Google as it continues to extend its helping hand to webmasters and SEO experts gives guidelines on conducting A/B and multivariate testing and keep the coast clear for any issues. But before we go further to the entire guidelines let us be refreshed to what Web testing, A/B and multivariate testing mean.
As Susan Moskwa, Webmasters Trend Analyst of Google described each as follows:
“Website testing is when you try out different versions of your website (or a part of your website), and collect data about how users react to each version. You use software to track which version causes users to do-what-you-want-them-to-do most often: which one results in the most purchases, or the most email signups, or whatever you’re testing for. After the test is finished you can update your website using the “winner” of the test—the most effective content.”
“A/B testing is when you run a test by creating multiple versions of a page, each with its own URL. When users try to access the original URL, you redirect some of them to each of the variation URLs and then compare users’ behavior to see which page is most effective.”
“Multivariate testing is when you use software to change different parts of your website on the fly. You can test changes to multiple parts of a page—say, the heading, a photo, and the ‘Add to Cart’ button—and the software will show variations of each of these sections to users in different combinations and then statistically analyze which variations are the most effective. Only one URL is involved; the variations are inserted dynamically on the page.”
With the following information, here are the guidelines that they gave:
1. Never attempt cloaking. Showing different set in Googlebot and to users is a big NO to Google’s Webmaster guidelines, to avoid being demoted or worse, been removed from Google search results. Even if it is a running test or not. Be sure that you are not merely deciding to serve the test or in deciding to what content variant to serve, basing on a user-agent.
2. Use rel=“canonical” link attribute. Google prefers the usage of this link than a noindex Meta tag this is for the reason that it is closely related to your intent in running an A/B test with multiple URL’s.
4. Limit the experiment and only do it as long as it is still necessary. Though there is no definite time on how long should the test should be done, it will be great that you have a testing tool that would tell you when to stop and that you will have gathered enough information. If the test still runs at an unreasonable time, Google will think that you are trying to deceive them. Remove everything that is related to the test as soon as you have concluded so they will not interpret as deceiving the search engine results.
These are the guidelines that will ensure you a smooth sailing A/B and multivariate web testing. It is easy to follow and can assure you of not having an issue in your page rank.