SEO Split-Testing [Case Study] “Moving Description on Category Pages”

Brian Moseley

Sep 16, 20213 min read
SEO Split-Testing [Case Study] “Moving Description on Category Pages”

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:

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The poll result on Twitter

Only 31.6% of our respondents guessed it right, the test result was negative.

Read the full case study to find out why.

The Case Study

Greetings, SEO enthusiasts! 

No doubt you’ve probably worked on or seen ecommerce websites with category descriptions at the top or bottom of the category pages. Have you ever wondered if it makes a difference whether the content is at the top of the category page or the bottom?

We often recommend placing the valuable content at the bottom of the page to keep product categories available at the top of the page and not displaced “below the fold” (to use an outdated phrase). But as you know, if you put a group of SEO professionals in a room, you’ll get more than one answer!

So let’s test it, shall we?

We have been running a few tests on an ecommerce retailer website of vintage-inspired clothing. This particular website had its category descriptions at the top of the page.

The Hypothesis

The working hypothesis was to validate, or not, the argument that positioning the important category content at the bottom of the page would increase ranking + traffic to the test pages, while the control pages (with content at the top) would remain the same.

The Test

We set up our test in SplitSignal. Split Pages — We selected a total of 339 pages for this test. Fifty percent (50%) of the category pages were selected as the test variant, while the remaining category pages would serve as the control group.

One of the really cool things about SplitSignal, if you weren’t aware, is the client-side nature of the SEO testing tool. All it takes is a line of JavaScript installed on your website, connect Google Search Console, and you’re ready to test.

SplitSignal captured the category description paragraphs at the top of the categories and moved them to the bottom of the page below the products, like this: 

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Control and Variant Example

The Result

After running the test for 21 days, we were able to determine that there was a decrease in clicks by 4.8%.

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You can observe the decline in clicks from this screenshot of Google Search Console data presented in a Google Datastudio dashboard:

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Google Data Studio dashboard screenshot

So, what happened?

Google as a search engine has become more sophisticated over the years, and no doubt they have a large cohort of these types of pages they’ve evaluated over the last decade and longer.

In my opinion, it makes sense that Google would typically see three broad variations of an ecommerce category page, one being content at the top with product categories below, one being categories at the top and content at the bottom, and the final variation being no relevant content at all. Most ecommerce platforms organize products into categories and subcategories that, by design, have very similar layouts and placement of design and content elements.

As there is such a small variation across the majority of those types of pages, and the descriptive content (if it exists) is primarily about the category, Google can easily find and evaluate the content and doesn’t have to use any positional data to prioritize the importance of the content. This results in what we see in our test results, a minimal negative change.

However, it’s worth investigating and continuing to test this result across other ecommerce websites and platforms down the road to determine once and for all (until the next algorithm update!) whether top or bottom placement of content is a significant ranking factor.

So while the test result was negative for this website, it begs the question, due to the relatively small observed effect, would it also be negative for other websites, positive, or neutral? What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Have your next SEO split-test analyzed by LOCOMOTIVE Agency.

Author Photo
Brian MoseleyGo-To-Market Lead for SplitSignal — Semrush’s new SEO split-testing tool which helps growth marketers understand which on-page SEO changes will drive the most organic traffic.
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