Luis says: “My number one tip for 2023 would revolve around internationally expanding your experimentation with SEO. Over the last year, we have seen many changes in search engines. Other updates have come up and increased competition. Plus, we don’t have any more pandemic distractions as well. Hence, we can all dedicate ourselves a little bit more to SEO.
That mainly increases the difficulty (as it does every year). but one of the constant principles is creating high-value, unique, and helpful content. Nevertheless, there are always new tactics and approaches coming up. Therefore, SEO experimentation is the ultimate tool over the next year.
When experimenting, there are three high-level takeaways. The first one is how to define success. Not all experiments and markets are the same. Thus, you must determine what you want to learn from specific experiments. Define whether you want to increase the click-through rate, target a new keyword, or expect incremental traffic. Defining these objectives will help you automate difficult decisions.
Secondly, you should define how you measure your success. For example, you don’t want to end up scaling up something internationally that is not beneficial for your overall business or for your objectives. With specific methodologies, I recommend using causal impact analysis, which Google has repeatedly recommended in many ways. This approach identifies relationships between a test group, uses those relationships to plot the expected performance, and compares the actual results against the desired results, generally implementing causal impact analysis. However, you must have a decent amount of traffic to your pages.
Thirdly, you must persevere. We know that not all the concepts work out in different markets. Hence, you need to try out and have various iterations of the same idea in other markets and page types. Sometimes these concepts will not equate to the same benefit as well, so perseverance will become your best bet.
Lastly, it helps to try other experiments in different parts of your site while checking for what else is out there in the SERP. It always helps to identify common practices you can take and scale up internationally.”
Regarding these experiments, how do you know what to change?
“You can rely on three things. First, your competitors in the SERPs. Did you try something similar but not necessarily unique? For example, the trend of adding listicles into your titles whilst trying out different numbers may actually work out. It’s just a matter of observation to see what works.
Secondly, consider your historical data. What similar experiments from the past have you tried out? How can you iterate on that same concept? Looking at the SERPs can give you a lot of clues about what you can do next.
Thirdly, trust your gut and your creativity. Put yourself in the reader’s position: as someone who is looking for something better than the previous version.”
How many tests should an SEO expert expect to run regularly, depending on the amount of traffic to their site? How do you decide on how long it takes?
“It depends on the data itself. Sometimes, you need a longer time to understand if you made a significant impact. What truly matters is understanding if you are achieving your objective. It also requires you to build some expertise on when to say ‘that’s enough’. Basically, obtain a statistically significant result, and have a good way to observe that change.”
Can you replicate the same tests across different country’s websites? Or should you always look at the local market and design tests specifically for the local market?
“You can do both, because a lot of knowledge is transferable in different markets. It is also important to notice what people are doing in that market. For example, the type of content people deem helpful in Taiwan is not always the same content people consider valuable in the UK. Sometimes, it could be differences in the language or even the length of the information.
Thus, understanding your market and then localising known wins from other markets can help you find the best solutions.”
What software do you use to go about selecting and managing your tests?
“Mostly, homebrew pro software is the go-to. Googling things and observing what is in the SERPs among competitors is also great source of information. Search Console also provides great information about what kind of keywords are providing traffic, and it allows you to experiment with concepts of keywords.
Ahrefs and Majestic also help to understand some of the competitors’ tactics and which pages truly matter. Tableau is also one of the best tools because it allows you to create certain dashboards on the go and extract information from those tables. Basically, having some SEO off-the-shelf software that gives you quick insights helps out the most.”
What shouldn’t SEOs be doing in 2023? What is seductive in terms of time, but ultimately counterproductive?
“SEOs shouldn’t hold still. The field is changing quickly, and the algorithm is becoming quite complex. Not changing your website can be counterproductive.
In experimenting and trying new concepts, you can always get more traffic and rank for new keywords. So, keep trying new things.”
If you’ve had some content ranking for a competitive keyword phrase at number one for the last couple of years, should you keep on tweaking that and trying to gather even more traffic to that page?
“The benefits to your website are unlimited. You decide how much traffic and when you want to venture into new keywords. Even if you are ranking at number one, there are many more keywords you are not yet ranking for that you could.”
Luis Rodriguez is Head of SEO at Booking.com and you can find him at booking.com.
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