles of statistical SEO split-testing and how SplitSignal works, we're suggesting you start here or request a demo of SplitSignal.
First, we asked our Twitter followers to vote:
60% of our followers guessed it right, the test result was positive.
Read the full case study to find out why.
The Case Study
Content freshness has been a hot topic in SEO ever since Google rolled out its “fresh results” algorithm update in 2011. Google stated that different searches have different freshness needs. Since this update, Google can better understand how to differentiate between these types of searches and the level of freshness a user needs.
Google has further improved this over the years. If Google knows that you probably want relevant and recent search results, it will display the most up-to-date search results. Knowing that users value fresh content, we wanted to put this to the test for a major entertainment website featuring local entertainer listings for various types of events.
Before moving on to the case study, let’s take a look at what content freshness means. Fresh content is content that has been recently updated, regularly updated, or recently published. Google distinguishes 3 fresh content types for searches:
- Recent events or hot topics. When users are looking for trending or news content.
- Regularly recurring events. When users are looking for recurring events, such as sporting events or weather information.
- Frequent updates. When users search for information that changes often but is not really a hot topic or a recurring event, such as product/service research.
The website in question has a lot of regularly updated content. We wanted to validate whether adding the date (updated month/year) of when the listing was updated to the title page would have a positive effect on organic traffic to the local listing pages on the website, and that’s exactly what we did.
We used SplitSignal to set up and analyze the test. 272 listing pages were selected as either a variant or control group. We’ve added the date from when the listings were updated to the end of each variant group page title, just before the brand name:
The image above shows a development/progress of the variant (orange line) compared to the predicted control group (blue line). Almost immediately after the start of the test, we realized that we had struck gold. The traffic to the variant group performed better than our control group. Based on organic clicks, we see an increase of no less than 18%.
There is no doubt that this change should be made to all listing pages on the website. Based on all measured metrics, this test was positive and significant. Of course, we wanted to know exactly what happened during this test, as an 18% increase is something special.
We know that users are looking for relevant and current offers. Responding to this search intent by including freshness signals to the page title was a golden idea. Analyzing the test shows us why this was so successful. Data from Search Console shows that clickthrough rates increased dramatically. We also saw that the positive effect on clicks seemed to pay off in better positioning and, therefore, more visibility. But there’s another important reason why we think this test was so effective, and that’s its competitive advantage. Search results analysis shows that for most SERPs, this website was the only search result giving these freshness signals, making them stand out even more.
This test shows that it can be worthwhile to include signals of content freshness in the title tag. It also shows that there is more to writing an effective page title than just including the keywords you want to rank for. Knowing what users want/expect and responding accordingly is just as important.
We know from experience that the results of a comparable test can differ between websites. Given the impact it can have, it’s a good idea to test it before rolling it out on your website. In this case, we are sure that enriching search results with freshness signals is an excellent idea.
Have your next SEO split-test analyzed by OrangeValley Agency.