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 suggest you start here or request a demo.
Are reports the same as news in the eyes of Google? We added dates to the titles of our daily reports pages to see if we would increase the clicks.
Now, we want to be clear, adding dates to your evergreen content doesn’t make sense. Instead, this test is for pages that focus on the opposite—timely content.
Timely content is valuable, but only for a short while. As time passes, those pieces of news or reports slowly lose value. So, targeting the search intent for these is very important.
In our case, we worked with a client that greatly values evergreen content. However, they also have many pages that are, well, not. These timely content pages are exactly what we wanted to try and improve.
But first, let’s talk about our Twitter poll:
Before we get into the article, as always, let’s take a look and see how everyone voted this time around.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of people got it right. After all, dating your timely content simply makes sense. But before we get into it, we really should take a look at what our followers, who are SEO professionals, had to say.
Alicia Cardenas, Technology & WebOps Lead at Stream Creative
I would expect CTR to be positively impacted, but I would be curious to see a test then to see if it was adding “daily” to the beginning or adding the month/year at the end that has a bigger impact.
Trevor Stolber, Digital Marketer at STOLBER.com
I think it improved—the date more closely aligns with the intent of news.
The Case Study
Only a couple of months ago, we ran a similar test by adding the year and (updated) to product pages. And in that one, we have quoted John Muller and his speech about adding dates.
While we saw and quoted that, we didn’t fully believe that the previous test was a good match for that statement. And that probably explains why the result was “no significant change.”
So, this time around, we made sure that our change was a lot more in line with John’s opinion.
The target website for our test is a huge fishing-oriented travel website. In the image below, you will be able to see what their original setup was and how we changed it.
As you can see, there is nothing terribly wrong with the original. But, most of our followers agree that our variant should outperform it. To validate this opinion we ran a test to see if adding dates to titles of timely content would give us a significant increase in CTR.
For this test, as we always do, we used our innovative tool SplitSignal. This tool lets us set up the test, track the progress of both the control and the variant group (more about that in a moment), and make a report at the end with the answers to our questions.
In order to run this test, we decided to work with almost two thousand pages. Roughly half of them we decided to keep as our control group. We didn’t make any changes, and we will monitor their progress to make sure the only important change is the change to the title that we made.
The other group of pages (well, under half, we had to exclude some pages from the test) we used as our “Test” or “variation” pages.
To make the changes to these 929 pages, we would have to spend quite a bit of time. But, thanks to SplitSignal, and the fact that this client already had everything installed, updating this many pages was a piece of cake (it took us about 3 minutes this time).
We let this test run for our standard period of three weeks. And 21 days later, we had something to see. As we have mentioned, most of our followers (and probably you, yourself) were perfectly correct.
The test was POSITIVE.
In these three weeks, we have noticed a significant positive movement. Our test pages have shot up in CTR by as much as 13.8%! And, since this is not a small client, that translated to a huge number of new visits to their daily fishing report pages.
For our tests, we also have a rule that our confidence level has to be at least 95% to accept the result. And, this time around, the confidence level is at 99%. So, not only was the change significant, we are also very confident that it was brought by our change.
Interpreting the Results
The first priority for anyone creating content for their website should be—value. By that, we mean the value we bring to our visitors. The more they get from our website, the more likely they will be to open it and maybe even come again later.
To say that the more value we provide to our visitors, the better our content will perform is almost self-evident.
Of course, this isn’t always the case, you still have to have the basic SEO strategy ready, and your website needs to have all of the technical stuff sorted.
But, to have a 13.8% increase from making a small change such as this one certainly indicates that people love seeing this.
And why wouldn’t they? They are looking for a place to fish and having daily input from a reputable site that also dates their timely content is USEFUL to them.
In fact, it can be useful in the long run as well. People might want to see what fishing looks like in July in some parts of the USA. They might want to try and find some of their own reports or news about their catches when they remember that they were published by the website.
We should also mention that most of these pages were already ranking quite well in the SERPS. So, when we made the changes, a lot of people saw the updated content. It is quite possible that, if you aren’t already ranking well, making a change such as this one won’t give you the same results.
In the end, we can confidently say that this “myth” by John Muller has been “Confirmed.” Adding dates to the titles of your news pages can help your website perform better.
Do you have any ideas for tests of your own? Do you want to make a major update to your website? We can’t recommend contacting our SplitSignal team and getting started with SplitSignal enough.